Release Date: Nov. 17, 2017
Running Time: 119 minutes
The backward approach to creating the DC Extended Universe continues to take a heavy toll on the films that unite the comic book publisher’s most prominent superheroes. Like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Justice League introduces several new superheroes to the DCEU without first giving each their own origin story. The expectation is that we already know about and are ready to roll with Aquaman, Cyborg and the Flash. This did not work with Batman v Superman—Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) felt forced into that manufactured fight between the Dark Knight (Ben Affleck) and the Man of Steel (Henry Cavill) —and this not work with Justice League. This is the Batman and Wonder Woman show. Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and the Flash (Erza Miller) are just there in Superman’s absence to lend a hand to stop alien warlord Steppenwolf from destroying our world. It doesn’t help that Justice League is so bogged down with exposition—most noticeably when it comes to backstories of each of three newcomers—that the effort to thwart Steppenwolf is reduced to a mere subplot. Justice League also needs to devote enough time to the likes of Alfred (Jeremy Irons), Lois Lane (Amy Adams), Martha Kent (Diane Lane), and Commissioner Jim Gordon (J.K. Simmons) to warrant their inclusion in crusade against Steppenwolf. If The Avengers felt like a fully integrated team, it’s because Marvel spent many years setting up its cinematic universe before bringing the likes of Iron Man, Captain America and Thor together. Ironically, The Avengers director Joss Whedon has a major hand in Justice League. He stepped in to rewrite and reshoot scenes before and after director Zach Synder left the film during post-production due to a family tragedy. That Justice League is the work of two major directors can be felt. It lacks tone, pacing, style and a specific look. It appears to be shot through mud. Justice League also is missing Synder’s trademark pomposity, which factored heavily into Man of Steel’s mythologizing of Superman as a God among mere mortals. Under normal circumstances, this might be a good thing. But Justice League does not generate any sense of anticipation for this gathering of heroes. They come together and that’s pretty much it. Sure, you could claim the excitement for Justice League is diminished because the superheroes we really want to see fight side by side already did so at the end of Batman v Superman. But, without getting into spoilers, the film fails to build up to moment of such importance and wonderment that should leave us in awe. Instead, it’s so poorly staged and edited that it strips away the significance of this pivotal turn of events. It also doesn’t help that Steppenwolf is an anonymous villain without a hint of malevolence or an intriguing agenda. Steppenwolf is the product of a motion-capture performance by the usually reliable Ciarán Hinds, but the end result is indicative of the horrendous CGI that blights Justice League from start to finish. Say what you want about Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise but the CGI is beyond reproach. With Justice League, the CGI appears so rushed and incomplete that Aquaman’s underwater activities look murky and ridiculous, Cyborg certainly doesn’t resemble anything constructed by man, and The Flash’s running sequences never achieve the same exhilarating level of heightened realism as Quicksilver’s moments of glory in his two X-Men appearances. That’s another problem with Justice League: Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash are each denied a defining moment to prove their worth. Heck, Aquaman barely interacts with water. That said, Jason Momoa seems very comfortable as the brash Aquaman and Ezra Miller is an essential source of nervous comic relief as The Flash. The latter is a keeper and definitely deserves his own adventure, one that should probably include Ray Fisher’s Cyborg. Justice League doesn’t know what to do with Cyborg despite his vital role in interrupting Steppenwolf’s plans, and the only time Fisher gets to shine is in his limited interactions with The Flash. As previously noted, Justice League’s focus is on Batman and Wonder Woman. Ben Affleck continues to show potential as a psychologically compelling and emotionally torment Bruce Wayne, but the inner demons that Wayne fights are barely hinted at in Justice League. As for Wonder Woman, Batman offers her leadership of the Justice League. Gal Gadot is born to lead but Justice League never affords Wonder Woman the opportunity to seize her true calling. Maybe it’s because Justice League can’t help itself but allow Batman to call all the shots. Superman’s death hangs heavy over Justice League during its opening minutes but the film never explores the impact of his presence in our world in the final act, when its significance matters the most. This surely will be addressed in either a Justice League or Man of Steel sequel, preferably the latter so as not to prove to be too much of a distraction in the former. The end credits tag does offer a hint of what to expect the next time the Justice League convenes. In the right hands, a sequel could provide the level of fun and excitement that this Justice League sadly denies us.
Aired: Nov. 16, 2017
Web site: http://www.justiceleaguethemovie.com