Injustice for all.
The DC Extended Universe, or DCEU, has never quite found its footing. Man of Steel experienced mixed results at best, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice was an unmitigated disaster, and Suicide Squad was a dumpster fire. The only one of the DCEU’s films to be legitimately good is Wonder Woman, which is universally regarded as one of the top films in the comic book movie genre and a potential awards contender. Many had hopes with the success of Wonder Woman, the DCEU could be salvaged with the arrival of Justice League, which promised to be the epic universe building film DC fans were waiting for. The only question remains, does Justice League deliver justice for the wrongs of its previous failures?
Justice League sees Bruce Wayne/ Batman (Ben Affleck) discovering an other worldly enemy arriving after the demise of Superman (Henry Cavill). This other worldly presence reveals itself to be Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), who along with his Parademons seeks the three Mother Boxes in order to unleash an even more powerful cosmic figure to destroy the world and rule it. To stop Steppenwolf, Bruce calls upon the help of Diana Prince/ Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Barry Allen/ The Flash (Ezra Miller), Victor Stone/ Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Arthur Curry/ Aquaman (Jason Momoa), to help defeat Steppenwolf and deliver justice to the world.
It’s hard not to hold the wrongs of previous DCEU entries against Justice League, but Justice League doesn’t do itself any favors by having many of the same flaws that plagued the universe’s previous films. Most of those flaws point to the director and architect of what now must be classified as a failed universe, Zack Synder. The man continues to use slow motion ad nauseam, even for insignificant happenings such as an angry man knocking over fruit baskets outside of a corner liquor store. Synder does have an eye for visual effects and action sequences, but most of those end up looking cheap despite its big budget and hard to follow due to the studio going into full blown panic mode after the film that was supposed to kick everything off wet the bed.
Other trademark Synderism include setting up scenes with no background at all, using exposition to explain away whatever confusion you may have had with those scenes that weren’t set up properly, and a total lack of characterization for most, if not all the characters involved. Why does Steppenwolf want to take over the world? Why does Synder insist on Amy Adam’s Lois Lane being the emotional crux of this universe just to give her something to do even though she’s terrible? Why did Joss Whedon of Marvel fame decide to get involved in this mess and change the already awfully dark color pallet to an even more off-putting colorful one?
We learn next to nothing regarding the new characters introduced to the universe, particularly Ezra Miller’s Flash and Jason Momoa’s Aquaman. Miller’s Flash is an encapsulation of millennial stereotypes, and is unfunny and annoying throughout. Despite his impressive physique and stature, Jason Momoa lacks any sort of screen presence, and Aquaman’s rebellious surfer-dude demeanor feels out of place entirely. Henry Cavill somewhat suffers the same fate as Momoa’s Aquaman, and it’s clear Synder and the filmmakers don’t have a clear understanding of the Superman mythos. Even Ben Affleck, whose older and battle-worn Batman/ Bruce Wayne is a welcome change for the character, seems disinterested, and turning him and Jeremy Iron’s Alfred into wise crackers feels out of sync.
It’s only Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and Ray Fisher’s Cyborg who get anything out of what clearly was a heavily re-edited script to fit everything into one film instead of making a two part film and to ensure a run time of under two hours. Gadot’s Wonder Woman continues to be the only beacon of hope in an otherwise lost universe, but even she can’t save the movie. Ray Fisher definitely commands the screen whenever he’s on and his brooding makes for an interesting backstory, but it’s all cut short instead of being explored further so we can get back to a hacked to the bone film that lacks any sort of substance.
There are moments where Justice League does deliver, particularly when you can actually see the action clearly. The final sequences continues the DC tradition of CGI infested climaxes, but I’d be lying if I said my inner 10 year-old didn’t admire all of the classic DC heroes posing in their action shots while doing battle with the insignificant flies that were the Parademons. But for a film that was so supposed to be an epic team-up and a response to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Justice League felt like a throwaway obligation instead of an epic, universe building answer to The Avengers. If anything, the film is a processed version of that superior film, and tries to mimic Marvel to the point that its during and after the credits scenes feel like cheap imitators threatening us with more bad movies rather than significant, anticipated reveals.
Justice League is yet another chore in the DC Extended Universe that seems to be our punishment for enjoying the gluttony of great comic book movies Marvel has released for nearly the last decade or so. It’s a soulless bore that could’ve been something great had it not been altered due to its predecessor’s failures and to resemble an already far better product. In the end, Justice League not only fails to do its source material and universe justice, it should be categorized as something no fan would want its beloved source material to be: an injustice.
Rating: 2/4 Stars. Rent it.
Justice League stars Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J.K. Simmons, Amber Heard, Billy Crudup, and Ciarán Hinds. It is in theaters November 17th.