Casual Rambling
Published in

Casual Rambling

Movie Review: Justice League

Rating: 2 Stars

from Variety

At the end of the film, Cyborg says, “Booyah!” Which as a childhood Teen Titans fan warmed my cold heart for a quiet moment. I should honestly end the review right there. But then you’d be left wondering why this is a 2-star film, so alas I must go on.

The sad truth about this Justice League film is that it was doomed to fail. The premise for Justice League was set up by Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Dawn of Justice included Superman’s most famous adversary Lex Luthor, seemingly defeated. Luthor’s actions set in motion the series of events that occur in Justice League, but Luthor is only mentioned by name and never seen.

from IMDB

This leaves director Zack Snyder and a company of writers flanked by Joss Whedon to compel us with a villain worth our time. As I’ve written about, and it always bears repeating, the villains in the DC Universe bring out the best of the superheroes. If Dawn of Justice had fine-tuned the disjointedness of its plot, Luthor was the centerpiece of a film pitting two of the world’s most famous heroes against each other. I enjoyed the sentiment, but not the result.

The overarching problem is that plot continuity from Dawn of Justice forces the Justice League to be a spiritual successor by virtue that Superman is dead and the world is vulnerable to attack. Justice League fans already have to buy into Dawn of Justice before even watching a minute of this Justice League film.

The second roadblock is that we have an origin story to tell about the formation of the League and Superman is not directly involved. It’s a chocolate chip cookie without the chocolate chips. In non-cliche terms: unsatisfying.

A third issue that may have slipped by you is that Superman has been written in the last two DC films as a maligned superhero who doesn’t have the full support of humanity. Plot continuity in the Justice League doesn’t coherently follow through.

DC has cornered itself by waving around the Batman cape too often and too wildly that now I’m struggling to enjoy the Batman character. I hearken back to how the cartoon Batman was written, or Nolan’s Batman was written. In both cases, Batman was isolated, gritty, clever, and logical. One thing Batman was not was the center of attention.

Quick Rant

I have a wild theory. I think the executives and decision makers for these DC films are looking at Batman and Superman backwards. I believe it has to stem from the cultural popularity achieved by Batman through the Dark Knight trilogy, and Superman’s lack of cinematic success in the last two decades. Kids are growing up looking up to Batman over Superman, and I seriously believe DC is trying to adjust by making Batman closer to a moral-compass line-riding role model and Superman as this distant alien emotionless shell. The result is seen in Justice League where Batman is the guy attempting to call the shots, and Superman becomes the brawn and safety net of the operation.

I look back to how Superman and Batman were portrayed in the animated Justice League series. THAT is how those two should be written as characters when it comes to how the DC Universe should portray them moving forward. They’ve gotten away from the bread and butter of what makes Batman and Superman so compelling as a dynamic. Alright forgive me, I’m stalling.

End Rant

Justice League begins with the impending threat of a world-destroying creature named Steppenwolf (which sounds like the name of a Nazi villain in a Medal of Honor game) who briefly pledges allegiance to Darkseid. That one line told me this Steppenwolf chump is a level below Darkseid’s supervillain status. Steppenwolf’s goal is to gather three powerful boxes that can either create life or destroy it, and for no other reason than Steppenwolf is evil, does he want to destroy worlds.

Let’s take a moment to take stock of what we have here. Luthor and Superman are out of the picture. Batman is an older wiser but less compelling version of himself that is forming the Justice League, and Steppenwolf is a vanilla alien villain plotting to destroy the world. Yawn.

I say that to say Justice League should’ve been worse, but there’s too much money in the effects and too much heart within the heroes for this film to be a complete wash. As I said in the Marvelization of superhero films, you really have to try to be Fantastic Four to be a truly bad superhero film.

Our new heroes get moments of shine, but none hold a freshly smelling Yankee candle to Gal Gadot’s presence as Wonder Woman. She unapologetically owns the screen despite the film’s incessant nature to be centered around Batman.

It sounds sacrilegious decrying Batman, who has always been my favorite superhero (I grew up on that Dark Knight trilogy too guys), but rant on I must.

This film would’ve been better off named: Return of Justice. While we seemingly see an off-brand formation of the Justice League, this film plays more like a prequel to the actual formation of the League.

There’s not much more plot outside of an ugly tall alien with an oversized humanoid mosquito army is trying to take over the Earth and Superman needs to be revived from the dead.

Justice League has its moments where lines hit well, character interactions are heartfelt or straining or funny. The interactions never go much beyond the surface and the witty banter is at a stark minimum.

My ultimate critique of Justice League is that it should be much better. It’s not that the movie is bad, but it’s not good, just disappointing. Marvel and Disney throw back their heads and laughter as buckets of money fall on their faces.

My takeaway from the conclusion of the Justice League film is where does DC take this group from here? Gadot’s Wonder Woman has a safe foundation to build upon since her debut film was a smash. The same can’t be said for Superman or Batman. Does either or both need a reboot? The secondary characters like Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg all appear destined to be in the television cycle. And where the heck is Green Lantern?

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My home for casual discussion or rant about film, TV, sports, gaming, wrestling, or music

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J. King

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