Movie Review: ‘JUSTICE LEAGUE’ (2017) – Is It Too Late To Redeem The DC Extended Universe?
The DC Comics cinematic universe has thus far struggled to resonate with fans or critics. While pulling in insane numbers at the Box Office, the quality of the, so far, 4 films have been immensely divided. The notable exception being the most recently released ‘Wonder Woman’, the highest grossing superhero origin movie of all time. The film has been so critically acclaimed that Warner Brothers is even considering an Oscar campaign to push the film for awards. So expectations were high for the next DCEU release, the culmination of its universe so far in ‘Justice League’. While in many ways, the film redeems its own struggling universe, it is too little too late? Find out in my Spoiler-free Movie Review of ‘Justice League’.
‘Justice League’ captures all the emotions of a high octane superhero adventure, while making some missteps in storytelling.
★★★ (out of 5)
Even before its release, ‘Justice League’ was marred in controversy and behind the scenes turmoil, that seemed to hype the movie more so than anything else. With the weight of the continuation of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) riding on its back, the movie needed to be more than good, it needed to be great. And I personally think it is, but with a lot of caveats.
With the events of ‘Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice’ (my Movie Review here) leading into the need for a team of powered individuals to fight a coming threat, ‘Justice League’ opens with some much needed backstory about the Mother Boxes; also introduced in the previous film. After the loss of Superman, Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) are the guardians of the world, as they investigate the appearance of strange creatures, followed by mysterious symbols. Batman attempts to recruit more members for a new team to fight the coming of a bigger and badder villain than the previous film’s Lex Luthor. (Jesse Eisenberg)
‘Justice League’ sees the team-up of iconic pop-culture personalities, together on screen in a live action format for the first time ever. And in that regard, the film lives up to the hype, excitement and sheer joy of seeing these characters together doing what we’ve only seen them do so far in pages of a comic book. The action set pieces, along with how each character plays off of one another, be it through witty chemistry, or physical tag-teams, is incredible to watch and is fuelled by pure Golden-Age excitement for the fanboys. And it’s just over all cool for general audiences. too.
As I mentioned in my ‘BvS: Dawn Of Justice’ Review, that film felt like two separate movies, with additional characters shoehorned in for the sake of screen time. ‘Justice League’ however, does not at all feel this way. The supplemental characters introduced in this movie, get enough time and significance in the story, to satisfyingly explain their presence and motivation, while leaving room for a lot more to be developed in (hopefully) their own solo films.
The most developed of these new characters is the Flash, (Ezra Miller) whose skill in delivering one-liners and being the wise cracking newbie of the team, is matched by a vulnerability that makes me want the ‘Flashpoint’ movie so badly! Cyborg (Ray Fisher) is great in his role of a superhero who starts out feeling like a disfigured and helpless victim. It’s a new take on the ‘accidental superhero’ trope. While most feature some one going through a horrible accident and coming out with awesome powers, Cyborg’s story is unique and would be better served if that angle was explored in a solo hero movie. For being the least well known of the characters, the film is able to infuse Cyborg with a likability that deserves more service.
Aquaman (Jason Momoa) is probably the most accomplished actor among the three new members of the main cast. Mamoa’s own veteran status in the industry, in contrast to Miller & Fisher’s, gives him an obvious comfort and ease in front of the camera that comes across in his performance of a devil-may-care rebel. Momoa looks like he’s having the best time in the role, (as usual) and is able to seamlessly change our perception of an Aquaman we thought we knew. Almost every scene with him is enjoyable, and his upcoming ‘Aquaman’ should be a treat!
Due to these great portrayals of new characters, interacting with the established Wonder Woman and Batman, the team up scenes of ‘Justice League’ are wonderful given–plot twist– what they had to work with.
Where the movie runs into a lot of trouble is with its plot, pacing and underdeveloped villain in Steppenwolf, (Ciarin Hinds) and main conflict that reeks of generic mediocrity. ‘Justice League’ improves upon the pacing of ‘BvS’, by providing exposition, background and a clear antagonist very early on in the film. The story keeps chugging right along with amazing action sequences involving the Amazons of Themyscira. Another great expository scene between Wonder Woman & Batman, involves a stunning flashback and a few minutes of dialogue that fleshes out the entire DCEU so much more than any of the previous films before it. This is both a plus point for this film, and a travesty for the DCEU so far, that it took so long to do so.
‘Justice League’ has a poorly developed villain, and a Superman twist that everyone saw from miles away, but one that happens in the most inexplicable manner ever. If the film’s runtime was slightly longer, than maybe those plot points and events would seem more organic and not forced out of nowhere. With rumours of the movie being extensively re-tooled, reshot and re-written, it’s difficult to establish a tone or basic understanding of what’s happening in the third act. What’s even more upsetting, is that for the second time since his own solo movie, Superman (Henry Cavill) is completely shafted in a role that should be the most iconic superhero of all time. Ever!
‘Justice League’ is almost like the best apology letter to audiences after the hot mess that was ‘Batman V. Superman’. A lot of problems with that film seem like they’ve addressed and corrected here, but a clear understanding of why its worth taking iconic characters and creating a movie universe around them, seems to elude the people in charge of the DCEU. The tone of this film is lighter, hopeful and almost inspiring than any of the previous DCEU films, with the exception of ‘Man Of Steel’. (my Review here) And with Joss Whedon rewriting the film and taking over some directing responsibilities, the inclusion of scenes which clearly make their way into hearts of life long comic book fans, are explicitly obvious. What’s lacking, however, is a proper motivation on the part of the characters playing out the story, to the makers responsible for telling the story.