After decades of waiting, the highly anticipated big screen debut of the Justice League is here, but is it everything fans wanted?
Comic book fans and those into “nerd culture” may be the most passionate fans on this planet. Sports fans may love their team when they’re winning, but come a few years of rebuilding, their numbers dwindle to fractions of what it once was. Followers of nerd culture will wait decades if need be to see their favorite characters and hero get their chance in the spotlight and on the big screen. Today, one of those dreams of seeing the legendary Justice League on screen was realized. It wasn’t too long ago that another group of comic book lovers got to see the Avengers make it to the big screen. That was met with a resoundingly positive response from both critics and fans. Throughout this review, I will compare it a lot to the Avengers because they are very similar, but they are both great films in their own respect. Marvel and Disney certainly set the bar high. A bit too high for Justice League to match. Still, while critics everywhere, myself included, may not praise it as highly as it’s Marvel counterpart from a critical standpoint, the fan inside of me rejoices because it gives you everything you could have wanted from the film.
Zack Snyder has cemented himself as the architect of the DC Universe with this film. From the less than wonderful Man of Steel to today’s Justice League, his unique and dark tone has become the standard, whether you like or deeply, deeply despise it. With this film, he manages to create beautiful shots that enthrall the audience. He even emulates angles that you would see in a comic book. While he nails the look of the film from what he could shoot with a camera, when it comes to the CGI of the film, it really falls short. When your villain is a result of CGI, you have to make sure he’s about as real as he can be, or at least as real as the characters, he’s playing against. However, the great and mighty Steppenwolf who is hailed as a hellish god looks like a video game character with all of the ethos and terror a child’s Xbox game can give.
However, while the film may look good, there are some glaring issues. What made the Avengers such a great movie was not the presence of individuals with super powers or the way those abilities played off each other, rather, it was the interesting characters beneath the powers and how those people played with each other in and out of action. Those magical moments of banding together a very heterogeneous team for one common goal is something that everyone loves to see on screen. In the Avengers, they go from distrust and an unwillingness to work together to finally moving as a tight knit group that complements each member. While the Justice League follows a similar pattern, it’s not as catchy or as easy to watch. In fact, those beginning moments of them attempting to come together is less like watching would-be heroes engaging in a well-sounded discussion and more like watching angsty teenagers argue over a group project in high school.
After seeing Joss Whedon, who wrote and directed Avengers, join the project as the writer of the film, I expected that brilliant character-defining dialogue to be present here, but, it’s simply not the case. Both films support a similarly unique cast of characters, from a rich billionaire leader who lacks power but has cool toys, to a mythological god, to a kid who grew up admiring these heroes, and more. In the Justice League, they all have such a uniform and bland voice that doesn’t reflect any ounce of individuality, with the exception of a few moments here and there. Half the blame belong to Whedon on this, as some lines just don’t fit for the characters. Half the blame also belongs to Snyder because when the lines do work perfectly, his actors aren’t coming across as charming or likable.
That brings me to my last gripe with this film, the acting. I know that no one here is going to be nominated for an Oscar for their role in a comic book movie, but still, that’s no excuse to simply mail in performances. Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne/Batman is at best at a parody of a comic book character. His voice is something you’d expect to hear on an SNL sketch, not something being shown on over 4000 screens. Gal Gadot may be the most consistent in the film, but even when she’s playing off Ben, there is oftentimes something of a disconnect. Ezra Miller is something of an enigma in that he seemingly does and says everything he should to be a likable favorite, but he isn’t. His character, very much so like Spiderman in Captain America: Civil War, is supposed to be a likable kid who wants to help his heroes battle evil, while also finding a place he can belong to. That may work well in the brighter and lighter MCU, but in Snyder’s dark world, that doesn’t really fit. Miller tries his best to be the underdog kid we all want to root for but for some reason, he isn’t and I’m not sure why. It may be because of the atmosphere or because of the actor’s tone and performance, but the pieces never come together in this film. Ray Fisher’s Cyborg is a very decent portrayal of an individual who feels cursed rather blessed and might actually be the strongest performance of the main cast. Jason Momoa is also somewhat of a shocker in that he manages to literally do the impossible: make Aquaman cool. My only issue with his character is the way he speaks, less like a mythical god with disdain and more like a rebel without a cause. The supporting cast was rather good, especially considering you have heavy hitters like J.K Simmons, Amy Adams, and Jeremy Irons.
While the film isn’t perfect, what does count is the amazing, jaw-dropping, and mind-boggling fight scenes that are bound to ensue with some of your childhood heroes on screen and they are all amazing. In those moments it’s just like being a kid again, playing with your action figures or playing one of your favorite action games on a ps2 where you can imagine or predict how your favorite hero would fare in battle and why he’s the best. It’s in these action scenes where DC has got Marvel beat. The amazing scenes in the MCU are too far and few, but watching the ones present here with these incredibly powered individuals will make kids and adults alike exclaim and wonder and leave them discussing for many a conversation long after the movie is over who the strongest is and why. As a comic book fan and nerd, I can safely say they will blow you away without going into too much more detail.
You could look at Justice League as a lesser Avengers, or you could look at it as the most exciting D.C movie to date, the choice is yours. For what it is, an action-packed comic book movie whose laurels rest in its epic fight scenes, it’s great. I hope to see D.C Put more emphasis on this in the future. If you like great, big Hollywood movies and Marvel epics (and I mean, who deep down doesn’t?) then you need to check it out, if for nothing else, for that amazing fight scene about two thirds into the movie.
The film is now playing!