Only 57 years after its introduction in comics, we have a live action Justice League movie. I myself grew up with the DCAU Justice League TV series, which is honestly a hard act to follow. “Luckily”, my expectations were tempered after seeing Batman v Superman and I braced myself for this movie to be disappointing. The story’s not especially exciting as the Justice League needs to recruit members to fight an alien who wants to get artifacts to destroy the world. Haven’t seen that before.
I was pleasantly surprised. Not amazed, but surprised that this is a very watchable and fun movie that (except for Wonder Woman) was the best representation of these characters in the DCEU so far. I’ve wanted to see Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman on the big screen for years and none of them disappointed. On a side note, maybe having the physical confidence of the actor who played Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones as Aquaman will finally earn that character some respect.
Ezra Miller does a great job as the Flash and has a few genuinely funny moments. He’s not my favorite Flash, but that’s just because I like Grant Gustin on the current TV show and Michael Rosenbaum’s voice work a little better. I’m excited to see how his portrayal evolves in the future. Ray Fisher as Cyborg was also well done and the changes forced on him made him a sympathetic character, but I didn’t care very much for his CGI body. It just never looked like the gaps between the metal plates actually looked empty and more like he was painted over.
Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot again turn in excellent performances as Batman and Wonder Woman respectively. To me, it was a sign that they’re taking these characters more seriously by NOT having Batman kill anyone in this movie. Wonder Woman‘s first scene actually answered a question I’ve had for a while: can she block bullets from a machine gun? Yes, and it’s awesome to watch.
A lot of people have pointed this next point out already…and I have to say I agree. The villain, Steppenwolf, is a disposable CGI monster who could be switched out with any other super-strong bad guy. He’s connected to something that they’re clearly building up to for a later movie, but he doesn’t have any personality or say or do anything to stand out from any other villain. In fact, the thing I most remember about him is a flashback where we see several Green Lanterns fighting him. That’s not a good sign.
Honestly, this is my biggest disappointment with Justice League, because villains were one of the very, very few things that the DCEU debatedly has over the MCU. Zod and Ares were both very well written and left impressions. The Enchantress, though she moved like a hula doll and was dressed for fan service, still was threatening and left an impression. Jared Leto tried WAY too hard as the Joker and his design was distracting, but his relationship with Harley and unusual actions left an impression. Lex Luthor was one of the most annoying characters I’ve seen in a superhero movie and acted as though his intelligence from the comics was cut in half, but still stood out and yet again left an impression. Steppenwolf is the first DC villain to not do that.
The tone of this film is much lighter than in Batman v Superman and even Suicide Squad, which to be honest does make it feel like The Avengers at times. This did distract me a few times and I found myself wondering if a scene was directed by Zack Snyder or Joss Whedon. There were one or two moments where I laughed, but most of the jokes got more of a chuckle. In retrospect, I wish that Justice League went more of an action/adventure route as it would have felt less like Marvel.
Besides that, there were a few times when this tone felt jarring as a plot point is that people are supposed to be feeling hopeless after the death of Superman. I didn’t feel that this was warranted. Superman in the previous DCEU movies never seemed like the beacon of hope that he is in every other incarnation. He just acted more like a strong superhero who fought bad guys and saved people sometimes, not a character who would literally do anything to save every life he could, even those of his enemies. He didn’t inspire other people to be the best of what humanity could offer.
The one performance which I can say was an improvement was Henry Cavill as Superman. As opposed to Man of Steel and Batman v Superman Cavill seemed more invested in his character and showing the more human side of someone who was raised as one on Earth. The first scene in the movie is a video taken on a cell phone where some kids are talking to him, and it makes for an interesting comparison later in the movie after he’s resurrected. After coming back to life he seems less detached and more concerned about saving people than punching the bad guy. Like Batman, he doesn’t kill anyone in this movie (unless you count the mindless automatons being controlled by Steppenwolf).
Altogether, though it’s not nearly a good as Wonder Woman, this is probably my second favorite DCEU film so far. The action scenes are engaging and we see the superheroes’ powers and the cool things they can do with them. Only a small number of the heroes in the Justice League appear though, and I would have liked to also see at least Martian Manhunter and Black Canary included. I do wish the story was more interesting, that the villain left an impression, and that this had gone a more serious route with a few funny jokes instead of the overall lighter tone. All that being said, it’s worth seeing in theaters.
Rating: 3.5/5 ★★★1/2