2017 has been an incredible year for superhero movies – Logan, Wonder Woman, Thor: Ragnarok, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spiderman: Homecoming and even The Lego Batman Movie have all delighted fans and critics alike setting the scene for what many hoped would the crème de la crème, Justice League. Despite a nightmarish development period, a strong advertising campaign gave us all hope that this long-awaited team-up movie could capitalise on the momentum created by Wonder Woman and turn the DCEU’s fortunes around. Sadly, nothing could be further from the case. This film is an absolute shambles – its bland, generic plot is full of holes, its CGI villain is motiveless and unmemorable and even its heroes are mostly uninteresting. With countless flaws and few redeeming qualities, Justice League is a well-below par entry into an already crowded genre that will leave casual viewers forgetting almost every moment and hardcore fans wishing that they could.
“Justice League is a well-below par entry into an already crowded genre”
Justice League focuses on a team of five (eventually six) heroes, but of this eclectic bunch I only found myself emotionally invested in one of them and even that had little to do with this film. Gal Gadot gives a solid performance as Wonder Woman with her opening action scene being the film’s best and perhaps the only one worthy of her far superior solo effort. Diana even has a moderately interesting moral conflict with Bruce Wayne in the movie’s second act, but the filmmakers never had the guts to truly run with it. Gadot must face some criticism here, as burdened with expositional dialogue, she is never as compelling as when under Patty Jenkins’ direction, but even in second or third gear she easily outshines the rest of the cast.
If Gadot is the good, the rest of the cast are the bad and the ugly. Ben Affleck gives a drab and lifeless performance as Batman offering conclusive proof that it is high time he hung up his cape. This iteration of the character is entirely unlikable – a feeling only heightened after an unforgivable comment about Diana’s dead love Steve Trevor. His leadership is reluctant and haphazard, he is inexplicably underpowered in conflict and displays little emotional depth; a far cry from the cinematic legend crafted by Bale and Nolan last seen on screen just five years ago. Mediocre performances by Jeremy Irons (Alfred) and J.K Simmons (Commissioner Gordon) only made my yearning for the days of Caine and Oldman more intense. Diana and Bruce are joined by two complete bores in Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) who are woefully underdeveloped and unengaging (largely as a result of the studio enforced two-hour runtime) and Flash (Ezra Miller) who gets a couple of early chuckles but becomes more of an irritant as the film drags on. For a movie that was marketed as ‘fun’ this is about as fun as a trip to the dentist, with the inclusion of cringeworthy jokes making the experience laughable but certainly not amusing.
“the film’s biggest problem is that it lacks an identity…”
Superman’s (Henry Cavill) return is hardly a spoiler at this point and without wanting to ruin too much it’s safe to say this ‘twist’ is as predictable as it is stupid. Similarly moronic is the villain Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciaran Hinds) who has to be one of the worst to grace any superhero movie in recent years. Ignoring his deep comic book heritage, Justice League gives us a generic ‘bad guy takes over the world plot’ complete with a McGuffin device and lame CGI. After a tedious first act that never really gets going and a convoluted, poorly-written second, the third act gives us a completely rushed and anticlimactic finale. Perhaps the film’s biggest problem is that it lacks an identity – it is neither Snyder nor Whedon, serious nor fun. It may be slight improvement on Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, but the standards set by the MCU make this film a comparative embarrassment. The DCEU will probably stumble on with solo movies and countless sequels but Wonder Woman aside there is little for film fans to be excited about. If there was any justice in the world, this would be the end of the league.