Justice League review: Don’t Justify

Superhero Movie Disclaimer:

  • Until one of them pays me, I have zero preference between Marvel and DC
  • I think superhero movies in general are kinda dumb, with the exception of masterpieces, like The Dark Knight, and Thor 2

 

When I woke up one day to articles declaring that the “EU was in trouble,” I figured Spain had seceded or something. Turns out they were talking about the DCEU, cause Justice League didn’t make a lot of money. In a way though, that’s almost worse.

 

Premise

 

Six dedicated cosplayers band together to try and stop a large alien man from using sparkly boxes to destroy the planet, or something.

 

Plot

 

The movie opens on someone’s snapchat story of Superman. We get a jarring cut into a series of gorgeous, completely nonsensical shots one after the other. There’s like a riot? And a monument? And a homeless man? I don’t even know.

 

Batman fights the older guy from Mindhunter on a roof. Because he’s a dick, he uses the guy as bait to attract some bug creature, who he then captures with a net. The bug creature explodes, leaving behind a trace of 3 cubes on the wall. Being the world’s greatest detective, Batman figures out that this somehow relates to Aquaman, and decides to go find him.

 

In the meantime, some Amish dudes try and blow up a bank because they don’t like technology, I guess? Wonder Woman (Diana Prince) comes in and throws the bomb out of the bank, thereby thwarting the plot. The head terrorist attempts to kill the hostages with a gun, but for some reason spends ten minutes lining up a shot instead of just spraying bullets into the mass of people in front of him. This gives Wonder Woman enough time to come in and reflect all the bullets cause she’s really strong and stuff.

 

Batman finds Khal Drogo in some bar in like Wales or Kazakhstan. He demands to know about the boxes and asks him to join his squad. Aquaman responds to this by jumping into the ocean and swimming away.

 

We’re introduced to Barry Allen (The Flash), whose father is in prison. We also meet Cyborg, a genetically enhanced male in his 20’s, who is apparently not an Olympic athlete.

 

Meanwhile on Amazon(.com) a bunch of extras from 300 stand around a box. A beam of light shoots down and we’re introduced to our villain, Steppenwolf. Stepp Throat fights a bunch of Amazons and eventually obtains the box, before shooting back up into the sky.

 

Fun movie facts: Steppenwolf, whose name is reference to the Herman Hesse novel, shows the true intent of Zach Snyder’s movies: an abstract expression of German nihilistic philosophy.

 

There’s a similar scene in Atlantis, where Steppenwolf punches Aquaman and Aquaman’s girlfriend (who got like 2 minutes of screentime), and then steals another box from some mermaids. Bruce and Diana reunite in the batcave, where she (accompanied by random flashback-type scenes) explains that Steppenwolf is an alien who tries to find the three cubes to unite them and terraform planets into his home world. They agree to assemble a superhero crew to stop him. Batman finds and installs Adobe Flash, then gets in his batmobile (literally just a Mercedes) and drives away. Wonder Woman cybers with Cyborg through AOL messenger, and they meet IRL.

 

The group fights Steppenwolf in a sewer, where he breaks some shit and disappears again. Cyborg flies off to his father’s lab, where he retrieves the third cube. They dig up the body of Superman Clark Kent, and throw him in some murky krypton water. They drop the cube into the water and get The Flash to electrify it (the ‘ole toaster in the bathtub trick). Somehow, this revives Superman, who comes back to life and flies into the city. He fights off the other 5 Justice Leaguers, but becomes pacified when Amy Adams (Lois Lane) arrives and starts talking to him.

 

Supes flies Lois to his parents’ farm. We get a corny scene of them standing in a corn field (bravo, Zaddy), where they talk about feelings and stuff. Superman flies away to fight Steppenwolf.

 

The rest of the gang go over to Russia, where apparently Step Up 2 wants to begin the terraforming process. Batman destroys the force field around the city, and distracts Steppenwolf’s henchmen. The rest then go over to fight him, but are defeated one after the other. Superman shows up and punches Steppenwolf a few times, at which point he resigns and beams himself back up to his homeworld or whatever. Cyborg and Superman interrupt the cubes process, and the world is saved.

 

We get a shot of Wonder Woman at the aftermath of the bank scene from earlier. I didn’t understand this at all. Obviously the bank scene took place prior to Superman’s resurrection, given that the entire point was that Superman’s death made the world lose hope and purpose. But the way the scene was presented was to show that the heroes of the story continued to do heroic stuff after they defeated Steppenwolf. So which is it? Did the terrorist stuff happen after? That wouldn’t make any sense though. Whatever, it’s fine. Also we get a shot of Superman walking around the city in his “Clark Kent” costume, glasses and everything. This makes no sense either. Clark died at the same time Superman did, they had a burial and gravestone for him and all that shit. So how is he back now? Is no one going to ask? Does that, combined with his super obvious resemblance to Superman, not raise any sorts of suspicion? Whatever, it’s fine.

 

In the post credits scene, we see Jesse Eisenberg talking to Deathstroke about creating a league of their own. Obviously this is to set up a sequel, but I’m pretty optimistic, given that I can only think of one “league” worse than this movie.

 

Characters

 

There are only 7 characters in this movie who do literally anything, so I’ll just rank them.

 

  1. Steppenwolf

I know that Steppenwolf got a lot of hate, but I have to say that I think everyone’s being hypocritical. Consider that Steppenwolf’s plan (invade the world with alien creatures and take it over) is essentially identical to the plot from The Avengers. So I mean, he’s basically just a more attractive version of Loki.

Loki meme.png

My only complaint with Steppenwolf is that I feel as if the movie didn’t really do him justice (league). I guess he successfully beats up most of the main characters, but then he gets his ass handed to him by Superman. IMO, Steppenwolf should’ve pulled a Doomsday and killed all 6 members of the JL, only for them to get resurrected in the next movie. That’s how you set up a goddamn sequel (take notes, DC).  

 

  1. Cyborg

I came into this movie not expecting to like Cyborg that much (given that he’s an original character that’s never been in any DC media, except for Teen Titans). However, I actually really liked the character. Ray Fisher’s performance was good, pretty much everything he said and did was reasonable, and he was pretty funny. I also really liked his voice.

 

  1. The Flash

The Flash in this movie was supposed to be the comic relief, and overall I think Ezra Miller did do a good job with the character. I guess my only concern with the direction this movie took with Barry was that he was kinda… autistic? And I don’t mean that as an insult. He’s socially awkward, admittedly has no friends, and constantly fails to make eye contact with the other characters. Then again, I might just be projecting. Gotta say though, was digging his 12 monitor setup #BattlestationGoals.

 

  1. Aquaman

I do love me some Jason Momoa. I guess AM was supposed to be the “cool one” of the group, except in practice this was more or less Cyborg. He did look really dope, and I appreciated the introduction to the Atlanteans.

 

  1. Batman/Superman/ManMan/Wonder Woman

All of these characters were, to me, kinda eh. Performances were eh, dialogue was eh, their role in the story eh. They weren’t bad by any means, but I felt like everything they did and how they interacted was pretty much identical to Batman v Superman, albeit with slightly more humor.

 

Dialogue

 

The dialogue in this movie is roughly split along 3 lines:

 

Dialogue that’s actually good:

 

There was a surprisingly decent amount of solid one-liners or “witty banter” between the characters. Overall I was impressed with how generally decently written *parts* of Justice League were. My favorite line in the movie was when Wonder Woman tells Cyborg that he has gifts, and he replies with:

 

“If these are gifts, then why am I the one paying for them?” (Sounds kinda stupid in writing but Ray Fisher’s delivery was on point)

 

Dialogue that the writers thought was good/sounded cool, but wasn’t:

 

There were a lot of these in this movie. One example is when the Amazons are trying to light some warning beacon to alert everyone to Steppenwolf’s invasion. One of the Amazons says something along the lines of “but man (as in people) won’t understand it,” and the other responds with “man won’t, but she (Diana) will.” This line was stupid and reminded me that the entire Amazon subplot tends to be a DAE women in superhero movies???? circlejerk. Sorry DC, but Zaddy beat you to it.

