For the longest time, I have pretty much given up hope on the DC Extended Universe, which is DC’s version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Man of Steel was rather disappointing because of how glum Superman was, making the movie just “okay” overall. The atrociously long named Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice had some good action but felt downright depressing. Even Suicide Squad, the movie that looked like it had the most promise to be the rip roaring fun movie DC desperately needed, just sucked. But then, Wonder Woman came along and it was a fantastic and wonderful movie. It looked like, finally, the DC Extended Universe was getting on track. And just in time for the release of Justice League, which should be the culmination of Warner Bros. superhero films as we will see the likes of Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg team up!
So, how was Justice League? It was a’ight. It wasn’t great nor was it terrible; it was just a’ight. I’ll go into more detail below. But, if you’re worried that I’ll be giving you major plot details, don’t worry. This is going to be a totally SPOILER-FREE review of the film.
Justice League takes place a few months after Superman’s death at the end of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The world seems to be descending into chaos and despair without the Man of Steel to bring hope to the people of Earth. It is at this very moment when an alien force led by Steppenwolf and his legion of Parademons invade the planet as it’s virtually defenseless without Superman to defend it. Batman and Wonder Woman, recognizing the threat, tries to recruit The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg in hopes that they will be enough to stop Steppenwolf’s advance.
The film moves along at a rather brisk pace. Apparently, Warner Bros. made a decree that Justice League can’t be longer than two hours. Hence, Justice League’s is only 120 minutes long, just right at the two hour mark! It’s actually kind of refreshing that a modern superhero film has that short of a runtime. Because of this, there are hardly any wasted moments and the story moves really quickly. At the same time, however, the overall story does come off as stilted and never gets time to breathe. It’s always in a rush to give viewers new information all the time. That wouldn’t be too much of a problem but all those little bits of details are usually given via long dumps of exposition. You wanna know how Cyborg came to be? Well, be prepared to listen to a stream of dialogue between two people explaining how he got those cybernetic implants instead of, you know, showing you through the magic of movies and video.
The story also feels rather contracted and feels like a lot of scenes were cut out to meet Warner Bros. new 2 hour time limit. I won’t be surprised if the DVD/Blu-Ray release of Justice League will come with at least 30 minutes of extra scenes that were edited out. Generally, the story flows a little too quickly for its own good. It stills does tell a cohesive story for the most part but it just feels like its being held together by more than just a couple of loose threads that could unravel at the slightest touch.
The acting for all of the main roles are solid and engaging. Ben Affleck still does a great job of bringing Bruce Wayne/Batman to life but, this time around, the usual brooding Dark Knight had lightened up a little bit. You would think this would hurt the character but I did appreciate that Ben Affleck was given much more than just be Mr. Frowny throughout the entire film this time around. Gal Gadot still beautifully fits into the Amazonian garb of Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. She’s definitely become much more worldly since her World War I days and Gal Gadot brings a sophistication and allure to Wonder Woman, which makes a whole lot of sense as she is the Princess of the Amazons.
Most of the newcomers also pull off some really good performances. The one that really didn’t click for me was Ray Fisher as Victor Stone/Cyborg. This is through no fault of his own but it’s because of his role as a half-human/half-machine person. In retrospect, it seemed as if he was given the direction of being more emotionless for most of the movie thanks to him being part machine. I was totally into Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry/Aquaman as he brought something really different to the character. He made the character much more gruff and with a devil-may-care attitude, which really worked. However, the actor that steals the entire film is Ezra Miller as Barry Allen/The Flash. In Justice League, The Flash is still very naive and the least battle-hardened of the group. He may be a hero but, thanks to his speed, he’s never gotten into a fight this big so he’s incredibly nervous. He’s generally a normal person who just got his powers so, when he does meet up with Batman and other legends, he’s incredibly anxious. He’s also given the most jokes so, yeah, it’s kinda unfair because The Flash is given the most opportunities to be likable, but it worked because The Flash is incredibly likable.
Unfortunately, the supporting cast aren’t all that great. Jeremy Irons’ Alfred is the exception as he’s given a rather substantial presence in Justice League. He’s given time to show a lot of character and his dialogue between himself and Bruce Wayne conveys that the duo has been through a lot. Now, I know Amy Adams and Diane Lane are great actresses. But their story arcs don’t really add anything to the drama of “the world is coming to an end.” Thankfully, they’re not given that much screen time. In fact, most of the supporting cast don’t do all that much. I wanted to see much more of J. K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon but he gets something like 10 minutes in the movie, tops. Even Alfred feels like he’s regulated in the background.
The only other character that’s given a generous amount of time in the film is the villain Steppenwolf and, man, is he boring! Among all of the modern superhero films that have been released, and I’m including the ones from DC, Marvel, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and X-Men, Steppenwolf is in my Top 3 of the most boring villains out there. Sure, he’s super strong and can fight but he has totally no personality besides “I will take over the world” mentality. Imagine Rowan The Accuser from the first Guardians of the Galaxy film and then squeeze out the little bit of character from him until he’s just a husk of lameness and boredom. There, that’s Steppenwolf in a nutshell.
The only thing I really liked about Steppenwolf is that it looked like he’s real. As he’s a fully CGI character, I will give props to the CGI department for making it look like he’s there fighting against the Justice League. The special effects for the electricity/Speed Force that wraps around The Flash when he runs also looked pretty cool as well. But there were some effects that didn’t hold up, though. Some of the fight scenes that involved the Justice League flying around didn’t look believable and, at times, they looked stiff and robotic. Some of the “slow motion” shots where The Flash is running around in super-speed looked janky also.
There were also some costume design choices that didn’t work. I was generally okay with Batman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman’s costumes. I especially liked the detail with Batman’s costume during the final battle as it had extra armor plating. That’s something an ordinary human would need going up against aliens from another world! However, I didn’t like Cyborg and The Flash’s costumes as they didn’t look… functional. Don’t get me wrong. They both looked really cool but they just didn’t look all that realistic. Cyborg’s entire body would sometimes dip into the uncanny valley because of all that armor plating he has. And The Flash’s outfit didn’t look like you can actually run comfortably in it. Pretty poor choice for a man who’s superpower is basically running fast.
Despite all of the negatives that I’ve mentioned, there is one thing that keeps Justice League from being a bad movie: tone. Justice League didn’t have the “grimdark” feel that overwhelmed Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman. Nor did it jump too much into the side of being silly that it didn’t feel out of place in the DC Extended Universe series of films. There was an okay balance between whimsy and dark. Sure, there were times when those two tones didn’t blend together all that well. But whatever levity the film had was just enough to liven the gritty moments.
Overall, Justice League isn’t a fantastic piece of film. It never had me jumping out of my seat nor did it bore me. In that respect, I should say the film is a disappointment. This is the Justice League, a movie that should’ve been spectacular since it gathers all of DC biggest superheroes in one film. That should’ve been what people were expecting from it. Yet I also can’t say it’s a film that you shouldn’t watch as the pros do outweigh the cons and it’s a fun and entertaining way to spend two hours. Bottom line: Justice League isn’t a “super” movie. It’s just okay…. which is a whole lot better than most of the DC movies that came before it.
That’s a good thing, right?
Have you seen Justice League? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!