After the overwhelming success of Wonder Woman earlier this year, there was a glimmer of hope that DC’s next instalment would continue the trend. Unfortunately, however, and perhaps to the surprise of no one, Justice League falls from the heights of Wonder Woman to crash and burn to a similar degree as BvS and Suicide Squad.
After the death of Superman (Henry Cavill), the world falls into a state of hopelessness as a new threat, Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds), emerges with a plan to capture powerful artefacts to destroy Earth. It is then up to Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) to recruit a team of heroes to defeat Steppenwolf to once more rekindle humanity’s hope. In what is essentially a straightforward premise, Justice League suffers largely from the same problem that plagued both BvS and Suicide Squad: it is an unfocused mess. Too often, the plot ping-pongs between a barrage of subplots without dedicating the necessary time to make any substantial or affective in a meaningful way. This is more evident within the opening film’s opening scenes where we are introduced to the new members of the League: The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher). Their incorporation into the action never feels natural. Both Aquaman and Cyborg simply appear out of nowhere after initially refusing before giving vague reasons for their change of heart (which is never spoken of again) whereas Flash is not given any character motivation for joining other than providing comic relief – which he is successful at, for the most part that is.
Likewise, the substantial cuts made to the film (taking roughly forty minutes away from the run time) are felt. Plot points occur at break-neck speed as if Warner Bros wanted to get Justice League over and done with as soon as possible. While this does make enduring this film a relatively painless experience, it does raise the question whether or not the missing portions were what was needed to give the development these characters needed. What is even more baffling is the amount of unnecessary fluff and unfunny disposable jokes that were kept in. Such moments may have been included during Whedon’s reshoots to inject some humour, but it was not worth sacrificing the character development that is seriously lacking.
This is not to say that there is no redeeming qualities to Justice League, however. Gal Gadot is once again exceptional in her performance as Wonder Woman and Ezra Miller brings a sense of much needed levity to the franchise. Zack Snyder provides moments of stunning cinematography (brought to life by Fabian Wagner), and hearing Wonder Woman’s theme still remains as exhilarating as ever (this time arranged by Danny Elfman, who also includes notes of his original Batman score into the soundscape). Action scenes, too, are handled well, especially those involving Flash moving at blistering speed with the use of slow-motion alongside beautiful special effects. However, Snyder’s use of slow-motion in the action sequences are overused to the point of becoming obnoxious and the overkill of CGI in Steppenwolf’s creation transforms what should be a formidable foe into a disastrous hodgepodge of digital effects.
For the most part, Justice League is an inoffensive film that falls into the very traps that hindered DC’s cinematic franchise from the outset; it is a beautifully shot unfocused mess that shows moments of competency lost in a void of pointlessness. If anything Justice League should reignite the question of how much should studios interfere with artistic intent, but the importance Justice League will ultimately have within this debate will not be known until the Extended Cut is eventually released on Blu-Ray.
By Andrew Murray