Gal Gadot in Justice League

Movie Review: Justice League (2017) *Just Mediocre*

JK Simmons, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Ben Affleck, and Ezra Miller in Justice League

Justice League has seemingly been on the way forever and has endured one of the more tortured roads to the screen of any blockbuster in recent memory.  First it was two films; then it was one. Then backlash from Batman vs. Superman changed things; then success from Wonder Woman and input from the always meddlesome WB demanded reshoots.   Then director Zack Snyder’s family tragedy caused him to drop off the picture.  Then Joss Whedon (who was already on-board to do the reshoots) took over the picture and cut the running time by 50 minutes, and then the tone was changed to be more in line with the hopeful note set by Wonder Woman.  Take a second to breathe.  So after all of that, what is the dominant impression walking away from Justice League?  There isn’t one.  It’s a film that makes no impact, has no presence, or lasting punch.  So many cooks have been in its kitchen that the final product is just an average, bland waste of an opportunity.Jason Mamoa, Ray Fisher, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot and Ezra Miller in Justice League

Justice League picks up on plot threads from Batman vs. Superman and Wonder Woman, introduces The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg into the DCEU, and seemingly sets the stage for future Justice League films.  The threads drawn together regarding the antagonist, which is the film’s weakest point, require you to have seen the extended version of Batman vs. Superman and have some working knowledge of the DCU.  There is some mighty heavy exposition to try to get people up to speed on things like Mother Boxes, New Gods, Atlantis, and Boom Tubes (though they’re not called that), but the time isn’t spent particularly well, and-in the end-you’re left with the weakest link in the film’s character roster: Steppenwolf (no, not the band).

Gal Gadot and Cirian Hinds in Justice League

In a film where $300 million was spent, how can you end up with CGI villain that makes the Enchantress’ brother from Suicide Squad look polished?  Steppenwolf is one of the worst looking CGI characters in modern comic book cinema, and he ruins every scene he’s in because he’s so jarringly unpolished.  He doesn’t have any great lines in a screenplay that’s short on them to begin with, but he doesn’t connect back to Darkseid or Apokolips or leave you with any kind of character menace.  His parademons get more of an arc than Steppenwolf (still not the band) does.  He’s just a generic, world-ender of a monster, and you never feel any real menace.  Zod/Doomsday was a better villain (that’s not a compliment).

Ezra Miller, Jason Mamoa, Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot and Ray Fisher in Justice League

The best thing about Justice League is the actors in the League itself.  No one is miscast, and the three new members all get good scenes to introduce them.  The best scenes in the film are when members of the League are sitting around talking.  I love Jason Mamoa’s Aquaman, Ezra Miller does a good job of differentiating his Flash from the TV show’s without being off-character, and Ray Fisher’s Cyborg probably gets the best introduction and character arc of any member of the League.  Gal Gadot is a more matured Wonder Woman than this summer’s, Henry Cavill is back as Superman and wonderful in the part (the weird, nasty Superman from BvS is nowhere to be seen), and Ben Affleck’s Batman remains strong, though there are already pointed comments about his age in the film making you wonder how long he can stick with it.

Ben Affleck in Justice League

The clash between the styles of Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon are a problem.  The tone of the film whiplashes back and forth between the two.  It’s choppy at best, especially in the beginning.  Whedon clearly was asked to infuse more humor into the film, and there are some funny lines, but some come at the expense of character.  There are also jokes that fall flat and some flat-out groaners (“You smell good?”……really?).  The film has been so cut and reshot that there’s little consistency, and you never feel like it has its feet under it.

Gal Gadot in Justice League

That’s enough complaining.  Justice League is not a one or two star disaster of a motion picture.  The stars ARE all likable in their roles, and as opposed to some previous DCEU films, all acting within character for the most part (Bruce, Clark, looking at you here).  A special medal of honor should be awarded to Jeremy Irons’ Alfred for stealing every scene he’s in, and I desperately want to see more of JK Simmons as Commissioner Gordon.  Danny Elfman delivers his best score since Big Fish, and we get to hear the classic Batman and Superman themes, as well as the Man of Steel theme, and the Wonder Woman theme, woven together with new themes for the League.  DC has always trumped Marvel in the music department.  Out of 17 MCU films, maybe five have really good scores, and that’s perhaps my biggest criticism of that franchise.

