Wonder Woman and The Flash are a highlight of Justice League.
Although it continues to exist in Marvel’s shadow, the DC Universe received a jolt in the arm with the success of 2017’s Wonder Woman, giving the franchise some upward momentum heading into the release of Justice League. With three more superheroes, including The Flash, set to play significant roles for the first time it was a chance for DC to further establish itself. So did it?
Set following the death of Superman (Henry Cavill), Justice League finds the world a darker place without its beacon of hope. The Kryptonian’s passing has a more tangible consequence as well, activating a trio of “Mother Boxes” that contain the power to destroy Earth when combined. This event draws the ancient conqueror Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) back to try to succeed where he failed thousands of years ago.
Sensing the looming threat, Batman (Ben Affleck) seeks out the help of Earth’s metahumans: Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher). He hopes that the group, when united, will be enough to ward off the coming of Steppenwolf, who encounters little resistance while collecting the first two boxes.
While Steppenwolf searches for the final box, Batman decides that the only way to win this fight is to resurrect Superman using the power of the third Mother box, which is already in their possession. Even if they’re successful it remains to be seen if the Man of Steel would be enough to turn the tide of war and save the Earth from destruction.
As with most movies involving director Zack Snyder, Justice League has a lot of action, and while there are some unfortunate issues with some of it (more on that later) the pace and intensity delivers at a good popcorn movie level. As with the Marvel films, there’s a cartoonish feel to some of it, but it comes with the territory.
It was important that Justice League produced a new star for the franchise, and Miller is the one. He gets to be a “fan boy” in the same way the rebooted Spiderman is for Avengers, cracking jokes and basically saying the type of stuff a normal person pressed into extraordinary circumstances would. He and Gadot are both continually likable in completely different ways, and the movie misses them when they’re not on screen.
Circling back to the action sequences, Justice League feels almost unfinished in some respects. The addition of Joss Whedon in post-production to replace a mourning Snyder led to lots of reshoots, leading to the infamous Cavill CGI mustache. While that’s easy to latch on to, there’s far sketchier CGI going both in more important (the terrible terraforming tendrils) and needless (CGI corn fields?) areas. It makes certain effects feel cheap.
If there’s one character that shouldn’t be cast as the comic relief it’s Batman, and yet Affleck is left to deliver way too many one-liners. A couple are good, such as his “super power,” but others feel painfully forced and undermine the character’s longstanding brooding nature. It’s also entirely unnecessary with Flash and Aquaman both playing largely comedic roles.
It feels a little strange to write this given how many movies overstay their welcome, but Justice League absolutely could’ve benefited from more time. It clocks in at less than two hours, and that simply doesn’t provide enough opportunity for character and plot development, especially when you’re basically introducing three superheroes, offering up back stories and still trying to put together an interesting story for the current film.
THE BONUS FEATURES
There is a couple of deleted scenes featuring Superman, but their primary purpose seems to be the ability to list “never before seen footage” in promotional materials. The behind-the-scenes stuff fares better, and the interviewees do a superior job of fleshing out the new characters than the movie does. If you’re at all interested in the DC universe and its origins, the Road to Justice and New Heroes extras are well worth your time.
Following on the heels of Wonder Woman, Justice League doesn’t build on the momentum in large part because of the spotty CGI and attempts to cram too much into too short a time. While still a largely enjoyable romp, Justice League could’ve been more.