All Out The Window
It has been four years since the start of the DC Extended Universe and we have finally come to the culmination point: the team-up of the Justice League. It has been a rocky road with this cinematic universe, but I have always held onto the hope that it would eventually find its stride. Even at its lowest with Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, I only saw it as a stumble rather than a complete face plant in the cement thinking that DC could pull themselves out. It is disheartening for me to say that Justice League is the final nail in the coffin for me. While there is some entertainment, the movie fails to introduce its characters properly, craft a compelling narrative, and be satisfying to fans of the franchise.
After the being known as Steppenwolf uses his army of parademons to invade Earth, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) begins to recruit individuals to fight against the threat. With the help of Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) they recruit speedster Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller), Atlantean Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and cybernetic human Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to help protect against the threat and save the world in the wake of Superman’s (Henry Cavill) death.
It is a fairly simple plot but one that feels too mundane and very rushed. There is really nothing more to the story other than the fact that this team comes together to fight a bad guy. The motivations are thinly written, without much thought put into it. This would be all right if the team dynamic is strong, and it definitely is. But the individuals are also not given the proper time for us to become invested in.
No one character truly shines among this ensemble and that is both a strength and a weakness. We aren’t given too much time with certain characters so no one is hogging the spotlight, but we also are not able to connect and learn more about these characters. None of them as individuals have a character arc in this story. It is as if the movie expects us to already have base knowledge of these characters before the movie even starts. For audiences who watch this movies more casually, the film failed to introduce some of the newcomers properly.
Ben Affleck continues to shine as Batman. His character has undergone quite a shift since we last saw him in Batman v Superman possessing more of a lighter personality as a seasoned veteran than a brooding angry vigilante. It’s nice to see him lead this team and acknowledge the mistakes he has made in the past. Gal Gadot is also still great as Wonder Woman. She is hopeful, optimistic, but also cautious in her journey with this team. Given that we have her full backstory now, there is an added depth to her character that is much appreciated when watching her with the ensemble cast.
The newcomers are all fine additions, but as I said earlier they are not given enough room to be properly introduced or fleshed out. Aquaman acts more like a laid back “bro” not really wanting to be involved but does so for the greater good. He is shown to be more than just a meathead and a backstory is hinted, but it is confusing and whisked along to make room for the rest of the movie. Cyborg is the character that feels most integral to the plot, but he does not do more than interact with objects due to his technological advancements to help out the team. He has the possibility to be a tragic character and explore a dichotomy between being half human and half computer, but is never give room to show. He does hold true to some heroic ideologies but that is all we learn.
Finally, The Flash just feels awkward and a misstep. I am a huge of the Flash TV show, so I had to set aside my love for Grant Gustin while looking at this iteration. However, this version is very twitchy and awkward and does not seem like a superhero. Not that I needed him to be fully realized yet, I just thought he would be more enthusiastic and charming rather than jumbled and at times annoying. He is mainly the source of comic relief and with that the character succeeds in its goal. Ezra Miller does a good job at what he is given, but the character doesn’t have anything interesting going for him other than his super speed.
If you’re surprised to hear that Superman is in this movie, then props to you but it has been fairly common knowledge that he returns. What they did with him I enjoyed and with me not being the biggest fan of the hero, DC definitely seems to be moving in a better direction with him than before. I will remain spoiler-free but I think most people will like the changes that are made.
This cast works as an ensemble and have great chemistry together. When these characters are interacting with one another and making decisions, that is when the movie truly shines. Seeing them agree or disagree on certain moral dilemmas and plans is intriguing and allows the film to show how each character thinks and where their morals are. Whether it is the small interaction between Wonder Woman and Batman, or the hilarious commentary of the Flash on other members of the team, they work off of each other with ease and allows the movie to be more fun.
Speaking of which, this is one of the most fun DC movies we have gotten in recent years. There is a lighter tone and it is more consistent throughout the film. This team definitely feels like they want to save people and do justice rather than brood about past mistakes. There are also quite a few subtle jokes in the film which add to its lightheartedness. None of the jokes feel awkward or misused but rather add to the movie and give this cinematic universe a new tone to work with moving forward.
This movie has numerous flaws and it can all be attributed to one thing: the movie is rushed. The runtime is just under two hours but for an event of this size, it should have been much longer. This is mainly due to the studio mandating that the movie has to be under two hours. A lot of scenes were cut out and makes the movie feel choppy without a consistent flow to carry one scene to the next.
This is extremely evident in the characters as all of their backstories are scurried along. We do not learn much about each individual other than the fact they are a part of this larger team. Some scenes feel like there was more footage to them originally but were cut to shorten the run time. It doesn’t allow the audience to connect with the characters enough to care about them as individuals. While this movie is about the team dynamic and how they come together, it seems like they were put together really quick with minimal problems just so they can fight the bad guy.
The villain is yet another bland, underdeveloped, CGI monstrosity. His motivations are vague and there is no depth to his character. He wants to plunge the world in some immortal darkness, blah blah blah, and needs some macguffins to do so. He mainly serves as a foe for our heroes to face. This is fine as the movie is more about the team than the villain, but without a worthy conflict it doesn’t make the Justice League’s mission seem urgent. The team did not really need Steppenwolf to bring them together, and I feel there was definitely a version where the Justice League was formed with more organic means.
Not a whole lot works in Justice League from a storytelling and character study standpoint which are two staples to making a coherent film. This is mainly due to the film’s absurdly short length that does not give enough time to let the movie breathe a little bit. It holds back the movie from reaching a potential where it can compete with Marvel. The film does succeed, however, in the excellent chemistry between the cast and the fact that DC has elected to move in a more optimistic direction. It is an entertaining film to watch and audiences won’t be bored, but they may definitely feel a sense of whiplash by how quickly events happen by the time the credits roll. I would definitely recommend waiting for Blu-Ray as it is not worth seeing in theaters. I really do hope that this franchise of heroes can work, but sadly I am losing almost every ounce of faith that it will ever happen…