Justice League is the first superhero team up movie of the DC Extended Universe (which isn’t apparently a thing now. Oh god, don’t get me started). The film was helmed mostly by Zack Snyder, but as we know, he stepped away from the project during the reshoots, which were handled by The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron director, Joss Whedon. Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot and Henry Cavill all returned as Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman, respectively, for Justice League. We also got the official introductions for The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher).
To say there has been a lot of questions as to whether or not this movie would be any good is definitely an understatement, as Wonder Woman was received very well, Man of Steel and Batman vs Superman had mixed reception, and Suicide Squad was received as well as a train wreck barreling through your front window. However, as Suicide Squad isn’t tied in any way to Justice League, I was very optimistic. The trailers and teasers going in have been great, and in Brisbane, the advertising campaign was insane. The only film in recent memory I can compare it to is Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Let us get the main thing out of the way, which is the casting. As is no surprise, Affleck and Gadot again are fantastic as Batman and Wonder Woman, as they were in Batman vs Superman. They did exactly as they needed to without overshadowing the newcomers. In his limited screentime, this is by far, the best version of Superman put to screen in my opinion. He’s funny, intense, and somber at times. I enjoy it when Superman is cracking jokes and bonding with his team in the comics and the animated series, so seeing that version of the character was a welcome addition to this film.
As for the newbies, to my surprise, they were all fantastic. By far though, my favourite of the new characters was Cyborg. As someone who has only liked a small run of his stories (he is the worst part of the Teen Titans in my humble opinion), both Ray Fisher’s performance, and the character arc, are incredibly satisfying. I’ve become a fan of the character now. I’ve not been hot on Ezra Miller, as I’ve only seen him in Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them, and he wasn’t great in that role. However, I was pleasantly surprised in his portrayal of The Flash. Momoa was also great as Aquaman, showing us the struggle of being half human and half Atlantean, and being a character that is “stuck between two worlds”. I look forward to getting to know the character better in the upcoming Aquaman film, due for release next year.
A major criticism I have is in regards to the lead villain, Steppenwolf, who is played by Ciarán Hinds (Game of Thrones). Now, before I begin to rail on Steppenwolf, I have to say this. The casting of Hinds, his performance and the overall look of the character were great. However, Steppenwolf is a lame villain for the Justice League overall. While being a considerable threat for Batman and company, his motivations, while logical within the context of the universe, reek of ripping off Ultron from Avengers: Age of Ultron. Unfortunately, this becomes a major issue for me, as the villain always has to be as good as the heroes that face it. Villains seem to be an issue for the DCEU, which I am hoping will be rectified in Aquaman. Zod in Man of Steel is the only villain I can think of that has been on par with the writing of his hero, which is unfortunate, as DC arguably has the best villain roster in comic books. A quick shout-out to the Parademons though. Those things looked kickass.
Another huge complaint/critizism I have in regards to Justice League is at times, there are some absolutely awful uses of CGI. While I can’t talk about it without going deep into spoiler territory, there were some scenes where the CGI was excellent, and there was some scenes where it looked like the film was utilizing a 1990s music video CGI budget. And while I can’t talk specifically about the bad CGI scenes, I can mention the CGI for Cyborg is VERY impressive. The seemless blending of man and machine looked even more excellent on the big screen than it has in any trailer so far.
The reshoots by Joss Whedon are unfortunately, painfully obvious. From the positioning of sets, to characters haircuts, CGI’d out moustaches, and tone shifts in conversation, almost every scene with reshoots is a tough watch. While additional shots bring a lighter tone, and some much needed comedy, splicing them into serious conversations later just throws the whole scene for a loop.
While I haven’t decided if this is a plus or not, I was genuinely surprised with the films pacing. While the heroes plotline paces nicely, Steppenwolf’s pacing was awful. And I guess this is where the Ultron comparison comes in again. Steppenwolf enters the story, and then goes “let’s destroy all the things”. That’s not really development. He needed about another 15 minutes of screen time to get across why he was doing what he was doing, which is what I think might have been in the original cut of the film. Unfortunately, WB decided to cut the film down from an estimated 150 minute run time to under two hours, which honestly hurt the film. Exactly the same as what happened with Batman vs Superman. See what happens when WB get directly involved in their properties? I hope an “Ultimate Cut”, like we got for Batman vs Superman, comes out with the blu-ray release.
Overall, while this has been mostly a critical failure, most of the response I’ve seen only from friends, family and other fans of comic books havs been mostly positive. So regardless of how low the critic scores get for Justice League, I feel it will still make its money. And if the money keeps coming, then I expect WB and DC to continue on the track they’ve laid out for us. For me personally, as a comic book fan, the film was mostly fine. Stumbles with reshoots, CGI gaffs and a lame villain didn’t take away from seeing the Justice League line up and kick ass. The character moments really helped pull this movie out of the dumpster for me.
For those that want a deeper dive into spoiler territory, the next episode of the Pixel Pop Movie Podcast will be covering Justice League in full, spoilery goodness. We will also be reviewing the first season of Marvel’s The Punisher, which just dropped on Netflix the day after Justice League. We will talk very heavily into spoilers on both properties, and THAT post-credit scene for Justice League. Don’t hesitate to give us a listen and let us know your thoughts.
Score – 7/10