While the Marvel Cinematic Universe has proven to be insanely popular to the average moviegoer, their DC counterparts have been all over the map in terms of quality. While previous versions of Batman and Superman have been met with great results, the latest movies have been more or less trash. Man of Steel, Batman vs Superman and Suicide Squad all did well, but were met with less than enthusiastic response. Thankfully Wonder Woman received great and well deserved fanfare, but unfortunately that did little to alleviate concerns that the entire DC Extended Universe was in trouble. Now that Justice League, the movie that everything has been building towards has come out, I feel that much of the goodwill that was restored due to Wonder Woman may be gone. However, it may also hold some promise for the future. There is some good on the screen, but there is also some glaring issues that hurt the movie.
The highlight has to be the addition of two of the new characters on the team. The Flash is straight up hilarious, and is responsible for most of the funniest scenes in the movie. Ezra Miller is terrific in this star making turn and makes me excited for Flashpoint when (if) it eventually releases. Also great is Jason Momoa as Aquaman, who until now has never been featured in a live action movie. He has a more minor role compared to Flash and Cyborg, but he is still very much a worthy addition to the cast. His comic book character has been a joke for years, but now may be the time to end that. Of course, Gal Gadot proves again (for the third time) that she is the MVP of the entire DCEU with her role as Wonder Woman. It’s no surprise whatsoever that the plan is to insert the character into most of the future movies in the franchise. Sadly, this is where the good things must come to an end.
One of the biggest issues with Justice League is that it seems to be to different types of movies, and they don’t mesh well. Zack Snyder, who directed the two Superman movies in the series and now this is known for making movies that are very dark and serious. When he left partway through filming for personal reasons, he was replaced by Joss Whedon, who is known for making lighthearted and funny movies. There are some points in the film where a serious conversation or scene is happening then a joke gets cracked. If there had been more humor in Snyder’s scenes, or less in Whedon’s, then things may have been better. As it stands, the tone seems somewhat off balance and the entire movie suffers for it. For what it’s worth, I think more comedy would have helped.
Another huge fail, and the one that may be the most noticeable, is just how bad the CGI is. Considering how much of the movie is done with special effects, this is a big miss. When pretty much everything on screen looks fake, it’s a big problem. It’s pretty sad that the DC TV shows, which have a fraction of the budget of the big screen version, look more realistic. There is nothing wrong with going for a cheesy look, and it can work – if the cheesiness is actually intended – but here the look just doesn’t work. And without spoiling too much, there is some mustache-removal CGI that is so bad that it makes the rest of the effects look good in comparison.
The final big problem, which is familiar to viewers of the other DCEU movies, is that Justice League has a major villain problem. For some reason, these movies can just not get their big bad guys right. No matter how bad the movies in the franchise are, the villain issue makes things worse every time. Even Wonder Woman‘s biggest weakness was it’s version of Ares, the Big Bad. In League’s case, Steppenwolf is not only unknown to 99% of comic readers, he is entirely a CGI creation (which as stated, isn’t exactly up to snuff). Putting such a fifth rate character as the main antagonist in the big screen gathering of DC’s best heroes was a massive lapse in judgement.
As for the rest of the cast/characters, there are problems as well. Ben Affleck doesn’t do a terrible job as Batman/Bruce Wayne, but he seems like he’d rather be do anything else but be in this movie. This makes a bit of sense when you consider how often Batman actually appears compared to Wayne (which is to say, not much at all). One of the new recruits, Cyborg (Ray Fisher) looks kind of cool, but doesn’t really click. I’m not sure how his solo movie will be considering the character is kind of lame. Important characters such as Commissioner Gordon (J.K. Simmons), Mera (Amber Heard) and Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) are nothing more than extended cameos – seen once then never mentioned again. I know that they should feature more prominently in future DC movies, but I wish we had seen more of them here.
So Justice League isn’t as good as it should have been, but is nowhere near as bad as it could have been. There are some cool scenes, the cast mostly gels well together and I really am looking forward to new adventures with most of these characters. But the bad CGI, uneven tone and laughable villain take away from what could have otherwise been another huge step in the right direction for the DCEU. The silver lining is that most future DC movies are supposedly going more to be more fun than depressing, and I can get behind that. Let’s just chalk the problems up to some bad calls and hope for the best.
FINAL GRADE: C