Man, are my nerves on edge today.
The DC Extended Universe has been something of a hit and miss, hasn’t it? People were incredibly split about MAN OF STEEL (2013). Some loving it, some hating it. On a personal level, I loved it. I thought it was a good update to a character that the filmmakers were trying to make a little more realistic. Clark Kent isn’t a complete boy scout, but he constantly tries to do the right thing and restrains himself. I loved the action, I loved Michael Shannon, it was a really good time that I still enjoy to this day.
But then BATMAN V SUPERMAN (2016) happened and it’s pretty widely accepted that the film isn’t good. On a personal level, I agree. It was a colossal disappointment. I thought Superman would have learned his lesson about not killing people, but the filmmakers betrayed both the character that fans of loved for decades, and even betrayed their own established character in MAN OF STEEL. The rivalry between Batman and Superman makes no sense, Lex Luthor makes no sense, coupled with an awkward performance out of Jesse Eisenberg, who is otherwise a terrific actor, it was an all around mess and one of the biggest let-downs to an epic team-up that should have been so much better than it was. But it wasn’t all bad. Wonder Woman’s appearance was awesome, as brief as it was. Batman in action was the coolest we’ve seen him outside of the animated shows. Alfred was awesome, reminding me a ton of Bruce Wayne from the TV series BATMAN BEYOND (1999 – 2001), watching the action from the batcave and feeding tactical information to Batman through an earpiece, and the visuals are pretty good.
Then came SUICIDE SQUAD (2016). Again, pretty divisive. I thought it was… okay. Not the best not the worst. I thought Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn was solid, Will Smith reliably brings his cool with him, I liked Cara Delevingne’s design as Enchantress (first form only), the soundtrack was awesome and it was an overall fun flick. But Joker was botched by Jared Leto, most of the other characters get no screen time and we don’t learn anything about them, the action is sub-par, and the story largely makes no sense. Regardless, you can tell that this is where DC overhauled its inner workings and brought on new talent for its future endeavors, as SUICIDE SQUAD was intended to be a much darker film, but reshot a lot of the film to add in the comedy. Imagine this movie without it. I shudder to think about it.
But then enter WONDER WOMAN (2017). Yes. A thousand kinds of yeses. You can read my reviews of each of these movies, obviously, but this was the game changer. It was dark, it was light, and it brought forth a character we’ve never seen on the big screen and did fantastic justice. One of my favorite films this year and arguably one of my favorite superhero films of all time. I still watch it and can’t get enough.
Having said all that, we now have… this highly anticipated film. Now, when I say that, I don’t necessarily mean that people are claiming it to be amazing. We’re just anxious to know just how “mixed” this bag will be. Will it be more good than bad? Will it be another BATMAN V SUPERMAN? No one knows but the critics know, and they’re unanimously saying that it is indeed mixed, which is a shame. I love these superheroes. I grew up with the animated series JUSTICE LEAGUE (2001 – 2004) and JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED (2004 – 2006) and still occasionally revisit as an adult today. This is a movie I’ve wanted to see for years. But I don’t know why we’re getting it so soon. We’ve not seen The Flash have his own movie, or Aquaman. Neither Superman nor Batman are well-defined characters in this established universe. So what gives with jumping so many guns? Warner Brothers needs to stop trying to play catch-up with Marvel Studios and just focus on creating one good movie like they did with Wonder Woman.
Well, here’s the cast. Starring, we have Gal Gadot (WONDER WOMAN, TRIPLE 9 , FAST & FURIOUS , and upcoming films WONDER WOMAN 1984  and The Flash ), Ben Affleck (LIVE BY NIGHT , and upcoming films THE BATMAN and the untitled The Accountant sequel, neither film has a release date announced), Jason Momoa (THE BAD BATCH , and the upcoming AQUAMAN ), Ezra Miller (FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM , TRAINWRECK , and upcoming films FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD  and The Flash), and Ray Fisher (BATMAN V SUPERMAN, and upcoming films The Flash and CYBORG ). In support, we have Ciarán Hinds (HITMAN: AGENT 47 , and the upcoming RED SPARROW ), J.K. Simmons (THE SNOWMAN , and the upcoming FATHER FIGURES ), Amy Adams (NOCTURNAL ANIMALS , and the upcoming DISENCHANTED ), Amber Heard (I DO… UNTIL I DON’T , and upcoming films LONDON FIELDS  and AQUAMAN), and Henry Cavill (BATMAN V SUPERMAN, and the upcoming MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Zack Snyder (BATMAN V SUPERMAN) and guest-director Joss Whedon, who also co-wrote the script (AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON  and SERENITY ). Whedon’s partner-in-pen is Chris Terrio, known for BATMAN V SUPERMAN, and the upcoming STAR WARS: EPISODE IX (2019). Composing the score is Danny Elfman, known for TULIP FEVER (2017), THE KINGDOM (2007), MEN IN BLACK (1997), and upcoming films FIFTY SHADES FREED (2018) and DUMBO (2019). Finally, the cinematographer is Fabian Wagner, known for VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN (2015).
