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 introduces each League member with unique and vibrant scenes. Introductions for Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) might have been unnecessary, given their well-established characters in ‘Batman v Superman’ (2016) and ‘Wonder Woman’ (2017). It would have been more beneficial to allocate those introductory minutes to the three newcomers (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). This extra screen time could have allowed them to connect with viewers and establish compelling reasons for their inclusion in the team.
Stylistic Collisions: Snyder’s Darkness and Whedon’s Humor in ‘Justice League’
Also, let’s take a look at 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 or to the league. BvS addressed the issue of the 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 in connecting 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.
Unraveling the Flaws in Steppenwolf’s Characterization
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 clearly differ, and when attempting to blend Snyder’s dark, brooding approach with Whedon’s humanized character-crafting technique, the outcome becomes a mixed bag. Ezra Miller’s portrayal of The Flash stands out as a prime example of benefiting from Whedon’s comedic touch, reminiscent of Tom Holland’s Spiderman in Marvel. This dynamic fusion adds a unique flavor to the overall cinematic experience.
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? The simple answer is – there aren’t.
In this film, Wonder Woman is unfortunately not given enough screen time, despite her standout solo performance in the earlier Patty Jenkins film this year. On a positive note, Superman (Henry Cavill) finally showcases a well-defined sense of humor, though his appearance comes relatively late in the film (no spoiler alert needed!). Batman/Wayne, while less somber than in ‘Justice League’ than in BvS, seems to find enjoyment in emphasizing his inability to lead the team, hinting not-so-subtly at Wonder Woman taking charge in the future.
Cinematic Challenges and Engaging Moments
The mid-credits (fun!) and post-credits (story-forwarding tool!) provide teasing glimpses of the DCEU’s future in a mildly intriguing manner. However, it raises the question of whether viewer interest remains strong for the expansion of these storylines, given the rocky path the universe has traversed since its cinematic inception. Critics and audiences alike have not hesitated to criticize most ventures, with the exception of ‘Wonder Woman,’ which stood out as an excellent standalone film. Despite numerous issues in its two-hour runtime, ‘Justice League’ somehow manages to engage its audience. However, as an ensemble film with a $300 million budget featuring iconic comic-book characters, ‘Justice League’ falls well short of expectations.
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