Review: Justice League (2017)

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At least Flash seems to be enjoying himself: Atlas Entertainment/Warner Bros/DC

JUSTICE LEAGUE is the most boring superhero extravaganza (or should that be urgh-stravaganza?) I’ve ever seen. You’ve got six superheroes to provide spectacle and colour, how do you end up with something so dull?

Superman (Henry Cavill) is dead, but the world still needs saving. Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) gather a team of gifted individuals to face an incoming threat. But can a kitted-out billionaire, a demigoddess, a merman and a couple of freaks stop an alien conquest?)

As I’m writing my memory of the film is rapidly fading, but I’m fairly certain that my last two hours in front of a big screen was something…that happened. There is so little that gains any traction, nothing that lingers. Even in action terms there’s very little to get excited about. There’s two fights in two different holes in the ground, a couple of busy large-scale battle scenes, quick stop-offs at Themyscira and Atlantis and a whole lot of bad compositing. I said it in my review of BATMAN V SUPERMAN, but I’ll say it again: Warner Bros have a real problem with making their top-level, mega-budget films look cheap. Characters and foreground objects pop horrendously against greenscreen backgrounds, transitions between physical actors and digital doubles often feel off, especially when the heroes start moving more superheroically. All too often you can see the joins and too much of it, for whatever reason (basics like getting the lighting and framing right spring to mind) this doesn’t look as good as it should.

There’s no real conflict either; we’ve all seen team-ups before, superhero or otherwise, much of the appeal in these types of movies comes from the ensemble working out their issues with each other, but the filmmakers never seem to want to linger on this. The film’s best scene has Batman and Wonder Woman justifiably criticising each other’s attitude to saving the world – Diana has shut herself away for a century when she could have been inspiring humankind, Bruce has been acting as judge, jury and executioner of Gotham for long enough to lose his humanity – but it peters out and is completely forgotten the next scene.

What cripples Justice League is schizophrenic characterisation. Bruce Wayne is a completely different character to who we saw in Batman v Superman, and it’s far more than him defrosting in order to make friends. Affleck looks deeply uncomfortable trying to quip as Batman and he seems to have shed most of his dark side without much difficulty despite the earlier scene I described and the events of the entire previous film. The world is in mourning for a Superman it never knew, and the Justice Leaguers talk about him like they’d worked together for years. This film universe hasn’t earned such a reaction, we needed at least another solo film for him to make an impact, and maybe be seen to save a few more people in the process. When he does show, Cavill (with horrific CG-ed off moustache) seems even more uncomfortable as a cheerier, hopeful Superman than he was as a serious, introspective one. Ray Fisher and Jason Mamoa seem to have had anything that made their characters interesting surgically removed in the edit, so instead of  digital Frankenstein and underwater Hamlet, they’re just Mr Frowny and Prince Sarky. We all know by now that Gadot does what she does well, but if there’s a single saving grace in the cast, it’s Ezra Miller’s take on the Flash, mostly because Miller is an interesting young actor much better than this material. It’s not even worth talking about Ciaran Hinds as alien dictator #457.

I’m not going to analyse what could have been. We don’t know what Zack Snyder’s complete vision would have been had he not had to bow out early, or what Joss Whedon would have made of the film were he involved from the beginning. We’ve got to judge the final product we’re presented with, and said final product is lacking. It’s scattershot and inconsistent and missing wonder, intrigue and Flash aside, laughs. There isn’t as much to get angry about as Batman v Superman, it just prompts a resigned shrug. SSP

About Sam Sewell-Peterson

I'm not paid to write about film - I do it because I love it. Favourites include Sam Mendes, Guillermo del Toro, Bong Joon-ho, Steven Spielberg, Danny Boyle, Edgar Wright, Taika Waititi and the Coen Brothers. All reviews and articles are original works owned by me. They represent one man's opinion, and I'm more than happy to engage in civilised debate if you disagree.
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