Justice League - Despite The Late Entry Of Joss Whedon, This Movie Does Not Rock
Dir: Zack Snyder (& Joss Whedon)
Starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Amy Adams, Ray Fisher, J K Simmons, Diane Lane, Jeremy Irons, Connie Nielsen, Joe Morton, Ciarin Hinds, Amber Heard
The big question regarding Justice League was if the late arrival of Joss Whedon as co-writer and part-director would be enough to rescue us from the so far drab worldview of Zack Snyder’s take on the DCEU. And the answer is – there is more here that works than in both Bats Vs Supes and the dreaded Suicide Squad, but still not enough to make this universe one worth visiting all too often.
It starts well, very well to be honest. Pre-credits sequences with both Batman and Wonder Woman are tight and efficient, with good coherent action (something the film abandons later), which lead nicely into titles highlighting the global loss of Superman, all set to the brooding dark tones of Leonard Cohen’ Everybody Knows.
Things even continue at a fairly decent clip after that – effectively introducing our newer figures of Aquaman, the Flash and Cyborg, as well as key villain of the piece, Ciaran Hinds’ world-beating Steppenwolf. Indeed, his attack on Diana Prince’ home island of Themyscira is one of the standouts of the movie, with Connie Nielsen having a good old time on the action front.
By the time the team has come together however, the movie has started to fall apart, and plunges into the inevitable superhero routine of one large, noisy battle set piece after another, with are annoyingly confusing, both visually (Znyder’s signature) and plot-wise – one minute Steppenwolf is hold up in what may as well be Chernobyl by any other name, then he’s hold up in Gotham, either way everything’s going BANG. And all for the want of three items, known as the Mother Boxes. What is it with this series and its mother complex? Last time it was finding out their mothers had the same name that led Bat and Supes to down arms and fall in love, this time everyone’s after mummy’s box. (If you want to know what the Mother Boxes are – just think Marvel’s Tesseract and times it by three.)
At some point past the half way mark, Bruce Wayne (a deeply tired and uninterested Affleck) uses one of Mummy’s boxes to bring Superman back to life, who can’t really work out what’s going on, which at least affords him the opportunity to get his chest out, head butt Wonder Woman and then fly away again.
All of which leads to a protracted punch up, full of flying insect like para-demons, explosions, supposedly funny asides and things that go boom boom boom. Yes, we have seen it all before, and bar a couple of decent gags here, it is pretty rote all round.
Character wise, again there are moments – Flash and Superman have some chemistry (stay for the end credits) and Gadot continues to impress as WW. But in Momoa, Aquaman has been recast as a dude who says “Awright!” a lot (can’t see that working for the full length of a standalone), Cyborg is given little to do, and the Flash can’t help but come across as an Asperger’s teen there for little more than comic relief (though Miller is still good at that.)
Superman meanwhile remains little more than a presence hovering over everything – even when he comes back to life and is literally hovering over everything, and Affleck looks so like he doesn’t want to be here, that his inevitable recasting just got even more inevitable.
As the DCEU goes, it’s certainly better than most of what we’ve seen to date – without being a patch on Wonder Woman. It still feels clunky, like it’s being assembled without having read the instructions, but the tone is lighter for the most part, even if the laborious final act is as over wrought and heavy metal as ever.
And the final post credits sting (there’s also one in the middle) is as unexpected as it is genuinely unwanted.
Follow us on Twitter @lastwordonearth