Justice League: The Good, The Bad, and The So/So = An all-out ridiculous fun at the movies with Superheroes!
Movie: Justice League
Director: Zack Snyder
Written By: Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon
Starring: Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ben Affleck, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Henry Cavill, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, Amy Adams, Joe Morton, Ciaran Hinds, and Amber Heard.
Summary: Inspired by Superman’s(Cavill) sacrifice, Bruce Wayne (Affleck) enlists the help of Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) to build a team of meta-humans in order to face an imminent alien threat. Both Batman and Wonder Woman recruit Cyborg (Fisher), The Flash (Miller), and Aquaman (Momoa). But quickly realize the threat requires more in the league.
(Some Spoilers ahead)
- The tone shift opens the film with a glimpse of a Superman that the people love and in a clear homage to the fans who have connected with Snyder’s version of the character and have become inspired by him. Cavill’s nuance and kindness shines through in this interaction as Superman as a man who loves humanity but isn’t understood by it.
- Wonder Woman’s opening sequence in which she stops a terrorist’s bullets from murdering innocent bystanders is by far one of best moments in DC film history that speaks to a poignant truth about the state of the world we live in and how like Wonder Woman we fight because we are believers too. Gal Gadot comes back swinging in that scene which is the only one where it boldly sticks to Jenkin’s vision. That and her conversation with Cyborg later on.
- The introductions of new characters ring true in a film that tackles their backgrounds economically. Aquaman gets introduced as a drifter that helps poor port-side folks when he’s tracked down by Wayne. The glimpse at Barry on the run and trying to prove his father’s innocence for the murder of his mother boils down the Flash plot. We get introduced to Cyborg’s arc which ties into the chase for the mother boxes that the film’s villain wants to unite in order to change the planet. He came from the power of one after he father uses it to bring it back from the dead and deals with the repercussions of that as he comes to terms with his existence.
- Ray Fisher’s performance stands out in that he brings range to a character that is known for being gregarious in the comics but starts him out in a place of solemnity and contemplation as he figures out if he’s stronger than the newfound alien power that brought him back. The moment where the Flash and Cyborg talk about themselves being “The Accidents” works to move them out of that origin place and more into their roles in the league giving both fun characters some needed depth.
- The ensemble’s chemistry is crazy good. Every pairing between them, interactions with one another speak to how awesome seeing all these characters together really is. Aquaman cracking Bat jokes, Barry being socially awkward but wanting friends, Wonder Woman helping others see the best in themselves and of course, Batman being a general asshole to everyone to avoid admitting he cares about them. They all feel off the cuff as the league and you don’t get tired of seeing them all together.
- Aquaman was the sex object and that’s not a bad thing. There would have been a time where the slo-mo sexy walk in the film while being drenched by water could have been inexplicably Wonder Woman but here we get a full sequence that’s just the SEX appeal of Momoa as Aquaman set to The White Stripes while he’s shirtless and drinking whiskey. Oh yeah–and he’s also a great Arthur Curry, imbuing him with the charisma of Momoa who has that knack of actors like Dwayne Johnson and Tom Cruise to be believable as any person in a film but still be distinctly themselves. He’s got that appeal.
- Affleck’s reluctance to be Batman only makes him a better Batman because Batman is ALREADY reluctant to be there. Living truthfully in that character made him more the character and he’ll go down as one of the truest to the comics for it. Not only because of that but everything from the fighting style and look speaks more to recent comic runs of the character than earlier Batman.
- Cavill returns as Superman, who at first is a little confused and projecting his PTSD from his death during his resurrection onto the team. It’s a great sequence of actually getting to see Superman vs. the league but not necessarily making the movie about that. Cavill had a great moment with Barry in the speed force that was surprisingly creepy and great. And it was cool to see where everyone’s strengths were in comparison to Supes. Luckily right after that, we get a more pronounced Superman/Clark Kent who has grown into more of the spirit of the character while not ignoring what came before in MOS.
- The Aquaman Atlantis sequence. Mera got a quick cameo in this that introduced Heard as Aquaman’s future wife who’s serving some truths to the man who would be king but has clearly not stepped up. Her vibe works with Momoa’s and reminds me of the space royalty from the great Sci-Fi era like Leia or Princess Irulan but underwater. The scene also answered how we’re gonna see action and interaction underwater and it looks good but surely by next year, it will look even better in its own film directed by James Wan.
- The only thing that undercuts the ensemble work is the writing. It does enough of a job to hoist Steppenwolf as a threat while bringing the team together but does a disservice to a number of the characters. Spoiler alert: it’s all the women and most of the scenes that look re-shot. So while maybe in the original script they may not have been given as much of a focus since we’ve met them all in their respective films (still not okay) in order to give more room for the new characters, whatever was added only made things problematic.
- While there’s an attempt to continue in Snyder’s style of showcasing the human form of both men and women equally, the complexity of doing that is still highly debatable. The intention to celebrate sex appeal in an empowering way has been a Snyder style trademark in most of his films. It cannot be ignored that a lot of women embrace that as body positivity while others do not (usually due to the connotation of women’s bodies being exploited for longer than men’s have in film). Snyder has always leaned more toward equality in his films as there were more shirtless men than women even in Justice League. The Themyscira scene didn’t have just midriffs–so calm down internet rage. The low angle shots of Wonder Woman were usually in moments where she was overpowering others and that’s offensive to some even though Diana doesn’t shy away from her sexuality. It’s just not fully realized in a way that will make everyone happy. It’s probably best handled by Jenkins which leads me to the bad.
- Whedon’s fetish for tearing down feminist characters to be broken by a man. And his bad intentions to be put on a pedestal for it. Seriously, Lois, Diana, and MARTHA?!?! They all have the same sort of motivation to make themselves smaller after the loss of a man. Lois stopped being a journalist, Martha lost control and that’s why Wonder Woman didn’t rise to the occasion in embracing her superhero-dom? And having Batman be petty with throwing Steve Trevor’s name in Diana’s face and mansplaining to her that she should get over it? Nah, keep it. Having Wonder Woman chalk it up to that was ludicrous and a disservice to the character. She should have been like “Oh I tried to embrace my hero-dom but back in the day dudes just took credit for it and erased me from existence”. And Lois could have totally been helping out as an investigative journalist to track the other meta-humans down instead of doing fluff pieces on kittens.
- The music was lazy. Elfman reusing his theme and calling it the only Batman theme was done to bank on the nostalgia of other Batman’s who don’t share the same universe history as this Batman. 100 percent ‘member Berries. It’s not earned.
- The use of CGI for film set pieces is just underwhelming and only works against the stakes of the film because it’s a mess. It’s a mess as a visual threat and just makes everything look less like a movie and more like an outdated video game in the worst way.
Overall Score: 7.5 The chemistry of the cast outshines the CGI mess they team up to go up against. Cyborg was the MVP, we got to see a new take on Aquaman that plays on Momoa’s strengths and appeal. Affleck delivers as Batman even if his character is utilized at many points to reduce Wonder Woman’s role while at the same time trying to get her to lead. Wonder Woman still had the best hero moments and Superman is BACK. The film has all of Snyder’s strengths but also all of Whedon’s lazy weaknesses.