Take a look at our review for ‘Justice League’ where DC tries to rectify the sins of ‘Batman V. Superman’ but still can’t figure out that sometimes less is more…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
If there’s one thing you can say for certain about the executives at DC Comics and Warner Bros., it’s that they are all very reactionary.
Last year when reviews for ‘Batman V. Superman’ were in the toilet as critics panned the overly depressing film that painted Batman as a vengeful, mean spirited asshole and Superman as a mopey, down on himself superhero, DC reacted by quickly ordering reshoots for its film called ‘Suicide Squad’.
That movie — another bloated superhero team-up — injected a few more laughs and levity amongst the dark, dreary look of the movie trying to make theater goers have some fun rather than leaving the movies looking for an anti-depressant. Unfortunately, the problem with ‘Suicide Squad’ had nothing to do with the laugh track but rather the shitty villain and god awful storyline that somehow managed to marginalize the Joker despite all the ways that movie desperately needed a character like that to shine.
Now DC and Warner Bros. have reacted again with their superhero team feature ‘Justice League’, which seeks to put the sins of the past — here’s looking at you ‘Batman V. Superman’ — behind them by making a more light hearted romp. The aim was making a film about a group of unlikely heroes coming together to stop a supernatural god like creature hell bent on destroying the Earth.
But once again, DC has failed to hit the mark with ‘Justice League’ because just like the last time, the problem with the film being too gothic in feel and tone is more of an issue with the filmmaker (Zack Snyder) rather than facing the real downfall of this over stuffed monstrocity, which is jam packing six superheroes into a two-hour movie with a plot as thin as a $1 box of tissues while failing to give anyone significant time to flesh out a back story outside of spending an unnecessary chunk of the movie focused on making Cyborg seem important despite the fact that he’s probably the one character even hardcore fan boys like myself couldn’t care less about.
Don’t get me wrong, ‘Justice League’ is definitely better from start to finish than ‘Batman V. Superman’ but not by leaps and bounds.
While Ben Affleck was actually the one saving grace for ‘Batman V. Superman’, he feels like dead weight holding back ‘Justice League’ while Jason Momoa barely gets enough screen time to truly shine and when he does finally appear, he’s a sad mix of bad lines and rock star attitude that just don’t fit the King of Atlantis. It’s clear DC is trying to reinvent Aquaman from the character who embarrassingly just talks to fish, but he should have been introduced in a movie of his own before dropping him onto the surface where his powers of the ocean literally make all of one impact during the various battle scenes.
And that goes to the heart of what DC continues to get wrong that ‘Wonder Woman’ got so right — teach us about a character, make us fall in love with them and then when you plug them into a team situation, that investment pays off when they only get 1/6 the screen time.
Instead, ‘Justice League’ doesn’t even bother to tell us how Barry Allen became the Flash and instead only explains — in a 30 second diatribe by Bruce Wayne — about his horrific childhood where his father is in prison for allegedly murdering his mother. Sure it’s a story comic book fans probably know and even those folks who watch ‘The Flash’ on the CW are familiar with, but this is a movie — and origin stories go with comic book films like peanut butter goes with jelly.
In a shortened two hour running time, ‘Justice League’ still feels like a bloated film going experience that just keeps throwing shit at the screen hoping something will stick and almost nothing does.
Following the death of Superman in ‘Batman V. Superman’, the world is lost without a hero — despite the fact that he was vilified throughout that movie — and someone or something is about to prey upon the Earth in his absence.
That leads Bruce Wayne to take it upon himself to gather a group of extraordinary individuals to help him stop this unstoppable force of nature. Of course, Bruce already knows Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman despite the fact that she still stays largely in the shadows rather than working full time in the hero business. He tracks down a water god named Arthur Curry, who saves drowning fishermen in his spare time before pounding a bottle of booze. Then there’s Barry Allen aka the Flash — a speedster, who moves like lightning and really just wants a group of super friends. We also meet Cyborg — who is half human and half machine — after his father saved his life following an explosion by turning him into a more computer friendly Robocop.
The team comes together to help stop Steppenwolf — a gnarly wannabe god who is attempting to gather three Mother Boxes left on Earth, that when combined give him the ultimate power in the universe. What does he hope to do with that power? Of course he wants to lay waste to the Earth because why not. He’s aided by his army of parademons, as he seeks out these Mother Boxes while running into these heroes at every stop.
