Movie Review: 'Justice League'
Opened: 17 November 2017 (UK)
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J. K. Simmons, Ciarán Hinds
Director: Zack Snyder
Producers: Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder, Jon Berg, Geoff Johns
It’s becoming cumbersome watching Warner Bros and Zack Snyder botch up movie after movie and that too with such a pool of talent and resources at their disposal. When Wonder Woman literally kicked ass earlier this year, a glimmer of hope surfaced for this film featuring an all ensemble cast and a whopper budget to boot.
Alas. Justice League is nothing but a premature culmination of good ideas that go horribly wrong in execution with the end result being a flat, underwhelming, rushed film that admittedly ticks all the boxes but is devoid of any soul and emotional depth, despite a few redeeming factors particularly in the form of (spoiler?) Henry Cavill (CGI tash removal notwithstanding), who oozes charisma and of course Gal Gadot, with her unquestionable screen presence who obviously seems to have had her screen time increased here after the success of her solo film.
Set after the events in the Batman vs Superman (BvS), the world is in mourning after Superman’s selfless act of courage and subsequent death with Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) holding himself responsible for the catastrophic events that rocked both Metropolis and Gotham. Now with a newly awakened global threat in the form of a demi-god, Steppenwolf (played by Ciarán Hinds), Wayne together with Diana Prince (Gadot) must quickly on board a team of metahumans Cyborg (Ray Fisher), The Flash (Ezra Miller) and the king of Atlantis, aka Aquaman (Jason Momoa) to face their ruthless foe head on, but are they strong enough to defeat him and his army of Parademons?
The problem perhaps with Justice League is that tonally at least, it’s radically different to its predecessor. The lighter tone, while welcome, leads to an obvious inconsistency especially if you compare it to both BvS and even Suicide Squad to an extent. And while many would argue that that’s a good thing, I’m going to go in for the jugular and say that despite being more watchable than BvS, at least the former pushed boundaries a little more and dared to be different, with Snyder sticking to his sombre vision, however flawed it was. Here, the goal is to remain a crowd pleaser, which is never a bad thing (Thor: Ragnarok definitely went down that track, albeit more successfully), but if the end result is completely forgettable then you’ve definitely gone wrong somewhere.
Of the cast, Affleck as Bruce Wayne seems like he’s been held at gunpoint (much like Wayne’s parents before him) to star in this feature film. He looks tired and puffy and it’s painfully visible that he’d much rather be anywhere else than here, but a contractual obligation is an obligation whichever way you look at it. Similarly, Fisher needed way more fleshing out so we could get a sense of his underlying trauma and why he’s so consistently sullen, because anyone in his shoes and with his abilities would be pretty much over the moon. On the flip side, Miller is earnest and tries to infuse his speedster with some life and character but the lines fall flat and fail him, while Jason Momoa (an inspired casting choice) tries equally to have fun with his Atlantean, but again the script never really gives him much of an arc to play with and fully unleash his prowess.
Which is exactly the problem here. If these characters had starred in feature films of their own, we'd have probably invested in them a little more, having had some context around their motivations and why they are the way they are. But rather than giving us time to embrace them, the approach here seems to be to literally throw everything at the screen and hope for the best. As a result, their hurried origins and subsequent display of their bombastic superpowers and taped on CGI effectively amounts to nothing, but merely, a sequence of scenes put together. What's more, it never really helps that the core villain they're up against – Steppenwolf who proves to be a formidable opponent in the comics is so boring in the film and given such a pointless backstory, that one never really gets a sense of impending doom, when he eventually does fulfil his misson and runs amok.
Besides the superhero ensemble, anyone else in this haphazardness is pretty much wasted right from the talented J.K. Simmons (as Commissioner Gordon), to Amy Adams who again, is too busy whining and feels out of place as Lois. Blink and you’ll miss Diane Lane and Jeremy Irons, both stalwarts in their own right.
To give the film it’s due, it does begin to gain momentum in its penultimate reels especially post a twist you see coming a mile off, but by then it’s much too late, and any banter and camaraderie the protagonists have established is in vain.
Maybe the problem with Justice League lies in the extensive reshooting it ultimately went through. Maybe it lies with the fact that both Joss Whedon (who took over after the director had to step down following a personal tragedy) and Snyder had different visions for what they wanted to do here. Maybe Warner Bros got greedy and wanted to rush full steam ahead into a money churning juggernaut that they forgot that assembling a team of well-known superheroes isn’t enough, and that you need to infuse them with some life and depth so that audiences can connect with them. Maybe. Whatever it was, by and large, Justice League expectedly, is a blunder on almost every count that’s occasionally watchable and pretty to look at, but sadly, very little else.