Suit up. The gang’s all here
To many DC Comics fans, Justice League was Zack Snyder’s final chance to prove himself. With all due respect to a man dealing with a family tragedy, any shortcomings from Warner Brothers’ latest superhero team-up movie are set to rest on Snyder’s shoulders, despite the fact that Joss Whedon was called to step in and complete the film. After a lackluster effort with 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which in hindsight had no business being a bad movie, even the biggest Snyder apologist must admit that if Justice League was anything short of great, DC/WB needed a new man (or woman) at the helm.
I’ll just get this out of the way: DC/WB probably does need a new person at the helm. That man probably isn’t Joss Whedon; I have my own qualms with him having any creative control over Wonder Woman. Regardless, it is incredibly apparent throughout Justice League that the parts it gets right don’t always have Snyder’s fingerprints on them.
The first act of this 121-minute movie played out as one would expect it to. Character scenes feel a bit rushed and really don’t have any connection between them, as if trimming the film to two hours meant that the inevitable team up needed to be expedited. Then there’s Steppenwolf, essentially a generic version of Ronan the Accuser from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, who provided every cliché in the super villain handbook. The stakes never felt high and there was never a shred of doubt that the league would claim victory by the movie’s end.
This movie does get a lot right, but as I’d mentioned earlier, most of that doesn’t seem to be Snyder’s doing. First and foremost, The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Aquaman (Jason Momoa) are both worth the price of admission themselves. It would seem that it was Snyder’s intent to play the story out through the lens of Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), similarly to how Dawn of Justice was done through Superman/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill). However, “Batfleck” seems boring and disinterested next to Flash and Aquaman’s endearing character qualities, both of whom ultimately steal the show. Clearly, Whedon’s injection of Avengers-esque humor into Justice League was for the better, even if it came at the expense of Batman.
From the second act onward, things definitely improve. Between the choreographed action sequences, timely humor, and the chemistry that develops between the heroes, DC/WB shows that they were actually paying attention to the outcry following Dawn of Justice. One would not be exaggerating to say that after the first 45 minutes of Justice League, the film goes from a 10 mph to 100 mph in terms of entertainment.
Absent some unfortunate wardrobe choices for the Amazons of Themyscira, Wonder Woman is just as bad ass as she was in her solo film. Cyborg, on the other hand, was a tad forgettable – though it is apparent how much of a greater role he’ll have going forward in this universe.
Then there’s Superman. If this does end up being Zack Snyder’s final DC film, he will have gone out having redeemed himself for his wrongs committed against the Man of Steel. Following the “big reveal” so to speak (shocker: Superman didn’t die), we are greeted with a Superman that is charismatic, wholesome, and everything us fans wanted him to be in 2013’s Man of Steel. Snyder doesn’t get much right in this film, but damnit, he finally got Superman right.
Justice League is unequivocally a step in the right direction for what has become a muddled and convoluted “extended universe” for DC. At times it felt rushed and the villain was forgettable, but this film had precisely what Dawn of Justice was lacking and what this extended universe desperately needed: heart.
P.S. Stick around for the credits.