***Warning: Full Spoilers for Justice League***
The long awaited team up film Justice League has finally arrived. There have already been many spoiler free reviews. I tend to keep my reviews spoiler free but this film is one where I want to truly dive into some key points of the film that are spoiler heavy. If you do not want major plot points ruined for you, stop reading here.
And with that, let me first say I truly enjoyed the film. Justice League is a flawed but fun romp with amazing superheroes. The plot is overly simple, predictable and nothing original however I enjoyed my time in the theaters and plan to see it on the big screen again. Justice League is not an award winning film but Snyder and Whedon did a fantastic job bringing these iconic characters to the big screen for the first time. Because of this it is disappointing to see the opening weekend numbers so low.
Critics have been overly harsh stating that the film is “unwatchable”. I’d argue the exact opposite. Never does the film do something that makes you think. The plot is pretty surface level but is that a terrible thing after Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice? One of the major complaints of that film was that the plot was convoluted and overly complex. I personally loved the film but I can see why people felt that way. So, rather than doing something in the middle, DC decided to play it safe and create a story that is quite basic. Villain wants to access powerful objects and rule the universe with them. Heroes work together to stop bad guy from taking over the world/universe. There aren’t really any side stories or subplots other than the introductions to the members of the league we haven’t met yet.
I’ve heard some complain that there wasn’t enough backstory for the new heroes introduced here. I personally disagree. The Flash is well known enough that average viewers will understand that he is a speedster. Beyond that the film lets us know that he was struck by lightning and is extremely fast. It even goes as far as to make a joke about him just being fast being an oversimplification. Even still, I don’t feel that viewers needed much more. We get a sense that Barry is a loner from his conversation with his father in prison and then get that same feeling confirmed when he and Bruce meet.
Cyborg’s story was basic but plenty as well. We learn that he got into a major accident that killed his mother and almost killed him. His father then used the motherbox and Kryptonian technology to give him a life as a Cyborg. His character was a bit broody and there wasn’t enough to explain why he decided to help when he was so adamant against when speaking to Wonder Woman. While his backstory was enough for me I still don’t understand his motivation to help the league, at least initially.
Aquaman we learn is protecting people in remote areas of the world. He is a hero but doesn’t want to be bothered by anyone else. He is content saving people and living a rugged life. We then see him return home to Atlantis when Steppenwolf takes the motherbox. After meeting with his people he decides that he needs to help save the world as is his duty as the true ruler of Atlantis. I’ll admit that his backstory was not long enough. There could have been more for him however we will get that in his solo movie next year. It was enough for us to know that he is an Atlantean since the film explained a bit about them in the flash back to Steppenwolf’s original time on earth.
First War With Steppenwolf
The flashback showing the Atlanteans, Amazons, gods and Lanterns working together was wonderful, if not a bit short. I loved seeing the lantern fight against the hord of Steppenwolf and the gods fight back. I think they could have explained more which gods were shown. I assumed that it was Zeus who was shooting lightning but it wasn’t clear. As a fan of comic books and these films, if it wasn’t clear to me then it wasn’t clear to the general audiences. Even still, this flash back was a lot of fun to watch. It made me more excited to see Green Lantern eventual introduction into the League.
Steppenwolf was a pretty basic villain. We really don’t get a ton of background other than knowing that he conquers planets and tried to conquer earth once more. Once he learns that Superman has been killed he sees his opportunity to return and take earth by seizing the mother boxes directly. It is clear that Steppenwolf is a powerful foe seeing how easily he cleans up against the Amazons and Atlaneans. For most of the film I was pleased with the power level of the villain as it relates to the heroes. He and Wonder Woman had several great moments battling one another and they seemed to be fairly matched. As the strongest among the Amazons she was holding her own. Similarly there were moments where Aquaman was able to show his exceptional strength and stand up to the main villain. Even still, it was clear that they would have to work together to stop Steppenwolf.
This is what made is a bit disheartening in the end when Superman arrives. Once Superman arrives, Steppenwolf became a weakling. There was no longer a contest of any real threat with Superman there to take on the big bad. They tried to add to the threat by sending Supes away to rescue civilians but I was let down by the ease with which the kryptonian could win that battle. Now, put Superman up against Darkseid and this will not be the case but I wanted to see Steppenwolf at least stand a chance.
For example, one of my favorite moments was when Cyborg takes over bruces machine and shoots a rocket at the main villain who catches it and throws it into the wall. It demonstrates that the league is up against a villain that is powerful and a major threat. It was sad to see this threat so easily discarded with Superman in tow.
I think the overall tone of the film was great. I would have been ok with a bit more of the dark DC tone but it wasn’t too bright or anything. It was fun to see all the jokes such as Flash and Superman quipping about who is faster, Aquaman sitting on the lasso of truth and saying some hilarious things and more. In fact the humor was quite refreshing compared to the film it is a follow up on.
Ultimately the film played it too safe. They could have done with some of the darkness and richer story of Batman V Superman while not over complicating it and making the characters too broody. It was clear that they wanted to make Superman more jolly and they did a good job. It didn’t bother me necessarily but it was clear to me how obvious they were trying to make it. Superman was constantly smiling once he snapped out of his post resurrection daze. In the end, I loved Aquaman’s demeanor such as the below shot of him with Cyborg!
If you follow comic book movies you knew that Superman was going to be in the film. It was never a question of if but how they would bring him back. I was a bit surprised by how they did it. I thought Steppenwolf was going to bring him back and use him against the league. Instead it was Bruce who came up with the idea to bring him back to life and everyone by Diana was on board with it. Aquaman started to realize it wasn’t a great idea when they were about to do it but he didn’t put up a fight like Diana did.
Using the motherbox and Barry’s powers was a cool touch with the idea that Kryptonian cells don’t deteriorate as quickly as ours. In essence, let’s get a super defibrillator on this Super being and see what happens. Well, it worked and it created a pretty dazed and confused Superman. The fight that followed was mostly great other than the weird voice they had Henry Cavill use. As cheesy as it was, I didn’t mind the whole “do you bleed?” line directed at Bruce. It was mostly the low “evil” voice they had him do. Otherwise I thought Cavill’s performance was spot on and enjoyable from start to finish. Probably one of the funniest parts of the film was when Flash tries to flank and the horror in his eyes as he realizes that Superman can see and keep up with him. I know I would be terrified thinking that I was about to get hit by a being who can lift buildings with one arm…
Justice League was an enjoyable film. I loved seeing these heroes meet and their great on screen chemistry together. I can hardly wait to see the next film where they will face off against Lex, Deathstroke and more. The tone was a bit brighter than it needed to be but a massive step in the right direction. I found myself laughing more than I expected and this was a pleasant surprise. The overly simple villain and plot left some to be desired but I still liked seeing the team work together to take down Steppenwolf and set up for the eventual show down with the far superior Darkseid! DC is making strides to do what their fans want and Justice League clearly illustrated this. Well done listening to your fans. I’m confident that after a few more tweaks we will be looking at a far better DCEU than what we have seen so far.
3 out of 5 Couch Cushions and a throw pillow!(3.5)