Justice League is a film I really wanted to like. After absolutely loving Wonder Woman, I’d started to hope that this might be the start of a new lease of life for the DC Extended Universe. And then I remembered that Wonder Woman had a competent director and a half-decent script.
This does not.
But the problems with Justice League go beyond the film itself. It was perhaps always doomed to fail in some respects; it simply needed to do too much. Cyborg and Aquaman were unexplored characters who needed introducing. Ezra Miller’s Flash had to break free of the negative pre-release chatter surrounding the conflict with the excellent existing TV show. Batman was old, and the man playing him was constantly sticking his foot in it.
As such, it’s no surprise that Justice League is a mess. There are clunky exposition dumps, there’s too much yawn-inducing slo-mo with little impact, too little chemistry or charisma between any of the characters. Miller and Momoa are clearly having the most fun, and they are the best aspects of the film by a country mile. But there’s no real sense of camaraderie here. The banter is so awfully forced, and the jokes are awkwardly flat. Ben Affleck needs to stop acting and stay behind the camera, or call up Kevin Smith. He manages to do something quite special – he manages to look bored as Batman. FREAKIN’ BATMAN!
Wonder Woman‘s largest flaws was the truly terrible CGI work on David Thewlis’ Ares. Unfortunately, that’s a running theme in Justice League. It’s a film that looks horrible, all too often smashing immersion with awful special effects and fake setpieces that offer no satisfaction. The DC films, even Nolan’s more cerebral Batman movies, have all had a problem with levelling with the audience on an emotional level. But that’s okay when you have spectacle or intricate, intelligent plotting. Justice League was never going to be a storytelling tour-de-force, but its spectacle is decidedly unspectacular.
Even beyond the production difficulties and the unfortunate personal tragedy of the Snyder family, this a film that would have required a miracle to succeed. Its foundations were always shaky – a cinematic universe with none of the personality or warmth or relative character of Marvel’s equivalent. Watching this, I sorely missed anyone I could identify with or cared about, even though many of the individual performances are likeable. The cast try (boy do they try) but what they have to work with is limited at best, and just irrevocably broken at worst.
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