MOVIE REVIEW: Justice League (2017)

Despite faring as one of the weaker superhero films of the year, Zack Snyder’s Justice League proves to be one of the better films of the DC franchise after the ill-stricken Suicide Squad (Ayer, 2016) and underwhelming Batman v Superman (Snyder, 2016).

Shortly after the death of Clark Kent/Superman (Henry Cavill), Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) establishes a group of superheroes in a post-doomsday era to help save the world — Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Barry Allen/Flash (Ezra Miller), Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher) then join the force after a series of negotiations deemed not only favorable to their individual purposes, but also for the entire human race.

In a cast-driven film powered by strong and witty performances by the actors, Justice League proves to be a union of a very talented cast that embodies the definition of their own heroes. The film is on fire whenever the entire group is together on screen. The energy is unstoppable, and their chemistry is electric. However, it doesn’t shy away from the fact that the film suffers from a lineup of thinly developed characters. It is one thing to have a talented actor, and it is another to have a half-baked character.

During the last years, we have been introduced to Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman in their own standalone films, helping us become engaged to their own worlds right before they are united as Justice League. Therefore, how we grasp them in a big group is already established in a familiar rapport as we have known them for years. However, that is not the case for Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg. Other than their brief cameos with other DC films here and there, we have never really been given the chance to actually know and connect with them pre-Justice League, and we still aren’t able to know and connect with them now the film is released. How unfamiliar their worlds are and how big of a responsibility they have been given to join the likes of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman is so daunting, the scale oftentimes falls off balance. This is a very similar case to Suicide Squad where a group of mostly B-listed, relatively unknown characters are congested in a 2-hour film, introduced in a hyper-realist resume-type montage that says nothing other than the obvious.

Other than their one dimensional profiles that catalogued their powers, strengths and occasional witty one-liners due to the film’s haphazard screenplay, there is nothing more to get from Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg other than the what we already know. However, Jason Momoa and Ezra Miller lifted those casualties in fun, biting and memorable performances proving that they are worthy of these superhero titles in a DC universe.

The biggest problem that the film has is its production design. Having over $300 million in budget, what transpired on screen is an over-reliance on second-rate CGI that didn’t look expensive at all. It’s so raw and campy, you could almost see the green backdrop and imagine them in harnesses in their own studios. The flood of cheap-looking visual effects is so distracting, it drags the film’s overall appeal down.

Personally, I don’t mind if the film is dark. DC’s darkness route has never been an issue with me since Batman v Superman (as that particular somber tone has worked well with the two Dark Knight films). What matters most is the consistency of the tone, and how rock solid its narrative is. BvS failed to do that; Wonder Woman nailed that; Suicide Squad, I can’t even talk about; and Justice League somehow managed to assert which direction it intends to go, but ultimately is not enough. Truth be told, Zack Snyder needs to go. The DC films need a new director.

Overall, Justice League isn’t all that bad. But it isn’t all that great, either. It could have been a lot more than what it is.

3 out of 5 stars

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