Justice League is a fun, though slightly flawed, big screen romp for some of DC’S biggest heroes
Nearly 12 years after Christopher Nolan reinvented the superhero film genre with Batman Begins, one thing is certain when it comes to comic book movies on the big screen: they’re increasingly held to a different standard.
Should the films be light or dark is a constant argument among fans. And when Warner Bros. set about to craft an interconnected series using its biggest heroes, starting with 2013’s Zack Snyder directed Man of Steel, it took a decidedly more serious tone.
Last year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (also directed by Snyder) skewed dark. Critics were unimpressed and fan response was divided (though the film banked a respectable US$873 million at the box office).
Next up was Suicide Squad, which suffered from a host of issues. Critics, again, panned the David Ayer-directed flick but a US$745 million worldwide haul ensured a sequel is on the way.
DC righted the ship with this past summer’s standalone Wonder Woman film. But even though it was a hit with critics and fans — Gal Gadot’s solo debut as the Amazonian princess is now the highest-grossing superhero origin movie of all time — the path that WB set upon when it started its DC cinematic universe has led to one movie: Justice League.
Rife with talk of script doctoring, ever-changing running times and behind the scenes rumours of Batman star Ben Affleck’s wavering commitment to continuing as the character, Justice League, which is directed by Snyder, with Joss Whedon adding some finishing touches, lands in a filmgoing landscape riddled with expectations.
I’ve seen the movie twice and the good news is, my expectations as a fan of the comic film genre and DC have been mostly met.
Picking up several months after the events of BVS, Justice League finds Batman and Wonder Woman charged with assembling a team of heroes that includes Aquaman (Jason Momoa), the Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to take on an otherworldly threat — the ancient evil entity Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds).
With Superman (Henry Cavill) gone, Earth has become more chaotic, and supernatural forces have pinpointed the planet for destruction.
The story — from Snyder and writers
Chris Terrio and Whedon — is more economical this time around. There’s a threat, and the heroes need to “come together” to stop it. Pretty simple. Batman and Wonder Woman are the de facto leaders of the team but what Justice League does really well is give moviegoers a chance to get to know the new characters. Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg aren’t underdeveloped; instead they’re given fleshed-out backstories.
The drawback of that is that we don’t learn anything more of Batman’s complex history battling crime in Gotham for the past 20 years, or how he lost his partner, Robin.
Ditto Diana Prince. What has she been up to since the First World War events of the Wonder Woman film?
Gadot and director Patty Jenkins will presumably fill in the blanks in the next Wonder Woman movie (due out in November 2019), but Affleck has waffled recently about whether he’ll be back in any meaningful way as the Dark Knight. He told USA Today that he wants to find “a graceful and cool way to segue out of it.”
It would be a shame not to see this incarnation of the character get a chance to don the cape and cowl for a solo outing. Affleck’s Batman is the glue that binds this team together; it would be nice to see him come back.
In terms of how it looks, Justice League is something that needs to be experienced on a big screen.
One of the things I disliked about BVS and Suicide Squad was the murkiness in its final acts. Snyder has brightened that up to some extent and, unlike its predecessors, there’s less talk and more action.
But, unfortunately, the CGI used on the villainous Steppenwolf doesn’t always work and there are scenes that look just plain silly. I would hope future DC films will ground its antagonists in a more earthbound reality, with more practical effects. Personally, I think some combination of Joker (Jared Leto) and Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) and other members of the Injustice League will work better for a Justice League sequel.
Another drawback is, unlike Gadot’s Wonder Woman stand-alone, we don’t get as emotionally invested in the characters this time around. It’s almost 80 minutes before we get to see the romantic reunion between Superman and Lois Lane (Amy Adams).
But the future of the DC cinematic universe belongs to Flash (who tells us his solo outing is on the way), Aquaman (who swims into theatres on his own next year), Cyborg and Wonder Woman. That future is in good hands. Miller’s Flash is a comedic highlight and fans will be clamouring for his standalone tale tout de suite. Likewise, Momoa’s Aquaman adds a refreshing bit of coolness to the team.
A post-credits scene hints at what’s to come (fans went absolutely nuts at the screening I attended, so stay put until the very end).
Hopefully, this team that played so well together stays together — and that includes you, Ben Affleck. Running time: 2 hours, 1 min.
Wonder Woman, Batman, The Flash and Co. unite in DC’S superhero team-up, Justice League.