I am going to be completely honest and admit my expectations for Zack Snyder’s Justice League did not amount to much.
It’s no secret that it has been a rocky road for the DC extended universe of films between 2013 until today beginning with the bland and uninspiring Man of Steel to the most recent colorful and breath of fresh air that was Wonder Woman. I’d rather not talk about the films in between (with Suicide Squad, I’ll refrain due to relevance), but the events in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice are integral for discussing the plot of Justice League and whether or not DC and WB can keep the trend of serviceable films moving upward.
For those unaware, after the events of BvS, the world is left mourning the death of Superman after he sacrificed himself to save the world from Doomsday. Justice League begins immediately where BvS left off, and while the world is mourning, a very dangerous threat is looming over the Earth as word spreads of the kryptonian being himself no longer protecting it.
Ben Affleck returns as Batman and continues to shine as the Caped Crusader in his third appearance. We find him immediately involved in a rooftop showdown with a thug who’s up to no good before his attention is diverted to a flying creature scoping out Gotham. By it’s mere presence and the events in BvS, Bruce knows more danger is on the way and so does Diana (Gal Gadot returning) who is re-introduced by thwarting a terrorist attack in France in a short but satisfying action sequence. Together they form a plan to recruit other powerful beings to prepare for an inevitable attack in which they believe they can’t handle alone – especially without Superman in their corner.
It’s from here that I found the film to begin skipping all over the place narratively, as I feared it may do with the reported extensive reshoots and restructuring by Joss Whedon after director Zack Snyder had to step down due to a family tragedy when the film was nearly finished. Besides Clark, Diana, and Bruce (who apparently has 20 unseen years of Batman behind him), the rest of the soon-to-be Justice League members have yet to be formally introduced with anything substantial to their character. Therefore Justice League, I believe, suffers from being stuck in an introduction phase for the new cast and jumps from place to place rather quickly to give them ample screen time, which in the end still doesn’t feel like enough.
Ezra Miller as the Flash is easily the stand-out of the three newest characters, and the audience will get behind him quickly for his quirky and witty remarks, although I found his comic relief role to be maybe just a tad too much by the film’s end. Not only that, but some scenes consisting of only the Flash running within the Speedforce look remarkably cheesy and uncomfortable for the human body, but that’s more of a special effects complaint than a knock against the actor. His introduction in Justice League worked very well and will definitely help fill seats when it comes time for Flashpoint.
Cyborg (Ray Fisher) seemed like he could be a really cool and interesting character to get behind but he just doesn’t have the time allocated in this film to do so and I really hope they explore his previous life more in depth in his upcoming solo film. The least interesting of the new trio, however, happened to be Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa), whose primary role in this film seemed only to be to introduce the world of Atlantis and an attempt to make his character look cool before his big-screen solo film in a couple of years, as well.
Of course, we can’t have the Justice League without a formidable opponent threatening the end of the world, and this time it’s a completely CGI-rendered god named Steppenwolf whose task is to find and acquire the three ancient relics hidden on Earth known as “mother boxes,” which contain limitless power when combined. Even though Steppenwolf is introduced as a god and claims to be the “world-ender,” I found myself never really finding him all that threatening against a team consisting of Wonder Woman, making him just a plot device to bring everyone together for one climactic battle at the end of the film. Perhaps his inclusion in this film will lead to a bigger and badder threat in future installments (which may be referenced halfway through the film’s two hour run time), but only time will tell in that regard.
The action pieces weren’t terrible either. In fact, I enjoyed them for the most part. If you’ve seen any Zack Snyder film, you know what kind of stylized action pieces to expect and seeing every one of our heroes engaged in battle in his vision can be quite quite entertaining. The special effects work is quite noticeable in many instances, however, and a bit distracting at times – especially in scenes where where no action is even taking place.
Although the film did deliver some entertaining dialogue and some pretty cool visuals, I still couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed at the it’s end. Perhaps it was the rushed introduction of the new faces and the film’s inability to flesh them out within its two hour run time. Or maybe it was that the film kept cutting to a nameless family that was only added for dramatic effect in the third act when their town was in jeopardy and give members of the Justice League people to save. It felt like there just wasn’t enough time for everything to play out as it should. I didn’t love it, but considering the sub-par track record of the DCEU films (with the exception of this year’s Wonder Woman), I didn’t hate it either and I think DC is actually starting to find its footing in creating this multi-cinematic universe.
Justice League gets a C