‘Justice League’ review

Justice League

Justice League stars Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Superman and Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. Joining them are Jason Mamoa as Arthur Curry/Aquaman, Ray Fisher as Victor Stone/Cyborg, and Ezra Miller as Barry Allen/The Flash.

The film is directed by Zack Snyder from a screenplay by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon. Justice League hits cinemas on November 17th 2017 from Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment.

Synopsis

Fuelled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Supermans selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to find and recruit a team of metahumans to stand against this newly awakened threat. But despite the formation of this unprecedented league of heroes – Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash – it may already be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.

Review

Walking out of the cinema following our first viewing of Justice League there was one thought in my mind: how much I actually love these characters. The second thought? What the hell was up with Henry Cavill’s face? But more on that in a moment.

Justice League is one of the most enjoyable yet sloppily made films of the modern era. It’s edges are at times so rough that it threatens to derail the show. But actually the end result is a heartwarming, fist-bumping ride through the DC Universe.

Normally in these reviews I would start with the positives but for once I’m going to start with the drawbacks because let’s face it that is what you are here to read.

Yes, Henry Cavill sported a moustache for the reshoots of this film. If producer Charles Roven is correct in his observation that 15-20% of this film is made of reshoots then most of that must have been scenes featuring Cavill. Nearly every shot in which he appears features a CGI upper lip which varies from passable to WTF in quality. It’s distracting but does not ruin the film. Look for it to be at its worst during the cornfield scene if you want your viewing experience distracted.

The pacing of Justice League is sometimes a little off. Much of the opening 40-50mins is quite disparate.  Each member of the League is introduced via stories which don’t segue for some time. Though each works individually, some more than others, there’s a lack of connective tissue. But once the team comes together on the rooftop of the Gotham Police Department the film hits its stride.

There’s no escaping that Steppenwolf is a giant CGI villain. I felt he was well rendered, particularly in closeup shots. He suffers from the usual over fluidity in the mouth which really betrays his computer generated origin. Whilst his rendering is at times impressive his presence in the film is not. Prior to seeing the film I had hoped for a foreboding villain who would raise the stakes in terms of tension. Now having seen the film I (mostly) prefer what we got instead.

Making Steppenwolf take a back seat to the heroes was a great choice. The film functions much better as a story of these character intersecting for the first time and forming the inevitable team. What doesn’t work is diluting his story to make it more palatable to the general audience. His appearance is generic and brings little to the overall film.

That leads in to my two biggest criticisms of Justice League : the story and some of the reshot scenes. The story is too simple. Undoubtedly a reaction to the complaints Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was too difficult to follow. With Joss Whedon retooling the film Steppenwolf’s true backstory of the comics is jettisoned. Darkseid is mentioned only once and I don’t recall hearing the name Apokolips at all. Both remain heavily alluded to like unspoken nods for comics fans to pick up on.

We may never be clear on how much of the film is Whedon’s and how much belongs to original director Zack Snyder. There were no full scenes which stood out as reshoots only small moments in existing scenes. The most obvious being when Bruce Wayne meets Arthur Curry in Iceland. As the camera moves between closeups Ben Affleck’s face and beard both change repeatedly. There are also new shots of Ezra Miller inserted in to some scenes.

This leads to obvious green screen moments as new shots are “seamlessly” inserted in to pre-existing sets and locations. This is where the film is at its weakest. These moments are sparse but littered throughout the film. Going back to watch the first footage from Comic Con 2016 and the first full trailer it’s clear just how much has changed.

None of these things ruined the film for me. They are just small niggles in an otherwise exciting patchwork. There’s also a great many positives to Justice League.

Ezra Miller is a fantastic Barry Allen/Flash. His comedic moments add a great awkward humour to the film. Between falling on Wonder Woman to the moment a certain returning character spots him in the speed force his facial expressions and dialogue add a lot to proceedings. I’ve found a new favourite Flash.

Jason Momoa is quite the dude. Aquaman is the character I know the least about and had the least preconceptions of. What I found was an enjoyable performance from a surprisingly compelling actor. His one moment of weakness provides both a great insight in to his character and one of the films biggest laughs. I can’t wait to see what Momoa pulls off in his solo adventure next year.

