Synopsis – Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy.
My Take – From what I can remember from my childhood, I have always been a big fan of DC, with the excellent Justice League animated series playing a huge part in fueling that love and still to this day, I do check into their comic books from time to time, so I guess you can understand why this Zack Synder film since its inception, was quite important to me, as this team up was finally combining the biggest stars of the DC universe into one film. While we did see the trinity pairing up for the first time in last year’s polarizing received, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (which I personally liked and loved the ultimate cut), it’s an open secret that director Synder‘s DC EU films (including Man of Steel) have been singled out for their significant story telling flaws and ham-fisted direction, but on re-watch I must admit truly did end up liking the ideas explored enough to give them both a positive review. With the entire slate of DC cinematic universe depending on this film’s success, it was quite evident that WB just couldn’t afford another Suicide Squad or BvS, and lucky for them, this summer’s Wonder Woman turned out to be a runaway success hereby adding the much needed hype to the proposed film that has faced many obstacles during productions ranging from script issues, massive re-shoots along with director Zack Snyder stepping down once production completed, due to a family tragedy and with director Joss Whedon (The Avengers) stepping in to handle re-shoots & required changes. Getting that out the way I was rather looking forward to visiting the cinema for this, however I was not going in expecting something that would paramount the medium but rather just with the idea of hoping something riveting. While the film felt natural with Snyder‘s visuals and the Whedon‘s crisp editing to maintain the perfect pacing and energy required for a 121 minute long comic book spectacle, yet keeping in mind, how the superhero genre has risen in standards (thank you Marvel), this film does up end up feeling like a letdown. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad by any means as it does its job of setting up some promising things to come, but considering how iconic these characters are, it’s just not as epic as it should have been. Sure, it’s entertaining and enjoyable thanks to the much more light-hearted and ebullient tone, with a great cast leading the charge, but it’s just hard to ignore the recurring issues the film put itself through.
Taking place after the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the story follows Batman / Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) still carrying the guilt of playing his hand in the death of Superman / Clark Kent (Henry Cavill). As the world is crumbling into chaos around, with crime & terrorism on the rise, Batman has been following mysterious disappearances & demon looking creatures, which all seem to be leading towards the impending invasion of the New God, Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), who has returned to Earth to try and reclaim a set of mother boxes in order to start an apocalypse. In order to fight back, Batman seeks help from Wonder Woman / Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) to convince other gifted individuals like the quick willed The Flash / Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) from Central City, the legendary fish man of the Scandinavian Aquaman / Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) and the half human half artificial intelligent living computer Cyborg / Victor Stone (Ray Fisher) into joining them and a put a stop to this dangerous plan. This may not be the best DC film out there, but it sure is the coolest of them all and I believe it is the epitome of what a comic book film should be. A good blend of darkness and camp, comedy and philosophy; inspiration and loads of eye candy. The action scenes were fantastic, which I’m sure is to be expected in a comic book film, but what about the other components of the film? The ones that DC fans were all worried about? Well as a fan I will admit, the film is a mess, but with positive notes within. The film is definitely best in the first half. I think the death of Superman is handled very well in the first act. The team dynamic is also a clear positive. The members have interesting arguments and conversations that we didn’t get enough of and when the team is United and start fighting, it’s exciting for any fan to watch. It’s clear that director Zack Snyder (and Joss Whedon) has understood the mistakes from Batman V Superman, and have done things to improve. The plot is tighter and focused on one goal; stop the villain from taking over the world. The overall look is going in the right direction with brighter colors taking fold, thus making guys like Wonder Woman and the Flash seems more like beacons of hope. Plus, the relationships between the characters are more defined and are used to its entertaining advantage. Also, thankfully, this film isn’t as relentlessly dark and joy-free as director Zack Snyder‘s previous entries in the DCEU. While there’s nothing wrong with going full grim when putting superheroes on screen (Christopher Nolan‘s Dark Knight Trilogy proved that you could do so with depth, flair and intelligence to burn), Snyder‘s Man of Steel and Batman Vs. Superman were curiously bleak pictures, Stuffed with bombastic spectacle and testosterone- charged face-offs, both films were more or less dreadful, displaying a fundamental misunderstanding of their main characters. (Cavill‘s broody Superman, in particular, is a painfully misguided interpretation of DC Comics’ most iconic superhero, a literal and figurative beacon of light.) In contrast, there’s a brighter vein of hope and humor threaded throughout this film, though it’s unclear just how much of that can be credited directly to director Snyder. The main reason for that is the involvement of Joss Whedon, who wrote and directed Marvel‘s two enormously successful and largely acclaimed Avengers films and without question, the final film benefits from the injection of Whedon‘s signature banter and his ability to effectively juggle multiple character narratives.
