The DCEU (or whatever it is we’re supposed to call it) has never really managed to get a grip on what it wants to be. Does it want to be it’s own thing? Does it want to be like Marvel? Does it want it’s films to make sense? Justice League manages to confuse these questions even further.
If you want a a one word review of Justice League here it is:
If you want something a bit more in depth, here we go.
The film opens trying to remind us of what an inspiration Superman is and how he is admired by the world, despite non of the previous films that the Man of Steel has made an appearance in showing us this. (I for one actually quite like the grey area that this Superman lives in but that’s another debate, there needs to be some consistency).
We then jump to the Caped Crusader who is tracking the Parademons, that have started to spring up all over the place for some mysterious reasons which have something to do with Superman dying and some boxes somewhere. The appearance of the Parademons tells Bruce that it’s time to form the team that he’s been working on since Superman’s death.
After this the ‘plot’ is as generic as it gets. Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman all come together (cue a horrendous cover of a Beatles classic) with varying levels of convincing motivations to take on Steppenwolf (Not the worst villain we’ve seen in these films, but by no means the best either.)
Usually when writing reviews I’m very conscious of not spoiling films. For Justice League, not spoiling it is an easy task. There’s nothing to spoil. Nothing worth spoiling happens. One scene rolls predictably into the next in such a formulaic way that it soon becomes clear that Warner Bros were terrified of another Batman Vs Superman backlash. At least Batman Vs Superman tried something, it tried to be different, it tried to be it’s own thing; it failed in a lot of ways, but at least it tried.
Justice League doesn’t even try.
The fact that BvS had a staggering run time and Justice League is the shortest of the DCEU films so far shows how little faith Warner Bros had in this film. It’s a sorry state of affairs. Some people might try and commend JL for it’s fast paced and succinct storytelling but the fact is, it’s just under developed. I can only thank the marketing team behind the film for lowering my expectations to an all time low. I think that’s what’s saving me from hating it as much as I would have done. I felt utterly deflated after BvS because I expected so much. At the end of Justice League I felt sad that I didn’t even care enough to have an initial strong opinion.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s some alright stuff in there. Ezra Miller’s Flash didn’t always hit the nail on the head but he showed enough promise that future solo projects could be really great. They hinted at interesting concepts for Cyborg but he wasn’t given the run time to fully explore his arc. Aquaman wasn’t as annoying as the trailers made him out to be but he was so under developed that we barely got a sense of character. And that’s why this film is so disappointing. The characters either have no arc at all or aren’t given enough time to explore their arcs. There was potential there for a good film, it’s a shame we only got a glimpse of it hiding behind CGI set pieces.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, in which case skip this paragraph, you’ll know that, despite dying at the end of the last film, Henry Cavill does return as Superman. The Death of Superman is a fan favourite among comic book readers but the resurrection of the ultimate hero is laughable bad; ropey logic of how he’s brought back, forced conflict for the sake of it and one hell of a weird accent; all I can say about it is that it’s over so quickly it’s easy to forget about it.
Fans of the classic, ‘all American’ Superman may like the Kal El in this film. He’s the true hero. He wants to save the world and he has the power to do it. Which is fine, Superman needs to get to this level at some point, but he has never been at this point in the DCUE. So, it only took a stab through the heart to make him that hero? It feels cheap. It feels underplayed. There needs to be progression and development. You can’t just change it from one film to the next to suit the needs of the plot. There was a truly great character arc there that has now been wasted for a bit of a gimmick.
Justice League’s marketing campaign was built on ‘you can’t save the world alone’. Turns out you can if you’re Superman. The rest of the team can barely do it together, but if you’re the man in the red cape it’s pretty easy. This just exposes the fundamental flaw with the DCUE so far; they don’t know what they want and are sending mixed messages.
I’m in a bad relationship with the DCUE and I don’t know how long it’ll be before I break things off, for my own happiness.
Slight glimmers of potential hide behind weak character motivations, underdeveloped arcs and CGI ‘stuff’. Rare moments of genuine character interactions and a few laughs can’t save the Justice League from being bland. So scared of making another Batman vs Superman, Warner Bros have taken it too far in the other direction.