‘Justice League’ Review

Following in the footsteps of this year’s Wonder Woman and the wake of last year’s Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Justice League is an enjoyable, action-filled experience, but with a noticeable distribution blemishes.

One of the greatest changes in Justice League from former DC Cinematic Universe, or DCEU, films, is the tone. Last year’s Batman v Superman received plentiful backlash for its overly-complex plot and dark, gritty tone, trademark of director Zack Snyder. In hopes to avoid a repeat of such criticism, Snyder and screenplay writer Chris Terrio, with later alterations from Joss Whendon, gave the film a more straightforward plot with a lighter, comedic tone.

The comedy is generally humorous, but still retains occasional moments of ‘cheese’ as some of the jokes grow tired. Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen/The Flash effectively serves as the film’s main source of comic relief – and occasional ‘cheese’ – portrayed as the ‘newbie’ teenager, much akin to Tom Holland’s Peter Parker/Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Up-to-bat is Jason Momoa, who provides a gruff, down-to-earth, and brutally honest ‘biker’ type as Arthur Curry/Aquaman, wherein he has numerous moments of comically criticizing Ben Afleck’s Batman/Bruce Wayne and the rest of the team. The interactions between Bruce Wayne and Gal Gadot’s Dianna Prince/Wonder Woman, also serve as their own moments of comic relief.

Despite the lighter tone the film takes when compared to its predecessors, it does have its moments of grit and sorrow. Norwegian singer Sigrid’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” plays in the opening, as shots of a broken world recovering from the loss of Superman/Clark Kent. A particularly mournful shot of the intro shows Clark’s adoptive mother, Martha, leaving the Kents’ family farm, a foreclosure sign revealed as the camera pans and a sorrowful Martha drives off into the distance. Martha is later seen visiting Clark’s lover, Lois Lane, discussing with her life in the wake of their recent loss. Lois reveals just how much she has fallen in grieving her lover’s death.

Justice League’s greatest moments of grit, save for one spoiler-ish scene, are those which involve main antagonist, Steppenwolf. The antagonist is first introduced in an invasion of Theymscira, home to Wonder Woman and her Amazonian sisters. He and an army of Infantry, otherwise his foot soldiers, decimate the Amazonians in an attempt to retrieve one of three “mother boxes”. Later, Diana explains the violent backstory of the antagonist, where he and his Infantry invaded Earth to take control and turn it into a biome reminiscent of the antagonist’s home world, while also setting up a rivalry between the two characters, as the Amazonians were one of many parties responsible for the former defeat of the invader.

Another complaint of past DCEU films which the writers aimed to avoid was a long running time, giving Justice League only around 110 minutes before the credits. This was initially a concern of fans and critics alike, but proved to work out okay. Divided into three clearly distinguishable acts, the film manages to balance the introduction of many new characters, the formation and early missions of the newly formed Justice League, the final battle, and time for side stories. Each act has a clear focus, and delivers the stories within surprisingly well for the time provided.

With trying to make a more “family friendly” film, the team was set up into a sort of makeshift family, with Batman and Wonder Woman taking the role of father and mother, Ray Fisher’s Cyborg/Victor Stone being the dark and distant older brother, Aquaman being the laid back, yet dedicated middle child, and The Flash being the innocent, humorous youngest of the bunch. The qualms this “family” faces along the way will test their bonds, but the theme of family will rest well with audiences.

Still, the film did have its faults. The scheme of a villain invading to take over the world is not just cliche, but far to similar to the plot of rival Marvel Studios’ highly successful The Avengers. To be blunt, the overarching threat was dull and unoriginal. The film was already facing mass amounts of criticism as a part of the DCEU, a project of Snyder, and it’s bumpy production as it is. Even the antagonist’s reason for wanting to take over Earth is cliche. While he may be a foreboding and intimidating, Steppenwolf is portrayed as little more than the average “big bad guy from another world”.

The film’s usage of CGI fluctuated at times, its blemishes not well hidden. One most tragic application was Steppenwolf himself. Steppenwolf’s design was bland, being little more than a heap of gray rather than an aesthetically pleasing mix of black and red as portrayed in the comics. Neither did Cyborg, who was created almost entirely of CG, did not have the most favorable appearance.

On the flip side, the score was very enjoyable. Danny Elfman brings back pieces of his famous score from Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman, serving up a fresh dish of nostalgia during Batman-centric action sequences. Wonder Woman’s phenomenal theme from Batman v Superman and Wonder Woman, suiting her action sequences in which it plays very well. Also making a return is an iconic theme from a familiar 1978 film. Songs such as Junkie Xl’s Come Together, featured prominently in late trailers for the film, fit serve to fit the theme of a team coming together to fight a powerful force well, also.

While the overused plot of saving the world from an invading force, blandness of the antagonist, and occasionally mediocre CGI may be something unworthy of writing home about, the characters, soundtrack, and tonal balance save the film from winding up on the wrong side of a Batarang. Justice League may not quite be on the level of 2011’s The Avengers, but neither is it a total flop, and serves as both a stepping stone for he DCEU, and a fun, action-packed trip to the movies.