This 2017 American superhero film, directed by Zack Snyder and based on the DC Comics, is the fifth instalment in the DC Extended Universe and stars Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane and J. K. Simmons.
As the world mourns the death of Superman (Cavill) at the hands Doomsday years earlier, Bruce Wayne (Affleck) and Diana Prince (Gadot) are warned of a new threat that will plunge the world into chaos – the arrival of Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) from the planet Apokolips as he hunts for intergalactic Motherboxes with enough power in them to destroy worlds.
Bruce forms a team with other super-powered beings including Barry Allen (Miller) known as The Flash, Arthur Curry (Momoa) who is Aquaman from Atlantis, and Victor Stone (Fisher) as Cyborg.
As this new alliance takes baby steps in working together, they see how powerful Steppenwolf and his Parademon army is. Bruce decides they have only once choice; to use the Motherbox technology to resurrect Superman to fight with them, or face the consequences if it all goes wrong…
We all know of the troubles the DCEU is facing. No matter what we say or how we look at it, DC fan, Marvel fan or both (or neither), the attempt to create their own slice of comic-book cinema lore has stumbled at every step bar one. Five films in and only one has been able to offer something that critics and fans agree on. Yet it has all been building to this moment; the moment when famous superheroes of the DC world unite on the big screen as Marvel’s Avengers did in 2012.
The result? A sloppy, lazy production with nothing but good intentions.
I don’t feel the need to defend my view, but I can say my interest in DC stops at Superman and Batman, and even that isn’t based on comic-books or TV. Michael Keaton’s 1989 Batman and Christopher Reeve’s 1978 Superman are my visions of these heroes. The other incarnations that have come and gone either work or they don’t, but I try them all and have admiration for them. I don’t read comics, I don’t watch animated series and I don’t follow the lore. Same as Marvel (which is actually based on less than my DC knowledge), my introductions are all film based.
Anyway. I digress. I didn’t go into this with high expectations based on previous attempts at this expanded universe, nor did I go in with any knowledge about plots or characters from the comics. I walked out not caring much about any of them as much as I didn’t going in.
If you want to form a group of heroes you care about and want to invest in, you’ve got to spend more than 10mins a time introducing them. Yes, the intros worked and were all flashy and by-the-book for our new League members, but I didn’t care about them or why there were here, and nor did I want to find out more. Only Ray Fisher’s Cyborg hinted at something interesting beyond where he is now, but that was glossed over and easily hand-waved.
Onto our League, they actually do work together well as a unit. All bouncing off each other at certain times and offering fresh conversation, action and emotional responses from the others to prevent things going stale, yet to me they didn’t capture my imagination.
Jason Momoa’s Aquaman spends most of his time out of water leaping, throwing and growling around his enemies. The only aquatic thing he does is save a fisherman. That’s it. I care not for Momoa so refuse to see this poor excuse of an “aqua man” just being “cool” and “badass” based on his style or previous film roles. He could have been any other man for all I care.
The Flash does everything Quicksilver has already done in the ‘X-Men’ movies; the slow motion, dizzying camera work as he moves at super-human speed. It’s been done, even in the TV series. Yes Ezra Miller is quirky and light-hearted which works at times, but more often than not he’s irritating and comedic at all the wrong times which feels forced and un-natural.
Ray Fisher is Cyborg and probably does most out of our new heroes, teasing his backstory and giving him some internal conflict to work on to get where he is. Except it’s worked on far too quickly and there’s nothing left to find out about by the end. He was, to me, the best of the new members with a good balance.
If you want to give stand-alone films, do it before they become something of importance because I’ve turned off already.
Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman and annoyed the heck out of me. I tried to count the number of ass-cheek shots Snyder tried to slip in and it was near 10 at least. Talk about sexualising a character. From her random introduction to standing on a random justice statue in a random part of London at the right time to foil a terror attack, she is nothing but OTT slow-motion, horrible frowns, screams and shouts. Over-acting has been so forgiven now she is the Warner Brother’s poster girl to keep the franchise alive.
Ben Affleck returns as Boredman. Sorry, Batman. Always seems to turn up late to the action and relies too much on his gadgets to get him out of a fight. There is nothing to Batfleck anymore, and he looks bored as the Caped Crusader. Bruce Wayne allows him to at least get involved with the story, but as Batman there is little else he can bring to the role except more grunts, groans and forced humour.
And then we have Henry Cavill as Superman; he can dodge a speeding bullet but can’t dodge a CGI top lip. Enough of that anyway, it’s been done. From his lacklustre return in the film which was good and actually quite exciting and refreshing, it should have been a more WOW moment. The return of Superman! I mean…it’s Superman! But no, it’s the conflicted doom and gloom for a while and a good 90mins before we see him in action, but even then it’s more CGI work than not. I actually felt I was watching more CG Henry Cavill than real, and I’m not being funny. He could have been a fully CG composited character with some ropey digital effects in general. They still haven’t given Superman the return he deserved, and Cavill can't convey natural charm or humour. Hell, he can't even act very well and makes Superman really wooden.
Snyder does try his best, but it’s never good enough. Even with the late inclusion of Josh Whedon to inject some new material into the film, it’s comes over more disjointed than ever. Humour that seems out of place, new and old characters that are simply wasted – I heard J.K Simmons is in the film, but I must have blinked and missed it – and Amy Adams and Diane Lane return just to pull Superman out of his mopey mood again.
Let’s not get onto the villain, a CGI giant called Steppenwolf with motion capture and voice talent by Ciarán Hinds. He looks and sounds like a weathered Liam Neeson more often than not, and has no real motivation to be on Earth bar wanting to make it his hellish home world and kill millions in the process. I mean, it’s a throwaway villain and a throwaway motive with a throwaway finale. You don’t care about him, for him or what happens to him. For heroes as big as the Justice League you’d think they’d have a bigger villain than this.
And from the throwaway villain thus comes the throwaway story itself – a by the book tale of an intergalactic enemy wanting to destroy Earth with some powerful alien technology blah blah blah only our heroes can stop him…you know, yes it’s been done to death and even by Marvel, but it all depends on HOW you do it that makes it crucial.
You’ve got to get the audience on board and help invest them in the characters involved and the repercussions that come before and after. ‘Justice League’ rushes along to fit everything in with little time for anything else, and while the heroes get their times to shine, they shine as bright as a dim bulb, not exactly a bright beacon of greatness.
A by the book soundtrack from Danny Elfman (don’t get excited about the teased Superman or Batman theme because it’s so noisy you won’t hear them for the few seconds they pop up), a by the book series of action sequences set in and around a CGI environment and throwaway characters and opportunities to really flesh things out, DC took a big risk with ‘Justice League’, but it’s not really paid off.
I doubt fans will be honestly happy with what they’ve got after so much hype when it could have been better. For me and millions more of casual cinema goers and fans, it was alright. It was a popcorn movie with no reason to get excited or hyped about, but it killed 2hrs and I left in the same mood as when I came in. Which is a shame as I was hoping Superman would win me over, but he didn’t.
Warner Brothers need to really think about their future, because with evidently tired characters and thin stories and teased future plots many probably won’t care about now (post-credit scene for example), it’s certainly not a fine time for “the world’s finest”.