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Film Review: Justice League

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So Justice League has been out for a week now, and it’s not quite as financially successful as Warner Bros. would like – but it’s definitely a huge step in the right direction for the DC film universe. Let’s break it down.

Firstly, before we begin this review will contain spoilers for every film in the DC film universe, including Justice League, as well as the MCU. Secondly, huge props to Warner Bros. and all involved for getting this film off the ground and quite frankly, making a decent movie in the first place. Given the immense production issues and shifting landscape with such high expectations. Bravo.

Justice League is a complex film to discuss without context, so let me remind you that this was supposed to be a two-part film (before audiences cottoned on to how frustrating that trend was), and the sub-par reception to Zack Snyder’s (Watchmen, 300, Man of Steel) Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice might have resulted in a bit of a pulling back on the DC superhero machine. BvS was also released a month before Justice League was scheduled to go into production, and this is all before director Snyder’s family suffered an immense tragedy, leaving the directing reigns to be taken over by Joss Whedon (Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Buffy The Vampire Slayer). This resulted in extensive and very costly reshoots, which were covered everywhere and even emphasized that Henry Cavil was currently sporting a rather dapper moustache thanks to his role in the new Mission Impossible film, and Warner Bros. were going to have to essentially CGI his upper lip for Justice League reshoots. So yeah, this film had all the makings of a failure before it’s even begun – and you know what? It’s not. It’s not a failure. It’s not great, but it’s decent.

What is great in Justice League is the cast. Every. Single. One. Of. These. Actors. Are. Great. They might not all get enough character development throughout the film, but the actors themselves are awesome. Everyone is walking away with their favourites, be that Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman, Furious 7) as Wonder Woman, Henry Cavil (Man of Steel, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) returning as Superman, Ben Affleck’s (Gone Girl, Argo) Batman, or the newer cast members: Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones, Conan the Barbarian) as Aquaman, Ezra Miller’s (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) The Flash, and Ray Fisher (The Astronaut Wives Club) as Cyborg. The cast and their chemistry is off the chain. Ezra Miller’s Flash is basically every fan boy if they were in that position, and the complex discussions and relationships between Bruce and Diana are on point and relevant. I can’t wait to see them all together again, maybe joined by Shazam or Green Lantern, who knows? We got Easter Eggs for both? Bring it!

Those Easter Eggs were a huge step up from BvS’s email link, as were the post-credit scenes. Small things, but very, very well done. DC is paying less attention to differentiating itself from Marvel, and more to organically working it’s own story in. That’s not the only thing they fixed from BvS – remember when everyone was complaining that Batfleck used guns? Well here he comes, with the very meta-line “sorry, I didn’t bring a sword” and I am here. For. That. I never minded that much that Affleck’s Batman used guns, but I’m totally down for writers’ acknowledging where they messed up in the past (email with individual logos) and doubling down on what they’re sticking to (Batman uses guns).

Lots of people were also not too happy with the tone of the previous Zack Snyder films Man of Steel and BvS, in particular how they handled Superman. Personally, I had no issue with the tone – I quite liked Man of Steel and my problems with BvS were more story and execution (if someone says ‘Martha’ one more damn time…). That said, the lighter, jokey, not taking itself too seriously tone of the Justice League movie mostly worked. I say mostly because there’s a few jokes or moments here or there that felt a little forced – not a fan of the squiggly drawing on the douchbag in the prison’s face – but hey, you win some you lose some.

My problem with Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is they’ve now, essentially, wasted the death of Superman. If Man of Steel is an allegory for 9/11, and Superman is a symbol of hope – leaving him dead is something you need to do for a good, solid, few films. It’s something you do at like, Justice League 2, after you’ve had the time to establish him, and then you don’t bring him back until every character has had an appropriate amount of time to mourn and suffer through what it means to live in a world without Superman for more than just the first half of the very next film. What happens to your stakes then, DC? Why do we care?

I’ll tell you why we care, because people want Superman to be that vision of hope. He hasn’t been that guy yet, he’s not been the big blue cheese – and as much as I hate the wasted death of Superman, it’s necessary to establish a Superman we all need. Hope. That’s moving the DC film universe forward. That’s setting up a future I’m excited about. That’s progress, and well done.

My problems with the Justice League movie are, well, mostly, that The Avengers exists, and did it better. If you track the rate of live-action superhero films we’re getting, it sat at 2-3 a year for a long while, up until 2016 when it skyrocketed to 6 or so, then 7 this year, and 8 the next! Yes, there is an oversaturation of the market – and that’s okay. It means these films need to diversify, challenge themselves and be better. We’ve raised the bar, and sorry Justice League, I’ve seen it before. In fact, wasn’t transforming the planet literally the big bad of Man of Steel? And Suicide Squad? So 3 of your 5 films now have the same end goal? I mean, come on! I want more, audiences expect more, and if we’re getting new and different and exciting films like Deadpool, Wonder Woman, Logan and Thor: Ragnarok, then why should you expect audiences to come watch something they’ve seen already? I’m not saying don’t make Justice League, I’m saying find what makes the Justice League unique – and work with that.

Ironically, whilst every DC fan boy is screaming about how weak the Marvel villains are, DC delivers the worst of them all. Steppenwolf, the boring, bland CGI whatever. Where the film really needs help – is with the mandated under two hour run time. If it managed to come in at say, two and a half? We might’ve had a semi-decent villain, and a much better film. It’s extremely jumpy early on and at no point does it stop to breathe – it just barrels through it’s story like a freight train trying to get into the station before the executives check their watches at 2 hours on the dot.

And an accurate reflection of the average to decent film would be the box office receipts. No, a $93 million domestic opening weekend is nothing to be shy about – unless your budget is somewhere in the vicinity of $300 million and every previous film in your franchised opened bigger than you. Every. Single. One. So what does that mean going forward? Well, Aquaman is already shot and in the can, coming out late 2018. Shazam and Wonder Woman 2 both have fairly recent announcements, so I wouldn’t count on anything too bad happening to those. What I want to see though, are small, more character driven, story driven films, not huge spectacles. And ironically, that’s what the DC film universe needs! Tighten the purse strings, give me a $50 mil Batman flick, an $80 mil Flash movie, then let’s talk about where the DC films are going. Because I’m sorry Warner Bros., but if you spend $300 million on a film and the green screen looks that bad – it’s not the spectacle that’s your strong suit right now.

Justice League is worth watching to be part of the conversation. Justice League is worth watching if you’re a superhero fan. Justice League is worth your attention if DC picks up their act, and moving forward implements the changes we’ve seen slowly making their way through the film slate. I’m very interested to see where these characters go from here, and it might not be perfect, but if they play their cards right, we could yet all be in – for Justice League 2.

Justice League released in Australian cinemas on November 15, 2017.

Justice League
3 Our Score
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Pros
- Characters - Humour - Helps DC film universe overall
Cons
- Weak villain - Film has no time to breathe - CGI was sub-par
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As the website founder, innovator and owner of www.screenscoop.com, Kosta Sakellariou is the primary event correspondent for all Sydney based red carpet events. His infatuation and 6th sense instinct for identifying the latest film news have lead to the creation of ScreenScoop, which strives to report, inform and entertain fans who share this same passion around the globe. Get in the loop with #ScreenScoop

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