Overall, I want this to be good, but I doubt it. I think it’s going to have good things in it, but it comes down to the ratio of the good and bad stuff. I think… it’s going to be okay. I’m optimistic that I’ll like it enough, but it won’t be good and for the first ever Justice League film, it deserves better.
This is my honest opinion of: JUSTICE LEAGUE
With Superman gone, Batman (Ben Affleck) is encountering more and more otherworldly creatures that he believes are the first sign of an incoming invasion. Turns out, the invasion has already begun. On Wonder Woman’s (Gal Gadot) island home of Themyscira, the netherworldly blood-thirsty conqueror of worlds known as Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) has returned and taken their mother box, one of three ancient devices of pure power, and is set on finding the other two. One protected by Atlantis, and the other hidden away where no one could find it. In order to prepare for the invasion, Batman and Wonder Woman set out to find other gifted individuals, the speedster Flash (Ezra Miller), Atlantis’ king, Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and the formerly deceased young man now reborn as a machine made from the mother box’s technology, Victor Stone, aka Cyborg (Ray Fisher).
I got my wish. It is, indeed, better than SUICIDE SQUAD. In fact… I don’t think I have too many problems with the movie in general. Or in all likelihood, I set the bar low enough that as long as it did enough right for me, then it was going to be enjoyable enough.
While the characters aren’t exactly the most complex, there is a wonderful likability to them. Each actor is charismatic enough to hold my interest and I like seeing them work off of each other. And you get to see them do their thing, which is probably the hallmark of any proper superhero film. Batman uses a criminal by dangling him over the ledge of a building to lure out a parademon and uses one of his nets to try and capture it. Wonder Woman bursts through doors and beats the crap out of bad guys, while defending innocent hostages from machinegun fire by deflecting the bullets with her bracers. Clearly she got more powerful since World War I because she definitely didn’t have super speed before. The Flash’s super speed looks different from what we’ve seen in both the CW’s THE FLASH (2014 – ongoing) and from Quicksilver from both AVENGERS: ULTRON (2015) and the more recent X-Men films, which I thought was impressive. Also, it looks like he’s a lot faster than those characters. Aquaman… eh, I think we’re going to need to wait until his solo movie comes out before we see him at his best, but his look is great, and Momoa is very personable. I’m looking forward to that solo film. I think Momoa will carry it well enough. I think the two best-written characters are Flash and Cyborg. Flash’s backstory seems pretty faithful to his source material, at least, from what I know of it. His father, Henry (Billy Crudup), is in prison for murdering his mother when he was a child, even though he didn’t do it. Barry’s emotions really come through. Some great drama, and it’s kind of heartbreaking to see, especially considering how fun and funny he is later on. Cyborg struggling with his new life as a someone who isn’t an organic human anymore. He’s clearly angry and depressed. It’s a shame that the story doesn’t lend to more of him, but that’s why he’s getting a solo movie as well. I guess that rumor of FLASHPOINT co-starring both Flash and Cyborg was just that; a rumor. I think that would have been fun.
Is is really worth going through the trouble of saying that it’s a spoiler that Superman is back? I mean… it’s the Justice League! Of course Superman’s going to be in it. Oh yeah, like DC is going to let their most iconic character stay dead.
In any case, there are some fun, albeit pointless, scenes with him. When he’s resurrected and briefly evil. Specifically, he’s beating the crap out of the team right away and when Flash tries to step in to help by running behind Supes, you see the most subtle of eye movement, clearly keeping up with the fastest man alive. The look on Flash’s face is utterly priceless; the most epic look of “@#$% my life” I’ve ever seen on an actor.
Also… while I am more than giddy that Cyborg says his signature line, “booyah,” – I’m a big fan of the cartoon TEEN TITANS (2003 – 2007) – it could have been utilized much better. How about when the team is wailing on Steppenwolf, someone knocks him in the air, and Cyborg turns his arm into a cannon, and screams the line, and fires an epic blast at the bastard?! Why save it for a borderline whisper after the fight is over? This isn’t a legit complaint, obviously, but it’s not as fun as it should have been.
Well, I can’t avoid the negatives forever. It’s time to address them.
First and foremost, Steppenwolf is about as generic a bad guy as you can get. There’s no real character to him. Recently, someone tweeted that Steppenwolf is the worst character ever and Joss Whedon liked the tweet, putting him under fire from other fans. I’ll post a link below in a minute for more details, but if this movie is any indication… yeah, he kind of is. Sure, it’s probably not the most professional thing in the world to be agreeing that the villain of your movie is the worst, but… I don’t know, I think it’s just honesty. In any case, I think someone woke up with a sandy vagina if they’re going to be spouting, “You are a repulsive person,” or whatever the hell that person said. A bit of an overreaction there. I think our President is a slightly more repulsive person. Just saying. Whedon liked a comment – not made a comment, liked a comment – that a COMIC BOOK VILLAIN was not very good. Trump just lifted a ban from hunting elephants. Clearly these men are on the same repulsive playing field. In any case, I agree. Steppenwolf was not a good villain. As copy-paste as you can get.