Jason Mamoa in Justice League

It’s easiest to dwell on missed opportunities and the film’s flaws, but the overall product isn’t vile, and no one (if you don’t count CGI STILL NOT A BAND Steppenwolf) is as egregiously bad as Jared Leto’s Joker or Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor.  I think DC would have been wiser to ride out the wave of good will it generated with Wonder Woman while giving Whedon more time to try to make this flow more coherently and the F/X team more time to polish Steppenwolf (sure, fine, the band).  They have 13 months before their next installment, and could have easily improved what is good about the film without stepping on the next film.  It also could have benefited from a longer run time more in line with the previous DCEU films.  121 minutes is nothing next to even Wonder Woman.  More time in the film and for the film was what was needed to make this more than just a forgettable super hero film, and the Justice League deserves better than that.

5.50/10

Here’s all the projects currently on the way in the DCEU in order of their release (if they have one): Aquaman (2018), Shazam (2019), Wonder Woman 2 (2019), Cyborg (2020), Green Lantern Corps (2020), The Batman (TBD), Batgirl (TBD), Nightwing (TBD), Flashpoint (TBD…..this could be used as a reset button on the DCEU to keep what works and ditch what doesn’t, but it doesn’t currently have a director or release date), Suicide Squad 2 (TBD), Gotham City Sirens (TBD), Untitled Joker & Harley Quinn Movie (TBD), Deadshot (TBD), Justice League Dark (TBD), Black Adam (TBD), Justice League 2 (TBD), Lobo (TBD), Man of Steel 2 (TBD), Elseworlds Joker Origin Movie (TBD), and Deathstroke (TBD).  How many of these actually happen and in what order is your guess as good as mine.

Justice League has TWO post-credits scenes: one a great piece of fan service; the other an unwelcome look at a possible future for the franchise.

Justice League Poster

 

20 thoughts on “Movie Review: Justice League (2017) *Just Mediocre*”

  1. If they based a film around Irons and Simmons, it would make more money than these other films they’re planning, solely on the basis of having two of the coolest actors in the universe, playing roles they were born to play. Maybe a film called “Clark Kent,” which has no actual Superman in it, but is just a mystery/thriller about Clark the reporter?

    I am trying to find the humor in what WB has wrought, but it’s hard. Affleck in those goggles looks like Nite Owl. I guess that’s kind of funny. Is it true that our intrepid heroes leave one of the Boxes unattended for no reason, and Steppenwolf just comes in and absconds with it? Or is that an exaggeration? Please tell me it’s an exaggeration.

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      1. Hmm … I think I’ll save my movie-going pennies for that other movie that’s about to come out … what was it called again? 😀
        And anyway swooning can be so much more fun when done in the privacy of one’s home. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I would have kept it all so simple and organized, if I had been in charge of the DCEU.

    I would have begun with an epic three hour movie that cut back and forth between the origins of Batman and Superman, from childhood to costume-donning time, using contrasting visual aesthetics (dark vs light) to avoid audience confusion. And as Batman and Supes finally both began to step onto the world stage in their costumes, I would have introduced topicality by having the world come to fear Superman, who makes some disastrous neophyte mistakes as he tries to save the world. And youngish Bruce and youngish Superman would have begun to come into conflict. Finally, at the end of the movie, Batman and Supes duke it out, then walk back to their respective cities with a mutual grudging respect, and the seeds of an uneasy alliance are formed. So much mythology undone, and yet it would have worked. Putting the backgrounds of Clark and Bruce within the time constraints of a single movie would have forced you to get to the point, and you would establish their beginnings, their characters, and their relationship to each other, all at the same time, and end up in a place fraught with drama and expectancy.

    I would have followed this up with the first of a trilogy of planned prequels set on Krypton, and it would have been wild. I would have turned the whole thing into a dark, violent, passionate space opera. Then WW’s origin movie, much like the one we got, but with more gravitas, and Ares is not behind anything, the twist is that World War One is just mankind. Then there is a Batman standalone, whose job is to establish just two things, and two things alone: the origin of Batman’s relationship with Robin, and the establishment of Batman’s relationship with Joker. That is IT. Lois Lane and Jimmy Olson (the latter being introduced for the first time, totally reimagined as a character who is not lame) come to Gotham to pursue a story about Batman. Superman is mentioned, but does not appear.

