“Justice League” is Warner Bros.’ first go at amassing DC Comics’ top good guys—who are indeed super. Their movie, however, is not very good.
Had “Justice League” had half the drama of its behind-the-scenes development, it would’ve been a far more engaging experience than the rather emotionless, empty entry that Warner Bros. packed together in a panic. But the studio is becoming less interested in “craft” comic-book movies that challenge the genre’s more traditional takes. To compete with “McMarvel,” it needs to enter the fast-film business. And it does in “Justice League.”
As helm of DC’s cinematic slate to date, auteur Zack Snyder has imbued its films with his dark, dramatic, visually artistic style, more adult undertones, and real-world repercussions. Unlike Disney-Marvel’s approach, Snyder—like his DC-adapting predecessor Christopher Nolan—never poked fun at the property. Quite the opposite. He was intensely passionate about it.
That’s evident in Snyder’s extremely underrated “Man of Steel” and flawed but unfairly hammered “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” both of which are better than any of Marvel’s serial chapters. The former examines how the world would react to aliens in its midst. The latter tackles man’s relationship, and struggle, with a higher power. “Justice League,” on the other hand, focuses on Warner Bros.’ more challenging question of how it can get some of that Marvel money. And as “Justice League” shows, it’s clearly in a big hurry to do so.
At exactly one minute over two hours, “Justice League” is the shortest of the recent DC adaptations—and yet, among them, it has the largest of responsibilities: introducing three new leading characters—Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and the Flash (Ezra Miller)—and a villain, the space-traveling Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarán Hinds), who kind of looks like a goat, but a G.O.A.T. he is not. Far from it.
That’s because “Justice League” takes little time to build any suspense in what is a very superficial story. The stakes are almost nonexistent and what should be memorable moments feel rushed and cheap—the exact opposite of Snyder’s storytelling style, further suggesting just how much Warner Bros. controlled “Justice League” and its direction.
After the studio rejected his first cut, Snyder recruited “Avenger” alumnus Joss Whedon to lighten up “League.” When Snyder departed the property amid a family tragedy, Whedon took on even more reshoots and rewrites per Warner Bros.’ request. It’s evident where Snyder’s movie exists and where Whedon’s enters. Both are good. They’re just not emulsified.
As a result, “Justice League” is jumpy—in story, seriousness, and CGI. Parts of “Justice League” look absolutely awful, another non-staple of Snyder’s. And though the eyes don’t get a rest from “League’s” lazy visuals, the ears certainly do. When Snyder left “Justice League,” Warner Bros. fired composer Junkie XL (“Batman v Superman,” “Mad Max: Fury Road”) and his heavy, synthesized sounds for the safer score of Danny Elfman. So what would’ve been distinctly imposing is now just audibly impotent.
But “Justice League” isn’t entirely weak. With what little time they have, its characters conjure up considerable excitement, interest, empathy, and even laughs, particularly Miller’s Flash. The banter and physicality among the League’s members is the best. And as Wonder Woman and Batman respectively, Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck again do their characters justice. The follow-up solo outings to “Justice League,” with Aquaman’s being the first to come in December 2018, are worth anticipating.
That’s only if Warner Bros. empowers its DC directors to make movies that have a unique feel from other internal stories—and external studios. Marvel movies are all alike. DC should do something dramatically different.
It didn’t succeed with “Justice League.”
2.5 out of 5