Five years after its comic rival Marvel pushed out their team-up film “The Avengers”, DC and Warner Bros. have finally brought their team to the screen. But how does it measure up?
Regrettably, not well. “Justice League” is the misshapen result of a studio scrambling to meet the demands of its audience, and adjust tone in reaction to the news that their dark and gritty approach wasn’t what the crowds came for. Combined with behind the scenes change-up mid-production and re-shoots and re-writes from a director as different tonally as water is to oil, it’s any surprise that they managed to squeeze much of an enjoyable film out of the result. They did, to my surprise.
Where Justice League succeeds is its characters. Wonder Woman is still the pinnacle of hope and grace we saw earlier this year, and Diana’s character arc is the most satisfying of the film. What DC and WB would do without Gal Gadot is, well, fail. Ben Affleck brings his Batman out of the shadows to play with others, and we see the humor the character is allowed to have come out in his interactions with the team. Even so, Batman in this world might be better served as a side character, someone who is an important part of the team, but whose role is biting humor at the world he works within.
Jason Momoa brings a surfer bro with a dark side feel to Aquaman and each time he is on-screen we can see just how much he is having in portraying this character. Ezra Miller coming in as the Flash and Ray Fisher to round the team up as “the accidents” both get to shine. All these characters, as well as the side characters of Lois Lane, Martha Kent, Hippolyta, Silas Stone and Alfred, are allowed screen time to have their say. The film never feels as if it rushing to get to or away from characters, and all of these pieces have a purpose in furthering the fairly anemic and rote plotline.
I say all of that, just to go back on my point. Ciaran Hinds is hidden under mounds of effects, and the normally menacing actor is barely able to present a reason for us to care about why he is here, let alone worry about Earth falling to his rather overused plotline of terraforming Earth to resemble his lost homeworld. Been there, done that, still here. For all the hype surrounding this character and his relation to Darkseid, any importance he may have is left on the cutting room floor in favor of this tired mission. Criticisms abound about Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, but the DCEU does show some potential in using the more personal, intimate villains from the comics to success, as seen with Ares in “Wonder Woman.”
“Justice League” biggest sin is in trying too hard. The effects of the film are embarrassing considering the production costs of the film. So much of the movie seems to have barely made it past an animation stage, let alone been rendered to any realm of realism. Not to mention the cringingly obvious places where reshoots were made and CGI used to hide Henry Cavill’s mustache from his filming of “Mission Impossible.”
If DC knew what was good for it, it would hand the director of the DCEU to the capable hands of Patty Jenkins. In its current state, it is showing some signs of life, but the current captains of the franchise are abusing the fantastic cast and their capabilities with stories and writing that doesn’t seem to understand what the audience wants.
We aren’t here for dark and gritty. We don’t want our Amazons sexualized with camera angle and costumes. We want the larger than life characters we’ve read about, watched animated shows about. The ones we can look up to and marvel. The ones with fantastic powers who are chummy with each other, fight with each other, laugh with each other. That potential is there, it just needs to find the right hands.