Despite the low bar for DC, its newest flick somehow manages to be worse than you think
We all wanted Justice League to be good, didn’t we? The blockbuster landscape is Marvel’s playground right now. DC possesses the only superhero characters (Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman) with enough pop-culture clout to possibly rival Marvel. I report with great sorrow, however, that Justice League is incapable of meeting the most basic requirements of modern blockbusters; the characters are uninteresting, the action is basic and the story is bafflingly bad. Consider this review a post-mortem.
The thinly conceived plot is this: There’s a bad alien named Steppenwolf (an unremarkable character from the comics) who has a grudge against Earth. He invades Earth again, but for some reason needs to collect three mother boxes in order to efficiently subdue the planet. The boxes function as lazy ways to give the story the illusion of pacing. Oh, he has the first box! Bad news… Oh, the second! We’re about halfway through the movie! Oh, he has the third? Climax time, baby! It’s pretty lazy and contrived, honestly. There isn’t any indication of why Steppenwolf doesn’t just punch everyone really hard. He has an army and he himself is stronger than any hero currently alive. So why doesn’t he just… invade? Because of those boxes, damn it!
The movie introduces us to three major characters: The Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman (the latter is my favourite comic character, FYI). None of these characterizations are particularly bad, but the movie is incredibly busy and there are no meaningful moments with anyone, new or old. They attempt with Cyborg, but it’s too shallow. The Flash functions as comic relief. Some jokes land, some don’t. His powers are fun to watch, but it seems any attempt to give him depth was an afterthought. Batman and Wonder Woman are here too, but they don’t do much.
The film is obviously trying to incorporate the antipathy of modern life into its themes. We’re all sad and anxious, and Justice League blames that on the lack of Superman in our lives. There’s never any attempt to comment on this theme; it essentially boils down to “People are sad! But we’ll fight anyway!” This, while shallow, is admirable, I guess.
I want to be clear that Justice League is a dumb movie. It’s not just the boxes and themes. Characters spout exposition left and right. The action is uninspired (re: no cool team-up moves) and often nonsensical. At one point, a character ties a massive metal box to an arrow and successfully shoots it across a field like in a cartoon. I know this is a comic book movie, but the director, Zack Snyder, has always tried to go for a more grounded aesthetic. Atlanteans, people who live and breathe underwater, need air bubbles to talk. Also, google the Henry Cavill moustache fiasco. It’s hilarious and completely distracting. His upper lip looks rubber two-thirds of the time.
Overall, this film is exasperatingly bad. Nothing you’d want to see is here. Aquaman and Wonder Woman are both classical warriors; is there a scene of them sparring and bantering? Nope! That would make too much sense. Everyone wanted you to be good, Justice League, especially after the resounding success of Wonder Woman. I’m disappointed. Maybe Aquaman will be good? I’ll just go watch Wonder Woman again. And again and again. Maybe I can forget Justice League ever happened.