 

Dialogue that I couldn’t decide whether was actually funny or just weird:

 

There’s like a scene where Lois is talking to Superman’s mother, and the mother says something like “he (Clark) always said you were the thirstiest young woman he knew.” So you know, take that as you will.

 

Cinematography/Visual Effects

 

You may have heard that this movie had some problems with reshoots, so I’ll give you the quick one-two. Basically, after Zaddy finished his masterpiece, the studio inexplicably brought in hack  Avengers director Joss Whedon to reshoot some scenes. This created a few problems, namely:

 

  1. Lip slip

 

Basically, after shooting Justice League the first time, Henry Cavill signed on to a different project (Mission Impossible), for which he was contractually obligated to grow and maintain a moustache. This meant that when he was called back in for reshoots, he couldn’t shave, meaning that they had to edit out his facial hair in post. I didn’t find the effect to be too noticeable, although there were a few shots in the movie (usually when he was facing the camera at an angle), where his lip looked like an amorphous blob.

 

But hey, at least we got this:

Image result for henry cavill mustache selfie

God he’s dreamy.

  1. Strobe Lights

 

Zack Snyder has a very… particular cinematographic style, typically involving a dark, grey color palette, and relatively dim lighting. Whedon, on the other hand, favors the Marvel method of colorful shot composition and bright, vibrant lighting. Because the reshoots were interspersed with the original shots that Zaddy filmed, this creates a constant back-and-forth where half the scenes are really dark, and half really bright. If this movie was all done by one director, I’d be willing to buy that this switching was done to show the divide between good and evil, a central theme of this movie probably. Unfortunately, this was done by two people who are basically polar opposites, so it’s very clear that whoever edited the movie was just working with a bunch of garbage that the studio demanded.

 

On top of that, the visual effects in this movie varied from decent to not good. An example of this was Cyborg. For the first half of the movie, when he was wearing his hoodie and only his face could be seen, he actually looked okay. However, after removing it and seeing his full body, he looked really, really dumb. The character design of Steppenwolf’s bug creatures was also very off-putting.

 

Tone

 

In addition to visuals, the reshoots made the tone of Justice League incredibly inconsistent. The movie bounced between dark and brooding, to fun and campy, and back again. From the film’s confusing opening shots, we can glean that there’s supposed to be some broader social commentary that the movie is trying to present. Thirty minutes later, we’re back to silly action and Ezra Miller talking about eating pizza. I’m not lobbying for either side: I think superhero movies can have poignant messages, or they can be schlock, both are perfectly acceptable. But when it’s clear that the filmmakers tried to shove both elements into this movie, it becomes difficult to take either part seriously.

 

Sound

 

Normally I don’t really notice music in movies at all, but Justice League made its sound choices obvious enough that it became hard to miss. For instance, in Wonder Woman’s introduction, when she’s seen standing on top of a statue, there’s a sharp shift in the music; from moody violins to her signature Hans Zimmer electric cello riff (banging percussion and all). This is consistent throughout: each “hero” has their own little theme that’s immediately cued when they appear on screen. While I don’t mind this use of music, I felt that sometimes it was a little too jarring, switching from whatever ambient score was playing into an immediate signature sound.

 

The sound design in this movie was alright, but had a few questionable choices. Every time The Flash activated the “speed force” and began to run fast, there was this weird stock electrical noise that sounded off. In addition, when Wonder Woman did pretty much anything with her sword there was the *shing* sound effect, as if she was unsheathing it. But she wasn’t. She was just waving it around. So why did it make that noise? Eh, who cares.

 

Conclusion

Justice League is basically the Marvel movie of DC movies. It tries to rekindle the dark Nolan magic of The Dark Knight trilogy, but has too many campy moments and brainless action scenes to really qualify into the same category. I guess I can give this movie props for being relatively short (unlike the 3 hours monstrosity masterpiece that was BvS). On the other hand, Zaddy will probably release a 6 hour long director’s cut in a few months, so I guess we have that to look forward to.

 

Good for: DC Fans

 

Bad for: DC Fans

 

Bod R8s: 4.5/8

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