Justice League

I’ve seen the scores, but I’ve also seen the movie. I don’t get it. Justice League is not bad. Sure, it’s flawed, but no where close to the dumpster fire a 40% score would lead you to believe.

After two extremely divisive outings from Zach Snyder and a very personal exit from the film, Joss Whedon stepped in to finish Justice League, and it’s clear he should’ve been in charge from the beginning. Depsite the fact that Joss’s fingerprints are all over the place in pacing and dialogue, this is really Snyder’s film in a lot of ways. Visually this was not as morose, dark and emotionless as Man of Steel or Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. There is also a slightly brighter color palette, giving everything a happier feel. The action, set pieces and style are all Snyder and showcase how brilliant he is as a visual auteur.

 But Snyder's weakness has always been character. Most of Snyder's films come off kind of monotone, with characters so serious they are basically just action figures for him to tell a usually convoluted story. That's where Joss comes in. By having a master of character and dialogue take over, suddenly the film shifts from just action and spectacle to a fun character-driven team drama focusing on how the heroes will overcome the bad guy. There were some pointless narrative elements and wonky special effects, but none of that matters to me because the characters were so spot on, they helped me push everything else aside.

Wonder Woman, despite being a bit of the odd woman out in a group of very macho men, is still a stand out. Her arc continues from her solo movie, and gives us a Diana that is unsure of her place in the world. A hero who could be as powerful a symbol for hope as Superman has spent the better part of a century hiding in the shadows like Batman. It made for some lovely scenes between her and Bruce, and the resolution to her conflict, while subtle, made me smile in retrospect.

Batman ends up being our main character in a lot of ways. He is given a levity he lacked in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, and spends a good portion of this film atoning for his actions in that one. He is also the most accurately realized adaptation of the modern comic book version of Batman I’ve seen on screen, doing things that only Batman can do, because he’s, well… Batman. Jeremy Irons as Alfred and J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon give him some much needed support as well. He's not Iron Man, and doesn't have the charisma to carry the film alone, but thankfully he doesn't have to.

The Flash was about as good as I could’ve hoped, adding some comic relief at the best times. I’m not sure I love Ezra Miller in the role, but his solo film should be a lot of fun. The same could be said for Aquaman, except the casting of Jason Momoa was kind of perfect. Without much effort he comes across as a badass. He also had some good lines and a very awkward one, but he will most definitely be an important character for the DCEU in the future. Cyborg, was probably the most thinly drawn character and had the strangest look visually because of the occasionally bad CGI. Cyborg also had a good chunk of the exposition dialogue; thankfully, he did it smoothly and came across as tortured without resorting to a gritty cliche.

The story was a bit thin, the tone was uneven but given it was about such a radically diverse group of characters I don’t know how else they could’ve done it. The villain, while kind of basic, served the story and was sufficiently imposing to make for a believable challenge for the group to come together, and so were the stakes of the conflict. Ultimately they went for streamlined and fun, with a focus on character instead of plodding convoluted story. There were some elements that might’ve have been better left on the cutting room floor, and paradoxically I wish this had been maybe just a few minutes longer to give us more time with our heroes.

A lot has been said about the special effects and how the CGI is a little shoddy, and that’s true, but it never got so bad that it took me out of the film. While clearly shot on green screen in some places, there was so much that had to be created for this film I’m happy we got what we got. Is it perfect? No. In fact, I wish this version of the film had been around from the beginning and been polished for a year. That way it would’ve been so much better.

Which brings me to why I think this is an amazing effort given what the expectations were. From the very beginning, this project was doomed. With several scripts (I’ve heard rumors of anywhere from five to two dozen rewrites), a director whose life was shattered with tragic personal drama (Snyder’s daughter killed herself halfway through production), a second director with a vastly different style than than the first, and demands from the studio to change tone, limit runtime and probably a hundred other small details, are ingredients for making the worst film in history. This should’ve been the wrecking ball that destroyed the DCEU, but miraculously, it wasn’t. Instead, it feels like a platform for the beginning of a real phase two for the franchise.

I’m not rating this film because it would be hard for me to justify either a low or a high rating. It’s a movie which should be enjoyed on its own merits.

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.

3 comments:

Billie Doux said...

What an interesting review, J.D.

I am now interested in seeing this one, although it's almost certainly going to have to wait for the small screen.

Patrick said...

I don't get the hate for this movie either. It's not perfect, but it was a lot of fun to see in the theater. It's biggest flaw was as much the fault of the studio as anyone. WB mandated a runtime under two hours(it clocked in at something like 1:59), when it clearly needed another 15+ minutes to breathe. I hope we get an extended cut on bluray that fleshes out the characters a bit more.

Anonymous said...

The Film was a lot better than several other superhero movies that have been deemed 'better'. I personally thought it was better than Age of Ultron which basically had the same issues..All the characters where great...and i thought Cyborg (who i was convinced i would hate because of the terrible CGI) was really good.
Wonder Woman was great again but they are downgrading her powers like they do to Thor in his films. Superman is the shit but he isn't THAT much stronger than her(than again who else could take a full headbutt from Supes and return the favour) and she was having great difficulty with Steppenwolf when he isn't stronger than Ares.
A solid 7 out of 10 moviemovie...and that's despite everything.

I would say it was very jarring seeing the clash of Whedon and Snyder on screen..You could almost see their name tags on the scenes that belonged to them. Apparently all the Bruce and Diana stuff was added last minute at Whedon's request..I thought it was amazing and very reflective of their cartoon iterations.