Riding on the unprecedented success of Wonder Woman and the infamously panned Batman v Superman, DC follows up in a thundering style. Justice League, for the first time, unites DC Comic’s titular characters on the big screen and it can be seen as the connecting tissue to future projects, imperative in building the comprehensive universe they wish to create. This historic assembly of A-Tier characters to battle major enemies arguably leaves them little to no room left for failure. Five of DC’s most prominent properties and the return of Superman. What is there not to love? It is blatantly beckoning to succeed. It has to.
Months after the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the world is still reeling from the loss of Superman (Henry Cavill) to Lex Luthor’s demonic creation of Doomsday. Inspired by Superman’s heroic sacrifice for humanity, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) and Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) unite a team consisting of Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller), Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher), to face the catastrophic threat of Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) and his army of Parademons, who are on the hunt for three Mother Boxes on Earth which when put together, will bring about an even greater threat.
DC’s first major superhero team-up is marred by a boring villain and a poorly pieced together story. The movie’s big bad, Steppenwolf, is of all kinds of power and destruction in the comics. But the film barely tries to develop him into a villain worthy enough for the league. His scenes in Themyscira and Atlantis try to establish his aura of menace but it just did not have enough to build a sense of awe around him, let alone his personality in which he was devoid of any.
Putting together five major characters for a movie with only one of them having the honour of a solo flick is a big red flag. The first act is spearheaded by Bruce and Diana trying to put together the team to find Steppenwolf and when the league is finally united, it seems like you barely know any of them at all. Aside from their comic book origins we are aware of, nothing much is known about them. The King of Atlantis, is more Aquabro than Aquaman and Cyborg is a mostly brooding teenager who acts like he just got kicked off the football team. The Flash seemed like the only one out of the new characters who seemed most honest to his depiction in the comics, but even he needed more screen time for development. A lot of character development scenes were reportedly left on the cutting room floor and that is probably the extra hour needed to flesh out the heroes and villains to make the story more complete.
Many would have heard about the sudden switch of directors (from Zack Snyder to Joss Whedon) midway through the production of the film. This begs the question of whether the film will suffer from an identity crisis as a result of the two filmmakers bearing styles which are polar opposites of each other. Some early observers of the film compared it to ‘a sandwich made by two chefs’. I think a more accurate representation of what Justice League is, is fusion food – dishes created from combining a medley (or two) cuisines. Justice League mirrors what fusion food is pretty much. It is in the end a movie finished by two directors on opposite sides of the filmmaking spectrum who possess their own unique cinematography, storytelling techniques and comedy style. I’m not here to debate over which mind scored a bigger influence over the film had because the bottom line is that the movie is not ruined by the inclusion of creative differences. Both styles harmoniously coexist to create one fluent product.
Some questions can definitely be raised about the god-awful CGI in some scenes. From Steppenwolf’s acne ridden face to the terribly noticeable green screen of Aquaman in the icy lake, it is a stark contrast from the strikingly beautiful images in BvS given how Snyder’s studio led the VFX for that movie. I’m placing that onto the lack of budget required to touch up the reshoot sequences since the film was already on a whopping 300 million budget.
Aside from the obvious weaknesses in Justice League’s multi-pronged narrative, another element which proved to be sorely lacking was quite strangely the soundtrack. For a Snyder/DC combo, the soundtrack should have been a knock out of the park. But no, they removed the classic Superman theme from Man of Steel, they ditched Batman’s operatic BvS theme due to Danny Elfman’s involvement and last but not least, they completely missed out a trademark symphony when the league assembled. What my ears picked up instead were indistinguishable instrumental melodies which didn’t strike a chord in me. What should have been a continuation of the ‘DC Symphonic Universe’ homerun halted in Justice League. Hopefully, it is just temporary as the music is one of the finest elements the DC films has going for it at the moment.
While Justice League is without a doubt flawed, it is nowhere near as tonally jarring as some people might have expected. In fact it watches fairly consistently, providing a decent blend of Snyder’s visual flair and Whedon’s simplistic storytelling with a side of quips. But the biggest saving grace for the film is the chemistry between the characters and the dynamism when they are together. All the members had their moments to shine. Whether it was in the essence of comedic relief or bad-assery, the camaraderie really bridges the gap of quality from poor to decent and thankfully, Justice League does enough to be of the latter.
It is … PRETTY DECENT
Director: Zack Snyder
Screenplay by: Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon
Based on: Justice League by Gardner Fox
Starring: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Amy Adams, Henry Cavill, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Cieran Hinds, J.K. Simmons
Running time: 120 minutes