Also, some of the re-writes, or original darker moments are a little too obvious sometimes. I hate to swing back around to this same topic, but Superman is supposed to be a twist, so… when he’s resurrected, he is insanely brutal, grabbing Batman by his jaw. Not even his neck, his @#$%ing jaw! And he spouts the same line Batman said to him in BATMAN V SUPERMAN, “Do you bleed.” Compared to how light he is in the rest of the film, this is ridiculously unfitting.
Oh, and we really are stuck with Eisenberg’s performance as Lex Luthor. A part of me was hoping that he went a little cartoony insane because of Steppenwolf’s coming, but now that he’s dead, Lex would have some clarity and act less… loony. NOPE!!! WE’RE @#$%ING STUCK WITH IT!!! Ugh… as interesting as it would be to see an Injustice League fight the Justice League… not with our current line-up. It’s just not compelling enough right now.
Also, I really think it was a bonehead move of the League to completely forget about the Motherbox. What I’m referring to is when Superman is brought back to life. By this point in the story, Steppenwolf has already managed to get two of the three Motherboxes and seeks the third one. They use it to bring Superman to life, they fight him, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) shows up to calm him down, the team all goes, “That sucked,” but then… Steppenwolf literally pops out of nowhere to nab that third and final Motherbox out of the Kryptonian ship. Um… hello?! Look, a resurrected Superman is all well and good, but Steppenwolf’s final piece of his puzzle for ultimate world destruction is literally just sitting by itself in the open where any satellite, or dumb teenager with a toy drone with a camera attached to it, can see from up above. Even if not, don’t you think that’s kind of an important whats-it to NOT be leaving around unattended?! Pretty damn stupid how that turned out.
Before I wrap up, here’s what I want to see in future films. Some of it repeated, hopefully the rest will be new. From Aquaman, I want to see a better explanation of how Atlantis works. Here’s what I mean, are these aquatic people incapable of speaking under water? Do they seriously have to open a bubble of air in order to speak to one another? Because that under water fight scene, as great as it looked, no one’s even so much as grunting. So… are they just holding their breath for an insanely long amount of time, or… how does this work?! Thank Christ this movie is coming out next year, so I hope to see this place get explained better. And dude, more of Mera (Amber Heard). She looked awesome and bad-ass. I want to see an army of deepsea creatures laying waste to his enemies. I want to see a Megalodon named fluffy. I want to see a ten story tall squid. NO! OH MY GOD, A REAL LOCH NESS MONSTER!!! Or surprise me with a creature that doesn’t exist at all. Get creative, DC! From Wonder Woman, I think it’s best we don’t venture into the past. It’s already been somewhat explained that she sort of shut down for a century after losing Steve Trevor, so let’s not try and make a movie to justify it. World War II, Auschwitz, Vietnam, Korea, there’s too many conflicts to try and explain away. Keep it in the here and now. Eh, I’m pretty sure Patty Jenkins will be back to helm the project, so I have faith that I won’t be disappointed no matter what the creative direction goes. FLASHPOINT, man, don’t make it hard to watch. I’ve seen FLASHPOINT PARADOX (2013) and I’m still disturbed by that. Wonder Woman straight up murders children! Just… no! I’ll take the ending though, taking a note written by his father to his son in Flash’s time, causing Bruce Wayne to cry. That’d be awesome. Cyborg… maybe a nod to the Teen Titans? Or… I guess, considering Parker’s age, maybe just the “Titans?” I know there’s already a TV show in the pipe, TITANS (2018), but hey, they’re separate universes. Who cares about confusing anyone at this point? And Batman… man, I hope Affleck doesn’t retire from the character. He’s solid and you really buy it. I’d like to see Batfleck versus Deathstroke. That would be awesome!
Overall, I think it’s worth checking out. I don’t think I cared too much about the problems, maybe a couple, but if you’re going in specifically to look for some, I wager you’ll find them. It’s a pretty basic comic book movie and I can see that statement alone pissing fans off. The Justice League shouldn’t be a “basic” story, especially for a first outing. It should have been bigger and better. Since DC has been trying to copy Marvel and their crossover universes, how about learning from them first. Don’t play catch-up, go at your own pace. But if you’re going in to have a good time and just see these characters work together and off each other, then I think it’ll do it for ya. Don’t expect anything huge or amazing, because it really isn’t, but it’s still a good enough time in my book. Uniting the League was underwhelming, but not too disappointing.
My honest rating for JUSTICE LEAGUE: 4/5