Justice League (2017)

Unite The League.....

Certificate: 12A
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen and J.K. Simmons
(Movie House Cinema Press Screening)

Synopsis

Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy.

Review

To say that the DC Extended Universe has had its fair share of problems would be somewhat of an understatement.  Their main competition (the Marvel Cinematic Universe) under the guidance of Kevin Feige has been a cinematic juggernaut as characters have been carefully crafted and placed in a huge overarching storyline spanning many films.  After the release of 2013’s Man of Steel, Warner Bros. Studios have sought to replicate Marvel’s success by adopting their world-building model.

However, with the exception of this year’s breakaway superhero hit, Wonder Woman, each of the other films (Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad) have had been met with lukewarm to poor responses from audiences and critics alike.  Now, this bumpy road has led to Justice League which has itself been a troubled production.  Director Zack Snyder left during post-production due to a family tragedy.  In his place, Joss Whedon was brought in to oversee the completion of the film which included reshoots (reportedly costing somewhere in the region of $25 million).  With so much invested in trying to make Justice League a success in such a short space of time, it seems like it is almost make or break time for the DC Extended Universe.

I’m putting together a team of people with special abilities. See, I believe enemies are coming…

Set a few months after the events of  Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, the world is still in mourning over the death of Superman.  With the absence of the last son of Krypton an ancient villain, Steppenwolf emerges hell-bent on conquest and destruction.  In the face of such an ominous threat, Batman alongside his old ally Wonder Woman recruit a group of metahumans (The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg) to aid them in their fight to save the world.

One of the main criticisms of the films of the DC Extended Universe is that they have had too dark and gritty a tone.  With this approach, their films have felt like a slog devoid of any trace of levity.  With Justice League that previously established tone lingers in the background but a much more light-hearted approach is adopted and brought to the fore.  On the surface, this appears to be a good thing but it does just as much damage as it blatantly which parts of the film belong to Snyder and which belong to Whedon disrupting the overall flow of the film

Another problem is that it feels rushed as each new member of the Justice League get a quick introduction before being flung into their mission to save the world.  These back stories are almost dropped entirely throughout the film before being shoehorned back in at the end to give the illusion of a character arc.

I miss the days whens one’s biggest concern is exploding wind-up penguins.

In terms of the genre, the film offers nothing new and feels derivative of past superhero films such as Whedon’s very own The Avengers.  This is all too obvious with the introduction of chief villain Steppenwolf which is akin to the introduction of Loki from Marvel’s first big team up.  This feeling of familiarity is reinforced by Danny Elfman’s score which utilizes elements of his own iconic score from Batman as well as other superhero films he has worked on in the past.I miss the days whens one’s biggest concern is exploding wind-up penguins.

Probably the most remarkable thing about the film is how unremarkable it actually is. In terms of action the film with some exceptions (the introduction of Batman and Wonder Woman) is incredibly dull and for the most part forgettable.  One such sequence which takes place on Wonder Woman’s homeland of Themyscira with the mighty Amazons facing off against Steppenwolf and his army of Parademons in a battlefield of shockingly bad CGI that creates a huge disconnect between the audience and the action on screen.

The almost absent plot which is flimsy at best follows an obvious path which eliminates any sense of threat or peril.  This is mainly down to how poorly written the villain is.  He is supposed to be the reason why these heroes have to come together in the first place yet it in the past it feels like they’ve faced greater threats alone.  Dragging the story along is some downright awful dialogue which is only saved from oblivion by Joss Whedon’s trademark quips and one-liners but this distraction becomes all too obvious after a while.

Batman works alone. That’s my motto. Copyright Batman.

Reprising his role as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Ben Affleck losses the dark edge that made his performance a highlight in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.  With Justice League both in and out of the suit, he looks as if he is there merely as a contractual obligation.  Gal Gadot makes a welcome return as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman maintaining the fierce elegance that helped make Wonder Woman a huge hit earlier this year.

In terms of the newcomers, Erza Miller makes the biggest impact as awkward geek Barry Allen / The Flash who provides most of the film’s laughs.  Adding to the humor is the hulking Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry / Aquaman.  In what feels like a limited role, Momoa does his best with the material given to him with a gruff demeanor.

Like Momoa, Ray Fisher as Victor Stone / Cyborg is given little or nothing to do other than mope over his new found powers but he is never unlikable.  In a motion-captured performance, Ciarán Hinds plays Steppenwolf, a character who barely registers as being one dimensional.  His sole purpose is to provide a big bad for the Justice League to face off against and is easily the weakest element of the film.

Verdict

With Justice League, the problems continue for the DC Extended Universe in an instantly forgettable superhero film that is derivative of better films.  However what saves it from being a complete disaster is the input of Joss Whedon.  Although he over-relies on his trademark humor, the interactions between these iconic heroes are quite entertaining and lay the groundwork for what could potentially be a brighter future for DC films.

Written by Joseph Mc Elroy

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