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Justice League: A film that flies fast and falls faster


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After Man of SteelBvS, and Suicide Squad all turned out as less than unanimous hits, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that the DC Extended Universe is off to a shaky start, even with Wonder Woman alleviating some of the doubt. Now Justice League is here to provide what could be the best superhero ensemble film since The Avengers set the bar unrealistically high in 2012.

Or not.

I’ll put money on the latter.

What’s it about?

Following the events of BvS, Batman (Ben Affleck) seeks the help of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) to quickly assemble a team of superheroes, recruiting The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher). This ensemble is pitted against a recently awakened threat that puts the whole world in jeopardy: a villain who goes by Steppenwolf (a name that sounds like the rival group in a teen dance movie) with a legion of alien monsters called Parademons.

At this point, you may be thinking, “A group of superheroes fighting a villain who wants to destroy the world. There’s nothing fresh or original about that.” If that applies, then that makes two of us.

At least there are no neck bombs.

Is it any good?

Once the film opened with an awkward mobile phone-captured video of a child interviewing Superman, my hopes for the film descended and never really picked back up.

Writing

One thing that you may not know about Justice League is that it was essentially headed by two people; it was planned and filmed under Zack Snyder, and Avengers director Joss Whedon stepped in to handle most of the post-production–leading to extensive and expensive reshoots and rewrites. As a result, the film suffers a bit of an identity crisis as it’s split between Whedon’s quip-filled wit and Snyder’s gloomy solemnity, never developing a cohesive tone.

However, Snyder’s darkness is notably toned down for this film; Justice League is notably light-hearted and not a film that takes itself too seriously, although this does lead to the film sometimes slipping into a disposable nature when compared to other DCEU films.

League members share healthy banter, and the screenwriters occasionally give themselves leeway to craft pure brilliance, although these moments are few and far between. One such example I can think of is when The Flash asks Batman what superpowers he has, to which Batman responds, “I’m rich.”

On that note, The Flash acts as a de-facto comic relief for the movie with wondrous–albeit wavering–results. His character is repurposed into a dorky, socially awkward scientist and brought to life with a marvelous performance by Ezra Miller. Once I saw Rick and Morty and the K-pop group Blackpink playing on his computer screens in one scene, he became my favorite League member almost instantaneously.

Pace

The film’s runtime of exactly two hours is underutilized, and the film feels rushed as a result. Although we’re used to Batman and Wonder Woman, the additional League members who haven’t received solo films are given little time to develop as characters, minimizing their importance. Furthermore, Steppenwolf gets little characterization outside of being a one-dimensional paragon of evil.

The fast rate of unfolding story leads to an overreliance on plot armor (that is, characters’ abilities to survive perils due to their importance to the story) for the League members, stripping the film’s action of any real danger or suspense.

Despite all of this, the film does find time to focus on a small family in Russia during the Parademon attack, because the audience’s bottled-up sympathy has to go somewhere.

Visuals

What Justice League lacks in writing consistency, it attempts to make up for with a visual overcompensation in its action scenes and even some of its story-based scenes.

As the film progresses, you’ll discover that it runs on a finite bag of tricks: CGI, slow motion, and shots of people being violently slammed into walls. (I’m serious about that last one; you’d think Snyder was trying to fill a quota.)

CGI is used not as an accentuation but as a crutch, and its lack of heart is so apparent that there were a handful of shots that genuinely came across as actors against green screens. Not even IMAX, which is how I saw the film, could truly enhance the experience. Moreover, gratuitous slow motion, which Snyder could probably legally marry in some states, also rears its head at certain occasions, especially with The Flash’s Speed Force (where we see the world in super-slow bullet time from his perspective) being used as something of a handwave for implementation, however cool it may look.

Especially sad is how Justice League reportedly cost $300 million, tying it for the second-most expensive film ever made–further proof that all of the visual effects in the world do not enhance a movie’s core, or convincingly hide one single mustache (which took a good 8% of the budget, mind you).

 

tl;dr

Justice League doesn’t soar high or sink low–it sails perfectly straight into mediocrity. However, I’m merely one man, and I don’t speak for everybody. If you appreciate pervasive slow-motion, CGI soup, and shots of people being thrown into walls, Justice League very well could be the greatest film you’ll see this year.

5/10

Featured image from Warner Bros. Pictures

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Justice League: A film that flies fast and falls faster