Whether it’s Barry and Victor bonding in a graveyard or Arthur’s big speech before the final battle, director Whedon contributes some of the most purely fun – and funny – moments in the DCEU to date. They also decided to do Superman right, Which leads to probably my favorite scene in the film, once he’s brought back to life he’s oblivious and unable to recognize anyone so he takes on the entire team on his own which instantly reminds me of the comics and the JLA Series itself and at the same time showing us how capable he is in this set universe. Many people will be going into this film hoping for some exciting Superman action, and although I won’t give anything away for fans, I’ll simply state that his small presence is more than worth the wait. Like in Man of Steel, his character, along with Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and his mother Martha (Diane Lane) definitely adds some great emotion to certain elements of the film. Even the Flash’s character is very faithful to the one we’ve come to love in the comics and the animated series, someone who is fond of making one too many jokes and is often seen to be rather obnoxious. I even once or twice found find myself smiling or laughing which is something to look at when bringing up this film in comparison to the others that have previously come out in the DCEU. Cyborg & Aquaman didn’t get enough time, but I’m fine with the direction they went with. The biggest surprise of the film is how Affleck‘s Batman – almost rabidly xenophobic in Batman v Superman – grounds both the film and the team. There’s something hauntingly poetic about watching this taciturn loner, who could so easily hide himself away in a fortress of wealth and power, trying to atone for the world’s loss of Superman. Embracing the fact that he’s by far the most mortal member of the League, the film finds the heroism in Batman’s humanity. Visually speaking, this is Zack Snyder‘s magnum opus. There are scenes that are absolutely gorgeous as the team stood side by side, capes billowing in the wind in slow motion, absolutely beautifully shot and directed. Too bad the studio told them to not go over two hours with the run-time, because that’s what ultimately hurt the film the most. My main complaint and the biggest issue with it is that it feels very rushed in its storytelling. A lot of conflicts are set up extremely quickly and therefor you don’t feel the emotion that clearly was intended from the film makers. While the banter between the heroes are fun, you can probably tell that a good chunk of the film is missing in the cutting room floor. There are a lot of scenes where the scene is abrupt and the editing is very choppy. Sometimes whenever something interesting happens it just keeps cutting away instead of letting the scene play out. It just brushes over things quickly and you don’t get much out of it. I thought Superman needed an extra scene after his resurrection, to acclimate and deal with the side effects he was feeling.
I was hoping for a little more Hans Zimmer music from previous films. Although I admit, the Danny Elfman score is growing on me and so not many complaints. Even the little things I was hoping to see in the film, such as Superman using his frost breath and the appearance of Green Lanterns, happened! Talking about appearances, let talk about the villain Steppenwolf, who is just not a weak villain, but also probably one of the worst to come out of any superhero film! Super one-noted, and incredibly forgettable. I’d compare him to Malekieth from Thor: The Dark World and Doom from Fan4stic and to be fair he wasn’t complex in the comics either but, here director Snyder and his team had the opportunity to really bring something cool to the table. Instead, he is a generic bad guy that wants to take over the world, who really only exists in order to make this team feel the need to band together and save the world. When a villain is just a tool for a team to exist, the overall impact of your film won’t ever reach a high point. That being said, even though the villain ruins the entire film for me every time he’s on-screen, the characters surrounding him and how they all come together was really the highlight of the film, making the price of admission worth it. It is undeniable that there is chemistry within the main cast. Ben Affleck has noticeably improved on his portrayal of Batman and his best moments are when he is not in action, but having conversations with his fellow teammates, even though I was not ok with the Dark Knight passing one liners, he just seems more human this time, more Affleck than Wayne, something which works in favor of the film. Viewers should have no trouble getting invested in Gal Gadot‘s Wonder Woman. The same warm and loving personality she had in her standalone film has been transferred beautifully here, and she and Affleck share some of the most engaging dialogue in the film together. Ezra Miller is suitably humorous as the Flash, portraying a young man struggling with figuring out how to live in a world filled with deities and super-humans he hasn’t seen before. Ray Fisher and Jason Momoa also succeed in bringing dimension to their characters. While he isn’t in the film much, Henry Cavill gives his best performance as Superman, giving the character more humanity (finally) than in his previous two outings. Besides Batman and Wonder Woman, the other members of the team have their moments, with Aquaman having a grudging friendship with Batman and Flash and Cyborg digging up Superman’s grave together (Don’t ask, see the film.). In supporting roles, Jeremy Irons, Amy Adams, Connie Nielsen, Diane Lane, J.K. Simmons, Billy Crudup, Amber Heard and Joe Morton play their parts well. It’s sad to see Lawrence Fishburn, Kiersey Clemons & Willem Dafoe not making the final cut. PS: Do not miss out on the post credit scenes! On the whole, ‘Justice League’ is a flawed yet entertaining popcorn film that for once would have benefited from having a longer run-time. Nonetheless, this is a step in the right direction, sure it doesn’t reach the glorious heights of Wonder Woman, but it doesn’t regress to the murky depths of Batman v Superman either. With its story and characters turned firmly towards the light, there might be hope for this franchise yet.
Directed – Zack Snyder
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 121 minutes