Film Review – Justice League (2017)

After the shambling, caterwauling nonsense of Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, Warner Bros seemed to have clawed back some dignity with a decent Wonder Woman movie. It seemed like, finally, the DC Extended Universe was finally making some headway after a slow and difficult start.

Well, it is with a dispiriting sense of inevitability that Warner Bros delivers Justice League, a tonally messy, visually incompetent and narratively underwhelming movie undoes most of the good work that Patty Jenkins painstakingly undertook. A movie that was supposed to cement the reputation of the DCEU, jump-start a flagging brand and inspire the future success of a series that wants to compete with Marvel, looks more like a final nail in a coffin rather than a timely boost.

Following the death of Superman, the world has found itself indulging in a feeling of mass mourning. Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds), alien warlord and right-hand of big bad Darkseid (expected to appear in future instalments) invades first the Amazonian homeworld and then the undersea kingdom of the Atlanteans acquiring the Mother Boxes – sources of power – before moving against the Earth. Sensing the approaching threat, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) rounds up fellow superheroes Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to do battle and protect the planet.

What Warner Bros desperately needed to salvage its flagging brand, was a home-run with an appreciable sense of vitality, something that looked and felt supremely confident. What it has delivered, unfortunately, is another hurried and lacklustre effort that attempts to mesh disparate tones. It is by turns both a wise-cracking piece of slapstick and a grandiose, po-faced faux epic. It beings with a slow-motion funeral scene and ends in the kind of thigh-slapping one would expect from a Mel Brooks movie. It goes from Lawrence of Arabia to Carry in the space of two hours.

In fairness, some of the levity is quite welcome, and presumably the work of stand-in Director Joss Whedon. What the DC movies needed was some liveliness to cut through all the portentous brooding and dimly lit furrowing of brows. The trouble is, the jolliness feels like it has been parachuted into a movie that is utterly unremarkable and, disgracefully for a movie that has apparently cost $300m, really quite dull.

Ben Affleck’s Batman, pretty much the only interesting element of Batman v Superman has regressed from a bloodthirsty, gun-toting vigilante, into some tired-looking schoolmaster; perhaps an indication of Affleck’s genuine dissatisfaction with the whole mess. Gadot’s Wonder Woman is as sprightly and engaging as ever but unsurprisingly has much less room the breath than in Wonder Woman. As for the new students, Miller’s Flash is given most of the jokes and ends up basically being relegated to the role of comic relief; Momoa’s Aquaman is sort of jocular and charming, but spends a lot of his limited screen time ribbing the rest of the gang – you suspect they didn’t know what to do with him. Meanwhile, Cyborg, a moody youngster struggling to battle the AI body that threatens to overwhelm him, is arguably the most interesting of the new kids on the block but gets relatively little to do.

The most remarkable thing about the whole unremarkable din is just how shoddy it looks. Every single scene seems to boast a wholly unconvincing green screen shot as if two-thirds of the thing was re-shot, while genuinely distracting, depressingly-bad CGI flows over everything. It looks like one of the later Resident Evil movies.

In the end, it feels less like the disaster that Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad felt, and more like a massive missed opportunity by DC and Warner Bros to right a listing ship. A pretty tedious missed open goal that’s unlikely to heal a damaged franchise.

Chris Banks |[rating=2]

Action, Adventure | USA, 2017 | 12A | 17th November 2017 (UK) | Warner Bros UK | Dir.Zack Snyder | Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Ciarán Hinds, Amy Adams