Justice League discards the brooding tone that has reigned supreme over the DCEU and trades it away for a much more light-hearted and simplistic storyline. But at what cost?
Justice League is director Zack Snyder’s attempt at bringing the legendary team of superheroes to the big screen. In this, these heroes band together to form a team to face the forces of darkness.
So, now that Justice League has arrived what might be my consensus? Well the most evident change this film has over all other DCEU films is its tone, as the franchise seems to be taking a softer and less complex approach to telling these stories. Whether it was Snyder, Whedon, or Warner Bros. decision to take a page out of the Marvel formula and aim for a formulaic and basic story-line is a mystery; some might argue it has become beneficial for the characters to see this change, others may believe it to be a cop-out – it is going to become highly debated among fans which is better in the long run. Overall the story certainly offers its share of jokes and punchlines with characters jumping in and out for quick quips, action remains consistent but nothing stays notably strong.
Ben Affleck returns as Batman and offers up a stronger performance than usual with some degree of humour and range, though many will argue his position as Batman has its ups and downs; he has definitely made improvements thus far. Gal Gadot is always one of the better parts of the DCEU and she offers what could be considered the emotional core of the group. Jason Momoa is arguably the better new character and his portrayal certainly drove home a lot of the comedic relief despite having the spotlight beaming down on Ezra Miller. As for Ezra Miller’s portrayal of the Flash – there were certainly problems there, and it’s not the fact that he doesn’t have the skill-set, it’s that his character came across as weird rather than funny, as many of the jokes that were attempted to be thrusted out of his character simply did not land.
On that subject, Ciarán Hinds plays the role of Steppenwolf and we are subjugated to possibly one of the most generic and two dimensions villains seen in a long time, possibly since the Dark Elf from Thor 2 – villains is something that both Marvel and the DCEU struggle with and it’s certainly a huge indicator that this film played its cards as safe as it could. Let’s be clear, performances in this film seem to be helped immensely by the fact that they are comfortable in their characters since their origin stories – I felt origin stories certainly help build a great foundation for setting up a character and allowing the actor to be ready to present the character in a positive way.
The editing throughout this film certainly wasn’t smooth, it had the trademark Zack Snyder messy signature on it, however we didn’t get the resounding issues that were present in all his previous films, there has definitely been some degree of intervention with this style change and the story as a whole was more simplistic. The CGI throughout this film was blurry and hazed, just as we saw during in the Doomsday fight in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) – blurry smoke, Suicide Squad (2014) tentacles, and generic Parademons that roam around are all part of this CGI-fest that didn’t meld like Snyder’s previous works. When the visual effects did work it was during slower and more dramatic sequences, but the reliance on green screens made the entire film feel like a blur of CGI that you couldn’t stop noticing. The production design and costuming however, was one of the films highlights with every piece of armour, cape, and hairstyle looking just as they should.
In essence, Zack Snyder has taken a lighter approach – whether you believe this is a sellout to his vision and a move on Marvel’s proven formula is something that you couldn’t blame someone for believing. I personally believe this is partially a step in the right direction, but there are elements sacrificed when taking the generic approach, story is lost, depth is lost. Now I was never overly keen on Snyder’s supposed “depth and complexity”, but I appreciated his efforts to make it different, this film works better with a level of comradery, but the story and villain should remain complex in certain ways. Snyder and the DCEU are learning to make these characters work but there is still a long way to go until they can convince the audience that it’s worth sticking around for. Is it worth a watch? If you love action and comics, then definitely, the references peppered throughout are extensive and anyone who loves DC comics will smile at the references shown throughout – I would say it’s safe to dive in and leave the cinema fairly satisfied with the result, just don’t be surprised by the generic flavours left in the back of your throat.