DC's first attempt at a Justice League movie in the DCEU is finally here! Does it rebound from BvS? Where does the future of the DCEU stand now? Find out in our official review!
The Future is Bright for the DCEU
It’s well-documented that Warner Bros. has had a bit of an issue creating a superhero franchise out of the DC Comics characters. They had an admirable start with Man of Steel, though that one still had its issues. Then, WB/DC jumped the gun by telling the story of Batman vs Superman WAY too early in BvS: Dawn of Justice. Wonder Woman changed the narrative, that the DCEU was inept, with a groundbreaking summer box office showing, thanks in part to director Patty Jenkins. Riding high off that momentum, WB/DC really needed a win with Justice League to get people excited about the DCEU again.
They succeeded and then some.
The story continues a year after the events of BvS with the world in turmoil. Superman’s (Henry Cavill) death has caused crime to rise to new heights but, more importantly, it has brought visitors from another world in the form of Parademons led by Darkseid’s general Steppenwold (Ciaran Hinds). Steppenwolf is drawn by the awakening Mother Boxes and their need for the Unity, which would bring the world to its knees. In order to stop Steppenwolf from gathering the three boxes and reuniting them, Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) must put together a team of superpowered allies to save the world.
Justice League works because it corrects a lot of the missteps from previous DCEU films, with the exception of Wonder Woman. One of the biggest from BvS was how dark Zack Snyder’s vision of the universe was. Shortly after that criticism, WB went back to the drawing board to put some light into the DCEU and the result was remarkable. Justice League didn’t have that same downtrodden, brooding feel to it. Characters were heroic, they were witty, and they weren’t on a pedestal like all-powerful Gods. In bringing them back down to our level, it allowed the audience to connect to these characters like never before.
Furthermore, a hero is only as good as the villains they’re fighting. Justice League had the perfect first enemy in Steppenwolf. In the comics, he initially was a one-off character that barely had a purpose in Darkseid’s army. However, in one of the more recent DC Universe shake-ups, he served a prominent role as the general of Darkseid’s army. Justice League got the latter of the two and he proved to be a formidable enemy. Ciaran Hinds voiced him in a way that made us understand that he had gone a little mad from the last time he had tried to conquer the Earth and failed. This time was going to be different. This was going to be his redemption. Steppenwolf even believed that those who fought against him would join his army once the three Mother Boxes were united and love him for it. It was the perfect kind of enemy for the Justice League to fight off, because his motivations were easy enough for us to understand and a good sample size for what’s to come.
The credit for this monster turnaround needs to be spread between DCEU head Geoff Johns, Joss Whedon, and Zack Snyder. They diagnosed the issues pretty quickly, corrected them, and gave us something to really get excited for. Snyder has taken a lot of flack for how he directed the first two films in the DCEU, but he made up for it in a lot of the scenes he directed in Justice League. The action was superb and dialogue between characters had us cracking up, while providing some much needed character development. Now, that isn’t to say that Joss Whedon’s fingerprints weren’t all over this movie. They definitely were and it makes for a fun game to try and discern whose scenes are whose. When Whedon took over the project, after Snyder had to leave for family reasons, he injected his relatable type of comedy and method of highlighting multiple characters at the same into Justice League, and the results were superb. It didn’t feel like an Avengers movie, by any means, but they felt united, despite some friendly tiffs here and there. Regardless who directed what, the result of Justice League was a superhero team-up movie that was hilarious as it was action-packed.
2017’s movies, and the two after-credit scenes in Justice League, has laid the groundwork for how the rest of the DCEU should go. If whomever they decide to direct the next film follows what Wonder Woman and Justice League pulled off, the future will be bright for the DCEU.
An Ensemble Superhero Cast That Shines
It’s become an artform to pull off a good ensemble cast, especially with superheroes. Thankfully, WB brought in the de facto expert on this in Joss Whedon. The result is a film that allows every superhero to star. While understandably Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot lead the charge, throughout the film, every other character seizes their moment once their on the screen. What’s more is that each brings their own personality to the team, which makes for some pretty great chemistry.
