Review: Justice League (2017) — An enjoyable but forgettable mess

Justice League group photo movie still

Justice League

Movie review

Directed by Zack Snyder (Batman v Superman, Watchmen, 300) and screenwritten by Chris Terrio (Batman v Superman, Argo) and Joss Whedon (Marvel’s Avengers films, Toy Story), Justice League is the fifth instalment in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) and is basically DC’s very own Avengers-like movie featuring an ensemble of superheroes such as Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg, just to name a few that’s revealed in the trailers. The story takes place after the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) where Superman sacrificed his own life to defeat Doomsday while Lex Luthor awakens an alien threat — Steppenwolf and his army of Parademons. The world’s greatest superheroes are assembled to save the world and stop Steppenwolf from gathering the powerfully dangerous ancient objects called Mother Boxes.

With the 2-hour max running time mandate from Warner Bros. Pictures, the film sacrifices character development and depth for a very simple just-team-up-and-beat-the-bad-guy movie. The best characters are still the ones who’ve already had films focused on them in the DCEU — Bruce Wayne / Batman (Ben Affleck), Diana Prince / Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and Clark Kent / Superman (Henry Cavill). The young awkward comic relief Barry Allen / The Flash (Ezra Miller) is probably the coolest and funniest among the three newly introduced superheroes while the other two, Arthur Curry / Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Victor Stone / Cyborg (Ray Fisher), can’t help but to be only background characters who occasionally do or say something cool when convenient. I’m still unsure what exactly is Aquaman’s unique ability outside of the water and what personality is Cyborg actually going for. There’s just not enough time to give all these characters the proper development they need.

The antagonist Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) is basically just a CG villain who’s just big, strong and has an army of disposable flying bug-like soldiers. He’s definitely one of the worst superhero movie villain ever. And after all the hype of J.K. Simmons getting jacked for his role as Commissioner James Gordon, he only appears in like three very brief scenes, two of them were already shown in the trailers. I’m sure the film would’ve been better if it didn’t have to rush the pace and force everything into 2 hours. There are probably loads of deleted scenes that would help boost the sale of the Bluray when it releases.

justice league movie still flash batman wonder woman

There are plot similarities to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The Mother Boxes are basically like Infinity Stones and the upcoming supervillain Darkseid is like Thanos. Also, Bruce Wayne faces similar personal issues as Tony Stark with guilt and powerlessness. And so he recklessly uses a Mother Box for something (not going to spoil it) and for that, there should’ve been a huge consequence but there isn’t, which makes the story even more weightless and overly crowd-pleasing. This part actually feels like a plot hole as the superheroes risk exposing the Mother Box instead of just hiding or protecting it from Steppenwolf’s reach. What’s the point of assembling this team again?

Batman v Superman has extremely exciting scenes (Wonder Woman’s first suited appearance and the best Batman fight scene ever) and memorable dumb moments (Bruce Wayne’s crossfit montage and Martha!). For better or worse, Justice League has neither. Despite how brainless and unoriginal the plot is, the film is undeniably enjoyable and never boring. The performances by the cast are commendable. Almost every dialogue scenes featuring the superheroes (and Alfred Pennyworth [Jeremy Irons]) are entertaining and captivating. The character moments are more engagingly fun than the action. And I can really feel that Snyder (and/or probably Whedon who did the reshoots and writing after Snyder stepped down during post-production) listened to feedbacks and made it more humourous and light than his previous DCEU films. I did laugh at many of these intentionally funny moments even though some might seem out of place at times.

The visuals are good albeit the presence and movements of Steppenwolf’s CGI can be unconvincing at times and most of the action sequences are a CGI-fest. The score by Danny Elfman is fantastic, especially when that iconic theme from Tim Burton’s Batman comes up. There are plenty of easter eggs too that would make the comic fans go gaga.

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Post-credit scene: Both the mid-credit and post-credit scenes are worth waiting for if you’re a hardcore fan of the comics (psst… new character shows up).

What I would’ve named the film: “Justice League Can’t Do Without Superman”

To watch in 3D? The film was only converted into 3D format in post-production. I watched it in IMAX 3D but never felt like it was three dimensional. The audio was powerful through. The whole hall vibrated when something explodes or crashes on screen. The sound was mixed with IMAX 6-Track, Dolby technology and others.

Malaysian censorship: As it is rated P13, all profanities are muted. Even mild ones like “son of a bitch” and “asshole” (or at least that’s what I guess they said).

Verdict: Not great but at least it’s easily better than Suicide Squad (2016).

Rating: 3 / 5

Justice League movie poster malaysiaBased on: DC Comics’ “Justice League” by Gardner Fox

Genre: Superhero
Running Time: 120 minutes
Director: Zack Snyder
Screewriters: Chris Terrio Joss Whedon
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Jeremy Irons, JK Simmons

Malaysia Release Date: 16 November 2017
Rated: P13
Local Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures Malaysia
Production: DC Films, RatPac Entertainment, Atlas Entertainment, Cruel and Unusual Films

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