By Andrew Jenck
**Spoilers to follow
Despite the anticipation of a Justice League movie, I find myself underwhelmed. The DC-shared universe seems to have problems both on and off camera. Warner Bros. was so confident that the first film to feature the two most iconic superheroes would be such a hit that its Avengers-style team-up movie was already in production while Dawn of Justice was in theaters with the same director, Zack Snyder, and co-writer, Chris Terrio. Only when that film underperformed and received mixed reactions (if we’re being generous) it prompted a chain of events to redirect efforts but sadly to no avail.
Justice League, though not quite the narrative disaster that Dawn of Justice was, is still a mess of a “film” comprised of boring characters, uninspired action schlock, forced one-liners, and a complete superficial feeling. In many respects, it’s cut from the same cloth as Attack of the Clones, pandering to its fan base in what they didn’t like while still missing the integrity of its source material. It is neither a Snyder or Whedon film but Warner Bros. film: a calculated, shallow product controlled by the studio meant to appease the wide masses while trying to fix the problems plaguing their other films.
It’s clear there’s been a lot of tampering with the footage and it only saturates the whole picture with the lighting a shading looking completely off. The film is not nearly as colorful as the promotional material — comprised of mostly oranges and browns to the point where it just looks dirty.
I find it ironic that fans of this series pride it as the edgier, riskier franchise compared to Marvel when the film is such a blatant rip-off of The Avengers; not just tonally but narratively. A pointy-helmet guy leads an army of disposable henchmen in the hunt for three magical cubes that will reshape the earth for his own purpose. This type of climax has been done in so many blockbusters nowadays that Justice League really needed to find a new take and they don’t. The villain Steppenwolf is easily the worst villain from both the Marvel and DC film franchises. His motivations are generic, his goals are unrelatable, and he is needlessly fully CGI so he looks straight from a video game.
Granted, bad effects, and a dull villain could all be forgiven if the film served as framework for fun character interactions to flesh out their relationships and characters, which Justice League falls flat in that regard. Most of the actors don’t share chemistry with one another, and the film is so rushed and straightforward in Closing-a-Portal Plot #∞ that it never allows the characters to breathe.
Rumors have been circulating that Ben Affleck wants to leave the franchise, and any doubt is erased from his boring performance as Batman. Cyborg is a boring brute, Aquaman reeks of being ashamed of its roots, and I have no idea how everyone at my screening laughed at the obnoxiousness of the Flash. Gal Gadot is still really good as Wonder Woman but doesn’t have a character this time.
While it is nice to see Henry Cavill play the more traditional Superman, the sudden change from dower to hopeful doesn’t feel earnest. He acted anything but the symbol of hope in his previous appearances. The ending tries to establish that it was all part of the plan to go from the grim to optimistic but feels so unearned.
I don’t entirely blame Warner Bros. for wanting to play it safe with this film, considering the liberties made with some of their past films didn’t pay off, and there’s nothing inherently wrong making a film accessible for all audiences. Many films that I like have done so. However, there’s a fine line between easily accessible and pandering that can end up alienating all audiences, which may be a factor in its underperformance at the box office. This film does not have the sensibilities of Logan, the sheer fun of Thor: Ragnarok, or even the sincerity of the franchise’s own Wonder Woman.
Despite this being my longest review, I did not hate Justice League, but I’m certainly disgusted in everything around it. It is a testament to how lack of franchise planning and only addressing the most vocal criticisms diminishes the quality of your products. Batman v. Superman left me confused, angry, depressed, and insulted. This just leaves me with a stone faced — almost no strong feelings about it whatsoever. Even with tamed expectations, it’s still disappointing to see such iconic characters together on screen to be underutilized and represented as pale imitations of their original counterparts. This material deserves better treatment, and you deserve better quality; skip it.