We’ve been waiting for this film ever since Tim Burton’s Batman appeared on our screens back in 1989 (my birth year), and it’s taken nearly 28 years to see the Justice League on the big screen. The question on everyone’s mind is whether or not Justice League can live up to the hype. Well, may critics are claiming that it is one of the most disappointing films of the year, with many calling it a “dull joyless affair” and lacking any soul or charm. It’s not really any of those things; it’s loud, dumb and silly but it’s entertaining and in the last few months of Hollywood scandal and misery it’s what we need right now. It’s a film that really doesn’t take itself too seriously and acts like a distraction. It’s two hours of explosions, well shot action sequences and amusing banter. It’s not a masterpiece but it was never intended to be seen in this way. It’s not high end art house cinema, it’s a trashy popcorn munching Blockbuster that is meant to be just fun. And, it is fun, no matter what the critics say.
Of course there were always going to be issues with bringing the Justice League together for the big screen. Marvel has dominated the superhero genre for well over a decade and has already had two successful films featuring their all star superhero team, The Avengers. DC is often mocked for its poorly received films (ahem Green Lantern and Suicide Squad anyone?) and as a result their reputation for producing good content has suffered dramatically, despite their comic book sales going through the roof.
The film starts off promising with the world still mourning the loss of Superman (Henry Cavill), the song “Everybody Knows” performed by Sigrid plays over the top of a montage of scenes of civil unrest. We see that Martha (Diane Lane) has been forced to leave the Kent farm after being unable to keep up with the payments. Lois Lane (Amy Adams, as adorable and underused as ever) is still working for the Daily Planet but has lost her inspiration and is writing fluff pieces in a world plagued by terrorism and crime. Batman (Ben Affleck) is still stalking the streets of Gotham but this time taking on flying demon monster aliens who feed off fear. And the world is full of fear right now, so the monsters are growing. Batman realizes that a greater threat is coming in the form of Steppenwolf who has arrive on Earth to find a trio of “Mother Boxes” (funny little metal rubik cubes that just glow and hover off the ground) which will, once they are united, somehow help restart the planet.
So to help save the planet, Batman decides to work with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot in kick ass top form again) in order to find other meta/superhuman beings in order to save the world, and form a league of their own. There’s comic relief from Barry Allen aka The Flash (an electric Ezra Miller who steals the show), there’s identity politics in the form of Cyborg (new comer Ray Fisher who make a good first impression) and there’s hot new eye candy in the form of Aquaman (Jason Momoa, who spends the majority of the first act taking off his t-shirt, getting wet and drinking).
In “blink and you’ll miss them” scenes, there are small supporting roles from Amber Heard (just there simply to look good in a tight suit and do some bland exposition), J K Simmons as Commissioner Gordon (who really doesn’t get enough screentime or lines) and the return of hard talking, hard drinking Jeremy Irons as Alfred. All the supporting actors do their best to make an impression but there’s too many characters and too many names to remember so it really feels a little too crowded.
There are some serious flaws with the story; a very average bad guy who is all talk and no action (where is he from exactly, I am still clueless) and a very weak ending which just abruptly stops and leaves you going “Is that it?”. Some critics have mentioned the bad CGI, but I feel it was deliberate, in order to create that “comic book/video game cutscene” look, which may be disconnecting to some but remember this is a hyper version of reality. Yes, it looks like a mess in places, and it’s hard to tell the action apart but this is a common issue with contemporary action films, it’s hardly anything new.
There’s is an obvious clash of different directional styles here, with the real battle being Snyder verses Weadon. Partway through production, Snyder stepped away from the film to deal with the tragic death of his daughter. It was Joss Whedon who was quickly ushered in to finish the film. Whedon is Marvel’s most successful director, and he’s far more light hearted in his approach to adapting comic books. Snyder relishes in the doom and gloom. You can easily tell which director was behind the camera in certain scenes and as a result it acts as a distraction. Of course, this unfortunate incident could not be avoided.
Rather than concentrate on all of the issues with Justice League, we should admire it’s attempts at trying a different tone. It’s happier, more upbeat approach does pay off in places, and it’s amusing to see the scenes where all of the team bond together and have their little moments of banter. Overall, Justice League is an ambitious mess. It’s not a great movie, but it’s not the complete dud that everyone is claiming it to be. It’s a decent way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon, but if you’re looking for a Christopher Nolan-esque high art graphic novel cinematic adaptation, this is not it.