This review is spoiler-free.
While there is a strong urge to dive straight into the review and pick out all the outstanding moments in Justice League, we are going to start with the negatives. These negatives don’t necessarily come from us but are the common themes and complaints that some people and critics have with the movie.
Comparisons between the MCU and DCEU will always be made by fans and cinema-goers. For some, both can co-exist and you can like both without picking a side. Some, however, seem to have the mindset of ‘it’s one or the other’, and that is part of the problem that superhero films have. But unlike Marvel, it seems to be the DCEU movies that are the most divisive with fans and cause the most negative reaction. Yes, the DCEU is playing catch-up, but Warner Bros. has not helped matters by constantly interfering with the films. They botched the theatrical cut of Batman Vs Superman and turned Suicide Squad into a mess. Thankfully they left Wonder Woman alone, for the most part, and that has so far gained the most success from critics and audiences alike. So lesson learned right? Wrong.
The reason for Snyder’s departure is tragic and you can understand why he stepped back from the project. But the studio got it wrong by adding Joss Whedon into the mix. Rather than sticking to the brief of completing the project, his direction and handling of certain characters was a jarring experience. The film did not need countless shots of Gal Gadot’s backside constantly the focus of the framing. He did the same with Black Widow, he handled her in such a distasteful way. We did not need to see The Flash faceplant into Wonder Woman’s breasts. Whedon’s actions after the film’s release have also been questionable.
The film has also been called out for its overuse of CGI, green screen, poorly written villain and lack of engaging story. First of all, the CGI didn’t feel any more overused than any other superhero movie. And the green-screening was a lot more convincing than that found in Thor: Ragnarok for example. So it wasn’t that much of a problem. The only thing that was a disappointment, and extremely noticeable, was Superman’s mouth after they had removed Henry Cavill’s moustache for the reshoots. But he was contracted to have the moustache for another project, so there was little they could do. It was unfortunate, but they tried to make it as realistic as possible, but the technology is just not there yet.
As for Steppenwolf, he is taking a pasting from the film’s detractors. He was a much more compelling villain than Ares from Wonder Woman. In fact, he was a much better villain than a lot of Marvel villains. Is it because he was solely CGI that there is so much dislike? Ultron was all CGI and would have been very forgettable if it wasn’t for James Spader’s performance. The same goes for Ciarán Hinds here, he’s a great actor and did well with the material he was given. Would it have been better to see a motion-capture performance from Hinds? Of course, but what we were presented with was ok for what the character was needed for. He was the focal point for our heroes to unite and defeat. He served his purpose. Sometimes it seems a superhero film is judged a success based on its villain. But surely going to see a Justice League movie your main focus is going to be on the heroes and how they work as a team. And characterisation and teamwork is the film’s strongest factor.
Justice League nails the team dynamic. Without going into spoilers, it delivers some truly outstanding ensemble action sequences. The imagery has been pulled straight from comic books and it is simply stunning to watch the action unfold on the big screen. The emphasis on teamwork is the focal point of the fight scenes, and the way in which our heroes interact and use each other’s powers to enhance their own moves was well executed. There is also one action sequence in the middle of the movie that was so good, it might just be one of the greatest superhero film moments of all time.
With the teamwork nailed down, how did the characters do on their own?
For starters, Ben Affleck delivered a different kind of Batman/Bruce Wayne performance than we saw in BVS, but it still worked. In fact, it was even better. He had some outstanding moments in the film, and he was given some great dialogue that really helped to add more depth to his portrayal as both Batman and Bruce Wayne. We need him to stick around, he gets better every time you watch him in the role.
Gal Gadot was once again excellent as Wonder Woman, and despite Whedon doing his best to take the character backwards, by the end of the film we get a rewarding payoff from her own mini-arc.
From the trailers, it was Jason Momoa we were most concerned about. His surfer dude one-liners were a little silly, but in the context of the film and the way they want to portray the character, it worked. They hinted at a lot more growth and development to come from him in his solo movie, and in the hands of James Wan we cannot wait to see Aquaman now. Any doubts about the DCEU version of Aquaman have well and truly been put to rest.
With the decision to keep the DCEU and Arrowverse separate, up stepped Ezra Miller to take on the role of Barry Allen. And while some of his jokes misfired, he at least brings a new and unique take on the character which worked for the most part. There were hints of an autistic approach to the character which was interesting, and if intended in that way it is very much welcomed in such a mainstream platform. Hopefully, a solid solo movie will allow his character to be fleshed out more, but for his role in the film, it was enough for now.
Ray Fisher’s Cyborg was an interesting one. First of all, they would have been better to have more of a practical approach to his design. He was too shiny, and he did stand out at times. But Fisher did an excellent job with the way he portrayed the character. His introduction and story within the film also worked very well, and while others would have benefited from a solo movie pre-Justice League, that’s not the case here. Whether he can carry his own movie on his own remains to be seen. Despite how enjoyable the character was, there just feels a lack of appetite for a solo outing.
Moving away from the characters, the film was, visually, vintage Snyder. The world aesthetic was kept consistent with the rest of the DCEU and the onscreen visuals were very impressive. The film could have benefited from being longer, as some story points would have been better for having had more time, but the shorter runtime meant that the pace of the story flowed nicely. You have to take the film’s real-world problems into account when you look at the story and flow of the movie. Is the movie rushed? Yes, it is. They did not push back the release date so all the re-shoots they did had to be done very quickly. The fact they were able to meet the deadline and still produce a really enjoyable film has to be applauded.
As for the score, while not as impressive as it could have been, the nods to classic Batman and Superman themes were excellent. You got an emotional response from these moments, thus elevating the on-screen action even further. A new, iconic Justice League theme needs to be established for the next film to truly give it that epic feel.
Not everyone is going to take the same things from this movie as we did. Even some die-hard DC fans might dislike a lot of things about this movie. But the fact is we left the cinema on a real high. We felt like we had just watched something truly special. There were so many excellent things about this movie. We try to rate a film on how much we enjoyed it, and we try to identify weaknesses, but not let them dictate and overrule the positives. We gave Thor: Ragnarok a 5/5 star rating. And that was with the lack of stakes, poor green screen and totally destroying key established components of the Thor mythos. But we left that movie on the same high as we left Justice League. We saw the good greatly outweigh the bad.
The Justice League is not a perfect film, but no film is and every film has its issues. But the visual aesthetics, self-contained story, teamwork and excellent characterisations are so strong here that even the most glaring of negatives can not diminish the enjoyment we got from the film. This film was about unity and hope, and hope is what Justice League has given to the future of the DCEU. We are all in and we are unashamed of our Justice League star rating.
What did you think of the Justice League movie? Let us know in the comments.