Justice For All
Out now is DC's long awaited answer to Marvel's successful Avengers, with their own super hero team up movie: Justice League. Critically and generally, DC has gotten off to much more of a rocky start than Marvel with their cinematic universe. Their films have been much more divisive, and attacked for being so, that now you see the shift of studio damage control trying to mimic Marvel's formula and create funnier, more crowd pleasing films. This was certainly evident in Suicide Squad and the results were clumsy at best. Wonder Woman, on the other hand was able to find its footing and audiences and critics alike loved it. Does Justice League carry on in that same direction, redeeming DC once and for all? Generally, the answer here is no, but some will receive this film better than others, because after all, the studio, with much involvement, did their best to make it more fun.
Justice League directly follows the events of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Superman is dead, while Batman and Wonder Woman (and their alter egos Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince) are just trying to do their part to help the world in their own ways. Batman desperately wants to assemble a team because he can tell that something dangerous is coming, and he's right. It isn't long before he and Wonder Woman are faced with saving the world from the evil villain Steppenwolf. Steppenwolf is after three boxes hidden in different locations (the Amazon, Atlantis and Earth) that will grant him absolute power to conquer everything. Bruce and Diana know their power won't be enough, so they seek out the super powered individuals that Lex Luthor had his eye on in Batman V Superman. Enter Barry Allen, Victor Stone and Arthur Curry aka The Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman. Will they be enough to defeat Steppenwolf? Or is there another member of the team waiting in the shadows?
Going in, I'd heard early reports that Justice League was fun but suffered from a weak villain. I didn't suppose that I would have issue with that until the moment I actually saw him and all the stakes were removed with this CGI goon. Everything about him is generic and forgettable from his look to his motivations. He absolutely did not work for me on any level and unfortunately weakened the movie right from his first appearance early on. So that's the first and most obvious thing wrong with the movie. The plot and the villain are pretty weak sauce. But the bigger underlying problem is how studio interference just wreaks on this film. Comparing this to Batman V Superman (which if you may recall, I'm one of the few defenders of that film,) Justice League feels vastly different in tone and style. It does not feel like an organic sequel to a filmmakers vision; it's not his film anymore, it's the studios. And all the studio wants is for people to like their movies and for them to be FUN. While I appreciate that not everyone is a comedian here and that these characters all have their different brands of humor, there are definitely a lot more jokes here and not all of them land.
Also of note in what feels off here compared to the world we already established are two of the three most important characters to DC: Wonder Woman and [SPOILER highlight to read] Superman [/end SPOILER] Wonder Woman is still delightful herself as a character, but it's obvious that she's MUCH more objectified here than in previous films. It feels disingenuous to sexualize her so much when in her last DC appearance she stood much more for female empowerment than male fantasy. There are gratuitous butt shots galore, the most ridiculous and cleavagey shirt I've ever seen in my life, and I swear they made her skirt shorter too. After Wonder Woman, this treatment of the character was disappointing. Luckily Gal Gadot still shined in the role and was one of the best parts of the film. Then there's [SPOILER] Superman, who comes back and whose personality is completely unrecognizable from the Superman we met in previous movies. I know people have had issues with a brooding Superman, but I never did in this universe. However, seeing him here grinning constantly, just feels like a light switch move and I wish I could see more of WHY he suddenly has a complete personality change. That said, while I'm talking Superman here in the spoilers I must admit that Clark and Lois reunion was unbelievably sweet and legitimately made me emotional. Lucky Amy Adams showing up for a day's worth of work, kissing Henry Cavill and calling it a day. [/end SPOILER]
As for the rest of the team, Ben Affleck is still solid as Bruce Wayne/Batman. I really hope he stays with this role. I'd hate to see him replaced. Ezra Miller is a total scene stealer as Barry Allen/The Flash. He ends up with the task of providing the majority of the comic relief in the film, and he's up to the task. Again, not all of the jokes are successful, but I'd blame that more on the script than the delivery. Ray Fisher as Cyborg does a good job in his role, while Jason Momoa is a lot of fun, but most certainly the most underdeveloped character in the film. I speak for all (straight) women in America when I say, we could have seen a lot more of him. I'll be excited to see his character expanded upon in Aquaman.
With a film of such scope, Justice League inevitably ends up being quite the juggling act. As such, it ends up being somewhat of a mess, even if it's an enjoyable mess. Going forward, Justice League marks the continued effort of DC films (following in Suicide Squad's attempt) to be far more palatable now to mainstream audiences, catering less to a director's vision. While I recognize I'm one of few who truly appreciated Batman V Superman for what it was, I can't help but feel a little disappointed that this film isn't cut from more of that same cloth. I enjoyed it, but was a little let down. However, when it comes down to it, I just have a special place in my heart for the heroes of DC. I enjoy seeing their adventures, even if it's a little messy (I mean hello, I was an avid watcher of Smallville for Pete's sake.) Anyway, I wish this film had more vision, stayed true to itself, and had a much stronger villain...but I still had fun with it.
RATING: a generous 7/10