I was going to do my “making of” video but lost my voice today. So instead…
“Hey, Nate! How do you feel about the Justice League?”
I kind of love it, dear reader.
“How was the movie then?”
Yes, that is a real picture of my bookshelf. (There would be more if I had the $$$.) Yes, I have a lot of individual comics too. Yes, I kind of really enjoy anything Justice League.
So no matter what else I might say about this film, I have to be up front and admit that deep down inside me there is an inner child that is squealing with glee at getting to see his heroes on the big screen.
Yes, the things that bug me about Zack Synder movies STILL bug me in this one. (Seriously Zack, I can be an editor for you. Let me bring to life the movies I know you can make.) He’s great at creating memorable moments but still has problems getting all the connective tissue between those moments to work. Like Batman V Superman there is probably going to be another, longer cut of the film released and it will probably work better.
Of course the challenge with the Justice League is that members like Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, and a few others can sometimes take on high level threats by themselves. Like the first Avengers movie? That ordeal would maybe be a single Superman issue (heck it’s almost a constant Green Lantern story). So when you put ALL of those people together on a team, well then you have to up the stakes. A lot. So, for example, for a JL movie, you would have the Avengers plot, in EVERY world city, not just New York.
Ok, let’s break down the team.
Batman – Probably the most accurate one of them all. Ben Affleck does a decent job on both sides of the mask and they definitely have his action sequences down so while in the costume he really feels like Batman. Of course the issue always, ALWAYS is: why have Batman at all? Even if you assume he is the pinnacle of humanity – even put him at Captain America levels – everyone else seems to outclass him. So GOOD writers always use him for 1) the team tactician – he is the absolute best when it comes to plans. 2) the team pragmatist – if something needs to be done that skirts the line of good & bad or is a little sketchy: he’ll do it. (You might notice that 2 often leads into 1 so that if a plan requires a bit of insanity, Batman invents it because he’s willing to consider ANYTHING.) This movie definitely has #2 in it, but I wasn’t happy with #1’s portrayal. Actually there’s very little planning or tactical work in this movie at all and of those I recall, Cyborg and WW do more than Batman – at times making him feel more like a marketing ploy than a contributing member. No character arc in this movie.
Wonder Woman – She’s pretty diverse in the comic with a wide range of characterizations. This one is pretty middle of the road leaning more towards her warm, likable character than some of the bitchier ones. Which is good. Sometimes what bugs me about WW is that I often feel like the stories are ordering me to like her rather than just letting me decide for myself. This movie let me make up my own mind so I did like her. Her character arc was so-so, one that is more like the arc Superman goes through in Kingdom Come than any WW ones I’m familiar with. Still, Gal Gadot has a lot of charm.
Aquaman – Nicely done with a mix of the hardass Aquaman of most comics, to a bit of the hammy Aquaman from Batman: Brave and the Bold. I actually wish they had let him be more hammy and be the movie’s comic-relief which I know Jason Momoa can do. They try to give him a bit of an arc with two scenes but they’re undercooked and rehashes of the WW movie’s arc.
Flash – He IS the movie’s comic relief and how funny you find him will depend on how funny you find socially awkward people. Thankfully they kept him restrained so even if you hate him there’s not a lot of him. However I don’t know if he’s really Barry Allen as seen in the comics. Barry was always one of the most normal, well-adjusted superheroes. Movie!Flash is more akin to some version of Bart Allen I’ve seen. I somewhat enjoyed him and thought his simple arc probably worked the best – he just wasn’t any Flash I was familiar with. I almost wish they gave him a new name.
Cyborg – Cyborg WANTS to be the centerpiece of this movie, but I can kind of see some of the edits maybe shifting the focus from him to more WW. Of course Cyborg is normally with the Teen Titans so to stand with the JL they gave him a significant upgrade when he recently started appearing consistently on the team. While it always seems a bit weird to me to see him with the JL, I’ve seen weirder (go read Justice League: Detroit sometime). What we saw was ok but I kept wanting to see more.
Villain – Meh, who cares. This is an initial get-together story which means the villain doesn’t matter except as a means to bring everyone together. I wish they had used a nameless, less individualistic foe but Steppenwolfe was ok.
On a scale of 1 – (the best justice league)
I’d give it about a 5.
Some moments are simply perfect. Just not the rest of the film.
WARNING: SPOILERS AND EXTREME NITPICKING AHEAD
THE FAN WILL BE UNLEASHED – LAST CHANCE TO TURN BACK
Superman – Yes he does return. I actually kind of liked how, too. And Henry Cavill CAN BE a great Superman. The problem is that apparently nobody knows how to write Superman any more. Throughout this movie people talk and act like Superman is the Christopher Reeve version – the problem is that we had two movies where Superman is a bit of a dick. And in this movie, he’s actually slightly more of a dick save for a very brief segment at the very beginning of the film which is 100% pure Superman. Bruce & Clark keep talking as if they’re good friends – which they are IN THE COMICS. These movies? A lot of telling and not showing.
I mean, it used to be a kind of joke that “DC is where heroes fight villains and Marvel is where heroes fight heroes.” Exaggerated sure but the general idea is that DC people usually got along, Marvel was always having misunderstandings and fights.
Here for awhile now, unfortunately DC has had a lot of hero v hero infection themselves, and it bleeds into this movie.
See, part of what’s bugging me is that it just seems like drama sucks nowadays. Yes, I know drama arises from character conflict, the problem is that it always feels the same: “I want something!” “Well I don’t want you have it.” FIGHT
For example in this movie Bruce goes to get Aquaman. Now Aquaman is usually a bit prickly – more concerned with the oceans than other things. That’s fine and a possible conflict. In this film, Bruce asks for Aquaman’s help and Arthur just slams Bruce against a wall. I think an insult might have been tossed there, but if so it was quite minor at best. Why? Why is that scene in there? Why not just have Aquaman say “No thanks” like he does IN THE VERY NEXT SCENE!
Superman’s back! So we’re going to fight him! Why? Because the script literally commands Cyborg to shoot him. I’m not making that up. Cyborg tosses out a line about some kind of “automated defenses” of which we’ve never seen before in the film and doesn’t seem to crop up again. So yes, Cyborg blasts Superman because we need an action sequence. I mean there is no shortage of Superman v the League stories out there, and this was probably the worst rationale I’ve seen. There’s no real give and take, back and forth, compromise and teamwork in this movie. That’s… that’s probably the most disappointing thing about it.