And finally yes, Superman does make an appearance in this movie — and ironically he’s one of the bright spots of this film. Where Zack Snyder tried to turn Superman into the angry, peanut firing, alcoholic version of the character from the oft forgotten ‘Superman 3’ — where Supes battles Richard Pryor and a super computer — the version in ‘Justice League’ is much more the ray of hope that we’ve all come to know as the Man of Steel over the years.
The real stars in this film have to be Gal Gadot — and we all kind of saw that one coming — and Ezra Miller, who plays a very goofy and aloof Barry Allen aka the Flash.
Miller was certainly hired to be the comic relief in this movie and he plays that role to perfection throughout the two hour affair and while his one liners run a little bit stale by the end of the film, he’s still by far the breakout star from this film.
Despite a very short amount of time dedicated to his personal story, Miller’s Barry Allen does manage to show a wider range of emotions during a pair of prison visits to see his dad, which really make you hope that somebody does ‘The Flash’ movie some justice when it finally gets made.
Jason Momoa has a lot of fun playing Aquaman and that’s to his credit considering some of the eye-rolling material he’s given during this movie. He does have one particularly great moment speaking to his new teammates when he accidentally sits on Diana’s Lasso of Truth that provides a hilarious break in the action.
It’s unclear why Zack Snyder — along with the writers of this movie — decided that Cyborg had to become a focal point for ‘Justice League’ but Ray Fisher struggles carrying that weight around. He’s barely recognizable behind some really poorly done CGI and when he utters the phrase ‘boo-yah’ at one point during the movie, you actually feel bad for him.
Directing and Writing
Let me say first that I’m absolutely a fan of Zack Snyder — in certain instances.
His version of ‘Watchmen’ remains one of my top 10 all time comic book movies — he did the impossible by transforming a nearly perfect story created by Saint Alan Moore and crafted it into an absolutely mesmerizing movie. He also managed to reboot ‘Dawn of the Dead’ in a way that you’d never imagine the movie was even connected to the George A. Romero original.
With that being said — somebody needs to tell Zack Snyder to stay away from the DC Universe.
His dour, brooding style of storytelling just doesn’t work well for these characters. He single handedly created the worst version of Superman we’ve ever seen and that’s really saying something if you’ve watched “Superman Returns” at least one time.
On the flipside after Snyder was forced to leave ‘Justice League’ due to a personal tragedy, Joss Whedon stepped into to finish working on the movie and his touches can be seen at certain points, but it was clear that he was sent into save a sinking ship that had already collided with the iceberg.
As for the writing — there’s nothing wrong with the interaction between the heroes. The dialogue is witty and fun but also sharp and cutting when necessary. The problem is the paper thin plot, especially when it comes to Steppenwolf as the villain in this movie. Sure he’s imposing enough with his giant glowing axe, but there’s no real reason to fear him other than the fact that the movie literally tells you to be scared of this guy. Truth be told, he’s never all that menacing and ultimately he’s just an apocalyptic villain hell bent on destroying the world, which is nearly as bad as two heroes at odds with each other coming to terms when they realizes their mothers both share the same first name.
What’s Right with the Movie?
Usually this section is reserved for complaints about the movie but obviously I’ve already reeled off quite a few, so instead I’ll list some of the bright spots.
Gal Gadot is a national treasure and should chew up as much time as possible in every DC movie as Wonder Woman. As previously stated, Ezra Miller does a great job as the Flash and his appearance made me cautiously optimistic about what to expect when Warner Bros. finally decides on a director for that stand alone movie.
Henry Cavill returns as Superman and he’s finally the character we’ve wanted him to be after he was so dark and depressing through ‘Man of Steel’ and ‘Batman V. Superman’. He’s actually a symbol of hope this time around and it’s good to see him return to form.
And as strange as this sounds considering all the mistakes that were packed into ‘Justice League’ it actually felt like the movie could have been a little bit longer. They trimmed this movie down to two hours, which is fine for the popcorn chomping movie masses, but so much of what was wrong with ‘Justice League’ could have been solved with an extra 30 minutes of origin stories and actually giving the villain a compelling plot line.
‘Wonder Woman’ was a ray of hope but otherwise DC still hasn’t figured it out. ‘Justice League’ feels like a rushed attempt to make a team up like Marvel built with ‘The Avengers’ without actually giving us several individual movies to make us care about these characters. Now DC is going to shatter the team apart for the upcoming ‘Aquaman’ movie as well as a ‘Wonder Woman’ sequel and we can only hope that sum of the parts will ultimately be greater than the whole.
‘Justice League’ gets a two out of five on the Skolnick Scale