Heroes like Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman have captivated comic book readers for nearly 80 years now. The Justice League being a staple of comic book culture, this pantheon of larger than life heroes was the beginning of the age of superheroes that are now ripe with beloved characters.
Superhero films practically own Hollywood today, so it’s funny to wonder why a Justice League movie took so long to get off the ground. Marvel has routinely pushed out box office smashes like the Iron Man, Captain America, and Spiderman films, making a vast empire of interconnected films that form the backbone of their Avengers film universe.
So what’s holding DC back?
There first three films in their DC extended universe have all received a mixed reception. Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad all got much criticism from fans and critics alike, with Wonder Woman looking like a very good step in the right direction. So did DC finally manage to pull together a fresh, smart and entertaining film bringing together the world’s greatest heroes? Well, yes and no.
Justice League is in no way an un-entertaining film, it actually manages to be a very fun ride most of the way through; however, it lacks the creativity and stakes that make the Avengers movies more that just a superhero action-fest. It also very clearly suffers from the symptoms of damage control, as DC desperately tries to salvage what’s left of their attempt at a connected movie universe.
There are many noticeable inconsistencies between films, like Batman’s urge to kill from Batman v. Superman being conveniently absent, Wonder Woman going from a very hopeful and altruistic hero to a flip-flopping reluctant god in hiding, and Superman going from a stoic and unemotional and reluctant savior of the world to being much more like how most of us know Superman to be, heroic and charming and an all around pleasant person to watch.
Newcomers Aquaman, Flash, and Cyborg are all welcome additions to the world. Jason Mamoa’s Aquaman bringing a very fun and new dynamic to a character that most people don’t have much knowledge of. Cyborg will make most young viewers happy with a portrayal from newcomer Ray Fisher that shows much reverence to the Teen Titans show while bringing a whole new dimension to what is usually a comedic character.
Speaking of comic relief, this version of Flash is the driving force behind most of the jokes in the film, most of which are hit or miss at best; this is a far cry from his portrayal in the CW television version of the Flash which has garnered much praise. It’s very clear that in their attempts to distance themselves from his TV counterpart that his character just comes off as a little silly. The villain Steppenwolf is little more than another CGI video game boss villain, with no real spark or gravitas to his character at all; he mostly comes off as a punching bag until we can get character like Darkside or Braniac, and as a whole he is rather underwhelming.
And that’s this movie in a nutshell, just underwhelming, and thus not as big as a movie called Justice League should be. That’s not to say that’s this film has nothing going for it, the cinematography and design is absolutely breathtaking, with the characters and visuals emulating it’s source material down to its essence. Likewise, the action scenes are all wonderfully entertaining to watch, with plenty of teasing as to what’s to come for future installments down the line. The ensemble cast also works really well together with the material given, all playing off each other in fun and entertaining ways.
Ultimately, Justice League has the potential to be a really fun film, but it’s bogged down by not having a worthwhile enough story, inconsistent world building, and a studio that has spent too long trying to emulate the success of Marvel to really do itself and it’s characters the true Justice they deserve.