I am going to open this mini-review of the Justice League movie with this statement, DC books were the first american superhero comic books I started collecting, it started on a rainy afternoon in the early 1990’s, in the Waterstones bookstore in the heart of Leicester. I picked up Justice League Europe (part of the Giffen era) and I was hooked. It was humor, super-heroics, paced action and sang with the joy of hope. I was hooked and spent a lot to time and money, back collecting Justice League, International, Europe and a few crossovers. So, it is safe to say I’ve been fan of DC for over 25 years.
It is no secret I am also a huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and when DC announced with their partnership with WB that they were starting to release live action movies, I was overjoyed. Up to this point, while lagging behind Marvel, DC had been pin-point perfect with their animated versions of the characters and surely the storytelling will carry across.
Then Man Of Steel (MoS) hit, just a slight tone shift in the wrong direction leaving me feel uncomfortable, where did the hope go? Batman v Superman (BvS) – what the hell is going on with the DCEU? Have they forgot that heroes, need to be heroes? Suicide Squad (SS), if they capture the humor and tone of the dirty dozen movies they couldn’t go wrong here… Yeah, I was horribly wrong.
Wonder Woman (WW), different director and suddenly the potential of the DCEU was realized, we finally had a hero being a hero, being inspirational and displaying that hope. This was the movie you could build these cinematic universe off and I was suddenly excited about Justice League – after all it was going to have the most iconic superheroes on the planet. How could they possible screw this up?
The Way Ahead Is Perilous
To say the Justice League movie was a troubled production is not a lie, rumors of bad audiences tests, executive displeasure and the firing of the Director Zack Snyder (months before the cover and sad news of his daughter dying), not only from the movie, but from the overseeing the entire DCEU, all lit up the various comic book dirt sheets. And finally WB threw money and the promise of a Batgirl movie to Joss Whedon to tidy up the entire mess. After that we heard nothing but extensive re-shoots, upset actors, and very loud wringing of hands from WB. Nothing but negative news from a movie, that had the potential to knock the Avengers off the top spot.
After all it is the Justice League!
After the bad experience of MoS, I decided I was not going to see any DCEU movies in the theater, so I didn’t miss anything with BvS or SS, but feel WW would have been even more fun seeing the sweeping camera on the big screen. However all this negativity surrounding Justice League did nothing to make me want to take a trip out to the movies to see it… So, we watched it on Digital Release through Vudu, which you will see from the review might have saved the movie.
All About Missed Opportunity
So, I sat down and watched Justice League (JL) hoping for the best, fearing for the worse and knowing we would get something in the middle of those two expectations. This movie is definitely the product of two directors with two very different styles and you can tell, it bounces between the dull grey Snyder motion, to Whedon brightness quips with no rhyme nor reason to it, this is the most glaring issue of this movie, it felt disconnected; fifteen minutes into the entire mess and I was pretty much done.
A lot of the movie felt like the actors were set individually against a green screen, fed lines and were not acting with any of the other players, and then plonked straight into scenes, there was nothing seamless about these re-shoots, you can materially tell the difference between Snyder and Whedon scenes.
Then we get to the CGI – all superhero movies are full of it nowadays. The MCU the objects look heavy and real, and even the effects in Ironman still hold-up over a decade later, sadly the DCEU under Snyder the objects all look like they were rendered in the 90’s. Thankfully halfway through the movie Vudu had a streaming problem and switched from HD to SD, which instantly improved the effects tenfold – Cyborg started to look real, Steppinwolf stopped looking like the end boss of a Legend Of Zelda game (okay, maybe not all that much)
Now effects are not normally a thing you talk about if the story is good, after all WW worked in-spite of the dire Aries effects, not because of them, but the story was a bit of a narrative mess. How did Bats have a beard here, then not a beard here, then another beard here? Thankfully we were not subjected to the dream within a dream schtick of BvS. It felt Justice League was the best movie they could make out of what they had, without having to re-shoot the entire movie.
The overall result of this DC blockbuster, was an okay superhero movie – but we don’t want okay in the tent pole movie, we want spectacular! We can forgive okay in solo-hero movies, but you get the greatest, most recognizable superheroes in one movie, at one time and you just make okay… Something has gone wrong. Do WB and the show runners at DCEU not know how to make a superhero movie?
My take away from this mess is;
- Barry was fun (felt more Wally than Barry though)
- Arthur is now been cast as a hard-drinking bad ass, and the fact Aquaman is now an alcoholic still doesn’t make the character all that interesting
- Victor suffered from poor cgi, but the character was cool, a testimony to the actor, not the horrid effect he was covered in
- Bruce still isn’t Batman, but at least someone figured out that a human being wants to avoid getting hit, and can’t be a tank
- Diana was another high-point, although the camera was fixated with her ass
- Clark finally got to be Superman (but with a muppet mouth)
The motherbox lore is all completely wrong, and might lock out all the cool stuff that is in the New Gods saga. Steppinwolf might have been better being a little more human in appearance, and have a better motivation, even if it is Daddy issues – than just being upset he didn’t manage to conquer Earth the first time around. The movie is supposed to foreshadow Darkseid, but the hodge-podge nature of the story and the way the New Gods have been shown may have stolen the menace from this villain. And would it have hurt them to make the Javelin, look like the bloody Javelin.
To sum up, Justice League is another DCEU missed opportunity, another also-run, when it could have been a contender.
What Is Next?
I am not a bean counter at DCEU, I know JL has caused seismic shift in the production teams running this part of DC/WB, as all but one of these movies has made their expected money in the theaters. I also know WB were expecting Avengers money with the JL and are very upset they didn’t hit that target. There is still noise about other movies being made, but I think a lot of these are going to be just noise now after JL. I cannot figure out why it is so hard to make these movies, the animated features and award-winning TV shows have demonstrated how to tell stories using these heroes. Follow what has gone before, drop this stupid grimtone and MCU will really have competition.
It simply ain’t that hard.
This is one DC fan who is again disappointed with what is happening with our heroes.