Aquaman (Jason Momoa) is like a superhero rebel who wants to save and protect his people, but only on his terms. He’s only forced into the fray when Steppenwolf attacks Atlantis. Despite his protests, defeating Steppenwolf and protecting Atlantis from future threat becomes his top priority. Cyborg (Ray Fisher) has a surprisingly prominent role in the film, as he’s the one that’s been featured the least, leading up to the film’s release. Yet, Fisher brings us a well enough performance for his first time playing the character. Funny enough, he broods more than Batman but it’s understandable when you consider that he is still trying to figure out what he is and what he can do.
The brightest star of the film, though, was The Flash (Ezra Miller). We kind of got a sense in the trailers that he was going to be the comic relief but I don’t think any of us considered how much we’d love his character by the end of it. He was awkwardly funny when he needed to be, but when times got tough he was able to bring himself down to Earth, especially when talking to his father in prison. Flash gave us some of the best, most memorable moments of the film just by being the guy who had no filter and no idea of how to be a superhero.
Everyone’s performance got me excited for their featured roles in the coming years.
An Homage to DC’s History
Today’s generation most likely has never seen the original Batman/Superman TV shows, cartoons, or even movies. It’s highly likely that they’ve grown up thinking that Marvel started it all but, as us more seasoned folks know, that’s not true at all. DC has had a long history of incredible content being featured in different avenues, over the years. Justice League is a love letter to those times.
Whether it be through subtle musical elements or even certain stances, the Justice League team incorporated several themes that will reward fans for paying close attention. For instance, they play the classic Batman theme at certain points, but it’s not overtly in your face. They do the same thing for Superman, as well. It’s a small thing, but sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest impact in a movie, and this would be a good example of that. Without Danny Elfman providing musical Easter Eggs, I don’t think I would’ve fanboyed out as much as I did.
What Needs Improvement
No movie is perfect. WB and DC know this all too well. However, the issues that blemished this otherwise enjoyable movie are not as significant as past films. For starters, they tried to rebound from Man of Steel and BvS by shortening the movie from 3 hours to 2 hours. That actually turned out to be a good thing because it got to the point a lot quicker. The problem was that certain scenes that remained could’ve been nixed in favor of more screen time for certain characters, specifically Aquaman and Cyborg.
I said before that Cyborg took a prominent role in the film, which is still true, but they seemed to jump through his progression faster than I would’ve liked. I could’ve used about 5-10 more minutes of him working through his powers until he finally figured how who Bruce Wayne really was and how to get to him. It’s a little minor but it could’ve helped flesh out his character just a touch more. The same goes for Aquaman. I was actually surprised that Jason Momoa wasn’t featured as much as it seemed like he would be. Another 7 minutes with him could’ve made the difference and got us that much more excited for his solo film.
The scenes that could’ve been replaced by those were the continuous recalls to a nice Russian family being invaded by Steppenwolf and his Parademons. I understand the idea of giving us the human element and the need of heroic rescue, but that whole part could’ve been left for deleted scenes and no one would’ve noticed.
It’s clear that there will be a LOT of deleted scenes footage when this movie finally releases on Blu-ray, most likely next year, as they have the Iris West character and Robin Wright credited in the movie, but neither are in it at all. It’ll be interesting to see if we’re shocked they didn’t make it into the final cut, like we were with several scenes in BvS.
Another part that needed to be fixed was the CGI. Shockingly, I’m not talking about the intense use of green screen. That actually was ok this time and they gave us a reason for why they used it. No, I’m talking more toward two issues Cyborg’s look and Superman’s mouth. On the bust shots of Cyborg, he looked fine. Just an average guy with cybernetics all over his body. It’s when they gave us full body shots that the cybernetics looked crude, incomplete, almost half-assed (sorry kids). They make up for it in the end, by giving a reason for the crude-looking effects, but you have to go through 1 hr 52 min before you get that payoff. The bright side is, he won’t be looking like that again.
As for Superman’s mouth, Whedon had to do some reshoots for Justice League, which is a normal thing. The issues is that Henry Cavill had a mustache, for another movie, that he couldn’t remove. So, they decided to CGI his mouth and it does not look good. Not one bit. Before you run into theaters and stare at his mouth to see what I’m talking about, not every scene is Cavill having a weird mouth, just some scenes. I find it hard to figure out a different solution to that issue, other than getting it right the first time, but again it’s a minor thing in an otherwise great movie.