Review: Justice League

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Justice League is good. Not great, but good. If you liked the previous DC movies you will probably like this film and if you like superhero films in general I would recommend it. If you have no interest in men in spandex or the ten thousand Marvel films have put you off the genre, then other films will probably be more worth your time.

I am a fan of DC comics and I liked the early seasons of their TV programmes. That said, I walked into this movie with low hopes.

The film has two directors, as Zack Snyder left the film after he suffered a personal tragedy. It also had extensive re-shoots and the track record for DC films can be described as shaky, to put it nicely. That skewed my opinion slightly as I watched the film as I found myself giving it points for basic competencies. However, this film does do some things well. The casting is spot on and the actors have great chemistry: as a fan, it is a treat to see the comic book characters on the big screen. Some of the most enjoyable scenes are just the members of the league interacting. The three new characters are introduced well, and it doesn’t feel like they are rushed into the film. This puts it well ahead of Oscar-winning Suicide Squad that just threw squad members at you with little or no explanation of who they were, what they wanted or why we should care. The returning characters also get some improvements. Batman kills nobody in this film, putting him closer to the comic’s representation. This will make the film less infuriating for fans of the original caped crusader than Batman vs Superman, where he acted more like the Punisher.

The plot is an interesting point. It is functional with good dialogue, especially between the main cast, but is completely basic and predictable. The fact that it is functional and has acceptable pacing puts it ahead of the other films in this franchise, except Wonder Woman, but if it was any other film I would not bring this up, except maybe as a negative.

Which nicely brings me to the negatives. One of the biggest for me is the villain, Steppenwolf. Although he is introduced in an epic action scene which sets him up well, he does nothing else of note for the entire film, until he is fought at the end. This, combined with the fact he is a giant CGI monster, makes him dull and forgettable. The character in the comics is not an uncastable monster, but a regular guy in armour. The reason the directors felt the need to make their villain an uninteresting glowing man is beyond me.

The CGI in this film is another point of contention. This is not a cheap film, with a budget of $300 million, but at times it looks like it. The action heavily leans on this CGI, leading to disappointing fight sequences. The two scenes that I remember a day later after one minute of thinking are the ending and the villain’s introduction. One of these is under five minutes long.

All these problems culminate for me in one character.  He would be a spoiler, but it was revealed in the adverts and he is too popular to die: Superman is back. My one positive about him is that he is much cheerier than in other films. He no longer brings down the mood of the entire cinema with his edgy lines about how nothing matters. He is closer to the comics where he is all about hope. My problem is that he is the ultimate deus ex machina. He is obviously more powerful than all the other Justice League members combined. Every problem that they have he instantly solves. Generally, in films, we like to root for the underdog taking out a more powerful foe. In this film though, the villain is the underdog compared to Superman.

Superman has always been powerful, but normally the others have advantages over him, such as the Flash being faster and Batman the better tactician, making the other characters seem like they are vaguely important for the team. Superman in this state undermines all the dramatic tension built up through the film, which is frustrating as like in most superhero films there was not much tension to begin with.

As a side note, Superman’s upper lip is also distracting. By the time of the re-shoots Henry Cavill had grown a moustache for the upcoming ‘Mission Impossible’. He did not shave it off as it was for this film, so they used CGI to cover it. Somehow, they managed to make a real person’s upper lip fall into the uncanny valley.

Even though it has many faults, I enjoyed this movie. I thought it was fun and even though most of the action was average I was never bored. Looking back there would have been much worse ways to spend a Friday.