Directed by Zack Snyder
Written by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon
In this day and age, where television re-entered a golden age, where extended stories of interwoven characters and story arcs has become so popular, I cannot blame DC Comics for wanting to join the party and make a truckload of cash. It could be argued that in recent years, the quality of television has exceeded that of the movies. I can’t join that argument, not having seen enough television to argue in any intelligent or informed manner, but I can speak for cinema, which I would argue is as strong as ever. However, with what Marvel has accomplished with their series of films within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you can see again why DC Comics would like to follow suit. However, to this point in the DC Extended Universe’s history, they have failed miserably to match Marvel’s quality and success. Wonder Woman, released earlier this year, is the outlier in a series of bad movies. So with Justice League, does DC and Warner Bros. right the ship, or has that ship sailed completely?
The last time we were with the “gang” Superman (Henry Cavill) was just killed, and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) was kicking ass circa World War I. With Superman now dead, evil alien warlord Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) takes his chance at attacking earth and assembling the three Mother boxes, hoping to wipe out humanity for his own purposes. Batman (Ben Affleck), coping with his limitations, begins to assemble a team capable of fighting such a power. Wonder Woman is on board, but they soon also recruit Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), or the Flash, Victor Stone (Ray Fisher), or Cyborg, and Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), or Aquaman. The newly assembled team must learn to work together to fight off this evil, as the Humans, Atlantians, and Amazonians did many generations before, otherwise the whole world faces extinction.
The production of Justice League saw tragedy, which is heartbreaking. Zack and Deborah Snyder decided to step away from the development of this project after their daughter committed suicide. As a result, Joss Whedon, who receives a screenwriting credit here, stepped into the role of Snyder as director. As a result, reshoots and tinkering took place, altering the final product we see on screen. As tragic and understandable as the circumstances surrounding this production are, it shows in the final product, which is a real shame. Whedon’s lighter, more comedic touch sticks out like a sore thumb against Snyder’s darker, more dramatic take on the characters and story. The reshoots also caused what is likely to become a bigger story than it ought to be: Henry Cavill’s face had to be CGI generated, as he sported a mustache he had grown for the production of another film, Mission: Impossible 6. These things all stick out and make for an uneven experience, at best.
Everything feels rushed through here. I am sure the situation described above can be attributed for some, but in reality DC can be to blame for rushing a “team” movie into production before it was ready. It is a scrambling attempt to catch up with the success of Marvel, and as a result Cyborg, Flash, and Aquaman feel like thin characters with no depth. They all appear to be intriguing characters and formidable additions to the universe, but their inclusion here leaves far too little time to truly embrace them as anything more than just another member of the team. Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are the big draws here, and they command the screen, but the other characters feel far too marginalized for their roles in the plot. Ezra Miller and Jason Momoa do enough in their roles to color me intrigued for more from these characters, but within the confines of Justice League, they are merely side shows.
The screenplay here is smartly masked by the aesthetic, which is predictably drab, the very capable cast, and the insertion of a few off beat, very Whedon-esque comedic scenes. At its core, however, this is a bad screenplay. Quite poor. The main threat is spoonfed to the audience after a common criminal jumps to impossible (yet somehow correct conclusions) in an encounter with Batman. But that’s just the start. We also get a showdown battle in remote and desolate Russia, explained away by the villain wanting to be “off-grid”, but likely in response to fans’ disdain for total destruction of major cities. Oh, and did you know the Flash got his powers from being struck by lightning!? Yea, and that’s all we get to know about Barry Allen (again, way too rushed for anyone not already familiar with these characters). And maybe that’s the point, it’s for fans of the characters. But that strategy still leaves the majority of movie-goers at a loss for what is going on in this movie.
It’s loud, though somehow not as loud as Batman v. Superman, it’s full of CGI, way too much CGI, and yet it has its moments. I won’t completely dismiss this film, though yes, it’s bad, but as I said it shows potential in both character and ideas. None of it coalesces into a watchable film, mostly due to the scatterbrain approach and unfortunate circumstance of its production. The film plays more as a collage of singular, self standing scenes pieced together, a series of shorts somehow edited together to reflect some larger story. The main villain and his threat feel like an afterthought, never truly threatening, leaving the viewer never truly worried about the fate of the super team or humanity. I for one am quite worried about the fate of Justice League and the DCEU in general. With now 4 bad films out of 5, I wonder how the production company can keep making these movies. Hopefully the promise shown in the new characters, and the success of Wonder Woman, will help propel the series out of the dumps. I have my doubts.