Movie Review: 'Justice League'

Review by Steve J. Ray

So, the day came at last. The Justice League movie finally hit theatres worldwide on Friday November 17th 2017. I have waited almost my entire life for this movie, and was very excited to go and see it.


I am one of a very vocal minority who has loved the DC movies that have been released thus far. Yes, I actually LIKED Suicide Squad, and really LOVED Batman V Superman, The Man Of Steel and Wonder Woman.


So, what did I think of Justice League?


Hold on to your hats, folks... you're in for a bumpy ride! This review contains HUGE SPOILERS!

The Writing's On The Wall

Story - 6/10

There's nothing wrong with the story per-se, but I just think that audiences on the whole have already seen it all before.


I'm a comics fan of over 40 years, so I know that DC's Mother Boxes, Steppenwolf, Para-Demons, and Darkseid came along long before Marvel's Tesseract/Infinity Stones, Loki, Chitauri, and Thanos. General cinema-going audiences, however, don't have that foreknowledge. They will just see cubes of power, a cunning, and powerful enemy, a horde of invading aliens, and a master villain in the background who is the real threat. All that the general public will be telling themselves is, "Hey, I saw this movie already back in 2012, and it was called The Avengers."


And it's not just the main antagonists/plot, either. This story was meant to be told over two films, but it was changed to fit into one, then cut again to fit under the 120 minute mark... badly.


Unlike other fans I will not blame Joss Whedon, Chris Terrio, or Zack Snyder. I'm stunned that the film turned out as well as it did! The beginning was slow, at times bordering on boring. The second and third acts were just frenetic, and rushed from the mid-point onwards. The scope of the story could not seriously be expected to fit into this limited, truncated structure.


No, I blame WB Pictures... more on this later.


While I was overjoyed to see Superman - the real Superman - back as a real presence throughout almost half of the movie, his return felt rushed, forced and not very well thought out.


I realise that in this cinematic universe he doesn't have his Fortress Of Solitude or Regeneration Matrix, like he did in the comics. This means that the writers had to come up with a back-up. While some may think that I'm being over-critical here, I don't think this backup was explained very well, and was executed poorly.


Worst of all is the one, single plot-hole that you could fly a Jumbo-Jet through. Superman's alive... Yay! But wait, hold on. Clark Kent's back, too... there he is, in his glasses walking through Metroplois, but to the world he was buried in Kansas, another victim of Doomsday's attack. How?!? Superman's back, cool! He's a super powered alien, but "Human" Clark's actually also back from beyond the grave... without a single word of explanation! It was completely ignored.


They tried to come up with cool back-stories for Aquaman, Flash, and Cyborg, but they were exposition heavy and - in truth - should've been told in their own standalone movies. Instead they were shoe-horned into this one, felt rushed, and fell flat.


Again, this is down to the studio forcing the DCEU to sprint before it was even out of diapers.


There are some great story beats, and some really terrific character moments. They are what raise the story score to a 6, without them it would only rate a 4.


Take A Bow

Performances - 8/10

This is something the movie got (almost) completely right! Every single actor gave a great performance. They delivered brilliant, real, believable characters and I really liked, rooted for, and cared about every single one of them.


For the first time since he was cast, Henry Cavill looked and acted like he relished playing the Man Of Steel. He was a hero, an inspiration, and a credible threat.


Gal Gadot was mesmerising, powerful and impressive as Wonder Woman. This should come as no surprise, after her scene stealing performances in BvS and in the terrific Wonder Woman solo movie.


Ray Fisher made for a believable and wholly sympathetic Cyborg. He was damaged, both physically and psychologically, yet remained a hero.


Jason Momoa's Aquaman was a breath of fresh air! Powerful, charismatic, and hilarious. I cannot wait to see more of him! Surely after this performance people will think twice about putting down a character that I have always loved, and found to be tremendously underrated in comics.


Ezra Miller's Flash delivered a real human being, with real issues, and real heart. His power in the movie was astonishing, as was his humanity, empathy and honesty. A truly terrific performance.


Here's where the "Almost" comes in.


Ciaran Hinds is a terrific actor, but the mo-cap puppet with the CGI Face is not. There wasn't even an ounce of Ciaran's performance that made it into the finished film. Why couldn't they have just used his actual face in prosthetics for the closeups? It could've been a completely CGI character, and cost less than the motion-capture process for the level of actual performance that came through. That was a real waste of a great talent.


Ben Affleck's Batman; Everyone knows that I LOVE The Dark Knight... not like, LOVE. His intro into the film, accompanied by the incredible Danny Elfman score, was vintage, classic, comic-book Batman. By the end of the film he was second fiddle and almost extraneous. That. Pissed. Me. OFF!


Once again, I am not blaming the actor. Affleck did the very best with the material that was given to him. I will delve further into this in the next segment.


All the supporting characters were great! Jeremy Irons, Amy Adams, Diane Lane, and Connie Nielsen reprised their roles to perfection. Amber Heard, Billy Crudup, and Joe Morton did a great job, with the short amount of screen time they were given.


Apparently Willem DaFoe was in this movie? OK, yeah... I missed that one completely.


J.K. Simmon's Commissioner Gordon was a caricature. Sorry, that's just how I feel.


Lights, Camera... Action!

Direction/Production - 7/10

Despite what the opening titles might say, this is not a Zack Snyder movie. More's the pity.


I think Zack Snyder is a visionary director, an artist, and a true original. Like many artists he is ridiculed, put down and criticised by those who don't understand what he's been trying to do with his DC movies.


