Film Review: ‘Justice League’

It’s all in or bust as DC’s league of heroes unite in Warner Bros’ Pictures latest comic book blockbuster… 

Spoiler-free review

Justice League

DC’s premier super team unite in the Warner Bros’ Pictures release ‘Justice League’.

Starring:  Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Mamoa, Ray Fisher, Ciarin Hinds, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, J.K. Simmons

Directed by: Zack Snyder / Written by: Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon / 121 minutes

What’s it about?

In the wake of Superman’s death, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of Wonder Woman to assemble a team of powered individuals in order to protect the Earth from a looming cosmic threat…

In review

It’s no secret that Warner Bros’ DC Comics film universe has had it tough so far.  2013’s Man of Steel was fairly well reviewed but divided audiences, its sequel 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was even more divisive and Suicide Squad…again, more so.  The tide seemed to turn with the critical and financial smash of Wonder Woman this summer, meaning the pressure was well and truly on for Warner Bros/DC with team-up event Justice League, a popcorn superhero action flick that is enjoyable and entertaining even if it doesn’t quite hit the mark.  Directed by Zack Snyder, who helmed Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, Justice League is held together by its central heroes, with likeable performances from their respective actors and great chemistry that makes it worth a look.

There are flaws to Justice League that prevent it from being as great as it could’ve been.  Firstly, the film’s narrative is a little messy and disjointed (a criticism that Batman v Superman was able to remedy with its superior extended cut), becoming more problematic as it rushes through various plot points that could have warranted more focus – it seems clear that the studios’ insistence on a relatively slim running time has resulted in a good chunk of material being excised.  Another weak link is Steppenwolf, an adequate but generic CGI villain (voiced and performance-captured by Ciaran Hinds) who, albeit, provides a reasonable enough threat, pales in comparison to some of the stronger comic book film villains.  He’s by no means terrible, just not all that interesting or memorable.  There’s also some disappointingly shoddy VFX work that can on occasion be distracting, especially in the film’s busy and action packed final act.

However, it’s with its main characters that Justice League is elevated.  Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot make strong returns as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Diana Prince/Wonder Woman respectively, both providing solid leadership to the rest of the team.  After fleeting glimpses in BvS, we’re fully introduced to Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen/the Flash, Jason Mamoa’s Arthur Curry/Aquaman and Ray Fisher’s Victor Stone/Cyborg.  All three are great, with Miller’s nerdy, excitable and hilarious take on the Flash a particular highlight.  Mamoa is a pleasing surprise with a fun, swashbuckling twist to the iconic heir to the throne of Atlantis and Fisher brings fitting strokes of tortured humanity to the brooding Cyborg.  As for the return of the Man of Steel himself it’s a triumphant one, the rebirth of Clark Kent/Superman forming an integral part of the story and Henry Cavill slips back into the cape and boots with ease, his selfless, heroic sacrifice in BvS and a second chance at life leading to a Superman with a renewed purpose and a more hopeful perspective.

The tone of Justice League is certainly lighter and more accessible than Batman v Superman, with a fair amount of humour sprinkled throughout and it’s generally well-placed and doesn’t undermine the film’s more dramatic moments.  It’s well known that due to personal tragedy, Zack Snyder handed over post-production duties to Avengers Assemble and Avengers: Age of Ultron writer/director Joss Whedon, with Whedon (who shares screenwriting credits with Chris Terrio) scripting some additional material and handling reshoots.  This could’ve easily been to the film’s detriment but gladly, the end result actually feels quite consistent.  Visually, Justice League is most definitely a Zack Snyder film, it’s themes of heroism enhanced by Joss Whedon’s knack for snappy character dialogue.  The screenplay may lack the deeper, more introspective themes and idiosyncratic touches of BvS but it gets the job done.

Although Justice League isn’t perfect its positive aspects make it enjoyable and fun in all the right places, particularly for fans of these iconic characters.  It isn’t on the same level as Marvel’s Avengers but it sets the DC film universe on the right path for the many further cinematic adventures ahead.

The bottom line:  Flawed but ultimately enjoyable, Justice League assembles some of DC’s finest heroes and establishes the road ahead for future outings.

Justice League is in cinemas now.

13 thoughts on “Film Review: ‘Justice League’

  1. While I really enjoyed the directors cut of BvS, I was afraid they were going to totally botch the whole death and return of Superman thing. Glad to hear that doesn’t seem to be the case!

  2. Great review and I agree with your points. It is clear that Warner Bros. should have delayed the release of the film, maybe have it come out in next spring. That way they could have fine tuned the fx and given the film a much needed redo on the edit. But the film is still lots of fun!

  3. Great review. I enjoyed Justice League, thought it was much better than the grim BvS. Sure, Justice League has some pacing issues and the CGI is a bit ropey at times, but overall it was a big improvement – especially the characterization of the heroes.

      • Yeah, BvS was ok, just a bit unrelentingly grim for me. Justice League was a lot better, nice balance of action, serious, and humour. Also the running time was much better, the film didn’t seem padded out like BvS. Still a great thrill to see the Justice League and all those iconic characters together on the big screen at last! 🙂

  4. I already knew that the critics would destroy this movie. Even if Rotten Tomatoes held on to the reviews till premiere night, you just knew that things would not go its way. Marvel has honestly set the standards for superhero movies for critics. People really want to abolish everything Zach Snyder does. I for one adored this movie. It felt like a comic book translated into a movie. It had A LOT less problems than BvS could be argued to have (and I am also one of those who adored BvS).

    I found it odd that they decided to make Steppenwolf the main villain when he isn’t one in the comics. I actually thought they would maybe bring Darkseid into play. But the direction they took was still pretty good. The movie served its purpose in introducing the Justice League and building their chemistry. Steppenwolf was a perfect villain to do just that. A big bad guy who only had one goal and who’s main power lies in his size and ax.

    I didn’t find it as choppy and badly edited, but one thing’s for sure, we can blame WB for that. They really should stop meddling with the movie length and let the directors creation be shown in theaters. I do hope we’ll get multiple editions of movie (even a Zach Snyder only version of the movie, without the edits by Joss Whedon, would be pretty interesting to see).

    I also absolutely adored the introduction for The Flash. I’m glad Ezra Miller pulled it off. I’m not much of a fan of Grant Gustin as The Flash (even if I’ll always watch the show with him in it). The socially awkward speedster was hilarious and visually stunning (equivalent to Quicksilver in the X-Men movies and his slow-mo sequences if you ask me).

    Tell you you stayed for the 2nd after-credit scene!!!! The moment you saw those blades on the shoulder, I jumped out of my seat! I’m not sure what direction they’ll take this, but it’s definitely interesting. I can totally see a good movie come out of it, with lots of plot twists and clever machinations (even more interesting than the plan Luthor had in BvS!).

    Oh, of course, wonderful review man. I’m glad you enjoyed it too. I’m quite sad that critics had to piss all over the movie.. I really hope they don’t plan on cancelling any of the planned DC movies to come because of this. It wasn’t even close to a bad movie!

    • Good to hear your thoughts Lashaan, as always! There were a few niggles but all in all JL got the job done, but we really do need an extended cut – it’s clear that there’s a lot missing (just watch the trailers). I totally agree though, Warners need to step back and let the directors deliver, Wonder Woman worked out just fine in this regard. Yep, Ezra Miller was a real treat and easily the best live action Flash so far…can’t wait to see how Flashpoint turns out (if it does indeed go ahead)!

  5. Justice League did not get much of run in the American theaters from what I saw. It seems to me that it comes down to Marvel/Disney having a healthier creative environment, if that makes sense. I could be wrong but something about the culture at Warner Bros/DC Comics could hold a key as to why the DC Universe is lagging behind the mighty Marvel Universe, which continues to genuinely entertain with a certain style and energy. Interesting how Joss Whedon has worked in both camps.

    • Thanks for your insight Henry, I think you’re right there needs to be a bit of a shake-up behind the scenes at Warners (which there reportedly has been in the wake of Justice League)…it’s a shame there’s been such a stumble with the DC films as these characters are every bit as compelling and iconic as those in the Marvel Universe and they deserve to shine on the big screen. JL suffered from a troubled production and more time was needed to get it right, I still enjoyed it and my love for those characters made it worthwhile but it’s a shame that it didn’t turn out better.

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