Movie Review: Justice League
Director: Zack Snyder
by Jason Koenigsberg
Some day we are going to look back on this era of Batman, Superman and all the DC hero films as a dark stage in their characters history. The newest film Justice League continues the downward trend that these movies have been on with little to no signs of improvement. The pressure the studio put on the filmmakers to make a movie at or under two hours did not do Justice League any favors. Instead of being a long over bloated mess like Batman vs. Superman (2016), audiences are given a truncated version that feels as if it is missing an entire reel. A longer ‘directors cut’ will likely be released on home video as a marketing tool and will probably enhance the picture. In the meantime we are forced to once again revel in mediocrity.
It opens up with an uninteresting straight shot of Superman on cell phone footage being interviewed by kids. We never see the kids faces and the interview leaves us hanging as if to let the audience know that Superman is here for the children, to save them, improve the world, and maybe by default this movie is telling us it is going to be more kid friendly than the previous Batman vs. Superman (2016) was.
Right after that cell phone footage it jumps right into the action with Batman fighting some guy and then fighting some CGI moth creature from another world. One of the biggest problems with Justice League is it’s heavy reliance on CGI making one long for the practical effects of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight movies. The editing in this movie is sloppy and you can tell it was hastily done because right after the fight we are treated to a montage of all the characters from his previous Batman/Superman film looking sad as they grieve the loss of Superman. It is cut to a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” sung by some woman. Zack Snyder really loves Leonard Cohen, he used two of his songs in Watchmen (2009). Why they did not use Cohen’s version of the song is beyond me.
Gal Gadot picks up right where she left off from this summers Wonder Woman, kicking ass and looking absolutely gorgeous in the process, all in the name of righteousness. Jason Momoa as Aquaman looks like himself covered with a lot of tattoos meant to resemble fish scales. The other Justice League members are polar opposites of each other. Cyborg (Ray Fisher), who is well acted but has zero personality and The Flash (Ezra Miller) who is nothing but personality and meant to serve as comic relief.
One of the biggest flaws was how Justice League tried to force comedy. It infused Joss Whedon’s style of humor into the script and every time it felt so forced and unnatural. You might literally hear the crickets chirping after lines that were intended to be funny. Joss Whedon directed some reshoots and co-wrote the script. He is one of the main architects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Justice League took heavily from Marvel’s hit movies, trying to duplicate a more lighthearted and less brooding vision. They also borrowed noticeably from the Lord of the Rings movies and HBO’s Game of Thrones.
The main villain was Steppenwolf, an evil warlord of some type from an alien dimension who is released on our planet after thousands of years because Superman died and it rattled some mythical cubes. Questions raised during the many dream sequences in Batman vs. Superman are mostly answered because this villain and his flying moth-man hybrids were featured in that film. Justice League should have come with a pamphlet telling the audience beforehand what they need to know to keep up with all the characters and plot points they throw at us that we are expected to remember from Man of Steel (2013), Batman vs. Superman, Suicide Squad (2016), and Wonder Woman.
The best part of Justice League is Danny Elfman’s music. Replacing Hans Zimmer is no easy task, but his slightly more upbeat score was refreshing and the only successful aspect at making this movie have a more lighthearted tone than the previous DC pictures. He even incorporated his old Batman theme from the 1989 Tim Burton film and John Williams’ Superman theme from the original movie. The soundtrack is better than the movie itself. Plus, Henry Cavill does appear as Superman, but it is best to leave those plot points out since the advertising campaign chose to keep his role a mystery.
The biggest downfall for Justice League is that despite all of its efforts to improve the overly dark mood from the previous movies, the audience will still feel practically nothing for these characters. It is just two hours of senseless and bloodless CGI violence. It is not as spectacularly bad as Batman vs. Superman, or unwatchable like Suicide Squad, but it is just another paint by numbers action picture and ultimately one of the more forgettable blockbusters of the DC cinematic universe.
Watch these opening credits from the original 1978 Superman. They are more exciting and awe inspiring than anything in Justice League.