- by Jeff Beck
Justice League: A Premature Gathering of DC Superheroes
“Justice League.” It’s the movie that many DC Comics superfans have been waiting for for years now, the film that will finally unite several of their favorite superheroes to do battle against an evil being that threatens all life on Earth. Indeed, it has been a long time coming, though as to what to expect when we finally got here was another matter. After all, as I’ve mentioned before, the DCEU has been having an awful lot of trouble establishing their universe thanks to poorly-written and overall lackluster films like “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad.” Would throwing together all of the superheroes at once be enough to make for a fun, exciting, and entertaining ride along the lines of what the MCU had already accomplished with “The Avengers”? Everything leading up to now seemed to suggest that there would be nothing but trouble if such a film was done now, but as always, it was given the benefit of the doubt in hopes that something special would come from this potentially amazing collaboration.
As the film opens, we find Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) attempting to capture a new menace that has been seen around the city and leaving a mysterious marking of three boxes. Finding his solo efforts fruitless, he decides to go forward with his plan to recruit other superheroes for the coming fight, starting with Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa). However, Curry doesn’t seemed particularly interested in joining up, leading Bruce to his next potential recruit, Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller). Unlike Curry, Barry is anxious to join in, leaving just one more possible teammate to go: Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher), a young man brought back to life with alien technology. Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) tries to explain to him the need for them to band together for the coming fight, but does not receive a definitive answer, leaving the fate of the team up in the air.
Meanwhile, a destructive being known as Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) has come to Earth in search of three powerful “Mother Boxes” that could potentially destroy all life on the planet. He had been defeated long ago when everyone banded together to stop him, but now, with so few powerful beings left, it will take something of a miracle to prevent him from accomplishing what he failed to do back then. With the fate of the Earth in the balance, our heroes must band together as the last, best hope for humanity’s survival.
“Justice League” was always going to be struggling from the very start. The previous films in the DCEU pretty much made certain of that, but what was rather unexpected was the somewhat nonchalant way it goes about spending so much time with Bruce and Diana trying to put the team together, which is just about as exciting as it sounds. This pretty much leaves the audience sitting there waiting for something, anything, to happen in hopes of relieving the tedium that the film feels the need to throw at you from almost the very start.
This leads right into the film’s second problem: the lack of characterization. Some of these characters had at least gotten a chance to get fleshed out in the previous films (though, again, it was done rather poorly in some instances), but half of the team had only been seen in brief clips, leaving three characters that are suddenly thrown into the mix with little or no reason to care about them. I mentioned a long time ago that the flat characters would become an even bigger problem when it came time to do this major crossover film, and that’s the exact result we end up with. Basically what we have here is a bunch of superheroes thrown together in hopes that it will be enough to offset everything wrong with the film: sub-par writing, undeveloped characters, tedious action sequences, etc. Let’s just say it’s not nearly enough to overcome the deficiency left by this multitude of issues.
This also begs the question of why they once again allowed Chris Terrio, the co-writer behind the disastrous “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” to pen another script for this universe, especially when he had already proven that he couldn’t even handle putting the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel together in one film. With that in mind, who on Earth thought he was going to be able to juggle six superheroes? Granted, Joss Whedon (the man behind the wildly successful “Avengers” films) came in and tried to clean it up, even earning a co-writing credit in the process, but even a proven veteran of superheroes like him couldn’t fix what Terrio had done (that is, probably not without a page one rewrite).
Speaking of Whedon, he apparently tried to fix the ending as well, which comes down to your typical monotonous winner-take-all battle against the main baddie. This leaves one to imagine what the original ending must have been like, for if this was the improved version, how unimpressive was what was there before? Granted, we can’t really expect anything else from these movies at this point, but when you have to see the heroes battle an equally-undeveloped, stand-in villain once more, you can’t help but roll your eyes a few times as the fight goes on endlessly.
There are other things that we could get into, including a highly-questionable take on The Flash that comes off as perhaps the most annoying thing in the film (was Grant Gustin unavailable?) and the underutilization of Superman, but what “Justice League” really boils down to is a premature attempt to bring together all of these heroes for one film. Had they each gotten a proper introduction and had a chance to develop some, then a film like this might have stood a chance, but as it is, it just feels like somebody haphazardly threw several ingredients into a pot and prayed that it would work. Unfortunately it does not, merely leaving behind arguably the biggest stain on the DCEU yet. 1.5/4 stars.
Starts tomorrow night in theaters everywhere.
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