This long anticipated movie ten years in the making has finally hit the cinemas across Australia and the question on everyones lips, ‘Did he finally do it? Did Zack Snyder get his ducks in a row and actually produce a film that would by and large please everyone?’
The short answer seems to be, no.
That’s not to say, that it wasn’t an enjoyable romp. This reviewer had a ball for the most part and I believe that most comic fans and young people new to the DCEU will find just as much to get excited about. But high brow film critics and anyone looking for the subtlety of the Nolan Dark Knight trilogy will be left severely wanting.
Justice League IS about fun and adventure. Rather than letting its individual members spend all their time brooding, the movie spends a considerable amount of time by bringing together its newest parts. The Flash – Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), a zippy wisenheimer wreathed in lightning. Aquaman – Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), an underwater champion with a chest covered in muscles and tattoos. Finally, Cyborg – Victor Stone (Ray Fisher), a machine man built from metal, exotic alien energy with a serious attitude.
Just like the ensemble cast onscreen, the behind the scenes action was apparently just as crowded with not one, but two directors overseeing the production. After Zac Snyder bowed out with most of the shooting completed due to personal issues, fans were sympathetic upon hearing the news. Furthermore, relieved to hear that veteran superhero franchise journeyman Joss Whedon was on board to pick up where Zack left off. He immediately fired composer, Junkie XL and brought in Danny Elfman to intoduce a more ‘classic’ sound to the proceedings.
Both the original musical scores of 1989’s Batman and the early Superman films were referenced to thrilling effect – for those who remember them. While Wonder woman’s scenes stuck to the theme of Hans Zimmer, who so masterfully introduced her solo title. Just as in that film every scene she graced was elevated by her presence. Every smirk and twinkle of the eye was delivered right on point.
A slightly forced ‘romance’ element between Batman and Diana Prince only served to make Bruce Wayne look like an embarrassed teenager. As Wonder Woman gliding effortlessly past his almost Hugh Grant-esque verbal fumbling. The real heart wrenching moments were supposed to be between Superman and Lois Lane. Their reunion did have its touching moments but I personally found more pathos in the relationship between Barry Allen and his imprisoned father.
In fact, that dysfunctional dynamic is part of the only real character arc in the entire film. The Flash, much like Cyborg only seems to be learning the full extent of his powers as he goes and by the denouement is a lot more confident both as a young man and a superhero.
In contrast to his fellow heroes from start and finish, the story has no gradual realisations about their place in the world or how they need to change to become better more well rounded people. They arrive and depart fully formed with only Cyborg having a brief internal struggle before rapidly becoming the team hacker. Aquaman plays a stereotypical, surly surfer who routinely swigs whiskey from the bottle before diving into 20 foot swells and shooting off into the depths of the ocean like some kind of long haired torpedo.
Superman does have a bit of a ‘Pet Cemetery’ moment but going into details would be a bit of a spoiler and either way, someone gives him a Snickers soon enough. Batman drops the occasional quip to lighten the mood, thanks to Joss Whedons script tweaks. But largely plays the same grumpy old man with the weight of the world on him than he did in Batman Versus Superman.
Critical response has been a mixed response at best, but there seems to be a consensus that Affleck phoned it in, Ezra shined and Gal Gadot shone brightest of all. Let’s hope Ben can dig deep and surprise everyone when he reprises his role in the forthcoming ‘Batman’ films coming soon late next year or early 2019.
With The Flash coming out in March and Aquaman a few months later, it’s going to be a busy year for the DCEU. I will be hoovering up as much cinematic content as they can put out but I really hope they can find a more consistent tone and start to build the character’s back story a little more. While they are all hugely popular in the comics world – outside of that only Batman is a known quantity – I’m not sure releasing the team film before the mainstream audience got to know them was a gamble that paid off.
I have at least read most of the comics and seen some of the television shows, both cartoon and on CW. However, even I found it hard to get too emotionally invested in the new guys. Given the relatively short running time of just less than two hours, they could only do so much to connect the audience with the heroes. Personally, I prefer the Marvel strategy of building a relationship with the main players first before unleashing them all at once onto the big screen.
I’m also a huge fan of how Marvel successfully integrates their TV properties into the cinematic universe. As most fans seem to agree with a lot of consternation over the Flash being played by a new actor. Thankfully, Ezra Miller really does ‘pop’ on screen: both due to his much more battle ready and colourful suit and his sparkling charm. More Ezra! If there is an upside, it allows DC to tell the same stories in a different way with a bigger budget.
Much like how the unfortunately fractured Marvel universe (FOX owning the X-Men, Fantastic Four etc) has the upside that certain films that would not get made by Disney like ‘Deadpool’ and ‘Logan’ end up greenlit by a much braver boardroom over at FOX.
With DC keeping the cinema universe a closed loop, it will hopefully keep the story line easier to follow. I’m really looking for the big pay off with Darkseid showing up in the next Justice League adventure. It sure won’t be hard to top the rather cliché and bland Steppenwolf villain of this installment.
So the verdict?
All up a solid romp with some familiar faces and a few fresh ones in the mix.
The sudden last minute director change does not go unnoticed with their markedly different styles. Occasionally clashing but overall the experience was a positive one. It didn’t completely bowl me over like Wonder Woman but the fast paced action, steady flow of witty banter and self knowing winks to the audience hit all the right marks for me.
A strong recommend with some room for improvement.