Justice League

Posted: December 4, 2017 in Film reviews
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Directed by Zack Snyder. Starring Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa and Ray Fisher.

Ok first a little spoiler warning. I’m going to talk openly about one element of Justice League. I doubt it’s a big secret giving the publicity and casting information that’s out there, but if you really want to go into JL completely blind you might want to skip this review until after you’ve seen the film.

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“I’m pretty sure Captain America dropped that shield.”

In the aftermath of Superman’s death the world is in mourning, and humanity seems to have lost hope. Into this void an ancient force of evil named Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarán Hinds) returns. Steppenwolf was defeated and exiled from Earth thousands of years ago, but now has returned to gather three Mother Boxes, powerful artefacts that, if combined, will give him the power to take over the world.

Sensing the oncoming storm Bruce Wayne (Affleck) and Diana Prince (Gadot) try to form a team of superheroes to defeat Steppenwolf, but this proves easier said than done. Arthur Curry (Momoa), also known as the Aquaman, has no interest in the world of men. Barry Allen (Miller), the Flash, is only interested in proving his imprisoned father’s innocence and the Cyborg Victor Stone (Fisher) is struggling to adapt to his new powers after being cybernetically rebuilt following a car accident.

As Bruce and Diana struggle to put a team together, Steppenwolf begins acquiring the Mother Boxes. With the world on the brink of destruction Bruce Wayne suggests a controversial course of action that involves the return of Earth’s greatest hero, but will he be the man he used to be, or will he prove as much of a threat as Steppenwolf?

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“Put the trident down, all I said was that I thought something smelt fishy.”

And DC’s attempt to catch up with Marvel continues as they provide the DC version of Avengers Assemble only, and let’s get this out of the way right off the bat, nowhere near as good. This film had a troubled shoot, and when Snyder had to stand down due to truly horrible personal circumstances, Joss Whedon (who, remember, wrote and directed both Avengers films) came on board to finish off post production work, which entailed him acting as uncredited director on the reshoots. He’d already been working on the script to such an extent that he’d got a writing credit, being bought in to provide a touch of levity to Snyder’s darker tale. Looking at the finished film it’s often very easy to see the bits Snyder did and the bits Whedon did, and it looks like substantial work was done to the film during post production. $25 million was spent on reshoots (going by Wikipedia the average for this kind of film might be $6-10 million) and infamously because Henry Cavill was already working on another film and had a moustache they had to digitally remove it!

When remains is a film that tonally is inconstant to say the least, and let’s be clear it isn’t a good film, and yet by the end I was kinda enjoying it and, though hard to say for sure, I’m sure a lot of this was down to Whedon. It’s far from the best DC film—Wonder Woman is clearly the best by a mile and Man of Steel is second; in my opinion somewhat underrated—but by the same token compared to the godawful mess that Suicide Squad was, or the turgid drudge of Batman Vs Superman its ok. Damning with faint praise there.

It isn’t helped by the need for Bruce and Diana to search out each hero initially. Yet again you see the shortcuts DC have to make and realise how much grunt work was done by those end credit scenes were Sam Jackson would rock up and talk to a hero about The Avengers. Marvel’s wider storyline grew organically, DC’s feels incredibly forced.

A lame villain with an army of CGI insects doesn’t help. Which is no disrespect to Hinds whose voicework is good, but Steppenwolf is just another generic ancient evil with a turgid backstory, much like Apocalypse in the last X-Men movie. He just never comes across as a threat. Oh for a Loki!

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Everyone agreed the heroes didn’t look quite as cool and imposing in the daylight

The turning point for the film comes with (spoiler!) Superman’s resurrection, though if you imagined he wouldn’t be back almost immediately, well I have a bridge I’d like to sell you). Cavill has his detractors but I think he’s a great Superman, especially when given the chance to be noble and, well, super, and the film noticeably lifts when he arrives. The initial confrontation post his resurrection is probably the best part of the film, and there’s a wonderful visual gag featuring Superman and Flash that’s almost worth the price of admission alone.

As Diana Gadot feels extremely comfortable now, this is her third outing as Wonder Woman and one can see her in the role for years to come. Affleck for me is a good Batman and a good Bruce Wayne, and possibly the only actor to feel comfortable in both roles. Which doesn’t mean he’s the best Bruce or the Best Bats, just maybe the best Bruce and Bats. Thankfully he isn’t required to be as sociopathic here as he was in BvsS, and he gets some drily humorous lines. As Aquaman Momoa pretty much just has to look imposing and channel his inner surfer dude, but he comes into his own a little towards the end. Given I thought Cyborg might be the weak link Fisher brings enough to the role that he felt as much a member of the team as anyone else. Rounding out the league is Miller as Flash and I’m a little torn. On the one hand he gives a funny, engaging performance, I just felt that he was the butt of everyone’s jokes a little too often. Less might be more next time out because he is very good.

Completing the cast are some great actors who get somewhat short-changed. JK Simmonds as Jim Gordon never really connects, and Jeremy Irons as Alfred doesn’t get nearly enough screen time. The real waste however is Amy Adams. She’s a fab actor but she’s required to do very little here aside from look sad or lovingly at Clark. It’s a real shame given she’s probably the best actor in the damn movie and she’s laden with terrible dialogue.

As I say it’s easy to see where Whedon’s hand is at work (it’s the parts where people sound vaguely like human beings…er, or at least Kryptonians.)

Variable in tone, with lousy villains with a paint by numbers plot, far too much CGI and way, WAY too much slow motion, and, after the good work of Wonder Woman a return to a more lascivious take on the Amazonian superhero—at times the camera seems to be permanently attached to Gadot’s bum, although to be fair we do get gratuitous shots of Cavill and Momoa with their shirts off so fair’s fair I suppose and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like Wonder Woman’s posterior, we just didn’t need to see quite so much of it.

The action swings from terrible to quite good, and the dialogue is similarly all over the place. There is a nice bit where Bruce points out the curious contrast between himself and Clark which probably deserves to be in a better film.

But again, I have to stress that the Justice League themselves are all engaging, it’s just a shame they’re stuck in a film that’s required to do so much heavy lifting because DC continue to play catch up. Hopefully the groundwork laid here will lead to a more enjoyable Justice League 2, let’s just hope it’s Whedon rather than Snyder who’s at the reins.

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Ben got a little miffed when Gal kept asking for Matt Damon’s phone number…

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