The much-anticipated Justice League, the follow-up to 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, was finally released on November 17, 2017. After Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad were both negatively received, Warner Bros. saw a glimmer of hope with the highly-received Wonder Woman and hoped this would push the DCEU forward onto greatness. I saw Justice League on the 19th of November and my consensus: It’s Not Good. Opening to $94 million for its first weekend and with a 40% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Justice League underperformed both financially and critically. 10 years ago, I would have laughed at the idea of a Guardians of the Galaxy film beating Justice League at the box office and be much better received. Justice League’s performance puts the future of the DCEU in jeopardy.
Due to a personal tragedy in Zack Snyder’s life, he stepped down as director and Joss Whedon (director of The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron) took over post-production with reshoots and filming additional scenes. Most would have assumed that because of Joss Whedon’s reputation, he would be a great asset to the production of Justice League. However, that was strongly not the case. Zack Snyder intended to make this movie with a much lighter tone than Batman v Superman, but Zack Snyder’s style just does not blend well with Joss Whedon’s. What we’re left with is a DC film badly trying to be a Marvel film and the tone is an inconsistent mess throughout. The film loses its sense of identity and doesn’t know what tone (light or dark) it wants to incorporate. Thanks to Warner Bros. meddling with the production of the film and purposely sabotaging Zack Snyder’s vision (as much as I dislike his directing style), we’re left with a film full of sloppy editing and pacing, inconsistent tone, forgettable/unmemorable music, rushed “development” of characters, a terribly developed villain, thin plot and clunky CGI throughout.
The movie directly follows the death of Superman in the previous film, triggering a sense of fear in people and allowing Steppenwolf and his army of Parademons to seek the 3 Mother Boxes on Earth to trigger a mass transformation of the planet. But instead of showcasing his initial invasion on Earth, the film starts off with disjointed scenes that don’t connect with one another. First with a video recording of Superman looking like he doesn’t want to even be recorded, then jumps to Batman using a criminal to capture a Parademon, then again to Wonder Woman thwarting a terrorist plot (which has nothing to do with the overall narrative), then jumps to a fully-bearded Bruce Wayne attempting to recruit Aquaman. There is no smooth transition between scenes and just results in a jumbled mess that really doesn’t show us a sense of urgency as to why Diana and Bruce want to recruit a team of meta-humans.
The movie should really give us a reason as to why Steppenwolf should be feared, but instead, he is portrayed as a generic, badly rendered CGI figure that utters generic villain dialogue and just suddenly appears in Themiscyra through a Boom Tube. We are not given a scene showing who Steppenwolf is or why he’s returned to Earth before arriving to Themiscyra. While there is a scene showing Steppenwolf’s original invasion on Earth and his subsequent defeat by the combines forces of Humans, Atlanteans, Amazonians and Green Lanterns, it’s narrated by Wonder Woman and misplaced during a random moment when she’s explaining the Mother Boxes after he has invaded Themiscyra. The movie should have started off with developing a strong sense of interest for Steppenwolf and his reason for obtaining the Mother Boxes (is he doing this on his own accord or is a higher being – Darkseid – ordering him to do so?). Then show his original invasion on Earth without having Wonder Woman to tell us about Steppenwolf. Steppenwolf is basically Loki: They both wore a helmet with horns, they were both given orders by a higher being to retrieve a box (or boxes), they both commanded an army of disposable CGI monsters, they both arrived to Earth through a portal, and both attempted to conquer the world. But the big difference? Loki is actually likeable, while Steppenwolf is greatly forgettable.
Superman, the “beacon of hope” as described by Bruce Wayne, is nothing of the sort. He was portrayed as a strongly brooding figure in both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, but we do not once see Superman acting as this beacon. Instead, he looked as if he hates saving people and always has a blank expression on his face. There is no sense of romance between him and Lois or him being a beacon of hope, we’re just told that and are expected to believe that. However, his character sees much improvement in Justice League. One of the aspects I enjoyed about the film was actually Superman. In the film’s climax, he actually felt and acted like the Superman we all knew and loved in the past (excluding his two previous films). His revival was quite satisfying, especially when Bruce knew he may not be the same person as before. Then we’re given a glimpse into an Evil Superman where he easily manages to take on all the Justice League members. What I especially liked was seeing The Flash attempt to run behind Superman and as he’s in the Speed Force, Superman moves his eyes and head to stare directly at Barry, catches him off-guard and he’s left with a “WTF” expression on his face. This was honestly one of the best moments of the entire film, but is very short-lived. Lois Lane comes to the rescue and seems to knock Superman out of his disoriented state and they fly back to Smallville. After some brief dialogue, Superman seems to be back to his old self. I just felt his state of mind reverting back to his original self was rushed and relied heavily on Lois Lane to do the job.
Batman is seen as the weakest member of the Justice League and is turned into a complete joke in this film. He even utters one-liners and is a much more light-hearted character in stark contrast to his debut in Batman v Superman. It’s very out of character for Bruce Wayne/Batman to be this way. It makes him seem like the DC equivalent of Tony Stark. It’s also apparent that Ben Affleck wants to no longer play Batman, I can totally tell that he just doesn’t seem to care anymore about the role. But he is given terrible material to work with, and I can understand why he would want to stop playing the role. I just hope Ben Affleck can see a glimmer of hope in the upcoming Batman solo reboot.
