I wonder if this is how all those people who thought “Batman v Superman” sucked felt after watching it.
“Justice League” is the fifth installment of the DC Extended Universe, and is the first time the titular team consisting of Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Superman, Aquaman and Cyborg is depicted together on the big screen. The film stars Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa and Ray Fisher with Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J. K. Simmons and Ciaran Hinds in supporting roles. Zack Snyder directs.
The one thing that works here is the cast. As with “BvS” and her own film this past June, Gadot is the charming glue that holds scenes together, and manages to look incredibly stunning even when she is busy kicking butt. Miller steals the show as the comic relief Flash, even if some of his jokes fall flat and others are out of place. Oh, and after an awkward re-introduction, this gives us the best and most cheerful Superman portrayal by Cavill of this universe. I refuse to take part in Warner Bros.’ charade that Superman is dead; the man is second billing in the cast list.
With “Justice League,” Warner Bros. demanded a runtime of 120 minutes — the previous DCEU films all run around 150. This is dumb and damning, because it limits artists like Snyder and forces rushed exposition. Which is this film’s biggest flaw.
If you know nothing about the comics, this film is going to be practically incoherent to you. The villain, Steppenwolf, comes to Earth to find Mother Boxes. What are they? Why does he want them? Where is he from? I know the answers but I’m a nerd; most moviegoers have better ways they spend their time than obsessing over comic lore.
Speaking of Steppenwolf, voiced by Hinds, he is such a lame villain, made purely out of CGI, that it makes the Marvel list of bad guys look like Heath Ledger’s Joker. You’re never intimidated, and half the time you’re laughing. Which is also how the first 10 minutes of the film are spent after a baffling Batman sequence followed by a cover of the Leonard Cohen song “Everybody Knows” playing over the credits.
I had to hold back giggles and cringing.
This feels like the safest movie of Snyder’s career, and I feel bad for him. He clearly got an ear-full after “Batman v Superman,” so he tried to make a colorful, basic studio superhero film and it just doesn’t work. He is an ambitious director, not a narratively sound one, and the whole film feels like a checklist of things that we have to see the team do.
And of course, as with every single DCEU film before it, the climax takes place in a wasteland and features the heroes getting into a CGI disaster throwdown with the villain. It gets boring real quick.
“Justice League” is a letdown of massive, almost unprecedented proportions. Say what you will about “Batman v Superman,” but at least that film had ambition and goals; this is just aimless and ugly. I would love to see standalone pictures for all these heroes under different directors than Snyder because, while I feel for him both for his personal loss and because the studio was breathing down his neck, this franchise just needs new blood at the helm (*cough* Patty Jenkins or Joss Whedon).
Critic’s rating: 4 out of 10.