Justice League, 2017
Directed by Zack Snyder.
Starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Amy Adams, Ciarán Hinds, Diane Lane, Amber Heard, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Billy Crudup, J.K. Simmons, Kiersey Clemons and Jeremy Irons.
After the death of Superman, Batman has to assemble a team of superheroes to combat a powerful alien threat. Joined by Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg, they must put aside their differences to save the world from Steppenwolf.
After what has felt much longer than it actually has been, Justice League is finally here. Many DCEU fans have been worried about how this would turn out with the constant drama surrounding the film, both behind the scenes and among fans, but no one needs to worry. Justice League is great, and embodies the spirit of the DC Universe while opening up new doors for the future of the DCEU. The core cast have great chemistry backed up by some cool action in a film that is full of fun and, most importantly, hope.
The film’s story is a pretty familiar one to the comic book genre: an alien warlord comes to Earth in search of a great weapon, forcing the planet’s heroes to band together (in some cases reluctantly) all the while wishing Superman was with them. It may be simple, but this film is more about the characters and the journey they share to become a team while still examining themes of hope, heroism and overcoming guilt.
A large part of Justice League’s success comes from its cast. Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher and Jason Momoa play really well off each other and the three newcomers make excellent additions to the DCEU, each of them bringing something different to the table. Miller is a scene stealer as Flash; he’s funny, charming, charismatic and conveys the youth of the character. Momoa is great as Aquaman and rivals Miller’s scene stealing ability. Those concerned that he’d be playing a jacked up ‘bro’ don’t need to worry as he gives Aquaman a sense of strength, leadership and a ‘I don’t care but I really do’ attitude.
Fisher impresses as Cyborg. At first his performance is intentionally monotone, but over the course of the film he opens up more. Aside from Batman and Wonder Woman, Cyborg might have the clearest development arc out of the League. Affleck’s Batman is much lighter than he was in Batman v Superman, but the transition fits the character’s growth and still feels very much like Batman. One of the best aspects of Affleck here is Batman’s dry, deadpan humour while still conveying the Dark Knight’s strength. Gadot continues to impress as Wonder Woman and really makes herself the team’s central moral figure as well as having several of the film’s best moments.
And then there’s Henry Cavill. He’s appeared in very little of the marketing, but Superman’s presence throughout the film is felt completely. Cavill’s role may be small, but he uses every bit of time he has on-screen to deliver a good performance, giving audiences a more rounded and recognizable Superman from the comics.
As good as the cast is together though, they don’t completely save the film from some of its flaws. The first act is the weakest portion of the film, rushing through several scenes to get the team together. Even the editing, specifically the introductory fight scenes with Batman and Wonder Woman, aren’t quite edited in a way that flows well. Compared to the later fights, they seemed choppy with the amount of cuts they had. There are a couple other narrative issues throughout the film, but the first act is where these problems lie the most.
Steppenwolf, the film’s villain played by Game of Thrones’ Ciarán Hinds, is a bit of a mixed bag. He is a powerhouse of strength and has some good moments with some well-written dialogue and a performance from Hinds, but is severely underdeveloped. His main motivation is just to conquer the Earth for the sake of conquering it with none of his backstory or the history of Apokolips explained in detail. He could have been given a bit more depth to separate him from some of the other comic books villains who have wanted the same thing. The CGI on the character was either a little too cheesy or not completely convincing either.
Despite this, the film does pick up. The story is simple, but the focus remains on the characters and overcoming their differences. Batman and even Wonder Woman have to deal with their guilt, specifically survivor’s guilt in Diana’s case, that makes up a bulk of their thematic development. With so many characters, it can be easy for some of the League members to get lost in the shuffle, but the film fairly balances its heroes with equal time and development.
It can be tough to ignore some of the changes this film went through, but ultimately Justice League feels like a Zack Snyder film. There are a couple moments that stick out as some of Joss Whedon’s work after he stepped in, but the tone of the film remains the same for the most part, balancing its seriousness and fun fairly well. Though some may cry foul at the notion of ‘fun’, it is indeed fun to watch the heroes come together and utilize their combined powers to save the world. More than fun though, Justice League is hopeful, examining the concept of hope in a cynical world and how it can come back, giving a nice feeling that some DC fans think has been lacking in the DCEU so far.
Justice League may be a bit uneven, and while the cast’s strong performances and chemistry may not be enough to forget about the unevenness, it is a very good film that is more than the sum of its parts. Fans of these characters and the DCEU should be very happy with this entertaining and sometimes insightful adventure.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★