I’m wondering what to say about Justice League that has not already been said before. When it came out it was against a background of digitally removed moustaches, directorial family tragedy and the same kind of downbeat reviews that accompanied Batman v Superman – a film incidentally that I quite enjoyed at home. Suffice to say, for these reasons, I didn’t bother seeing Justice League at the cinema and instead opted to wait with the hope of being pleasantly surprised by the film when it came out on rental.
As it happens I got it on Blu-ray for a good price (which should’ve rang alarm bells) at my local trade-in shop and watched it yesterday with Siggy. Neither of us were impressed. I won’t pretend I was dismayed – it was okay in places and didn’t drag on too long – but if that’s all the positives I can think of saying then perhaps it’s time to spill out some negatives. Well hey it was crap but at least it was under two hours… sheesh kebab!
So putting the unfortunate change in the film’s directors gently and respectfully to one side, where did it go so wrong? First of all, the story was unoriginal and too derivative of The Avengers. Then we got Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck dialling it in for Superman and Batman. I hate to say it because I actually think Affleck is great, but he sucked in this film. Was his dour performance anything to do with sour grapes over talks with the studio?
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was slightly better and Ezra Miller as Flash gave a fresh and quirky performance – however it felt like his young rookie with the one-liners character was copying Spider-man’s homecoming. Game of Thrones’s Jason Momoa as Aquaman had great promise and then the character just kind of faded into the background and Ray Fisher as Cyborg just felt like a walking talking Swiss Army knife there to provide a load of exposition and a solution to the problem of parting the stones. A lot of his scenes got cut from the final film. In fact, there’s a shed load of stuff in the trailer that seems to have disappeared from the final cut which looks far more interesting than what was left in.
In particular, I liked Flash’s Pet Sematary cultural reference (that’s not a typo that’s how Stephen King spells it in his book) and the fight when Superman is slowly coming back to reality – reminding us how people were railing against his dangerous alien super powers in the previous film – but how it was handled felt a bit rushed, public reaction to his return was completely removed from the story (apart from a lame joke about Bowie and Prince), and the dialogue with Lois Lane (Amy Adams) in a field of corn outside his mum’s old house was cringeworthy.
I never felt any sense of real jeopardy for the characters in any of the action. It came to a head for me when Flash is smashed into a concrete pillar by Steppenwolf. The pillar seemed to come off worse than Flash. He’s just a kid in a suit so why didn’t he suffer a broken neck or at least knocked out for a bit? Did he somehow cushion his fall using his speedy ability? If so, how? We don’t know because all we really know about his ability from the film (and please don’t expect me to have watched the TV show – I’m not that much of geek) is that he’s ‘fast’.
Ultimately this film should have felt like Marvel’s The Avengers all over again and it just didn’t. I think the main reason is that I never really cared about moody Superman, nothing made me care about Batman this time around because I was too busy trying to figure out why Ben’s face looked so round, nothing made me care about Wonder Woman because the character got woefully dumbed down in this movie in comparison to her debut, and I didn’t care for the three other guys because we’d only just been introduced. I like to get to know people a little better before I invest any emotion on them.
What Marvel did with the Avengers which DC, seeing dollar signs on the back of Wonder Woman, didn’t bother to do was to give all the characters one or two movies of their own or at least a decent chunk of back-story and character development/establishment in preceding movies prior to the assemble project. I really couldn’t have given two hoots about Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg going into the movie and I’m not sure seeing the movie helped to change my opinion.
The whole film came across as rather soulless and it wasn’t helped by the huge amount of CG. I like it when CG is used to help scenes along or when it’s used to build otherworldly realms (The Lord of the Rings) or in outer space (Star Wars) alongside good model making and real explosions (e.g. Captain America). Justice League felt rather too much like watching something like 300 with it’s unrealistic colour palettes and way too many lame shots (as if someone somewhere looking at the budget said ‘oh that’ll do’) when it came to buildings, landscapes and lip-syncing the bad guy.
I actually like the design of Steppenwolf but he didn’t feel particularly unique and was ultimately dealt with very easily once Superman arrived. I thought it was Liam Neeson doing the voice but it’s one of his pals Ciarán Hinds. It’s a shame that the facial expressions didn’t match up very well with the dialogue and indeed that the dialogue was all a bit rubbish. Watching this off the back of watching Marvel’s equally CG heavy, but ultimately excellent, Thor: Ragnarok makes me think that DC need to have a serious think about how they are presenting their graphics and how they’re telling their stories. It’s so annoying as I’m much more of a DC fan (Batman in particular) than I am a Marvel fan.
Photo by Serge Kutuzov on Unsplash