How long have I been waiting for this movie? Probably since I saw the first Superman film from back in the late 70s. I got a taste of what it might look like in Batman vs Superman. And it did not taste good. (Sheesh, that was an annoying movie. I think Dreamscape might have had fewer dream sequences. Anyway…)
You could tell from the marketing of Justice League that they were looking for a lighter tone. Which I was looking forward to. But would things gel? Would this be the one that makes the DC cinematic universe thing worth it?
Long story short, this is a very mediocre film. Better (by far) than BvS, and better than Suicide Squad. Not as good as Wonder Woman or Man of Steel. Still, that’s a pretty big range of possible quality. Put simply, the story is kind of lazy, the villain is somewhat pointless, and there are a couple of scenes with very annoying special effects (more on that in the spoiler section below). What did I like? Pretty much all the performances and most of the comedy. Ezra Miller as Flash steals the show. Jason Momoa is excellent as Aquaman. Gal Gadot is fine, though not as magical as she was in her solo film. And Ben Affleck is okay, if not quite as punchy as he was in BvS.
The action scenes are pretty good. I particularly liked one that takes place in a park in Gotham City (which I will not describe), and the one in Atlantis. That one makes me hopeful for the Aquaman film they’re working on. I liked how things felt weighted down by the water. Considering how CG stuff usually looks too fast, this was a nice surprise.
I’ll dig into some specifics below, but put simply, if you already like any of the DC films, you’ll probably like at least some of this, but it won’t be going on any of your ten-best lists.
Spoilers next. Be warned.
If you’re going to start your film with a shot of Henry Cavill as Superman, make sure it doesn’t look weird and fake. Yes, I get that you weren’t allowed to shave off his mustache because reasons. But if you can’t make his CG shave look good, maybe don’t include the scene in your movie?
My biggest problem with the film was that I liked it better when it was called The Avengers. A dude with horns arrives via sky beam to steal a cube-shaped thing that people have been experimenting with? And he’s followed by a horde of faceless CG goons? And his goal is domination of Earth? I get that this is a plot line from the actual comics, but I don’t care. Maybe DC even invented Steppenwolf before Marvel invented Thanos. Also don’t care. I live in the movie world. The first film that comes out wins. (Also, if the first film that comes out is demonstrably better written, that’s another thing.)
I give the WB marketing team props for holding back on Superman, but there’s very little suspense for the audience about whether Batman’s plan will actually work. The only real suspense is how he’ll react once he’s been resurrected. I loved the scene where he goes postal on the rest of the League. It felt different and inventive. (Okay, maybe it was a little bit too much like Vision’s birth in Age of Ultron, but that’s a quibble.)
Sadly, this Superman is way too powerful. Once he’s involved in the final battle, the tension is gone. There’s little point for a whole league of super heroes if Superman can do everything they can do and never be hurt. This isn’t a Justice League problem, it’s a Superman character problem. I’m not super sure that there’s a solution. I think we may have to accept the fact that Justice League films will never really work.
Maybe when they reboot the whole thing in a few years.