Justice League (2017)

PG-13 Running Time: 119 mins

SHOULD I SEE IT?

YES

  • Are you kidding? It's Justice League, some folks have been waiting most of their waking lives for this movie to arrive!

  • The arrival of Joss Whedon, who was instrumental in writing, directing, and creating some of Marvel's cinematic and television projects, is intriguing, as he brings a different dynamic to storytelling then director Zack Snyder.

  • Do they pull this off? This is DC's first attempt to get the band together and a lot of eyes are on this, hoping for it to be a success.

NO

  • Except for Wonder Woman, DC movies, though profitable, have underwhelmed audiences and critics for the most part, and Justice League is no exception.

  • It is amazing that DC has all the best villains, nearly all of their major superheroes are icons, and now five films into the DECU, these movies and characters still have no idea what their purpose is.

  • For fans of Zack Snyder's direction and style, Whedon's input on the final product takes the DCEU in a much different direction, in terms of tone, pace, and style. 


OUR REVIEW

If you listen closely, that knocking, thumping sound you might hear in the background is my head banging against the wall. 

This DC Extended Universe, home to characters as popular and iconic as Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, villains like Lex Luthor and The Joker, plus everyone's favorite damsel in distress, Lois Lane, and Miss Halloween Costume 2016, Harley Quinn, seems to exist within a black hole of charisma, with no air left to breathe. 

People, this is Justice League. You have an all-star team of talent, both in front of and behind the camera, at your disposal. You are spending copious amounts of money to try and keep up with Marvel's Cinematic Universe. You just shocked the world with Wonder Woman. You had starting winning back the hearts and minds. You dropped $300 million on Justice League.

And after all of that, we get this?

As I try to simultaneously type and rub the back of my neck at the same time, we've got The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) joining Batman (Ben Affleck), Superman (Henry Cavill, don't @ me about mentioning him...), and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) to create a six-person Superhero Dream Team for God's sake! Ownership of the superhero cinematic universe is in your grasp once and for all. 

But let's be honest with ourselves. For all those who condemn Marvel for going too light-hearted and comedic with Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Thor: Ragnarok in recent years, allow me to re-introduce Joss Whedon to all of you. Mr. Whedon seems to not be so concerned with such complaints, because his influence on Justice League appears to signal a tiara-removing, letting of the hair down, unbuttoning of the cufflinks, and relaxing of things a little bit.

Whedon's approach is far different than that of producer/director Zack Snyder, who departed the project in post-production, following the tragic suicide of his daughter. As a result, Whedon was brought in for rewrites and to help complete the film and, so, we get his clever, witty, quasi-hipster vibe car-crashing with Snyder's manic, hyperbolic editing, cheesy CGI, and proclivity for slo-mo action sequences.

Justice League is one of the most expensive films ever made, and also, arguably, the messiest DCEU film to date. The film opens in the haze of Superman's death, following the events of Batman v Superman, and we learn of Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), an alien military officer who is coveting three Mystery Boxes from his planet's previously failed attempt to takeover Earth. He sends down his army of Parademons to try and recover them and, you know, seize control of Earth while they're down there. 

Without Superman around, this falls to the Crime Whisperer persona Affleck assumes as Bruce Wayne/Batman to band together with Gadot's Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and assemble the first class of a new Justice League. *Wink face emoji goes here*

We've seen Avengers and X-Men come together before, and so, naturally, Snyder underscores such an event here with a remake of the Beatles' "Come Together" for a montage. This comes after we spend a lot of time (like a lot, a lot...) introducing us to the three new recruits. 

That would be time will spent had Snyder given us a reason to care so far. However, about midway through Justice League, as my frustrations began to rise and my eyes grew heavy in boredom, I wondered why I simply did not care about anything happening in front of me. Then, my mind traveled to thoughts on this silly DC v. Marvel divide happening in social media and in film chats around the globe, and all I could think about is how DC is simply trying way too hard with all of this.

We are five films in, figure it out already.

Watching Justice League, you see glimpses of greatness. Witty exchanges between Batman and Aquaman are fun to see, the potential comedic gold that Ezra Miller brings to The Flash is promising, but then you see it undercut almost immediately because, I don't know, Marvel does funny and I guess DC can't do that.

And these things occur over and over again. Elaborate action sequences are built to and set up, only to then have Snyder pull out the Ginsu-knife and slice and dice his work to shreds. It's as if Snyder and DC and Warner Bros. believe that "Marvel action scenes take too long and look too clean. We need grit. Marvel doesn't do grit. Let's fight...in the dark and grimy corners of our world. Let's be edgy!" 

Justice League fails because it exists within an infrastructure lacking any true mission or vision. And to be fair, DC can't really win. Think about what they hear from their own rabid fanbase:

Don't make the movie funny, it lessens the stakes.
Brighten up the mood a bit, these movies have become dark, dreary, and too long.
Snyder needs to go, his movies are exhausting and have run their course.
No one makes movies like Zack Snyder and DC needs to keep his vision moving forward.
We need to be different than everyone else.
We need to build to a superhero dream team movie like Marvel and X-Men.

And on and on. Maybe Whedon could be the answer. For about 120 minutes or so, Patty Jenkins sure seemed to be. For all the frustration of Wonder Woman's final act, Jenkins gave us a superhero movie that felt new, original, and important. We were invested, and we cared. While Gadot truly seems like she was destined to play this role, Wonder Woman is largely muted and just another superhero in a Justice League movie. Plus, she gets caught up in some pointless flirty back-and-forth with Bruce Wayne, which cannot, and I repeat, cannot be where future Wonder Woman movies wind up. Period. Full stop. 

Alright. Enough. 

Justice League is a major disappointment, largely because DC had the ball at the goal line, and instead of handing it off for a sure touchdown, they threw an interception. Say what you will about Marvel, but their films have a unifying tone and voice among them. Seldom do we ever look at a Marvel movie and wonder, what's happening? 

Over there, the writing is usually clear, the stories move efficiently, and the direction is focused. Sure, they have stumbled a few times, including bungling another can't miss concept in Captain America: Civil War and that abomination of Fantastic Four is 1,000 percent their own failing. For the most part, they have things figured out.

Warner Bros. and DC need to take a good, long look in the mirror before they dive too far into this next wave of films coming down the pike. Someone needs to ask what being original and innovative truly means to them. Do they want to keep spending hundreds of millions of dollars to not be Marvel? 

Time will tell and I, for one, hope they figure it out, so we don't have to endure more meandering, slapped together, haphazardly constructed Justice League-style movies for a long, long time.

CAST & CREW

Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J.K. Simmons, Ciarán Hinds, Amber Heard, Joe Morton, Robin Wright, David Thewlis.

Director: Zack Snyder
Written by: Chris Terrio, Joss Whedon (screenplay); Chris Terrio, Zack Snyder (story)
Based on characters from the DC comic book series "Justice League" created by Gardner Fox.
Release Date: November 17, 2017
Warner Bros.