I’ll admit this: ‘Justice League’ isn’t the worst DCEU film out there (the worst one is ‘Suicide Squad’, in my books) but it definitely won’t exude the kind of glee you’d get by watching a Marvel ensemble venture, even with ‘The Avengers’ helmer Joss Whedon doing some last-minute tweaking business. This is very much a Zack Snyder film in terms of tone, color palette, hazy character building, and CGI-filled action.
Supes is dead, Batman feels guilty and before long, a bigger alien invasion looms. Snyder dedicates funky introduction scenes to each member of the League – we really didn’t need intros for Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) as their characters were established quite capably in 2016’s ‘Batman v Superman’ and 2017’s ‘Wonder Woman’, respectively. Shouldn’t the three newbies (Arthur Curry a.k.a Aquaman – Jason Momoa, Barry Allen a.k.a The Flash – Ezra Miller, and Victor Stone a.k.a Cyborg – Ray Fisher) be getting those extra minutes of screen-time for them to get acquainted with the viewers as well as to construct solid reasons for them to be joining the team.
Also, the villain Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciaran Hinds) – sigh. What a mess they’ve made in shaping the chief antagonist character – his reasons (for even existing) don’t come across as one bit worth the buy. Not once does he feel like a threat to humanity as such, or to the league. BvS addressed the issue of loss of human life as part of the superheroes’ attempts to ‘save the world’ through plain human characters (the Director’s cut is rather well-rounded). Here, we neither get to see the baddies from the eyes of the public, nor do the heroes seem interested to connect with their earthlings. It also doesn’t help that, when it comes to the set-pieces, the spoils aren’t apportioned slickly. In most cases, it’s Barry Allen who gets the juiciest bit of the pie, comfortably stealing the thunder from the rest. And for those who haven’t seen ‘Batman v Superman’ (or ‘Wonder Woman’), ‘Justice League’ would pose a lot of questions, even though it possesses a narrative of its own.
If you’ve had an eye for both Snyder’s and Whedon’s past works, it is quite easy to distinguish their individual contributions in ‘Justice League’. Their styles are evidently poles apart, and when an effort is made to mesh Snyder’s dark, brooding approach with Whedon’s humanized character-crafting technique, the result turns out to be a mixed bag. Ezra Miller’s The Flash seems to have gotten the maximum benefit out of Whedon’s comedic intervention – he is quite like how Tom Holland’s Spiderman is to Marvel. Aquaman and Cyborg, even with their separate ‘I-save-everyone-else’ scenes, don’t get to leave a concrete mark. I mean come on, just look at the segment where Wayne asks Barry to ‘save just one person’ – where are such scenes for Curry and Stone? Simple answer – there aren’t.
Wonder Woman is criminally underused in this flick after her excellent individual outing in the Patty Jenkins film earlier this year, though I’d have to say I liked the idea of Supes (Henry Cavill) finally getting a well-defined sense of humor (even though he shows up quite late in the film – that isn’t a spoiler, duh!). Batman/Wayne is less sombre in ‘Justice League’ than he was in BvS, and he kind of takes pleasure in reiterating his inability to lead the team (a not-so-subtle hint at Wonder Woman assuming charge in the near future).
The mid-credits (fun!) and post-credits (story-forwarding tool!) do tease the DCEU’s future in mildly intriguing fashion, but one is left to wonder whether viewer interest is still strong for further expansion of these story lines – the universe has been dealing with rough seas ever since its cinematic inception. Critics and audiences have both never held back from lambasting most of the ventures (barring ‘Wonder Woman’ which was an excellent standalone). ‘Justice League’ does have plenty of issues in its two hour run-time but there’s one thing it somehow manages to do in between – engage. For an ensemble film with a $ 300 million budget featuring some of the most iconic comic-book characters ever, ‘Justice League’ falls well short of expectations.
Verdict: ‘Not-bad’ just isn’t enough for a movie like ‘Justice League’. It needed to be ground-breaking!