His Watchmen is a flawed masterpiece, but a masterpiece nonetheless. Many fans and critics knocked it, partly due to the fact that the ending was changed from a faux-alien invasion, to Ozymandias making it look like it had all been caused by Doctor Manhattan.


Others say that it was too long, and that having an even longer director's cut was worse still. So, you say that the film's already too long, but you want to add in a huge sub-plot with a ton of characters, kidnapped writers and artists, a desert island, a giant, beaked, alien corpse with tentacles farmed from, and with the brain of, a dead psychic and still want a shorter movie?!?


If you can find a way of adding all that back in and make the film shorter, then maybe you should move to Hollywood, and become a feature film director.


Have you seen how thick a tome Watchmen is? Alan Moore has openly stated that he wrote the piece to be un-filmable. Zack Snyder not only filmed it, he filmed it beautifully!


Man Of Steel, BvS, and Justice League were supposed to tell one story. The arrival, life, death, and return of Superman. When MoS was being made Chris Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy was still fresh in the minds of a cinema-going public. This was a thrilling, dark visceral series of films, miles apart from the popcorn glitz, and family friendly fun of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


It's no secret, like it or not, that for the past two or three decades, the most popular DC character (arguably the most popular comics character period) hasn't been Superman at all, but Batman.


WB wanted Zack to create a movie that would start a comic book franchise that could rival Marvel's. He could have followed the Marvel formula, but he wanted to remain true to the source material, and create a universe that was more grounded in reality, darker and more edgy. After Nolan's Batman films, anything else would have been jarring.


He made the film he had to make, and - to my mind - succeeded admirably.


I love ice-cream, but I wouldn't want to eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If I want popcorn superhero entertainment, that's the function that the Marvel movies serve admirably. DC movies were/are meant to be different, just like DC comics are different to Marvel's.

The Batman of the Nolan trilogy would never have fitted in the same films as the Christopher Reeve Superman. The Dark Knight had to be a part of an all new, all different kind of cinematic universe that Zack Snyder started, but was sadly not able to complete.


From the get-go Snyder's MoS was criticised for being too dark, too violent and no fun. "This isn't our Superman!", "Fans" cried. "This isn't 1979!" I wanted to cry back.


After that WB put more and more pressure on Zack Snyder, they micro-managed, influenced, forced cuts and censored his art.


I've heard so many people say that Zack Snyder is nothing but a "Director's Cut" movie maker. I have yet to see a Director's Cut that hasn't been better than the theatrical one. The studios and producers force the directors to cut the films for theatrical release. The longer, better complete versions are the films that the directors should've been allowed to make in the first place!


I know that BvS divided audiences. because even after some "Fans" impotent cries of "Too dark, too gritty" fell on deaf ears, Zack stayed true to his art, and his vision. He wanted to introduce his versions of Superman, and Batman and gradually lighten them. It's clear to see, throughout BvS. But, again WB made him cut the movie, shorten it and take away the story he wanted to tell.


Then tragedy struck the Snyder family halfway through making Justice League. It's already been well documented elsewhere, so I won't dwell on it. Zack had to pull out of a movie that was already undergoing reshoots, turmoil, and even more interference from the studio and producers.


Enter Joss Whedon. This man is a tried and tested fan favourite writer/director, himself no stranger to studio manipulation, and micro-management (the entirely lacklustre Age Of Ultron, anyone?) Forced to re-shoot, rewrite, and further dilute Zack Snyder's vision. NOT Josh's fault! In fact his dialogue, and character moments are two of the components that make the completed Justice League watchable!


While the action sequences are all great, and at times excellent, everything else framing them isn't. The cuts are too frenetic, the eye can't take in everything it's seeing, and too much story is rammed into this too short movie.


I'm PRAYING for a director's cut, hopefully one made by, overseen, and completed by Zack Snyder.

In Full Effect

Visual Effects - 7/10

The action and adventure levels in this film cannot be faulted. The fights are epic, the scale of the sets impressive, the locations, vehicles, settings, magic, lasers, pyro, and explosions top-notch. And yet...


I can't get the horrifically executed moustache removal images out of my mind's eye. Henry Cavill's a handsome dude, but these edits made him look like a mutant! I'm talking Cursed Earth type here, not Storm and Jean Grey.


I've already said how much I disliked seeing what they decided to use instead of Ciaran Hind's face, and I hate repeating myself.


Cyborg's armour, Flash's speed, Wonder Woman's lasso, Superman's heat-vision and ice-breath were all executed perfectly. Great job!

Conclusion

I went into the cinema hopeful, even optimistic. I've never looked at a "Putrescent fruit/vegetable" score before, and never will. Audience scores in the high 80 percent, good word of mouth from friends and colleagues, and positive comments from two comic writers whom I greatly admire had put me in a very positive frame of mind.

We had a great crowd, and a full house. The majority of the audience seemed to have really enjoyed the movie. It was only once the credits started rolling and the theatre started emptying, leaving only the hardcore fans and those, like myself, with true High-Geek credentials, that I started to hear their thoughts, spoken out loud...


"Great Flash", "Much better Superman", "But why'd they wimp out Batman?" "Wondy was awesome", "Cyborg said 'Boo-Yah!'" "What was with that awful facial CGI?" "OMG the GL bit in the historical battle was such a cool touch!" "Lol, they're racing!" "Damn, Eisenberg!" "WTF? Deathstroke?!?"


I did NOT hate this film, I really, REALLY wanted to love it. In the end I guess that I just kind of liked it, but feel that it was both a wasted opportunity and not the way to complete a great director's vision.


This was a broth that was spoiled by too many cooks, a film made by committee, and a clear example of how pandering to the masses doesn't work.


Justice League was not a bad film, but it could've been a great one.

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