Released November 17, 2017
Rated PG-13 (Sci-Fi Violence, Action)
1 hr. 59 min.
Written and Directed by Zack Snyder (300, Man of Steel) and Joss Whedon (Serenity, The Avengers) [The DGA doesn’t say so, due to their rules, but Whedon deserves co-director credit.]
Also Written by Chris Terrio (Argo, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)
Cinematography by Fabian Wagner (Victor Frankenstein, Game of Thrones)
Music by Danny Elfman (Beetlejuice, Batman)
Edited by David Brenner (Independence Day, The Patriot), Richard Pearson (United 93, The Accountant), and Martin Walsh (V for Vendetta, Wonder Woman)
Produced by Geoff Johns (Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman), Jon Berg (Elf, Meet Dave), Charles Roven (Batman Begins, American Hustle), and Deborah Snyder (Watchmen, Man of Steel)
Starring Ben Affleck (The Town, Gone Girl), Gal Gadot (Furious 7, Wonder Woman), Ray Fisher (The Astronaut Wives Club, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Jason Momoa (Stargate: Atlantis, Game of Thrones), Henry Cavill (Man of Steel, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), Ciarán Hinds (Road to Perdition, There Will Be Blood), Jeremy Irons (Die Hard with a Vengeance, Batman v Superman), J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man, Whiplash), Amy Adams (Nocturnal Animals, Arrival), Diane Lane (Lonesome Dove, Man of Steel), Amber Heard (Zombieland, Drive Angry), Connie Nielsen (Gladiator, Wonder Woman), and Joe Morton (Terminator 2, Speed)
Superman (Cavill) is dead. A beacon of hope for much of the world, he became even more a hero when he sacrificed his own life to save this planet, and he had been an object of fear for the criminal world. None has taken his place. Now, crime is on the rise. It’s a chaotic world, and it seems like it’s simply stopped working.
Meanwhile, as Batman (Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gadot), aka Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince, are realizing this, Batman finds evidence in his own backyard of an alien invasion, a parademon who explodes when captured and leaves behind clues to the objects it was seeking: three strange cubes, items of necessity for the ancient, otherworldly Steppenwolf (Hinds), a being beyond Batman’s underworld experience and beyond Bruce Wayne’s societal experience.
Upon learning more, Bruce and Diana decide they must assemble a team to protect Earth, and so they try, seeking Aquaman (Momoa), the Flash (Miller), and Cyborg (Fisher) and imploring them to join them. But this has the potential to be quite a dysfunctional union, and it sure would be nice if Superman were still around. . .
Before I get on with my review, I’d like you all to hear Mr. Malone’s thoughts on Justice League, as this isn’t a regular collaborative review from the two of us, and, for now, he doesn’t plan to write his own review:
Justice League can be summed up in one word: fun.
The best advice I can give anyone that hasn’t seen the film is to just sit back and enjoy the ride, because it is a blast. DC seems to be hitting its stride with Wonder Woman and the more upbeat feel to Justice League. Ignore the “lackluster” opening weekend numbers at the box office. This film outdoes Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Man of Steel, in my humble opinion, and keeps DC on a good trajectory for upcoming films. Ben Affleck continues to perform well as old Batman who has a constant death wish, and Gal Gadot unsurprisingly continues to amaze in her role as Wonder Woman. Ezra Miller plays a hilariously awkward Flash, and Jason Momoa’s Aquaman left me immediately wanting to see his standalone film next year.
The best part of Justice League is no doubt the superb cast, and that gives me hope that DC will continue to put out solid, if not great, superhero films.
I’m going to give Justice League an 85%.
And now, on to my thoughts.
On November 17th, Justice League entered theaters (officially, anyway, in actuality, it’s the 16th) pulling a sizable load of baggage behind it, enough to dig deep tracks in the dirt, enough to slow it down.
First of all, no matter what, it had to live up to the fact that thousands of DC Comics fans have been waiting years and years to see a Justice League come together up on the big screen. And then there’s the fact that ever since Man of Steel in 2013, fans of DC’s cinematic universe and fans of Marvel’s cinematic universe have been arguing about which movie universe is best, which has the best potential, characters, tone, actors, directors, etc.
Second, there is the baggage of Justice League‘s incredibly troubled production: Snyder’s unfortunate departure after a tragic family event; Whedon’s necessary takeover of screenwriting and directing; Warner Bros. meddling, including tone demands, a two-hour runtime mandate, and an eventually ridiculous insistence upon keeping to the original release date; some of the most extensive reshoots ever; substantial rumors of Affleck’s departure and disinterest in playing Batman/Bruce Wayne; and, of course, Henry Cavill’s infamous mustache, which, yes, is very noticeable from time to time in the movie. Oh, and Warner Bros. ran a lazy promotional campaign for the movie, probably to cut corners in marketing to help compensate for the crazy production costs.
