My friend Noah Miles wrote in his Spider-Man: Homecoming review, “I don’t know if Jon Watts is a good director. I really don’t. It’s impossible to tell from this, although the direction here is probably the worst I’ve seen so far this year, because Marvel reshoots everything and rarely allows directors creative freedom to take risks and do something visually interesting.” It was the first thing that came into my head after having left Justice League, because from the many reshoots that came along since Zack Snyder left the production after the death of his daughter, you can really tell this isn’t so much of a Zack Snyder film. As a matter of fact, it seems more like the traces of a butchered plan that were haphazardly stitched together as a means of trying to appeal to the masses. The sad thing is, there’s barely enough about Justice League as it stands that truly works.
Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, and Gal Gadot reprise their roles as Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman respectively – but not without the introduction of The Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman. Cast in these roles we have Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, and Jason Mamoa. Set right after the events of Batman v Superman, the whole league is called into action when a new threat, Steppenwolf – whose plan is to hunt down the Mother Boxes and bring an end to life on Earth. It should be easy enough to follow along with a superhero film like this, because the story lays itself out to feel such. It should be, and yet it isn’t. But considering how the DC Extended Universe seems to be panning out, with new characters being introduced at random within another story – it doesn’t seem to help amidst the confined nature of Justice League.
To better describe the issue, Justice League doesn’t feel like we have been watching a new story being told, rather just us being dropped in the middle of another story only with three fragments serving as whatever insight we have into what we’re seeing at the very moment. I’m sure that Zack Snyder had something else in mind, because of how Wonder Woman was introduced to us in Batman v Superman – but the reshoots feel evident when looking at how characters are handled in here, they don’t have the time to breathe. They just come and go, to that point where even characters that I was already supposed to have been familiar with, don’t ever feel like they’re growing in any way, shape, or form. With a rather short running time of 120 minutes compared to the 151 and 141 minute runtimes for Batman v Superman and Wonder Woman, there was enough time for another story to come in, as an introduction for newcomers – but here, it feels more haphazardly strung together for the sake of creating a cinematic universe, and it isn’t limited just to the league themselves but also the villain. For how much I criticize Marvel, even their films feel as if they have planned another story to tell with each new character and this only came and went to set up other stories.
Gone are the brooding trademarks of Zack Snyder’s approach to the superhero genre, and we’re left with Joss Whedon attempting to bring in a sense of humour to the DCEU based on what he’s already done for the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and it only makes the film’s tone feel inconsistent at its best. It only shows that Joss Whedon has no clear understanding to Zack Snyder’s style, and he leaves behind exposition that never goes anywhere. But when you already consider that’s how we have been brought into a new story about the Justice League coming together, it only turns out to be what I had feared most from a DCEU film; mere pandering for the sake of audience satisfaction. It’s the sort of formula that I have criticized Marvel for, but somehow at their very worst DC managed to make it feel more toxic.
I don’t want it to seem as if I had completely hated Justice League, because I didn’t. What I loved seeing coming back were the presences that Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, and Gal Gadot had left behind in their own respective entries as part of the DCEU. Newcomers Ray Fisher, Jason Mamoa, and Ezra Miller all offer the best that they can in order to have audiences awaiting their own solo entries. The cast is fantastic, but it’s bad enough that they barely had much time to breathe or even withhold interest, because we already know why they have been brought together. The whole film seems like a product of an artistic vision bastardized for the sake of accessibility, not only from Zack Snyder’s absence with Joss Whedon filling in, but apparently only now it opens up why audience pandering has limited the possibilities for what could be something of greater value.
As it stands, Justice League is what one would suspect had come after a plan has come only to be tarnished for the sake of competition. It’s one of the lowest points that the DCEU has fallen within, yet somehow not even their worst film (it was far more bearable than Suicide Squad or Man of Steel), but because it shows that they’re willing to rush whatever they can only for the sake of audience expectations. If Batman v Superman and Wonder Woman have opened possibilities for more, Justice League comes by and makes me think that they were mere flukes and only leaves me worried for what the DCEU has in store next. An extended edition completely done as Zack Snyder had planned would have me curious, but this isn’t a good sign for DC’s future.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Warner Bros.
Directed by Zack Snyder
Screenplay by Chris Terrio, Joss Whedon, from the comic by Gardner Fox
Produced by Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder, Jon Berg, Geoff Johns
Starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J. K. Simmons
Release Year: 2017
Running Time: 120 minutes