In its current state, Justice League both looks and feels like an incomplete film that should have gotten its release delayed simply in order for the creative team to make a more entertaining (and more polished) experience. As it stands, this hunk of colorful, expensive fluff will no doubt still make a good chunk of its money back and also get a home video release about three months or so from now in an “extended cut” that, like the extended disc versions of Suicide Squad and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice should have been the version people are paying to see in theaters. Well, not that longer versions of either helped much thanks to their plots being way too full of hard to fill holes.
That said, the first thing that popped into my head as I was watching this somewhat disappointing film unfold was a wonder if the film was even storyboarded (ironic for a comic book flick, right?). As it stands, it’s almost as if someone cut out pages from a few dozen DC Comics, pasted them to some comic art paper, whited out the word balloons and had a few writers add dialog before rearranging everything. While the end result is indeed still watchable, it’s not very good at all when compared to other films of this type. Although, after some reflection I’ve decided it’s decidedly “entertaining” if you shut off your brain and take in its more comic book-like moments and not take anything at all too seriously (which, sad to say, some fans won’t tale kindly to hearing). That said, it’s running time of 120 minutes seems oddly enough, too short for a Zach Snyder film. Weird, but yeah – the film is actually too short because it packs in way too much character info in during that two hours and kind of overlooks its main villain in the process.
At least the film has a lighter tone than the previous films mentioned above, although many of the jokes tend to be hit or miss bickering between the team. That said, the overuse of CGI effects hurts some of the film’s action scenes and gets you stuck with a great actor (Ciarán Hinds) wasted in a role as Steppenwolf. He just so happens to be the uncle of Darkseid, who’d probably be a better (and better known) villain here but I’d guess he’s probably being saved for a future appearance in some DC film planned down the road a piece. If he were still alive, I’d still bet a nickel the late Jack Kirby would be pleased to some extent to see some of his Fourth World ideas pop up as main plot points here, so there’s that if you’re old enough to recall The King’s weird, wild work for DC in during the early 70’s. Yes, the film is also inspired by the works of other great comics creators, but there’s a lot more of Jack in here in terms of the overall scope of things (which is a good thing).
There are a trio of Mother Boxes, the aforementioned main villain, a load of parademons and a few other borrowed bits here, all of which made me smile a few times. But some of the action scenes go overboard and then there’s the curious case of Superman’s upper lip which I’ll get to in a bit. It’s not pretty, but I need an appropriate image and reference point (which I’m looking up as I type this out). Anyway, Gal Gadot is still an excellent Wonder Woman, Ben Affleck seems a bit worn out as Batman (but he’s carrying the film for a chunk its running time), Jason Momoa makes for a pretty decent Aquaman, Ezra Miller’s Flash is a goofball (and it’s a coin toss as to whether he’s going for a Spider-Man vibe), and Ray Fisher (or the parts of him that aren’t CGI-enhanced is fine as Cyborg (and yeah, George Perez is probably smiling because that’s his baby on screen).
A few of the film’s problems stem from it tying in to both Man of Steel and its dour seriousness and the even more dour and drearier BvS where Henry Cavill’s sourpuss Superman buys the farm. Justice League tries way too hard to please fans who complained the previous films were too much of a double downer dose, so here come the Marvel-style jokes and even a post-credit sequence for good measure. Cavill is well, okay as the newly resurrected Superman (what, you thought he was dead Forever? People, come on now!), but for an extremely stupid reason he’s got a CGI upper lip that looks REALLY awful. That extremely stupid reason is reshoots needed to be done, Cavill was working on the sixth Mission Impossible film where he’s got a mustache and the studio wouldn’t let him shave it off. In other words, that MI: VI had better be the damn best mustache movie ever made because this film suffers all the more for it.
Amusingly enough, after the film, I was reminded by a guy sitting next to me of Jack Kirby’s stint at DC comics after he left Marvel where his attempts at drawing his version of Superman were thwarted by the powers that be at DC who didn’t like the King’s rendition and went out of their way to have it redrawn, much to Kirby’s chagrin. That made me laugh because I’d always disliked the mishmash of art styles on some of those covers Kirby did that were “house-styled” to death, best intentions aside. The guy was with two of his kids, who liked the film “a lot more than the last two,” which means that target audience is probably going to overlook what my opinion on this flick is (which is fine with me). For the record, the guy I was sitting next to as well as the one I went to see this with didn’t care for the film either, other than Wonder Woman doing her thing and yes, we all were raised on Lynda Carter’s iconic (and less serious) take on the character.
So, is this a “bad” film? Well, not in the way a total crash-out like the last Fantastic Four, BvS or the too predictable but annoyingly loopy Suicide Squad were. But with Wonder Woman setting the bar to near Iron Man levels of “Hey, this is how you do a comic book flick!”, Justice League is a step backwards off a skyscraper from where it should have been. Both DC and Warner seem to be trying too hard to please a fan base who wants one thing, expects something else based on trailers and will paradoxically complain or cheer loudly no matter what the end results are. You’re never going to win with that crowd and yes, it was pretty amusing to overhear some post-film debate ping-pong between some folks as I left the theater about whether or not they liked what was here. Pro or con, it’s cue up the internet and tee up the tee’d off fans ready to (g)rumble.
Then again, the many (many) inconsistencies of the DC Universe are catching up to them thanks to too many TV series on different networks where crossovers don’t happen to films and do nothing but add to the confusion factor. Marvel seems to be working its own TV and film continuity issues out, but it’s taken a few hits and misses over a longer period of time to get a specific formula down. DC needs to break out the iron and steam out a few wrinkles because $300 million+ is a lot to spend on a flick that not only doesn’t raise any bars, it can barely lift one over its head when all is said and done. Oh, and everyone looks like toys because of merchandising, but that’s one things fans are good at – supporting a product no matter the quality by buying those figures and other ephemera in mass quantities.
Score? Eh, two pings from a Mother Box… then silence.