Review: Justice League fills you with the same joy as a Saturday morning cartoon
Oh, boy. It’s finally here. Regardless of what you think of the DC Extended Universe-films, let us take a moment to reflect on this historic moment. Yes, there have been some big bumps along the say – even if I rather enjoyed Batman V Superman – but those days are gone. Wonder Woman was an incredible and empowering achievement, and now the rest of the league is “All in” as the posters say.
This is as simple and comicbook-y a story as you can get. An evil alien being is coming to Earth because why not, and heroes need to rise to the occasion and save the day. Writer Chris Terrio – with some help from Joss Whedon, who came over from Marvel after Zack Snyder had to take a personal leave – knows you have seen this story before. The overserious tone and epic themes of Batman V Superman have been replaced by the simple and gleeful tones of a Saturday morning cartoon. The result is a simple, but highly entertaining comicbook movie that will take you back to the days when you would sit in front of the TV and watch the Justice League animated show while eating cereal.
The critical response to Batman V Superman also led to a mandatory running time of under 2 hours, and it shows that this wasn’t the original idea. The first act of the movie may feel a bit rushed, as we jump from scene to scene to get over character introductions as fast as The Flash can run. While it didn’t bother me, I could still feel like there was some connective tissue missing from certain scenes. But it is not a huge problem, because the characters make you forget any issues this film may have.
You have dreamt of this movie for years if not decades, and I am happy to report this is the perfect portrayal of the Justice League. We already knew that Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot were incredible as Batman and Wonder Woman, but Justice League continues to make them grow as consequences from their previous movies haunt them. Regret and fear are huge themes in the movie. Bruce Wayne regrets failing Superman and believing him to be the enemy, and Diana Prince regrets having abandoned the world after the events of Wander Woman.
We first meet Jason Momoa, who gives us the best possible live-action Aquaman, and who rivals Wonder Woman as the most fleshed-out character. From the moment he appears on screen you know this is not the cheerful blonde dude who talks to fish from the Super Friends cartoons. This Aquaman doesn’t care about you or your stupid league of justice, for his swagger alone could take down all the gods in the pantheon. While Bruce Wayne flies all the way to ask him for help, he’s only interested in drinking his dark past away before taking a swim in ice cold water like it’s nothing. This guy’s definitely having the most fun, and while he doesn’t really talk to fish, he does ride on top of the Batmobile with a grin on his face while yelling “yeah!”.
Then we have Ezra Miller as the fastest man alive. He’s the comic-relief of the group, and he runs along with it. He feels like the most Whedonesque character because of his quick and witty dialogue, and it suits him. He’s the only one who actually wants to be in the league, and – like the fans watching the movie – he can’t contain his excitement at meeting Wonder Woman and Batman or contain his urge to touch everything in the Batcave. Miller has mastered the art of playing weirdoes and outsiders, and he steps into the Flash costume as a second skin.
That leaves us with Ray Fisher’s Cyborg, who gets the least interesting scenes while also getting the most character development. He’s trying to cope with being a sort of Frankenstein’s Monster, while learning to embrace his new abilities.
By trying to be as Marvel-like as possible, Justice League does suffer the same problems as it’s counterpart. The villain Steppenwolf is as generic as it gets, a CGI giant whose sole purpose is to be a torn in the Justice League’s side with no purpose or personality. The movie isn’t really interested in him, as it’s the heroes who are the sole focus. Still, the CGI is very distracting, as Steppenwolf looks like a video game character from 20 years ago. And it isn’t only with him that the CGI fails. There’s a lot of CGI in this film and 90% of it looks awful, from Cyborg who is mostly CGI, to action scenes with digital doubles.
Justice League doesn’t have the level of imagery or cinematography Batman V Superman had, but it still looks great. The production design is impressive and Gotham city hasn’t looked this good since Tim Burton’s version. While the lack of Junkie XL and Hans Zimmer is sad, Danny Elfman does a good job with the soundtrack, and it’ impossible not to smile when the classic Superman theme by John Williams starts playing.
Justice League looks just like a Zach Snyder movie, but sounds like Joss Whedon, for better or worse. The impressive action is there, but the witty dialogue adds a welcomed level of levity into the movie. While the movie does have issues, the characters make them all go away in the most entertaining 2 hours you’ll spend this month.