Third, there is the bungling way Warner Bros. seemed to be trying to cover up reviews of Justice League until the absolute last minute. Initially, they committed the sin of holding a review embargo until the day, Wednesday, before the film’s release Thursday, almost always a harbinger of a bad movie. Then, Rotten Tomatoes, partially owned by Warner Bros., held back the movie’s Tomatometer score until the day of Justice League‘s Thursday release, using a lame excuse of trying to promote some Facebook show.
All that being said, and knowing some of these things may have partially led to Justice League‘s less-than-stellar domestic opening weekend of $94 million (the lowest DC cinematic universe movie opening, and a bad omen for a movie with a reported production budget of $300 million), I determined to go into the theater with a completely open mind. So how is it?
Not worth the fuss intertwined with it, that’s for sure. Not worth years of bickering among fans. Not worth the baggage assigned to it. . . in both a good way and a bad way.
In a good way because this is a fun, entertaining movie. In a bad way because, well, it’s a pretty average superhero flick in an era of exciting, new, and even experimental superhero outings. It’s forgettable, but you can have a good time with it if you love these characters and are in the mood.
Though I don’t love Justice League, I do love the heroes here and how they are portrayed, and Justice League excited me for new movies coming up about Aquaman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, and Cyborg. For all my negatives with the film, the actors and their characters – on the good guys’ side – are excellent and interact with each other really well. They have a great chemistry and dynamic together. When the action is on, I couldn’t have cared less, except in three stand-out sequences. Yet when the characters were just conversing, I was always engaged.
This doesn’t stand for the bad guys’ side though, and definitely not for the main baddie, Steppenwolf, who is both a weak villain and a bad villain on the level of X-Men’s movie version of Apocalypse. A weak villain because his threat never seems palpable or weighty. A bad villain because he’s nothing more than an evil CGI monster, animated poorly, having no interesting or redemptive character traits or qualities, driven by one-note motivation, which is singular and focused yet poorly established and shallow. Hinds, a fantastic Irish actor, does voice him superbly though, and knowing it was his voice, I wish they would have just had him act in makeup, instead of the video game cut-scene quality presence we got. Back on a positive note, I won’t spoil much about Superman, but I will say though I love and defend Man of Steel, and though Superman has some unnatural dialogue here, this iteration of Superman may be the best in the current DC movie universe.
Let me go ahead get my other negatives out of the way as well:
The humor that they’ve tried to interject a bit into the movie often doesn’t land. The CGI and green screen effects are regularly terrible, the worst I’ve seen in any comic book film since 2011, if you don’t count 2015’s legendarily crappy Fant4stic. The plot is thin and rushed. The pacing, though nicely brisk, is very stop-go, and there are jumps in the pacing where you can tell some material is missing, also contributing to plot holes, timeline inconsistencies, and leaps in logic. The action, too, is often awkward, stilted, and poorly established, except for those three sequences I mentioned before. Also, some of the characters contained within do get the short shrift. And if you were pleased by Wonder Woman‘s tendency to avoid sexually objectifying Diana, you may be disappointed here. With both her and the female warriors on Themyscira, we see more skin, and the camera regularly gazes lustfully at Gadot.
However, I did say that I enjoyed this, and let me tell you why, beyond what I’ve already mentioned:
When the humor does land, it’s funny and has utility. It’s also extremely cool to see this team assembling. Conversations between Batman and Wonder Woman are some of the best in recent superhero films. And the score by Elfman is good with moments of greatness, some of which come in the form of bits of Elfman’s ’89 Batman theme, Zimmer’s Superman theme, an exciting Wonder Woman introduction, and – as David pointed out to me – Williams’s Superman theme interwoven. On top of all this, if you’re a DC Comics fan, there are tons of Easter eggs and references for you to catch.
Overall, Justice League is fun but forgettable, and both worthy of being fun and worthy of being forgotten. You can tell, in the inconsistencies and rushed nature, the troubles that occurred behind the scenes. Even still, Snyder, Whedon, and the producers put out a DC movie that is far better than the steaming messes that are Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad. I have a feeling we got, in theaters, the best possible cut that could have been released at the appointed time. The way they lightened up the movie tonally and visually – something I didn’t even really talk about – does make the film a bit more enjoyable, too, even if it has been done rather messily. Look, this movie just is better than it could have been, so I am happy with that. And I am happy for this movie universe to continue.
I’m going to give Justice League a 70%.