Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Ciaran Hinds, J. K Simmons, Diane Lane with Henry Cavill and Amy Adams
Plot: Spurned on by the death of Superman (Cavill), alien creatures start popping up all over the globe, chasing after three artefacts with the power to destroy the world.
Whenever a movie spends as much on reshoots as Justice League (a staggering 25 million), you hardly enter the cinema with soaring amounts of faith. It is another example of how DC comics are just behind on the whole superhero ensemble game that Marvel are excelling at. With Wonder Woman being the exception (and even then, Wonder Woman didn’t escape some of the wider scale problems DC are having), DC just haven’t been coming across as a consistently solid franchise. While Justice League was meant to be the film to get fans salivating, instead it is more of a monument of missed opportunities.
So, is Justice League another over-wrought mess like Batman Vs Superman or Suicide Squad? The reshoot concept will certainly make you think so. But as it happens, Justice League is much closer to the mark than the other DC combo films were. The main problems are still there in painful abundance. The biggest problem is probably the most predictable one. There is just too much story going as usual. Rather than pleasantly slipping into a story about Batman assembling the world’s greatest heroes, you are constantly taking in information. A lot of people predicted that Justice League main struggle with competing with Avengers Assemble was the fact that the majority of heroes in that film had an origin story to set them up, whereas here we are meeting Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg for the first time. Sadly, this flaw is true. It is tricky at times, taking in all of this rich mythology and keeping track of who is who. Aquaman, in particular, would feel a lot less ridiculous if there was more time to figure out who the character is and what his powers are. As it stands, Jason Momoa is a vaguely mythological water god person, who gets through the movie by simply being awesome. It is a credit to Momoa that he can pull this off with a script that feels constantly against him. There are frustrating cameos from Amber Heard as Aquaman’s Sea Queen and Billy Crudup as the Flash’s imprisoned father that look promisingly interesting, only for the movie to run out of time to develop them. They are more introduced to hint at further subplots when the characters finally get a chance to have their own film. At the moment, they are just that little bit too distracting, as are shoe-horned-in cameos from Connie Nielsen and Diane Lane. It’s not just the over-blown storyline, but the weak plotting too. A lot of the time the complicated narrative is that little bit more unforgiveable, because, upon reflection, the story isn’t that complicated at all. Ciaran Hinds, painfully CGIed bad guy, beams down from space (I am presuming), and tries to destroy the planet, using three boxes that fit together into a superweapon. The plot feels like a first draft, desperately in need of some development. It makes the central thread of story hard to root for. Hinds is asked to chew scenery rather than be an actual character with developed motives. What makes it all worse is the producers falling back on CGI everywhere. It makes Marvel’s weaker plots and bad guys feel better upon comparison. Hinds’ digital counterpart bears no likeness to him, sucking out the humanity of the character and his goons are red shirt demon things? They are never really explained. Perhaps this is one of the things cut from the bloated story or just lost in the reshoots, because there are quite a few loose ends that feel poorly explained. Justice League should be the line in the sand; the film promising that from here on out DC will be able to bring the A game. Sadly, the studio are still lagging behind, like a car struggling up a hill, trapped in first gear.
Why do I rate it more than other efforts? Mainly because it does feel like there is quite a few strong moments buried in an over-complicated movie. Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot are as strong as ever. Perhaps because Wonder Woman was the success of the year, as well as highlighting DC as one of the front-runners in feminist action heroes, but Gadot is pleasantly given quite a bit to do. While Batman is the man who assembles the League, it is nice to see Bruce Wayne admit that Wonder Woman makes for the better leader and hands over the reins to her. Gadot’s performance is as strong as ever. She brings so much charisma, strength and awesomeness to the role, but never feels like she is trying. There is a natural energy to her Wonder Woman that makes her one of the most refreshing faces of 2017. As with Batman Vs Superman, this does mean that poor Bats accidentally becomes the most under-qualified hero in the roster. Batman might be able to take out a room full of armed thugs, but faced with supernatural demi-gods, the Caped Crusader sadly doesn’t really stand too much of a chance. Batman, as a costumed vigilante, is relegated to a few cool quips and most of his better scenes are done outside the suit, Affleck spending time proving that he wasn’t a bad choice of actor for the much-loved DC role. It is the newbies that are the most surprising. Momoa, as discussed, gets away with just being cool. Ray Fisher has the tougher job, the most unknown name of the cast list and also stuck with the character no one knows. The script spends more time on his origin story than the others, knowing that time spent with him isn’t as much of a waste as it is with other meaningless subplots. Fisher emerges with a decent backstory and burning moral dilemma that makes for interesting viewing as the plot proceeds. Ezra Miller might just leave your new favourite (not mine – my inherent love of Batman and major respect for Gal Gadot makes the main two my DC idols), his chatty character, a bursting mix of social anxiety and nervous humour that steals the film’s better gags. Also, in a movie about bigger-than-life superheroes, it is nice having someone on the team who is holding a flag for the little guy. The main crux of heroes are great fun to spend time with and, even if you sometimes realise that Marvel have beaten so many of their little superhero quirks and stereotypes to the punch, it is them that makes Justice League worth the price of a cinema ticket. It is Amy Adams who feels lost in the mix. She is an incredible actress and her Lois Lane is always fun to spend time with, but other than a saddening monologue where she believes she is disappointing her dead lover by wallowing in grief, she isn’t given a chance to leave an impression. Again, we are left sitting on the fence, giving DC one more film’s chance. Our judgement on the franchise is once again adjourned.
Final Verdict: Not as bad as you have been led to believe, but not as good as you want it to be. Justice League is another middling attempt from DC Studios.