Synopsis: Earth’s greatest heroes are assembled to form the Justice League, to combat a threat beyond each member’s capabilities.
Stars: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J.K. Simmons, Ciaran Hinds, Amber Heard
Director: Zack Snyder
Running Length: 121 minutes
Trailer Review: Here
TMMM Score: (3/10)
Review: With the rousing success of Wonder Woman this summer, you had high(er) hopes for Justice League too, didn’t you? After the gloominess of Man of Steel, the critical drubbing lobbed at Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and the just plain awful debut of the Suicide Squad, the first solo outing of the Amazon princess made a huge splash with a snazzy film that signaled the floundering DC Universe might be getting back on track. Alas, it was not meant to be because five short months later Justice League arrives with a huge thud, halting any momentum Wonder Woman had kicked off.
The problems are evident from the beginning. It should be noted that original director Zack Snyder had to be replaced shortly after filming ended while the movie was in post-production due to a family crisis. Joss Whedon (The Avengers) was brought it to touch up the script, and handle reshoots. Huge mistake. Whedon did good work with his involvement in the Marvel Universe but his humor doesn’t translate to the DC world that’s far darker and leaves itself less open for flights of fancy. His attempts to inject jokey humor crash and burn, especially seeing that they are awkwardly inserted into sequences already filmed by Snyder.
Another elephant in the room to discuss is Henry Cavill (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), or, more to the point, Cavill’s mustache. After wrapping his scenes for Justice League, Cavill had grown a mustache to film a role in the next Mission: Impossible film and when he was called back for reshoots Paramount wouldn’t allow him to shave it. So he filmed his new scenes with facial hair that was then digitally removed…badly. Cavill comes off looking like a creepy puppet, with the bottom half of his face strangely not in communion with the upper. He’s in the first shot of the movie and it’s a jarring image that sets the tone for the rest of this schizo outing.
The first half of the film is occupied by a bewildering series of episodic vignettes where we meet characters that the movie treats us as if we already know but in reality have never seen before. We’re plopped right into the stories of Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller, The Perks of Being a Wallflower), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) without much in the way of introduction or origin, almost like these were clips from a previous entry that was never released. We’re supposed to know and care about these characters instantly, but their arrivals are treated with such little fanfare it’s hard to warm up to any of them. Miller winds up being the most intriguing; his loner character is secretly desperate for friends and is brought into the fold by Batman (Ben Affleck, Gone Girl, checking out so much I can see why he’s trying to get excused from The Batman, a planned solo shot for the Caped Crusader) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot, Keeping Up with the Joneses).
What I always enjoyed about the previous incarnations of Batman and Superman was how they were up against villains that seemed somewhat plausible…at least for a comic-book foe. From the Penguin to Lex Luthor, the heroes were battling adversaries that sought awesome power, not ones that already had other-worldly talents. The villain in Justice League is Steppenwolf, a poorly rendered CGI baddie voiced by Ciarán Hinds (Frozen) that’s as generic as they come. This is a bad guy that might have worked better as a Marvel rival but definitely not one the Justice League should be working to thwart. Steppenwolf is on the hunt for three Mother Boxes that form a trinity that can, snooze, give him power over all earth. Yawn, boring, wake me when it’s over.
Poor Wonder Woman. That’s what I kept thinking throughout Justice League. Gadot looks miserable having to carry this film, it’s clear the plot was tweaked at some point to give her character more to do and capitalize on the success of Wonder Woman. Her ascension to co-lead comes at the sacrifice of a bunch of familiar faces that get sidelined. Diane Lane (Inside Out) and Connie Nielsen pop up in brief cameos as the mothers of Superman and Wonder Woman, J.K. Simmons (The Snowman) doesn’t even have to glue down his toupee, and Amy Adams (Her) wears multiple bad wigs but does get the most unintentionally funny line of dialogue in the film: “I’m no longer Lois Lane, dedicated reporter”.
The effects of the hand-off between Snyder and Whedon really sink the film in its last ¼, when the Justice League works together to stave off Steppenwolf before he can unite the Mother Boxes. There are a few decent action sequences but they’re so darkly lit it all becomes a blur, especially when you add in Steppenwolf’s drone warriors that fly around in a head-spinning frenzy like wasps. It’s a blessing the movie is as short as it is, but it still feels pretty long when the content is as forgettable as this. You keep wanting to find something, anything to root for but no one seems interested in being memorable in any way shape or form. It’s like everyone was forced into making this and are waiting for their final scene to be shot.
There’s a post-credit scene that does nothing to get you excited for the future, it feels like it was shot last week with the actors involved under duress. Based on his performance here, I shudder to think about Momoa’s Aquaman film coming in 2018, wish that Wonder Woman 2 wasn’t two years away, and am intrigued at a chance to get more info on The Flash in 2020’s Flashpoint. At this point, whatever the creative team behind these DC films are doing, it’s not working. Not only do audiences deserve better, but so do the actors locked into contracts for future films.