IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 120 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Thousands of years ago, Steppenwolf and his army of Parademons attempted to conquer and remake Earth through the combined energies of the Mother Boxes, but were foiled and the Mother Boxes separated and hidden in locations around the world. In the present, the death of Superman triggers the Mother Boxes to activate, resulting in the return of the villainous Steppenwolf to Earth. After he manages to retrieve one of the Mother Boxes, Diana Prince [Wonder Woman] and Bruce Wayne [Batman] try to recruit the other metahumans – Arthur Curry [Aquaman], Barry Allen [The Flash] and – Victor Stone [Cyborg] – to defend Earth before it’s too late….
There was a short period in the run up to the release of Justice League when I actually thought that it might be quite good. Yes, I found Man Of Steel, Batman Vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice and Suicide Squad to be pretty lousy films, but Wonder Woman, while undeniably and perhaps unsurprisingly overrated by many [it was good, but not that good and didn’t even come close to topping Logan in my mind as the best superhero movie of the year], was a pleasant surprise and I wandered several times if it was the turning point for the DC film series. But, looking back, I don’t how on earth I thought that Justice League could have been anything other than the total and utter shambles that it is, and, while there certainly seems to be the possibility that a longer director’s cut may surface at some point and may solve some of the storytelling problems, I cannot see for the life of me how it could turn this piece of crap into a good movie because it has so many other problems, from the great majority of its CGI being poor [say what you like about Marvel, and I’m not going to enter into the DC vs Marvel debate, but I can’t see them ever producing a film with visual effects this poor], to the fact that it’s so painfully obvious that it’s the work of two directors, both of whom had differing approaches to the material. And it still shows that Warner Bros. don’t have a clue as to what they’re doing with the DC Universe.
The general model is, of course, Avengers Assemble [with maybe a touch of The Magnificent Seven] but one of the reasons that film worked so well [though I must say that it’s certainly one of those pictues that diminishes quite considerably with repeated viewings] is that we’d spent time with most of the major characters before and some of them had even had their own films. While I I do find that there is a blandness to much of the Marvel output [though I’m very aware that some of that may be down to me having tired of all this superhero malarkey two years ago let alone now], I have to say that they had a game plan and they’ve been executing it very well since. They know what they’re doing. DC, on the other hand, have been cynically trying to copy Marvel but have tried to do it in a ridiculously rushed way. And one of the major problems that has resulted from this is that we didn’t get any time to get to know The Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman before Justice League, and only get a small amount of time to get to know them during it before they’re off saving the world. This results in us caring very little whether they live or die [mind you, I didn’t really care about anyone in this movie]. And the heavy cuts ordered by Warners have probably just made this aspect worse.
The plot is little more than a rehash of various well worn elements we’ve seen in Marvel and previous DC movies, the Transformers films, and the like. Of course one has come to expect this kind of repetition, and it’s nothing new in franchises – after Goldfinger back in 1964 the James Bond series begun to repeat itself – but the sameness now seems to be reaching across franchises which is very depressing, and Justice League doesn’t attempt to freshen up or put any kind of spin on all the stuff it’s copied, remaining content to just lackadaisically bring to the screen once again the villain attempting to conquer and remake Earth with his cosmic devices, the flashback to a battle thousands of years ago, and so forth. Despite suitably sinister voice work from Ciarán Hinds, Steppenwolf, his master plan being a virtual copy of General Zod’s, is a desperately dull villain who never inspires any fear or awe with that pathetically animated face of his, though I guess some amusement can be had by noticing all the times where they don’t’ even get his lip-synching right. But then incompetence is the name of the game where Justice League is concerned. This is a film where – SPOILER ALERT – one of the Mother Boxes lands in a car park and none of our heroes go off to look for it – which of course means that Steppenwolf can just come along and pick it up!
The action mostly consists of lots of blurry jumping around in slow motion with crappy greenscreen in the background, and it gets monotonous very quickly. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been so bored by a film containing so much action in ages. It is kind of fun laughing at the embarassingly awful CGI throughout, but after a while it just made me feel depressed. The underwater scenes look especially awful and don’t bode well for Aquaman which will probably contain lots of this kind of material. One of the major things that Warners could have done with this movie is to use the reshoots as an excuse to delay the release so that the effects could be finished to some degree of competency, but obviously they were more interested in meeting the release date then making a decent movie. And think about it – how on earth does putting a few jokes here and there lighten the overall mood of a film which still has that gloomy Zack Synder feel? Instead, we’re left with a movie that has a script and a look which are virtually working against each other. This creates a terrible inbalance, and little of the humour is particularly funny anyway. Most of it is given to Ezra Miller as The Flash, a character who really feels out of place in the film. I never thought I’d say this, but watching Justice League made me admire Batman Vs Superman just a little bit, because at least it was the result of a singular, consistent vision, even if it was a vision I disliked immensely.
The lead characters do share a nice chemistry together. Jason Momoa and Ray Fisher are fine in their roles, and seeing Cyborg slowly come out of his shell throughout the movie was nice to see. But Ben Affleck, who was a rather good batman in Batman Vs Superman, just doesn’t seem to care here, but then again the script gives him very little to work with and sometimes seem to be asking us to actually laugh at the character – though that was okay for me as I begun to have very pleasant Adam West flashbacks. And Gal Gadot is obviously one of those performers who is only good when working closely with their director. She was decent in Wonder Woman, but here she’s hopeless in a lot of her scenes. Of course one wouldn’t expect Henry Cavill to be any good considering how bad he’s been before as Superman, but one thing I did like was that in this film Superman eventually becomes a character more like the Superman I grew up with, the Superman that personifies goodness and represents the best of us, a nice change from the horrid travesty of the character that Snyder presented to us before [yes, I know that there are also Superman comics where he’s also a conflicted, even dark, character]. One thing I was looking forward to was Danny Elfman’s soundtrack, and it’s certainly a nice change from the boring, childishly simplistic scores by Hans Zimmer and company that we’ve been hearing with those same chords played over and over again and every other instrument in the orchestra playing the same part, but his work here is a bit disappointing. He sometimes reuses his Batman theme, but never lets it really soar – though some of that may be down to the sound mix which drowns much of the music out so you can sometimes barely hear it – and his usage of part of the John Williams Superman theme is overly muted and so brief that it all-but-ruins what ought to have been a really rousing moment. For more consistency, he’d have been better off using the previous DC Batman and Superman themes and trying to improve on them, though he does do well with Junkie XL’s rather dumb but undeniably catchy Wonder Woman theme. Overall he doesn’t seem very inspired by the film – but then I can’t blame him.
I sometimes wonder if Warners was deliberately trying to wreck this film. There’s certainly little to no logic in their actions, the reshoots in particular having resulted in all kinds of stupidity that should be totally unacceptable in a modern big budget Hollywood movie, from those obvious wigs to those even more obvious shots of Superman’s face where they’ve digitally removed Henry Cavill’s moustache because he was wearing it for another film. And they’re now paying for it. They probably ruined Suicide Squad, but at least it was still a big bit at the box office. By comparison, Justice League is performing quite poorly, and that can only be a good thing. Much like three of the four films that came before it, it’s a hugely divisive film, and our Juanvasquez who did the original review for this website was able to still enjoy it considerably despite being obviously aware of its problems. Sadly I can’t say the same. I personally found it something of an endurance test, and a perfect example of the generic modern blockbuster at its laziest and its stupidest.
Read Juanvasque’s review of Justice League here: