Since it’s announcement after Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, I’ve held my breath and gritted my teeth when it came to Warner Bros. Pictures’ Justice League film. With each tidbit of information released about the film, my enthusiasm for the film declined. Warner Bros. Pictures just didn’t do DC Comics live-action films well, and I had an inkling that even despite the incredible success of Wonder Woman, the Justice League film would be more or less another Batman vs Superman film (i.e. plenty of unnecessary action and no decent narrative). What made me especially hesitant about the film? The casting choice of Ben Affleck as Batman and Ezra Miller as The Flash.
After watching the Justice League film last night, my feelings about the film changed marginally. The film opened with a fantastic little throwback to the popular 1990s DC animated series, Batman The Animated Series, with Danny Elfman’s notable ‘Batman Theme’ playing in the background as we are introduced to Gotham City and the Dark Knight himself. Considering the fact that I walked in to the cinema unenthused, I certainly enjoyed this opening scene. Like Batman, the film also began by informing us of Diana Prince’s activities as Wonder Woman, who, is in every way a true bad ass heroine. If you liked Wonder Woman in Batman vs Superman and in her own solo film, you’re going to love her in this film.
Plot-wise, audiences are given the stock standard; evil super villain plans to conquer Earth and those with superhuman abilities must ban together to help save the world. The way in which we are introduced to the villain of the story, Steppenwolf, calls into question the abilities of the Amazons as fearless and mighty warriors. Unlike in Wonder Woman, where the Amazons indeed looked like powerful warriors, their portrayal in this film was a lot more…sexualised. The costumes worn were more like that in 300 than in Wonder Woman, with a lot more emphasis on their skin and abs than anything else. Even Queen Hippolyta looked less demure with her ‘warrior attire’. Their reputation as fighters and their perfectly contoured make up and groomed hairstyles just didn’t seem to fit.
This was the same for the Atlanteans. Considering their mythos and history, their portrayal in the film was less than stellar and even what little we saw of Mera, future Queen of Atlantis, wasn’t all that impressive. Perhaps this will be detailed more in the upcoming standalone Aquaman film. Having said that, Aquaman himself was well played. Jason Mamoa managed to breathe new life into a character that was often the butt of every DC Comics joke. Aquaman was not only cool but witty as well and female viewers will definitely be pleased with his sultry good looks and tattooed torso.
In terms of character portrayal, I was extremely disappointed with Ezra Miller and The Flash. The character of Barry Allen, had always been, to me, a smart, witty and somewhat charming Crime Scene Investigator, not a bumbling buffoon that was depicted in Justice League. My distaste and dislike for Miller began even before he was cast as The Flash, with his annoying portrayal of Credence in Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. For the life of me I can’t fathom why they decided on Miller. If comic relief was what they were going for there are much better actors out there. For me, Miller just killed the role of The Flash and Barry Allen. I’d rather just stick with Grant Gustin, who plays the TV version of the scarlet speedster.
Interestingly, I did not hate Ben Affleck as Batman in this film. Unlike in Batman vs Superman, the Justice League version of Batfleck was a bit more humourous and a bit of an ‘ass’. He was definitely a lot more similar to the Batman The Animated Series version of Batman than Christian Bale ever was. The only thing that perplexed me was the sheer amount of cheesiness that came out of Batman’s mouth. Nevertheless, this version of Batman was much more tolerable than the one who was obsessed with ‘Martha’. I was pleasantly surprised that Affleck managed to pull it off without looking so depressed.
As for Cyborg? I neither like nor dislike him. His character was almost like a filler, something to add during dull and quiet moments.
There was a lot about the film that felt messy and unnecessary with several plot holes that weren’t exactly filled. The ‘solution’ to the League’s problems felt like a cop out and an easy fix to defeat Steppenwolf, who was meant to be a strong opponent that required the conjoint efforts of Gods, the Atlanteans, the Amazons and mankind to overcome during his first attempt at conquering the world. The final battle felt drawn out, with the only real fight happening between Steppenwolf and Wonder Woman (and Aquaman, who was just throwing himself around really). And, of course, much like many other DC Comics films, the conclusion and defeat of the villain happened incredibly quickly at the end, without much thought given (you’ll know what I’m talking about once you see the film).
However, despite being one big mess and lacking in any real narrative, there were some good cameos, action scenes and graphics. Justice League is certainly much, much better than Batman vs Superman and is relatively entertaining as an action film. The standout of the film is, of course, Wonder Woman, who just steals the show with her charm, fighting skills, and true superhero attitude. For what it’s worth, Warner Bros. Pictures and DC Comics certainly got it right when they cast Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.
The DC Cinematic Universe is certainly learning and taking notes from Marvel’s blockbuster film successes and seem to be applying a similar formula of mixing action with cheesy humour. Justice League was actually a nice change from the previous films’ darker style. It was quite amusing to have a few good laughs thrown in and have the League actually work as a team. I’m glad that I walked into the film with zero expectations, as I managed to walk out feeling slightly better about the DC Comics film franchise than how I felt walking in.
Justice League is now playing in cinemas. Here’s a tip: Stay till the very end of the credits.
[A proper review will be posted after the film has released]