Directed by: Zack Snyder – Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J. K. Simmons, Ciarán Hinds
After a slow start, the DCEU (that’s the DC Extended Universe to the uninitiated) finally found its feet during the summer, with the juggernaut that was Wonder Woman, which exceeded all expectations.
Following Batman vs Superman (which makes far more sense if you watch the extended edition by the way) reactions were mixed about this flick. That movie was so dark (literally – at times you couldn’t see what was going on) and disjointed, that general feeling was that this would be more of the same with added heroes. However, Patty Jenkins’ female-focused blockbuster was a game changer, and restored a lot of people’s faith in the concept.
Justice League is basically a ‘putting the band together’ movie, so a lot of time is spent focusing on Bruce Wayne/Batman (Aflleck) and Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gadot) as they attempt to round up a posse of fellow superheroes to tackle the evil entity known as Steppenwolf (Hinds). As such, there is a lot of exposition, as Snyder tries to cram in characters’ back-stories before we see them in action. Much of the movie is composed of scenes of the group getting to know each other, and bonding and bickering, which allows Snyder to inject humour into the proceedings. The fact that Henry Cavill’s name appears in the titles implies that Superman does indeed make an appearance, despite dying in his last outing so that is hardly a spoiler.
Justice League is almost the polar-opposite of Batman vs Superman. Far lighter than its predecessor, they have stripped away the dark cinematography and heavy-handed dialogue. Snyder has rounded up a great cast, who appear to have a great chemistry. I wasn’t sure about the casting of Miller as The Flash, but he does an excellent job here and seems to have great fun in the role.
Momoa isn’t stretched as Aquaman, but makes for a plausible hero, and Fisher manages to give a great performance despite the fact that the only ‘real’ part of him we ever see is half his face. Affleck is an adequate Batman, but the shadow of Christian Bale still looms heavy.
However, it is Gadot’s Wonder Woman who deserves the most debate. Although one of the best things about this film, she feels far less fierce in Snyder’s hands, and the script frequently has her making reference to her lost love, Steve Trevor. In terms of battle, she still gives as good as she gets, but she feels slightly diluted here from the heroine we met in her standalone movie.
That is a problem for females throughout this film. The Amazonians’ trademark armour has been reduced to metal bikinis in most cases, which looks ridiculous. Snyder has opted for sex-kitten over strong, and it doesn’t really work. And the tenacious independent newshound, Lois Lane, has been reduced to a simpering mess, who no longer has the stomach for hard news.
It is safe to say that the female characters are not well-rounded at all. You have to wonder how Patty Jenkins would have handled them.
There are also problems with the pacing of the plot, with some scenes appearing to jump forward quite quickly, with little or no explanation. The running time is an even two hours, which is usually considered rather short for a movie of this scale, so you have to wonder if Snyder could have given the plot more room to breathe if he had been allowed even an extra 15 minutes (see my Batman vs Superman note from earlier in this review).
That gripe aside, Justice League is still a superhero movie, and as such has its big action scenes. Although these are indeed spectacular, they bring nothing new to the table. Each hero gets their moment to shine as they take on the bad guy, and as you would expect, there are all sorts of explosions and gadgets and superhero trickery involved.
Justice League is far better than Batman vs Superman, but not a patch on Wonder Woman. It suffers from a relatively short running time, as there are a lot of characters to focus on. It is still very entertaining, and has moments of great wit, but it is not a game-changer by any means.
As an introduction to many of these characters, Justice League works well, and it will be interesting to see where they go with them from here. They have all the components of a fun franchise here, but it is now a case of getting the balance right.
In Cinemas November 17th! Trailer below: