#REVIEW: “JUSTICE LEAGUE”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
With Superman (Henry Cavill) dead, the exiled God Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) has returned to Earth. He plans to steal and unite the three mysterious “mother boxes” in order to destroy the world and remake it in his image. Inspired by Superman’s grave sacrifice, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) and Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) set-out to put together a team of meta-humans to vanquish the new enemy and avert catastrophe.
At long last, we have a Justice League movie. Fans have been dying to see the likes of Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and Aquaman (Jason Momoa) fighting alongside each other for years. And in that respect, Justice League succeeds. The Film is at its very best when these characters are interacting with each other and working towards a common goal. There is a genuine comradery and chemistry between these heroes. While Cyborg and Aquaman could have been better developed, each character gets their fair share of screen time and moments to shine – especially Miller’s scene-stealing take on The Flash. Director Zack Snyder and company truly picked a great cast to fill out these legendary characters.
And that feels like the only thing truly done right in Justice League. Despite the story revolving around extraordinary individuals, just about everything is frighteningly generic. The Story is nothing special, the laughs and quips rarely feel organic (mainly due to last minute rewrites from fanboy legend Joss Whedon), the villain and his subplot for world domination are undercooked and criminally stereotypical and the Film itself feels cobbled together from at least three separate shoots – if not more. I can appreciate that Warner Bros. decided to course correct the tone and feel of their budding DC Extended Universe Franchise, but it comes at the expense of losing any form of personality it once had. There is an appeal in trying to make these characters more “fun” and accessible, but I left the Film feeling cold and indifferent. The stakes are sky high, but there is very little reason to care.
The overabundant use of CGI is also a large point of contention. As amusing as it was to imagine my younger self playing with the toy versions of these heroes, not a whole lot looks real within Justice League. Huge rooms and outdoor vistas show obvious signs of being green-screened, as do many of the battles, character actions and some of the characters themselves. In some scenes, it makes sense and looks great. In others (like a cornfield in Kansas), it becomes downright distracting. An entire scene in Aquaman’s home turf of Atlantis should look epic, but instead looks startlingly artificial and overwhelmingly goofy. The prospect of an entire Film primarily using that same setting already gives me nightmares. Worse, beyond seeing the team united multiple times, there are no true moments of patented Snyder spectacle. Even his trademark use of slow-motion seems to have been overhauled and excised, save for a select smattering of shots.
But what feels most baffling is the running time. Justice League runs at a brisk and frankly refreshing pace, clocking in just under two hours (including two post-credit scenes that made my fanboy friendly audience giddy with joy). By cutting out the bloat that plagues so many Comic Book movies, the Film is able to move through its story and plethora of action beats with ease. It even manages to not feel overly obnoxious with its references and set-ups for future sequels. But this acts as a bit of a double-edged sword. Because the Film moves so quickly, there are large gaps in the story and timeline – like how Bruce Wayne is able to grow a full beard on his quest to find Aquaman, despite being on a time crunch – and even some character’s sentences. It is noticeably choppier in the first half, but makes the Film feel sloppy overall. Expect some form of fleshed out Extended Version to buy in the spring.
I would be remiss to not mention the Superman-sized elephant in the room. I will not spoil how he factors into the Film, but will note how impressed I am that Warner Bros. did not spoil anything within their marketing. Fans will not be disappointed and I can only hope marketers turn this into a new trend – instead of spelling out the entire Movie in the Trailer.
In the end, Justice League is a mildly-entertaining Film with the most generic of ambitions. It has a laundry list of problems and it is a minor miracle that there is any semblance of coherency. But the main cast give the Film its pulse and do a great job bringing these legendary characters to life. And that may be reason enough for DCEU fans to truly adore this long-awaited team-up. For everyone else, there is a flicker of hope buried within the Film – the hope that an even better sequel can and will be made in the future.
Warner Bros. Pictures Canada unite the JUSTICE LEAGUE on Friday, November 17, 2017.