Not much to say about Wonder Woman, since her solo film was spectacular and she continued to be damn amazing in this film, but I was utterly disgusted that DC felt it was necessary to overly-sexualize her by capturing close shots of her chest and ass. They even get up-skirt shots of her. It undermines her character established in her solo film and delegates her to being mere eye candy in the eyes of men. Plus the terrorist plot she thwarted, though it was an awesome moment, has no purpose and was a waste of screen time.
Cyborg is easily the least interesting character of the group. There’s brief development that I assume he holds resentment towards his father for bringing him back as “monster.” We’re not given an inner struggle with Cyborg struggling to deal with the fact of his condition, but the film has to quickly gloss over the Justice League members introduced in Batman v Superman via e-mail attachment in order to form the team. His only shining moment is in the final battle where he is the only one that can separate the Mother Boxes before Steppenwolf can enact his plan. But in Batman v Superman, from the video file, it seemed as if the Mother Box fused with Cyborg, so why is the box still a separate entity? It should have been fused with Cyborg and would raise the stakes a bit higher because Steppenwolf could use Cyborg to fuse with the other Mother Boxes and would force the Justice League to do everything in their power to save him.
Ezra Miller’s The Flash seems to be DC’s response to Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. However, The Flash is a much worse version of Spider-Man with very cringe-worthy dialogue. He’s socially awkward and without hesitation, he immediately agrees to join Bruce Wayne for the reason of wanting friends. What the hell? We saw some development with Barry Allen striving to prove his father’s innocence, but why join the Justice League for the sole purpose of making friends? Plus he even explains to Batman that he has never been in a battle, yet he was shown to be the one that apprehended Captain Boomerang. He is never given a shining moment except for saving a family in Russia and challenging Superman to a race in the mid-credits scene.
Jason Momoa as Aquaman was actually amazing, though he is bogged down by very limited screen time and little to no development. It honestly makes me quite excited for the upcoming Aquaman solo film slated for release late-2018. But a major annoyance I had with Aquaman was that he completely disappears from the movie after fighting off Steppenwolf, then suddenly reappears when the team is fighting Steppenwolf and Parademons in the sewers. There is no explanation as to how he arrived to the sewers, he just appears there. And that is the only time we truly see his powers is when he stops a column of water from flushing them out. In the final battle, they are nowhere near a water source, so what good is Aquaman if he cannot use his powers? However, it leaves me wanting to know more about Aquaman. Despite those annoyances, I thought the scene where Aquaman is unknowingly sitting on the Lasso of Truth and starts to speak the truth about their situation was fantastic and quite humorous, especially his reaction to when he realizes he was sitting on the lasso.
The final battle between Steppenwolf and his army of Parademons against the Justice League has very low stakes and takes place in an obscure location in Russia. Unlike The Avengers, where the battle took place in New York and resulted in severe collateral damage, which raised the stakes a lot, Justice League’s climax doesn’t have a sense of world-ending urgency. It’s just a giant CGI battle with the only memorable moment being Aquaman riding a Parademon through a building. There’s no shining moments like Hulk slamming Loki or Hawkeye jumping off the building and shooting at the Chitauri as he’s falling. As Cyborg is struggling to separate the Mother Boxes, Superman appears when all hope seems to be lost and absolutely beats the shit out of Steppenwolf, breaking his weapon and his own Parademons attack him since they smell his fear of defeat. It made Steppenwolf seem like nothing but a giant push-over. But what especially irks me is that the original plan was to have Steppenwolf attempt to sway Superman to join him, Superman is given an apocalyptic vision( similar to the one Batman saw) and he actually sees Darkseid and this snaps Superman out of it and he delivers the final blow to defeat Steppenwolf.
Though it’s a competent film and I really wanted to enjoy this film, Justice League is a complete let-down that should have been a huge movie event. Given its box office numbers and critical reception, this puts the future of the DCEU in a troubling position. They really should have given each of the heroes a solo film before releasing Justice League, but it’s apparent that Warner Bros. was way more concerned with catching up with Marvel than actually developing a shared universe with well-developed characters. Justice League just did not resonate with me and we can mainly thank Warner Bros. for rushing this film and delivering a disappointing product.
- When Cyborg links up to the Nightcrawler, Alfred asks him if he knows him. Alfred and Diana were in the Batcave together when Cyborg reached out to them, Alfred should have recognized his voice completely.
- Steppenwolf should have been a much better-developed villain with a well-defined purpose.
- Mixing the styles of two directors in this film gave it a wildly inconsistent tone.
- The humor, thought it did lighten up the mood, doesn’t work well with Zack Snyder’s style and feels out of place.
- What was the deal with putting so much focus on that Russian family? It takes you out of the element of the final battle and is a cheap attempt at raising the stakes.
- When Steppenwolf was first defeated thousands of years ago, why did they all entrust the humans with a Mother Box? Shouldn’t the Green Lantern Corps be alerted that one of their own perished in the battle? They could have taken the Mother Box back with them, but they didn’t.
- Overall, the movie suffers from trying to do too much with too little time. DC really needs to reevaluate their future releases and as much as we all want another Justice League, they should put all their focus on standalone titles to fully flesh out their characters for now.
- That post-credits scene featuring Slade Wilson/Deathstroke visiting a recently escaped and bald Lex Luthor is a set-up for the Injustice League/Legion of Doom, which would make for an interesting idea for the Justice League sequel (if it does happen).