Surprise, Surprise! Warner might actually be getting the hang of this live action movie thing. Having seen the Justice League movie, there may actually be hope for the DC Extended Cinematic Universe and it only took a few craters in the road to get them on the right track. Things are looking up my fellow comic book fans, DC fanatics can finally stand proud in the cinema spotlight.
It’s been a hard road. For a while there it looked like Justice League would just be another disappointment, following in the footsteps of Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. While Wonder Woman’s success is undeniable, it only served to inspire hope in Gal Gadot’s take on the role. Either because of previous disappointments or in spite of it, I felt compelled to go into this one with little expectations, giving it a chance to succeed (or fail) all on its own – It couldn’t possibly be any worse than Batman vs Superman… that would be a crime against life itself.
Be it the decision to bring in Joss, or Warner’s last minute decision to cut down the final runtime of the film, Justice League fixed the primary issue we’ve had with DC Extended films in the past, they fixed the flow of the movie. From the opening to end, Justice League knew what it was about and where it was going. At times, there was definitely a lot going on. The film introduced three new characters and a new villain. The movie had to give background for each character, organically bring them together, incorporate the revival of Henry Cavil’s Superman and unite them to save the world in an action packed climax. That’s a lot ask of a movie, especially without having established much of the world or the characters prior in a Marvel-Avenger’s style, but admittedly it was handled pretty well. The movie actually mimicked aspects of the Justice League War animated film in forcing these heroes who’ve never met together. We got glimpses of each of their personalities which was just enough to animate the characters without bogging down the flow with unneeded flashbacks or talking. These glimpses also managed not to make the inevitable backstory telling of future solo movies unnecessary. Even when the story was momentarily sidetracked for Superman to get used to being alive again with the help of Lois Lane, the momentum to the final boss battle was not significantly impacted for one to feel like something was lost.
The script was much improved from previous films. The lighthearted banter felt meaningful and well placed instead of like wonky one liners meant to break up the tension. Even while focused on dealing with the threat of Steppenwolf and the mother boxes, the writing managed to craft each individual character into who they’re meant to be outside of the team. From Alfred’s sarcastic remarks to the macho posturing of Jason Momoa’s Aquaman, the words never felt forced. Even the corny and cringe worthy lines felt organic to the one saying it – and boy did I cringe at Clark readjusting to life – and for that, hats off to the writers and also the actors themselves.
Speaking of the acting, Affleck, Gadot and Cavil had already proven themselves prior, and their chemistry worked for the versions of their characters living in this world, the big question here was how would the new comers take to the scene? While Ray Fisher was able to pull off a more morose Cyborg than some would be used to, it worked. And as for Jason Momoa – well, we just have to listen to the screams in the theater every time he came on screen to know how that worked . . . seriously, my ears are still ringing people. Ezra Miller however, in this guy’s personal opinion, set the stage for the group dynamic. Miller’s portrayal of a young Barry Allen just getting his bearing was by far the most entertaining character in the entire film. From his quirky, shy yet enthusiastic commentary, Miller managed to bring to life this dorky, loveable and relatable incarnation of the Flash which, thank the lord, can help wipe the memory of the CW Arrowverse Flash from my memory. Barry’s reactions seemed more human than most despite his very Meta-Human physiology and through his interactions with the rest of the team I found myself seeing slightly more humanized versions of the others as well. This back and forth, not only in terms of banter but with the interactions on a whole, helped to ease the rush of the team coming together. While there are still moments that have you stop and question where this level of familiarity came from, there isn’t a “Martha” moment which magically fosters some kind of deep bond between them and for this at least we can be grateful.
Not Even Superman is Invincible
As enjoyable as the film was, sad to say, many of the merits upon which Justice League can hang its hat stem directly from how much improved this movie is in comparison to its predecessors. Now listen carefully, Justice League is a good movie, however, good is as far is it goes. The movie found a flow that fits. The acting, scripting and storytelling meshed well to offer a film that is absolutely worth watching again and again, even if not in theater, but this doesn’t make up for the places where things fell short or could have definitely been better.
In 2017 you’d expect the CGI to be cleaner. Especially when we take into account that the films aim to paint the DC Extended Universe as this more realistic, gritty landscape. You’d think that at the very least, the flying in the air and swimming in the sea would look just a tad bit less animated. And let’s not forget, the slow motion plague. Seeing everything slow down when the Flash uses his super speed is fun and exciting, but after a while watching things slow down just for Wonder Woman to land a powerful hit gets old and actually starts to take away from the intensity of her fight scenes.
Honestly I could spend hours nitpicking at every misstep the film took. The little things they maybe shouldn’t have done – like Atlantean’s inability to actually speak under water – or the things they did too much of – I mean, at some point they really should have just considered captioning the movie “The Return of Superman”. I refuse to do that though seeing as every other critic on the internet seems determined to tear the film to shreds for not being a Marvel movie. Characterizations could have been different, pacing could have been better, we actually didn’t even need all that time to bring superman back . . . or even to bring him back at all, but at the end of the day, the faults didn’t trip up the good time we spent our money to see and that’s what counts.
Looking to the future, if Warner and DC Entertainment keep going the way they’re going (and maybe get Joss Whedon to consult a little more often) the Extended Film Universe might just be heading somewhere, but there’s still a lot of improvement to be made. Justice League wins out purely based on its watchability. I’ve seen it twice and wouldn’t mind seeing it again. While I can’t call it a perfect movie, I can definitely say it is worth more than its current 40% rating. I give it a solid 6.5 out of 10 and right now its sitting at a solid #2 in my Top Nerd Movies of the Year countdown – which I just might share with you guys after Star Wars drops.
All in all, I’d encourage any fan of comic books, superheroes or Ezra Miller to go see the film. Be sure to wait till the very end though – while the reminder of the mismatched characterization and casting of Jesse Eisenberg was most definitely unwanted, the other surprises definitely make the wait worthwhile.