I was apprehensive walking into the cinema – I was out of town, with nothing to do but either stare at my feet in a soulless hotel room or visit the near by shopping mall with its requisite and equally soulless multiplex.
Not many people know that the witch character from the Suicide Squad movie cursed the DC movies with a hex so powerful that it ripples back in time and ruined the Green Lantern movie. Only Wonder Woman and Lego Batman have been strong enough to escape the curse.
So I knew I was paying money to see a film that unnatural powers had already undermined. Of the Zak Snyder films I have seen I only have affection for Legends of the Guardians – The Owls of Ga’hoole, I think it also be the only one of his films that feels like a complete narrative.
Yet Justice League is NOT terrible – don’t get me wrong it isn’t actually good but it’s not Batman v Superman or Suicide Squad.
Three key things:
- There is as very limited plot (this is a good thing in the circumstances)
- The bad guy is very simple – he’s a big evil demon chap with an axe.
- It has low pretentiousness – it is more accepting that it is a big daft superhero film.
The Joss Whedon influence on the dialogue is noticeable but not consistent. So sometimes there is witty, snappy dialogue but sometimes it sounds more like a daytime soap opera
They largely don’t stuff up Wonder Woman or the Amazons. There is an epic fight on Themiscyra in which the cooperation between the Amazons to fight the Big Bad is, I think, very well done. I mean, you could pull it apart in terms of why any one character does anything but the action for his extended scene shows each Amazon warrior working in concert with the others that manages to be both heavy on action, super bad-ass but also suggestive of the Amazons being a very different kind of warrior-race than the typical fantasy warrior-race.
More male-gazey than the Wonder Woman film? Yes but not as much as some of the comments I’ve seen about the film suggest.
Wonder Woman herself is easily the best character in the film – and this helps demonstrate how important prior films are in establishing this kind of shared universe movie. For example, I simply didn’t recognize Lois Lane from the previous two Snyder Superman films and the film relies on the emotional connection with her loss of Clark Kent for some key sense – which just fall a bit flat. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, on the other hand, just brighten’s up the film every time she appears. I care about what she thinks and feels in a way that I simply didn’t with regard to the others. I think the film recognises that – she is often (until later in the movie for unsurprising plot twist reasons) the centre of the fight against the Big Bad “Steppenwolf”.
She is not, though, the leader of the team that becomes The Justice League but unusually there is a repeated theme that Batman/Bruce clearly wants her to take on that role. This plays out to the extent of Batman trying to psychologically manipulating her into becoming the leader. Diane’s motivation for not doing so and for not really being Wonder Woman much for the last 100 years boils down to her being sad about Steve Trevor dying – which, unfortunately, takes us right back to a core failing of the DC movies. Characters still often have shallow, implausible and out-of-character motivations.
The baddy “Steppenwolf” (which is German for ‘I don’t speak German or have read Herman Hesse but that word sounds cool’) leans into this characterisation problem by being as simple a bad guy as possible. He is a big CGI demon alien monster guy who wants to use alien technology to turn Earth into an alien hellscape because he wants to. As I said earlier, that’s fine. Every other DC bad guy motivation (including Ares in the otherwise good Wonder Woman movie) has made zero sense. Steppenwolf gets back to basic with a baddy who just wants to kille everybody and smash up the world and give evil speeches. True, the shallowness looks even worse if you’ve seen Thor:Ragnarok, because Steppenwolf isn’t very different from Surtur but Justice League was never going to come close to Thor:Ragnarok.
New character for the DC movie universe, Cyborg, suffers from a backstory that requires some heavy exposition. I feel like this is all referencing events from Batman v Superman but I don’t really remember them. Had I just stopped paying attention?
Aquaman is OK I suppose. Unremarkable at this point. Barry Allen/Flash gets some good moments. Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne/Batman is fine, more convincing than he was in Batman v Superman.
If this movie had come out in 2007, it may have even been impressive. It isn’t the dour, uncoordinated mess that was Batman v Superman. It delivers superheroes punching stuff but still doesn’t compare well to recent Marvel movies. However, I think it does get the tone of Justice League comic books.
Not terrible. There is hope for DC yet. Just maybe don’t watch it too soon after watching Thor:Ragnarok.