Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Ben Affleck (Batman), Henry Cavill (Superman), Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), Jason Momoa (Aquaman), Ezra Miller (The Flash), Ray Fisher (Cyborg), Jeremy Irons (Alfred), J.K. Simmons (Commissioner Gordon), Ciarán Hinds (Steppenwolf), Amy Adams (Lois Lane), Amber Heard (Mera), Connie Nielsen (Hippolyta), Diane Lane (Martha Kent).
Synopsis: Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists newfound ally Diana Prince to face an even greater threat. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to recruit a team to stand against this newly awakened enemy. Despite the formation of an unprecedented league of heroes — Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and the Flash — it may be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.
The best elements of Justice League are the individual heroes and the chemistry between the incredible cast that has been assembled. Much like this year’s Wonder Woman, director Zack Snyder has placed a significant emphasis on heroism, as each of the heroes cares about saving the world and protecting innocent civilians. Altogether, Justice League is filled with epic moments for fans and is a thrilling ride, but there are a few issues that hold it back from being great.
Similar to Batman v Superman, the story struggles to find its feet, and because the film attempts to introduce so many new concepts and characters, a comfortable narrative flow is never fully achieved. There are plenty of great moments in Justice League, but when it comes to the story, it’s kind of a mess.
Thankfully, the Justice League works brilliantly as a group, and each member brings something unique and compelling to the team. Unlike previous team-up movies, every member of the Justice League is given his/her moment to shine, and it never feels like a single hero is being ignored or pushed into the corner.
Ben Affleck is given the opportunity to play a different side to Batman, and the Dark Knight is on somewhat of a redemption mission after his actions in Batman v Superman. Yet again Affleck delivers a strong performance as the Caped Crusader, and while this is a far less brutal and angry version of Batman, it’s equally entertaining to see Affleck’s Bruce Wayne attempt to work alongside a team.
Coming off of her massively successful solo movie, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman yet again stands out as a highlight in Justice League. Wonder Woman continues to represent the idea of heroism, truth and justice but in Justice League, some of the heroes deeper issues are brought into the light, and we get more insight into what Diana’s been doing since WW1. It’s also worth noting that the chemistry between Gadot and Affleck helps to build a real connection between these characters and the friendship that is developed between Batman and Wonder Woman is one of the films most exciting components.
Possibly the biggest achievement and success to be found in Justice League is the introduction of Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher). Introducing three main characters was a major risk for a Justice League movie, but each of the new heroes bring something different and exciting to the DC Extended Universe. Aquaman might not be the typical version of the superhero, but Jason Momoa does an excellent job of reinventing the character and turning DC’s most joked about hero into one of the most badass superheroes we’ve seen. We aren’t given the opportunity to fully explore Atlantis, but Momoa’s underwater scenes look authentic and what we do see perfectly sets-up what’s to come in James Wan’s Aquaman movie.
Ezra Miller’s Flash couldn’t be more different than his television counterpart. This young and neurotic version of the character is the most obvious standout in the film and steals almost every scene he’s in. The Flash has a great sense of humour and is the comedic relief for the film, but the character never feels like a joke or a silly imitation of what The Flash should be. This version of The Flash is fun, smart, and it’s hard not to look forward to his solo adventures. Moving swiftly on to Ray Fisher’s Cyborg, I think this will be the character that manages to surprise the most viewers. Cyborg has a much more important role in the film than we have been led to believe and although his CGI body is at times distracting, the character proves himself to be a worthwhile addition to the League.
Some people might consider this a spoiler, but I doubt anyone truly believed that Superman was forever gone. Of course, I won’t jump into how and why Kal-El is brought back in the film, but I think it’s important to note that Superman completely steals this movie and that this is the interpretation of Kal-El fans have been waiting for. With his return, Superman finds his sense of hope, and if you’ve wanted to see Henry Cavill portray a more iconic version of the Man of Steel, you won’t be disappointed with Justice League.
Looking at the tone and the balance of the film, it’s obvious that this is a step to a brighter future for the DC Extended Universe. Justice League is certainly a Zack Snyder product, and you can sense what the director was attempting to create, but Joss Whedon’s fingerprints are also all over the finished movie. Luckily, it never feels like Justice League is the product of two very different directors. Snyder’s artistic visual style is maintained throughout Justice League, and Joss Whedon’s snappy dialogue and characters shine in the final cut. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be interesting and exciting to see Snyder’s finished version of Justice League, but it seems like Whedon brought a lot of good content to the table.
Moving back to the more negative side of this review, we need to talk about Steppenwolf. Justice League continues the trend of introducing great superheroes but failing to deliver an exciting and threatening villain. While Ciarán Hinds’ portrayal and performance as the CGI villain works, we simply don’t spend enough time with the character to fully understand his motives. At the end of the day this is a Justice League movie, and if I were forced to chose between a great villain or a great League, I’d go with a great League every time. I can forgive a lacklustre villain because the film did such a great job introducing the heroes, and they’re what mattered in this first outing.
What can’t be forgiven is the terrible CGI that this movie is mostly made of. Between the inexcusable appearance of Steppenwolf to Superman’s weird moustacheless face, it’s actually surprising to see that the film was released in theatres. Granted, reshoots probably didn’t give the VFX team enough time to polish to CGI, but it would have been smart of the studio to push back the release of Justice League to allow the CGI to improve.
Possibly the most irritating aspect of Justice League is Danny Elfman’s score. The composers total disregard for what Hans Zimmer created with Man of Steel and Batman v Superman is disrespectful not only for the franchise but for these characters as well. Don’t get me wrong, hearing John Williams’ classic Superman theme was amazing but a lot of the scenes would have been made even better if Zimmer’s Man of Steel score was used. Elfman didn’t create a terrible or unenjoyable score, but it seems like he missed an opportunity to create a great one.
Justice League might not be the masterpiece that fans hoped for, but the film is a massive step in the right direction for the DC Extended Universe. The existing characters are developed in interesting and exciting ways, opening the door to tell new stories, while characters like Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg are expertly introduced. It will be exciting to see what new directors can bring to this universe and what stories can be told about these iconic superheroes. Justice League is messy, the CGI sucks, and the story could use some work, but it’s still a genuinely entertaining film that signals a much better future for this franchise.