RELEASED: November 17th 2017
DIRECTED BY: Zach Snyder (& Joss Whedon)
WRITTEN BY: Zach Snyder, Chris Terrio & Joss Whedon
PRODUCED BY: Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder, Jon Berg & Geoff Johns
STARRING: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Amy Adams, Connie Nielsen, J.K. Simmons, Diane Lane & Ciarán Hinds
When Batman v Superman was announced, I was beyond excited. As we moved closer to the release date, I remained adamant that it would be THE superhero movie, regardless of what the critics had been saying; it had to be – the two most iconic characters in comic-books coming together for the first time in cinematic history.
And then I saw it, and it was garbage. Poorly conceived and poorly made; it was long, boring, depressing and worst of all, disappointing.
Fortunately, Justice League is everything that Batman v Superman isn’t. Where BvS was overlong, Justice League sits comfortably at just under two hours. Where BvS was boring, JL is full of action, excitement and adventure. Where BvS was depressing, JL is hopeful and overall, a lot of fun.
And although some critics may be dismissing the film as the mess they expected it to be, in my opinion, it’s risen above that, and as a result is far from disappointing.
The film sees a world where the loss of Superman has lead humanity to a dark place, and so Batman and Wonder Woman must seek out a band of outcasts (Cyborg, The Flash & Aquaman) to help them fend off an alien invasion from the world-destroyer Steppenwolf and his army of Parademons.
I’ll start with what I disliked first, because it’s fairly minimal and I want to end this review on a high.
This film, like all the other DCEU outings, is pretty CGI heavy – and I don’t mean that in a good way. Cyborg for one doesn’t look any better than he did in the trailers, and as always, the film ends with a battle against a giant unconvincing monster in the midst of CGI’d apocalyptic scenery and explosions. This film’s monster, Steppenwolf, is as bland and unoriginal in his personality as he is in looks. He swings around a big axe and sprouts uninspired dialogue about ‘the unity’ and his destiny as a conqueror. His arc isn’t anything new – he’s an alien/god who wants to conquer the Earth, and to do so he must reclaim several MacGuffins (Motherboxes, for those of you in the know) that he lost on Earth a millennia ago.
Fortunately the focus on the film isn’t on him (and truth be told, even though he is quite boring, some of his fights with different members of the League are far more interesting than the climatic fights in BvS, Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman, so that’s something).
My other main issue was a pretty minor one, as it was to do with the soundtrack. Despite the varying quality of these films, I think the soundtracks by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL have been pretty good (I’m talking the central films to the ‘Justice League’ trilogy here; Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Justice League), but with the absence of those two composers, and the takeover by Danny Elfman, that particularly strong through line has been lost in favour of a somewhat generic music score. There are some musical ques to the theme tunes of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, but for the most part, the music is underwhelming.
But with that, it’s on to the positives.
The best thing about this film is the characters. Their personalities mesh super-well, and the progression throughout the story seems both natural and, in some cases, like an apology for the way previous films went down. Batman, for instance, seems far less bloodthirsty here, and has the maturity of a man who’s been fighting bad guys for twenty years, as well he should. He feels remorse for Superman’s death, and rightly, accuses himself – something that answers the question of why he suddenly had such a quick turn around on Superman since his last full movie.
However, it’s perhaps the new cast members who are the highlights, with Flash and Aquman in particular being instably likeable and having emotional journeys that position them perfectly for their own spin-off films.
And then there’s Superman. While he is still dead for the majority of the movie, his eventual resurrection brings with it some great sequences as well as the characterisation we’ve been waiting for for some time. He’s an inspirational figure, who doesn’t brood or threat over the way he’s perceived. He saves lives and he relishes the opportunity to save the world. He’s a positive figure, and in depicting him, Snyder and Whedon even embrace some of his more ridiculous sides, like letting him use his freeze breath.
It’s these strong characters, their relationships with one another, and the personal journeys they go through that make up for the otherwise lacking plot. However, that’s not to say it’s lacking in a bad way; the story is relatively simple – the good guys team up, they butt heads occasionally and they take on the bad guys. But that simplicity is used as a canvas on which Snyder and co. can create these memorable heroes, who not only save lives, but atone for their mistakes.
It seems that with his final DCEU outing, with a little help from Whedon, Snyder has finally captured the essence of who these heroes should be. And like the heroes, the two director’s styles mesh well together to create perhaps not the best DCEU film, but my personal favourite. Whedon brings the smaller moments, while Snyder delivers the things he’s best at; beautiful visuals and a truly epic sense of scale (also, interestingly, the funniest stuff seems to come from Snyder, despite Whedon reportedly ‘lightening’ the tone of the film). Furthermore, Snyder seems to have found the right balance in giving fan-service, as references are made to things like the Green Lanterns and the wider universe, without beating you over the head with it.
As I said previously, Justice League is not just a film, it’s an apology.
And it’s an apology that I, for one, accept.
With that, I give it: