It is here. The crescendo of the DC Extended Universe has arrived on the big screen in the form of the already heavily maligned Justice League.
The fifth film within the DCEU (Man of Steel – 2013, BvsS – 2016, Suicide Squad – 2016, Wonder Woman – 2017), and frankly I think we would all agree that the results haven’t been what we had hoped in this series so far.
For the latest instalment, Zak Snyder again directs, although the loss of his son meant that Joss Whedon actually directed a number of scenes (Whedon receives a screenplay credit). Snyder’s previous work includes Man of Steel and Batman vs Superman, so it’s very much his series so far.
The film finds a reinvigorated Bruce Wayne, working to put together a team of ‘people with special abilities’ that can unite to fight the danger that he fears will be coming.
The team begins to come together with Arthur Curry (Aquaman), Barry Allen (The Flash) and Victor Stone (Cyborg) with all of the disfunction that you would expect with such an endeavour. All with the backdrop of an ancient evil coming forwards to challenge humanity itself – in the form of Steppenwolf, intent of ruling Earth.
Here is where we come across the first real issue for the film from my point of view. He’s not a classic villain. In terms of comparisons of blockbuster ensemble comic book films, we’ve got Loki combining with the alien army of Avengers Assemble, and Spader’s Ultron. Both had strong charisma (Loki did all the heavy lifting here for the former) which added to the overall film. Aside from the CGI, which does feel weak at times, he’s just not much fun to see, and without this, you tire of him quickly.
In terms of the good guys, Affleck seems more comfortable in the role, Gadot continues to excel as Wonder Woman, and I really enjoyed Ezra Miller (Flash) and Jason Momoa (Aquaman)’s turns as the new characters that both brought humour in different ways to the film.
Tone wise, it is a lighter film and it benefits from it. It is less riddled with angst, and the tension that Batman vs Superman (which realistically was the first Justice League film) seemed to struggle with. The story is simpler, and motivations seem less forced and contrived.
We also see repeat performances from supporting cast members such as Lois Lane (Amy Adams), Martha (MARTHA!) Kent (Diane Lane), Alfred (Jeremy Irons) and a notable arrival of J.K.Simmons as Commissioner Gordon (which is one of my favourite pieces of casting in a long time).
I must also call out the score by Danny Elfman as a highlight for me. Returning to DC films having scored the original Batman films, Elfman brings with him elements of the original Batman score, which combines with the new elements (including moments of other heroes – such as Wonder Woman’s score) to achieve a powerful score. Usage of Sigrid’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Everybody Knows’ at the opening of the film also creates a menacing and powerful start.
The film itself hasn’t had an easy development. Originally planned as a two part effort, reduced to one, with shifting directors, and a large number of reshoots (rumoured to be seeking to lighten the tone of the film), and it’s likely that some point in the future, a very long extended version of this film may be released.
Overall – It’s not to the same standard as Wonder Woman which remains the beacon in the DCEU so far. But its a real step forwards from the Suicide Squad, and big parts of Batman vs Superman.
With such tentpole franchises, part of the aim with a film is to create space for other films, and this film does achieve this. Aquaman is due to be released in 2018, Wonder Woman 2 in 2019 and future plans also include a Cyborg standalone film. I’m ready to pay money to see each of them.
Is Justice League perfect? Definitely not. Is it a couple of hours of enjoyable comic book hero cinema? Yes.