Review: Justice League
It hasn’t been easy being a DC Comics fan, watching your heroes drunkenly stumble around trying to find footing in a cinematic universe. Each film has been weirder than the last, with an incredibly long overdue Wonder Woman homerun to anchor things. Well, with Justice League, it’s almost as if they listened to every single complaint after Batman v Superman and decided to change course for the better because this film is a total blast; it's more interested with its animated series roots than staying true to a dark and moody aesthetic. While not all of it works, this is most definitely a step in the right direction for DC heroes flying onto the silver screen.
Justice League is surprisingly hilarious. The Joss Whedon punch-up definitely shows because a Zack Snyder film has never been this funny or had as many jokes per minute being hurled at you. The exchanges between characters are spot on and snappy, yet always relevant to DCEU lore. Even when the film gives us mere snapshots into the lives of, say, Aquaman or The Flash, stuff that would take whole films to establish, we still have a simple, easy-to-digest product that just gets straight to work while having a ball with these legends. Again, like the Justice League animated series before it, this is all about a villain doing bad shit and heroes sweeping in save the day. Done. Rinse and repeat, see you next week, kids. This efficiency makes for a lean and mean film with an extended cut sure to surface once it hits VOD, Blu-ray, 4K, etc. Tons of footage in the trailer does not show up in the film, creating a good misdirect.
So, what about the heroes (the reason you purchased a ticket)? They look and sound incredible; Batman is no longer jaded and is full of optimism. The Flash is a total spaz with a childlike wonder that is desperately needed after BVS; Ezra Miller practically steals the film with just a look. Wonder Wonder still remains the true President of these United States, taking point and leading the men in combat like a Goddess. Gal Gadot once again shows she was the right choice to play the role, cementing her legacy. Aquaman has never been cooler and it is about time. Often joked about as the silliest member of the Justice League, here he is an alcohol-fueled, tattooed-up warrior that almost has the funniest stuff in the film, if it weren't for that damned Flash. Cyborg is a tortured character, at odds with himself and his new found abilities. He’s the most reluctant to become a hero but, with his new pals pushing him on, he begins to unlock his full potential, making for some neat tech-driven sequences.
Special shoutout to the casting of Joe Morton, who plays Cyborg’s father, Dr. Silas Stone. It’s hard not to get Terminator 2 energy from it and that’s a welcomed thing. And finally, the Worst-Kept-Secret-In-Town-Thanks-To-A-Mustache is the return of Superman. I have always felt Cavill was wonderful in the suit and worthy of the job, and here he has some great stuff to play with but, most importantly, he is the polite farmboy from Kansas who will save Earth at all costs. There is nothing cooler than seeing Supes fly in asking “Is this guy bothering you?” with a smile in his voice as he punches a baddie into next week. He is a wonderful Superman and Justice League does him all the favors.
Ok, the bad stuff. As much as I liked this film, there are several things stopping it from being a true classic. That Danny Elfman score is just there and is very forgettable, but I’m sure after repeat viewings it’ll sink in but the first impression was a bad one. I must admit, I was a sucker for the dashes of Batman '89 theme and John Williams’ Superman cues Elfman peppered in; it’s just the main theme for the film is canned superhero fodder with nothing memorable about it. Gun to my head, I couldn't hum back the Aquaman notes or the Flash’s for that matter.
Our main villain Steppenwolf (a motion-captured Ciaran Hinds) is yet another 9-foot-tall CGI creation that acts as a mid-boss before the final big bad rolls into town. We as an audience know he’s in and out and have no emotional connection to his second attempt at conquering Earth (his first try was met with great resistance, which they show in a neat flashback sequence). Nothing memorable but he looks cool and wields a big stick so there is that. The finale is loaded with massive green screen madness and odd, multicolored tendrils that rip the Earth open, terraforming it, I guess. Thing is, Zack Snyder has no weak spot for action. All the sequences are coherent, staying true to the heroes' power sets while still remembering they need to work together to save the day. Every character at one point or another speaks with joy in their hearts.
This film feels like an apology. A very sincere “Look, we are sorry. Here is something badass. Here are your heroes having a ball. Here are two wonderful end stingers. So sorry about before!” Well, apology accepted, and more of this energy please because this is closer to the magic these characters are capable of. Justice League is a basic movie and often times a stupid one, but the alchemy is beginning to work in the universe. The unstable formula is now starting to yield results. Drop more like this please and never look back.