Ray Fisher’s Cyborg feels the most undercooked of the heroes. Though his backstory is discussed the most it seems the most heavily edited on screen. There’s an air of moody teenager but much like Momoa as Aquaman, Fisher is surprisingly compelling to watch. I spent most of the film longing for him to say ‘boo-yah’ and I wasn’t disappointed!

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and Ben Affleck as Batman are two of the most developed characters in DC Films at this stage. Batman’s opening sequence in Gotham is outstanding. I challenge any Batman fan to not be on the edge of their seat watching Batman the Animated Series almost come to life. Affleck’s Bruce Wayne is still quite weary bu it never comes off as an uninspired portrayal.

Gadot brings all the star power of her solo Wonder Woman adventure and does her best to lighten the mood. I failed to pick up on any flirtation between Bruce and Diana. All I found was a warm friendship which helped cement the League as a real team. Her fight scenes are some of the films best.

The chemistry between the League members is excellent. Say what you will about this film but it gets its heroes right and the interplay between them is great. It’s a shining example of DC Films understanding their characters and how to translate them to the big screen. If they can fix the issues around them then the universe truly has a solid grounding for success.

Now SPOILERS Henry Cavill is *FINALLY* the Superman we’ve been hoping he would be. He looks great minus the CGI lip. The colours of his suit are spot on. He smiles. He cracks jokes, uses his freeze breath AND the film ends with a classic Superman moment. It’s outstanding to see Cavill get to complete the story which started in Man of Steel. This has clearly been a long game for him and going forwards we have a great Superman to lead the League.

Supporting players J.K. Simmons, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons and Diane Lane are all excellent. Simmons in particular feels ripped straight from the pages of DC Comics. Lois Lane is a little wasted but still has a short arc which helps involve Martha Kent in the story.

There are still a couple of surprises that Justice League has up its sleeve. We won’t spoil the mid and spot credit scenes but both are excellent in their own way. The second causing a HUGE cheer from the crowd. The other surprise comes during a flashback to Steppenwolf’s first attempt to take the Earth.

It’s only a short sequence in this version of the film but still packs a huge punch. Particularly for DC Comics fans. The additional characters shown in this sequence blows the DC Universe open in a great way and it a great example of how Justice League caters to the comic book reader in the audience.

CGI is on the whole pretty good. There are moments where the film verges on being video game like in quality but it never drives to distraction. Cyborg looks better than his appearance in the trailers. The new red sky (take note DC fans) and other additions to the Russian scenes lift these scenes beyond a generic final fight sequence. The CGI is truly at its low point with Henry Cavill’s lip.

Costumes are great. We’ve seen Batman and Wonder Woman before, there are little changes to them. Batman’s new armour is barely noticeable on film like it is in photos. Even his new shades are a non-issues. Flash’s costume looks great. All the talk of him having a second suit never materialises in this cut of the film. I would definitely pick his costume as my favourite. Momoa’s armour appears very oceanic fitting both the tone of the film and the characters origin.

Danny Elfman’s score is superb. I’ve long been a fan of his so to hear his Batman theme back on the big screen is exhilarating. Incorporating the John Williams Superman theme was also a clever idea albeit a controversial one. As a fan of film score in general I fall firmly on the side of this being a success. There’s also room in the film for Wonder Woman’s new theme and a call back to the music of Man of Steel.

Verdict

Justice League is rough around the edges but manages to evoke the heart of the team which lies at its core with near perfect precision. Whilst its characters are a success its story and its villain remain generic and undercooked but never to the point of distraction. A step in the right direction for DC Films.

7/10

Checkout our YouTube playlist for Justice League below! (AppleNew users click the link)

About Neil Vagg 892 Articles

Neil is the GYCO Editorial Chief. He has a BA in Film & Tv and an MA in Scriptwriting; he currently works 9-5 as an office manager and 5-9 as a reviewer/web designer. He has been subscribing to comics for around nine years but has been reading them as long as he can remember.

Favourite comics: Batman; Nightwing, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and All New X-Men

Favourite films: Batman (any apart from & Robin); Star Trek Generations, Underworld, Beetlejuice

Favourite TV shows: Fringe; Buffy, Arrow, TBBT, Being Human UK and Star Trek TNG