Okay, let’s be real. No one really expected this film to be amazing. After the abysmal reception of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, knowing that this film was still being directed by Zack Snyder kind of kept anyone from thinking Justice League would be any different. Even I, a huge DC fan and somewhat of a DC apologist, did not have high expectations for Justice League.
That said, the success of Wonder Woman was a major confidence builder for the DCEU as a whole. People were starting to come around to how awesome the DCEU had the potential to be. Add to that, Joss Whedon replaced Zack Snyder as the director at the start of post-production (albeit for very sad reasons, the death of Snyder’s daughter). Plus, for anyone who grew up with these characters, there was clear anticipation to see them all on screen together.
My review will reflect what many have already said about this film. In short: it has its problems, but it gets the important stuff right, and it’s a step in the right direction for DC.
I’ll admit, this film felt like it was almost abandoned by DC because it fit their old way of doing things. They hastily put together some reshoots to try and “fix” the direction this film was taking, but it felt sloppy and lacking in cohesion. The editing was pretty terrible, with little or no build up to moments that should have been heroic climaxes, but instead felt like a simple series of events that had little meaning. For example, Aquaman joining the fight in the underground tunnels, that should have been a big character-building moment for him, but instead, if you blinked, you missed it. The same could be said for Superman joining the fight at the end of the film.
The plot was admittedly weak, though I’ve definitely seen worse in a superhero film. That said, I think even the plot of Batman v Superman was better (though complicated and confusing). This one was simply…simple. It did, however, provide ample screen time for each superhero, which is something that’s hard to do in a team-up film. I never felt like the characters were lacking in attention, even Superman, who had the least amount of screentime.
The villain, Steppenwolf, was also a very flat character. However, this didn’t bother me much, as Marvel has made us used to flat villains. Some of Steppenwolf’s dialogue actually interested me. It spoke of a history that the film never explicitly covered, but was there nonetheless. That said, he wasn’t all that threatening, and his only real achievement was getting all of our heroes together in one scene (which, hey! That’s a good thing!).
Lastly, I can’t talk about the negative aspects of this film without talking about the CGI. It was, in a word, atrocious! Seriously, I haven’t seen a modern movie this bad since…actually I don’t think I’ve seen modern visual effects that were this bad. Especially Henry Cavill’s mustache removal. For those who don’t know, during reshoots, Henry Cavill had a mustache because he was contractually obligated for another film. Thus, they were forced to remove it from each scene. And they didn’t do a good job. It was the first thing I noticed, and I could never unsee it. The scenes without the mustache looked fine!
Okay, now on to the good.
When it comes right down to it, the characters are the most important part of these films. And I’m happy to say that this film nailed it. Batman was a lot more like Batman (compared to BvS). Wonder Woman was still her amazing self, and I thought Cyborg and Aquaman were spot on. The Flash stole the show with his humor. But most importantly, Superman is exactly who Superman should be. In the last two DCEU films, he had all the emotional sensitivity of a brick wall. But this is perhaps the best iteration of the character I’ve seen since the Christopher Reeve days. I know that’s a bold statement, and I will stand by it. I mean, the guy laughed and cracked a joke! I seriously couldn’t be happier with how they portrayed him. I just wished we could have heard more of his John Williams theme song.
Which brings me to the music. I think half of what made this film better than its predecessors was the music, composed by Danny Elfman. Elfman wrote the original Batman theme which you could hear scattered throughout the film. William’s Superman theme was also used here and there. Neither was used in any dramatic way, which I would have liked to hear, but overall the music made a world of difference.
So yes, the characters were good, the music was great, and there were a few key scenes that I just loved (like when Superman comes back…both times). It was not, by any means, perfect. But Justice League also marks the end of an era, an era where Zack Snyder guided the direction of the DCEU. Now, with some restructuring at Warner Brothers, Geoff Johns is fully in charge, the Kevin Feige to the DCEU. He managed to help with Justice League and Wonder Woman (although admittedly, the latter was all the work of Patti Jenkins). I am confident from what they were able to repair on this film, as well as what we’ve seen in other films, that the DCEU has a bright future ahead.