Review: Justice League
Jack Bottomley, Media Correspondent
Politics and religion has often been the source of some of the most heated debates ever had but in this age of comics-to-screen saturation, it now seems we can add superhero movies to that list of hot topics of discussion. So heated can the discussions get – aided by the internet’s natural craziness - that you can often find yourself attacked for opinions on both the positive and negative end of the spectrum.
No more does this seem to be the case than with the DCEU (DC Comics Extended Universe) and MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). A cardinal sin to enjoy both, an even bigger insult to call one superior, it seems a review nowadays needs to directly compare them, thus resulting in a fandom meltdown, despite the fact comparisons between these two comic book universes are pretty asinine.
I must admit, after my past verdicts on Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman causing stirrings, I was hesitant to write about Justice League but onwards we go and here is what I took away from this long awaited and enjoyable gathering of DC’s mightiest figures.
In a world where Superman (Henry Cavill) has died (see Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice for details), hope also seems to have perished, and in this time of fear and high anxiety, darkness is preparing to invade the earth.
An intergalactic conqueror known as Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds in motion capture) has his sights set on taking the world as his own but Bruce “Batman” Wayne (Ben Affleck) and Diana “Wonder Woman” Prince (Gal Gadot) have an ambitious plan to fend off these forces of evil. They aim to assemble a team of outstanding individuals – Barry “The Flash” Allen (Ezra Miller), Arthur “The Aquaman” Curry (Jason Momoa) and Victor “Cyborg” Stone (Ray Fisher) – to help them defend the Earth and honour Superman’s sacrifice by not letting it be in vain.
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As a result, this 2-hour film is rough around the edges and the pace is non-stop, with the breather brakes seeming to have been removed. And yet if you can accept the film for what it is, is a hell of a lot of fun.
The narrative is untidy at points but never confusing and always with a rhythm and momentum to get onto some truly engaging scenes of superheroic unity.
Snyder’s dark and sombre spectacle and Whedon’s light and comical tones do clash but it oddly results in a very interestingly cool jostling of directorial visions.
The backdrops conjure up some moments that truly feel as they have leaped from the page (Gotham especially looks fantastic) and some set pieces that are snappy and slick, with a culmination that visually reminded me of Alice Through The Looking Glass. All backed by Danny Elfman’s retro heroic score that comes alive with some audible throwbacks but does lack the epic senses of Hans Zimmer, Rupert Gregson-Williams, Steven Price and Junkie XL.
Justice League really styles it out thanks to some very grand visual presentation and, most importantly of all, a roster of heroes that are brilliantly charismatic, which is what makes you see past the dodgy moustache edit here (don’t go there) and missing trailer bit there.
Ben Affleck is rumoured to be hanging up the cape soon but if so, this is unfortunate as Justice League really shows off his take on Batman.
Affleck captures moments of Comedy and Drama in and out of the cowl and really sells the film’s effective theme of Bruce making amends for his past mistakes with Superman by being constantly willing to sacrifice everything. In many ways the film itself echoes this sentiment, as Justice League feels like a refresh, as the DCEU’s cynical and harsh world becomes more brightened by beacons of hope leading to a more optimistic – if still dangerous - future (see an incredibly tasty post-credits scene).
The real glue of the film though is Gal Gadot who once again, after excelling in one of the year’s best blockbusters in Wonder Woman, returns to the part with joyous commitment and effortlessly continues to be a signal of hopefulness and joy to this universe.
Meanwhile Henry Cavill’s scenes as Superman really allow him to portray the Superman the fans and – judging by his performance – he has wanted to play all along.
Then there are the new heroes and while Cyborg’s design remains a bit off, Ray Fisher brings way more than expected to the character and it would be nice to learn more about him down the line.
While Ezra Miller makes for a very funny and enthusiastic Flash, who undoubtedly gets the most comical role in the film with his childlike glee contrasting to his older colleagues battle readiness, maturity or grit.
Although I think many will be most impressed by Jason Momoa’s awesome turn as Aquaman, ahead of his solo film this upcoming year.
Momoa has moments aplenty here and takes the character to new levels of presentation and validation that excel onscreen, and it will be good to see more from the aquatic Atlantean world too (only mildly tasted here).
The characters on the whole are engaging and great to be around and it allows the actors to feel energised in the parts.
There are also some promising supporting turns by Jeremy Irons who is once again a great Alfred, J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon and Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta.
Really, the biggest let-down is the film’s villain Steppenwolf who is nowhere near the worst villain ever, as some have ridiculously stated, but is a very straightforward and one-dimensional axe swinging subjugator and Ciaran Hinds really gets little to do but sound evil.
Lacking Lex Luthor’s skittish megalomaniacal god complex, Joker’s unhinged enigmatic psychopathy, Ares’ power and deception or General Zod’s unrelenting drive, Steppenwolf merely feels like an end boss on a hack n’ slash fantasy game, a Warcraft-esque henchmen more than a main player to be feared (and considering the character’s origins that is hardly surprising).
Still, Justice League may not the landmark heroic ensemble the DCEU needed and the fans craved after all these years, but what you have here is a charming and punchy piece of entertainment.
The script is fun, the action exciting and there are moments of visually striking gleeful comic book zest as these heroes unite.
One of the year’s more purely fun-based big screen spectacles. I thought it was great.
Justice League (12A)
Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Henry Cavill, Ciaran Hinds
Release Date: Out Now
Review: Justice League, 5th December 2017, 10:11 AM