‘Justice League’ continues to slowly right the DCEU ship (review)

We have to be ready. You, me, the others…

I’m going to preface this article by stating one clear and concise fact: I’m not a fanboy of any film franchise. I know that there are many out there who would choose to believe that many movie critics are only loyal either to Marvel or to DC, but in all honesty, the true critics out there rely on something bigger than brands: great storytelling. I love great storytelling, and having the opportunity to see a favorite childhood pastime, such as comics, being turned into films that are actually good makes me glad I’m alive. So when it comes to any franchise, the only thing that stands above the rest is a complete and concise story, not the brand it hails from.

DC has had an interesting last few years, as the sleeping giant awoke back in 2013 with Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. The company never really got solid footing as a franchise afterwards, however, and continued to slip with its subsequent follow-ups. Then 2017 brought us the incredible gift of Wonder Woman, and it seemed that the franchise began to shine through as the titanic entity it could be. But while we celebrated, news began to circulate about the rest of the property, and word began to swirl about issues for the film that was next up to bat: Justice League. Did any of those things keep the film from being a total success? Did Justice League keep up DC’s progress, or did it fall back into old habits?

Directed by Zack Snyder, Justice League stars Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Henry Cavill, Ray Fisher, Ciarán Hinds , Jeremy Irons, and others. Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists newfound ally Diana Prince to face an even greater threat. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to recruit a team to stand against this newly awakened enemy. Despite the formation of an unprecedented league of heroes — Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and the Flash — it may be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.

Yeah, I… I need… friends.

Right off the bat, this film chooses a storyline that delves deep into the mythos created by years and years of story development in comics. Pulling from a resource so vast and deep like that of DC has its benefits – and its curses. I’m not going to go into the speech of “too much, too fast,” but you get the idea. Justice League chooses to take on a story, however, that although is an interesting and deep aspect to the DC comic universe, has a connection with BvS. Thin, but still a connection, nevertheless.

The drive for the villain, Steppenwolf, is a bit flimsy, forgoing the feelings of imminent doom, and more along the lines of “eh, it’s the end of the world, so if we win, we win; whatever.” If we’re going to be honest, however, Marvel has yet to figure out the villain formula quite yet, with having a longer career and only creating two substantial in-film villains in the process (Loki and Hela; Thanos has been more of a mastermind behind everything).

The story, originally, was set to be a two-part project, but for some unknown reason, the powers that be decided to keep it to one film. Unfortunately this is a decision that is apparent, as the plot tone majorly shifts midway through the film. The drive for Justice League changes its focus, and we suddenly find ourselves facing a different plot direction. Yes, the overall story arc is still “save the world, be the light, inspire millions,” but plot points are what drives the arc along, creating fluidity and consistency. This stream takes a hard right midway through, and if you’re not paying attention, you might get thrown off the boat.

Good to see you playing with others again.

Despite the plot drive, the film has some good fun with the cast at hand. From the several scenes with the fabulous Gal Gadot as Diana Prince, to the fun and awkward interactions with the rest of the team, Justice League teases what could be a fun future for the franchise. Ray Fisher was a standout performer for me, as his role of Cyborg is firmly established before the film gets underway, making his character’s focus the glue that keeps the team relatively on point. Ezra Miller was another standout performer, combining the introvert nature of Barry Allen, and the spastic mannerisms of the Flash. Jason Momoa is okay in the film, but the trailer hands out the majority of his comedic beats from the film.

But the greater part of moviegoers will be wanting to see more than just the the Flash and Cyborg; they want to catch a glimpse of the DC Holy Trinity. Ben Affleck’s Batman is much more subdued and in line with his comic-counterpart, putting away his killer instinct and putting on his “give all to save the world” mentality. Inspired by the death of Superman, this new mindset makes for a more palatable Batman, giving fans a better experience. Wonder Woman is fantastic. Period. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

And the Big Guy? It’s obviously no surprise that he’s in the film, but in what capacity, I’m not going reveal. And don’t whine that this is a spoiler because it’s on the Justice League site‘s image! The only critique I have about his place in the film is that it is COMPLETELY noticeable that they had to CG his mustache out of his scenes, and it’s not great. You can tell his face doesn’t look right, every time. And you may say that it shouldn’t take away from his performance, and it doesn’t entirely, but it’s still there, staring you right in the face.

Superman was a beacon to the world.

Overall, the film was good. Not bad, but also not great. The film falls in the vein of “getting there” rather than “building here,” and that’s okay. The franchise is still building its foundation, and although I’m not a fan of the first couple of films, I feel this is a great – yet slow – step in the right direction. The franchise has spent so much time in the weeds that this year has been a refreshing progression, and it all starts with the implementations of outside perspectives.

Director Patty Jenkins landed the Woman Woman success train because of her love for the project, and adding a new perspective. This film -through tragic circumstances- brought in Joss Whedon to help finish the film, bringing in a new perspective as well. Both of these films achieved a fun and yet determined storyline, making for an overall good experience for fans. Is the franchise where it should be? No. Is this film the direction every DC film needs to go? Not necessarily, but it’s beginning to get there. Is this film worth watching? Definitely. Like I said at the beginning, I’m a fan of good storytelling. Not just great, but good. Why? Because every good story has the potential to produce a great future follow-up. Here’s to hoping that as time goes by, DC continues to push for good, until one day, it becomes great.

Rating: 3.5/5 Atoms

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