Written By: Nick Poulimenakos
Anyone who knows me, knows that I’ve been a firm defender of the DC Extended Universe. Despite its divisiveness, I firmly believe this to be a solid film franchise with great characters, enticing stories, great visuals and heart-pounding musical scores. That being said, I am also fully aware of its many faults that led the franchise to this position. A somewhat dire position where they absolutely need to succeed on every front to keep the series afloat. This brings us to to Zack Snyder’s Justice League, the culmination of the last 4 DCEU films. It brings together DC’s most famous superhero team to the big screen for the first time and fan anticipation was at an all-time high. So, does Zack Snyder continue the upward trend the DCEU was sent on when Wonder Woman debuted? Read on to find out…
Justice League picks up some time after Batman V Superman. With Batman’s faith in humanity restored, thanks to Superman’s heroic sacrifice, Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince begin tracking a massive, incoming threat to Earth. To combat this threat, Batman and Wonder Woman enlist Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash to form a never-before-seen league of heroes. But with Earth’s Superman gone, can this rag-tag group of heroes defeat this newly awakened enemy and save the earth from catastrophic proportions?
All in. That’s the tagline Justice League ran with during its entire marketing campaign. The film that, in some-way, is a gamble for Warner Bros., pays off and fans get the Justice League film they were waiting for. The first landing of DC’s flagship team succeeds in not only calming fans’ nerves about the franchise being overtly dark, but also delivers on being an incredibly fun journey as we see these characters come together for the first time in this universe. The film’s story uses the aspects that made Wonder Woman and incredible success (humor, optimism, action-packed sequences) and builds upon the deconstruction of the heroes Zack Snyder started when this series debuted back in 2013. It may not be the smoothest journey, but Justice League’s sense of fun and adventure is vital step forward for the DCEU. One that, while still needing improvement in many areas, will inevitably get you excited over what’s to come in the future.
One thing that the DCEU has been consistently praised for has been its performances and Justice League continues this positive trend. Once again, Gal Gadot proves to be the best thing about this series as she is fantastic as Wonder Woman here. Her constant sense of muddled hope adds another layer to her character after seeing her solo film. In BvS, fans could tell that she was somewhat jaded but Wonder Woman portrayed her as the shining light for goodness and hope. Justice League demonstrates what the lasting impact the wars she’s fought in have done to Diana but it’s the team that brings a new sense of hopefulness to her. Ben Affleck is great as Bruce Wayne/Batman. He’s the beacon of justice and hope fans have been clamoring for as Superman’s death has brought back Gotham’s dark knight. He’s ready to save this world this time around and even gets to show off a more comedic side (even thought at times, it may have been too much). Jason Momoa’s Aquaman is easily the best part of the movie. He delivers on all accounts, whether it’s his badass nature, hilarious quips to Batman or his incredible action sequences. He’s a reluctant hero and Momoa sells it wonderfully and Justice League will further fans’ excitement for Aquaman’s solo film.
Ezra Miller also makes his true DCEU debut as Barry Allen/The Flash and brings some much needed levity and a lot of naivety to the team. Being a much younger interpretation of the character, Miller’s Flash is a rookie, learning how to be a superhero and it’s a blast to watch on screen. Cyborg, portrayed by Rey Fisher in one of his first film roles, shines as the moody member of the team. Many fans complained that this version of Cyborg was not the overtly funny one seen in Teen Titans but Fisher’s performance as the desperate, disinclined robotic hero is great. He never wanted these powers and views them as a disability but in the end, Cyborg knows that he’s one of the only people who can help save this world and Fisher feels at home in the role. Finally, in a spoiler free description, Henry Cavill is back as Superman in his best performance as the hero to date. I won’t say what he does, but his portrayal of the character here makes it seem like it was ripped right out of Justice League Unlimited. Superman in exciting, valiant and quite funny and one of the best parts of the film.
The action sequences in Justice League are some of the best in the franchise as it is pulse-pounding fun. From Batman taking on parademons, to Aquaman literally surfing them to Flash running in the speedforce. Zack Snyder’s distinct style of action is certainly on display and when Joss Whedon was brought in to finish the film, he only elevated the set-pieces. With Snyder’s heavy dose of action mixing with Whedon’s sense of humor that made The Avengers so successful, the end result is a thrill ride that makes for a much smoother feature than previously anticipated.
The narrative of the film can be choppy at times. With only a 2 hour runtime to work with, Chris Terrio and eventually Joss Whedon had to squeeze in a lot of material in not a lot of time and while the films succeeds in character development for the heroes, the main villain of the film, Steppenwolf, proves to be one of biggest downsides. Despite Cirian Hinds giving a superb voice performance as the uncle of Darkseid, his role in the film is thin. His backstory isn’t explained fully enough to makes fans scared of his motivations for being on Earth and the CGI done for the character isn’t up to par with the rest of the film. I will say that he’s no Enchantress but Steppenwolf definitely falls on the weaker side of DC villainy.
In addition, in what seems to be a response to one of the DCEU’s major criticisms, Justice League opts for a lighter, more humorous tone and for the most part, it thrives but the film can be tonally off in certain instances. For example, during climactic battle between the League and Steppenwolf, the sequence should feel like an end-of-the-world scenario with dire stakes but characters are joking through a good chunk of it. As I said, it mostly lands, but Batman should not be cutting jokes while taking on several parademons.
With Hans Zimmer retiring from superhero film scoring, and Junkie XL being dropped as composer, Justice League brought in Danny Elfman to compose the score. While good, it never reaches the heights that Zimmer did with Man of Steel and Batman V Superman. It has its moments but Elfman’s composition is fairly generic and doesn’t bring the heart-pounding excitement that Zimmer brought. The biggest fault I believe the score has is its disregard for Zimmer’s Superman theme. It’s an iconic, hopeful composition but Eflman opted to rework John Williams’ Superman theme. It’s a missed opportunity to fully cement Henry Cavill’s Superman as the one of this generation instead of harking to the past.
I should mention the controversy surrounding Henry Cavill and his moustache. It wasn’t very noticeable. In certain scenes you could tell that something had been done to Cavill but, for the most part, Superman looks great in the film.
In the end, Justice League is a satisfying ending to Zack Snyder’s superhero trilogy that began with Man of Steel and continued with Batman V Superman but also demonstrates a bright future for the DCEU. It is loads of fun from beginning to end and introduces a new era for DC superheroes. Superman’s return was done wonderfully and the introduction of new heroes was efortless and exciting. It may have its faults with shoddy CGI, a dysfunctional narrative and a forgettable villain, but Justice League promises great things and its expansion of the franchise’s mythos will have fans more excited than ever.
Nick’s Rating: 7.7/10
Artur’s Rating: 7/10
Mathew’s Rating: 6/10
What are your thoughts on Justice League? Let us know in the comments and on social media!
Justice League in theatres now.