After the Batman series directed by Chris Nolan released, even the haters of Batman became fans, let alone be fanboys like me. I was more thrilled when Werner Bros. announced that Nolan would be in the writing team for Man of Steel. People who’ve read my review of Thor: Ragnarok will know that how big a fan of Batman & Superman I am. I grew up reading the comics and watching the animated series. So naturally, when the announcement for the Justice League movie was made, I was quite excited.
But I couldn’t be at the show in the first week, and when negative reviews started pouring, I was disheartened. It was only yesterday I got the chance to see the movie. Being the film which marks the much-awaited team-up of ultimate DC superheroes Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg, is both more coherent and a good deal more fun than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
But, for a film about a band of heroes trying to stop extraterrestrial demon-beasts from wiping out humanity, Justice League is light on its feet, sprinting through a super-group’s origin story in less than two hours, giving its ensemble lots to do, and mostly avoiding the self-importance that damaged previous entries in this franchise. This, as it feels, seems to be a course correction.
But, Justice League has its own problems. Chief among those problems is an underwhelming villain. In the comics, Steppenwolf is the epitome of evil from Apokolips; a feared figure, eight-feet tall. In the film, however, he’s reduced to something that looks like a cross between a warrior and a horned goat, an entirely CGI creation that evokes none of the intended dread. He’s the latest in DC’s lineup of disappointing bad guys after Doomsday in Batman v Superman, Enchantress in Suicide Squad, and Ares in Wonder Woman. Also, it lacks the much needed epic battles that a superhero team movie should have.
Continuing from Batman v Superman, the film’s plot is into motion when Steppenwolf and his army of wasp-like alien creatures show up in search of three mysterious Mother Boxes, to execute his plan to wipe out the planet. And after the death of Superman, earth is under constant threat, right from muggers to big villains like Steppenwolf. That’s when Bruce Wayne reaches out to Diana Prince and the pair set out to recruit a trio of new teammates to join their planet-protecting mission. That’s where Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg come in.
Similar to Marvel’s Avenger films, Justice League is the most enjoyable when it’s focused on the group as they bicker and bond and ditch their personal baggage to ultimately work together. Also, the scenes where there is this power comparison going on between the other heroes and Superman, just to portray how powerful he really is. It’s these scenes that infuse the film with humour, and in some cases emotional depth. It’s what keeps you invested in these characters.
Ezra Miller is great as the scarlet speedster, and the tone of his character feels similar to that of Spiderman, newly introduced to the Marvel Universe. Jason Momoa owns the part of Arthur Curry, the hunky, amphibious hero with an attitude aka Aquaman, who, in one of the film’s cheekiest scenes, reveals more than he intended to in a rare moment of candidness. And then there’s Victor Stone aka Cyborg, played with genuine feeling by Ray Fisher as a deeply conflicted young fella that a freak accident has turned into a half man-half machine.
It’s good that they’ve done good amount of work to establish the characters of Justice League, and more importantly humanize them in the right way. Because in the film, though there are some standout moments, but neither the villain nor the action is quite memorable. And the climax is the same old mess of mind-scrambling CGI nonsense. Too often the film feels patchy and disjointed, and at the cost of repeating myself I’ll say the villain is just a crushing disappointment and never feels like a credible threat.
Yet, the film is carried by its actors in such a light and brisk tone, that it almost feels complete. The superb Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and Ben Affleck in a lighter and calmer version of Batman carry the film through the two odd hours of its runtime. There’s also the big reveal, which people could see even before the release of the first trailer, but surely will bring a big smile to your face.
I’m going with 3½/5 for Zack Snyder’s Justice League. It isn’t perfect. But it does the main purpose of establishing the revered team in the DCEU farely well.