    Now we get our middle Krypton movie, followed by a standalone about Supes, which is all about how he steps into the Superman mantle, becoming the Superman everyone knows and loves within his own world. It’s about a cynical world finding a symbol of hope. Lex is established as an antichrist-like mogul trying to take over the world through modern media: he owns news stations, controls social media and search engines, ect. He is everywhere and nowhere, like Slender Man but with near-unlimited power. Diana Prince is in the movie, though not as WW, and Bruce is in it, though not as Batman. Then we get our WW follow up, set in the 1980’s (and now Ares is introduced for real). Finally the third Krypton film. Directly after that, you do a Justice League TRILOGY and go nuts introducing Cyborg, Aquaman and the Flash if that is what you want to do. At the end of the third JL movie Superman perishes, and that leads into a new arc.

    In other words, you have a plan, you start by introducing the Big Three in an organized manner, and their primary nemeses, and all the obvious cast members. You treat the audience not like a bunch of morons, but certainly as people who do not spend a lot of time thinking about comic books. You get the audience to love the characters, you show them a good time in the process, and you don’t rush it. Am I wrong?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. What I wrote is the product of about thirty seconds of thought. I’m not saying that it’s any great shakes. What I’m saying is that virtually ANYONE could sit down and come up with a halfway coherent plan for these characters. In that respect the WB suits are in the extreme minority in the world.

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      2. I was not trying to minimize what you said btw, what i described is Disney to a T, at least so far, which is why they are so far ahead, and if there is any parity, ever, between Disney and their competitors, it will be because of the fall of Lucasfilm and the MCU, not because of the rise of anyone else. What is happening at Disney right now is that unprecedented. We all know what thier mistakes have been, and the mistakes have been stupid and humongous, and yet they get enough exactly right.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Looks like JL is about to lose a LOT of money for WB. To the tune of possibly 100 mil. They’ve got what, Aquaman and WW2 locked down? And Shazam? It would be amazing if they decided to scrap the DCEU in favor of another stab several years down the line, but were still saddled with several projects left over from the old plan. I would love to be a fly on the wall while they discussed how to proceed. I have faith in WW, but after they insisted on cutting down JL and decimating Aquaman’s role in it, do they really think they are going to get people excited about his solo film? JL was supposed to set everything up, and instead it’s the opposite of franchise-building, it’s anti-franchise-building.

    And Shazam? Are they crazy? The path to a non-terrible movie based on THAT character is a perilous and narrow one under the best of circumstances, and my doubts that anyone remotely knows what they are doing at WB continue to mushroom.

    They need to take a deep breath. Right now WW is working beautifully. They need to make The Batman work beautifully. And for TEN YEARS they need to just focus on those two franchises, and not mix them. Batman can support like five new movies. Keep exploring the rogues. Find a tone that’s not Nolan’s, but is just as captivating and unique. Batman has always been the ONLY sure DC property, at the movies anyway. I want to see Gotham City, and all its denizens, break wide open on film like thy never had before. Also, if by some miracle, or mass mind control by WB, Aquaman is huge, great, more power to the filmmakers and he becomes another character to mark time with.

    Then, in a decade you unveil a new DCEU, one that is fresh and bold and thought out. Maybe the MCU will be flagging, and WB can take advantage of that (always possible, we’re talking 10 years). They can even leave Batman and WW out, at least for a good long while. After a decade of solo films about them, no one would mind. WB could afford it. But WB needss to stop the madness. The shared universe is not happening. It is botched.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The Donner cut of Superman 2 is one of the best superhero movies ever made. Much much better than the first. WB did get 1989 Batman right, and even if you think Batman Returns did not work, that one had nothing to do with studio interference, in fact it was the opposite.

        You’re probably right tho, I think it’s time to give up hope that these wonderful characters will ever be treated right on film. Even if WB does a total reboot, the reboot will be just as bad or worse.

        22 days until SW. Absolutely right.

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