November 20, 2017
By: Kristopher Smith
4/5 Stars ★★★★☆
In the wake of the death of the world’s symbol of hope, an evil tyrant with brainless followers decides to wreak havoc on the world and it is up to a group of individuals with differing philosophies and experiences to work together to save the day; sound familiar? I’m not referring to the state of the world in 2017 but to the plot of Justice League (2017) which hit theatres this past weekend.
Superman is dead (but Raine Maida isn’t singing about it) and the world is in mourning while Bruce Wayne (Batman) scours the globe in search of metahumans along with Wonder Woman to form Earth’s first line of defense against the worst scum of the universe.
Full disclosure: I REALLY liked Batman V Superman, I enjoyed Suicide Squad, and I LOVE Ben Affleck as Batman so my review of Justice League would naturally be more positive than that of many critics. That said, the movie is far from a grand slam, which Warner Bros. needed after the unanimous praise of this summer’s Wonder Woman but it is nowhere as bad as critics would have you believe.
The opening few minutes of Justice League jumps into the action with Batman battling a low-level Gotham criminal as well as a Parademon. This is the Batman I have longed to see on the big screen since I fell in love with the character in Batman: The Animated Series during the early 1990s. This Batman is a skilled fighter and a genius detective, which is not always something we saw in the Dark Knight series. Affleck’s third take on the Caped Crusader feels like a tease for his own solo Batman movie that I hope gets made sooner than later.
Justice League also does a good job of using music, though not as good as Suicide Squad did. The use of songs like the cover of “Come Together” by Junkie XL and Gary Clark Jr. as well as classic Batman and Superman themes harkens back to superhero movies from the 90’s and early 2000’s when soundtracks seemed more important.
We then jump to scenes featuring Wonder Woman, Lois Lane and Martha Kent, and Bruce Wayne and Arthur Curry, which makes the film feel a bit disjointed. I had the same complaint about Batman V Superman and it takes some time before the characters “come together,” though I am not sure how you bring together an ensemble cast for the first time.
Once the League is assembled, we are treated to a visually stunning fight scene between the heroes and Steppenwolf under Gotham Harbour. There is some fair criticism being thrown towards the one dimensional, CGI villain but this is a problem in many superhero movies, especially since DC has so many great villains. The Internet seems to also be having a field day with Henry Cavill’s CGI’ed upper lip, which was done to cover up his moustache for another role. (I am spoiling anything. If you really thought Superman was dead… just come on!)
The cast of Justice League should be praised for their chemistry. Batman and Wonder Woman have some history and their relationship is developed more throughout the film as we both discover each character has reservations about leading the team. The Flash and Cyborg feel like the new co-workers on the job and Aquaman feels like the cool kid who doesn’t let anything phase him. Jeremy Irons and J.K. Simmons also shine in their supporting roles as Alfred and Commissioner Gordon, which is another reason I am excited about a new Batman solo film.
The DC movie universe, which the Internet insists on calling the DCEU (or DC Extended Universe) even though it is not called that, has been less than a critical darling (besides Wonder Woman). Batman V Superman was called too “doom and gloom” and it seems as though the creators behind this burgeoning cinematic universe have tried to build upon the criticisms. Justice League is much lighter in terms of tone and dialogue but the critics are not feeling that either. This world is forming before our eyes and trying to react to die-hard and casual fans as well as critics. Initially, Justice League was going to be split into two movies. It was condensed to one film, and as a result the whole “Knightmare” scenario from Batman V Superman a little confusing.
The film’s climax feels as though viewers are in the middle of a multi-player video game and battling the level boss that seemingly keeps coming back. (Look out for the cool team combo maneuver as well!). Future and arguably much more exciting events are hinted at. Hopefully, we’ll get to see these teasers developed in future films.
The theme of this film centers on uniting for a cause and how unity can save the world, which feels very topical for the times we are currently living in. We see an aging hero confronted with his humanity amongst meta-humans, aliens and gods, a warrior woman who, despite her power and compassion, is unsure of her ability to lead, and a group of newcomers battling their own fears and coming together to save the world.
Justice League zips along and perhaps could have been a little longer. We know that there were extensive last-minute reshoots and edits for various reasons. A number of scenes from the various teasers and trailers did not make the cut. Perhaps on repeat viewings, I will see what many critics have been saying about the film, but on first viewing, Justice League is an exciting, relevant and enjoyable for both hardcore and casual DC Comics fans.