Published on November 17th, 2017 | by Craig Silliphant0
Nevermind what Rotten Tomatoes is saying; while Justice League isn’t a good movie, it’s not the total train wreck most of us were expecting either.
Even though I recognize the homogenous, marketing department assembly line construction of blockbuster superhero movies, I have a compulsion that forces me to see each one upon release. This is fine when the movie is a fun popcorn romp, but it feels more like a sick obligation when the movie stinks. The reason I’m compelled, is because I grew up reading comic books, and comic book movies were few and far between when I was a kid.
It was indescribable, the feeling I had seeing Christopher Reeve flying as Superman, Sam Raimi’s Spider-man swinging through Manhattan for the first time, or Michael Keaton suited up in that badass black Batsuit (which probably looks silly to the kids today; I mean, he couldn’t even turn his head). The tagline for Richard Donner’s Superman was “You’ll Believe a Man Can Fly,” which perfectly sums up the roots of my compulsion.
While Marvel’s film universe has been mostly successful, for me, the current DC film universe has sucked all the wonder out of these movies, leaving me to trudge off to the theatre dutifully as Justice League is released. And as a side note, don’t play the straw-grasping note of bringing up Marvel vs. DC fanboy-ism; my two favourite mainstream comic heroes are Spider-man and Batman, so, one from each universe. I love them equally. DC has done well before (uh, Chris Nolan’s Batman, anyone?). It is the current Zack Snyder iteration that I can’t abide, with perhaps the least Snydered of the bunch, Wonder Woman, being a cut above the rest (even that one hasn’t held up well for me upon repeat viewing though). And as this excellent Polygon write up attests, critics don’t have a vested interest in either company — they just want a good superhero movie).
Justice League picks up a little while after the events of Batman v. Superman (a movie so bad, I’m sort of obsessed by it). We are introduced to yet another reasonably ho-hum CGI baddie threatening the destruction of Earth as Batman and Wonder Woman put together a team to combat it.
I’ll just cut to the chase here — Justice League isn’t near as bad as I had expected it to be. That’s not to say it’s good. It’s just, you know, not bad. I’m actually still trying to figure out how much my low expectations factored into my feelings about the film. I’ll probably need to see it again to really decide where it lands on the scale in my head, though really, isn’t that measuring the metrics of mediocrity? Was it 61% or 69%? At that point, does it make any difference? Either way, I still dislike a lot about this universe, but Justice League isn’t a terrible atrocity.
On the positive side, it was only two hours, so it doesn’t suffer from a lot of the bloat that movies like Batman v. Superman or The Amazing Spider-man 2 did. I loathe movies that are more concerned with setting up future franchises than just telling a good story in the one you’re watching. The characters in Justice League are still pretty thin, but they are given at least sketches of personality, and there are some surprisingly affecting emotional scenes or lines of dialogue.
The movie is also reasonably funny, and while it occasionally does that thing where it steps on deeper moments with comedy because it doesn’t trust itself to be genuine (see Guardians of the Galaxy 2), it mostly works. I have to guess that a lot of the humour was tacked on after Joss Whedon took over production from Snyder, but it was a welcome change. While much of the cast get some funny lines, even Batman, Ezra Miller stands out as the comic relief (though he does dance back and forth from likeable and funny to obvious and annoying).
There are some great moments or images that surface through the murk of muddled story and the cheap-looking CGI that is this world — and man, I really hate the look of these movies. These moments and images bob up and down in the wet gloom, giving you glimpses of the characters you love doing exciting things, before they submerge again, lost in the haze until another moment pushes them up briefly. Great heroes and icons drown in the swampy Zack Snyder DC universe.
Justice League feels like they are trying to set things right, but the ship is just too big to turn around, the fog too dense. I found myself almost rooting for the villain at moments, simply because if he were to destroy everything, then we could entertain tanking this iteration of the DC film universe and starting again.
But like I said, it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting.