I always say the same thing before every movie I see in theaters: “Please don’t suck.”
This past Wednesday night I went to go see Justice League (2017) with my sister as part of our family’s annual sibling date. Before the movie started, I looked at her, made my ritual remark, and hunkered in hoping for an enjoyable experience. I went into the movie with literally no knowledge of what the critics and viewers thought. I was completely in the dark.
About halfway through the movie, I looked at my sister and simply stated: “This is not good.”
After the movie ended, I put my face in my palms, took a deep breath, looked at my younger sis and simply said: “Well. It sucked.”
Folks, Justice League is just as bad as Man of Steel (2013), and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). It does not fall to the same depths that which Suicide Squad (2016) plunged (it’s hard to top the worst movie I’ve seen over the past two years), but Justice League does manage to once again crater hope for the DC movie universe.
The movie has zero sense of pace. It’s just jumping for set piece to set piece; nothing flows together like a movie should. The new characters are thrown at you like action figures with ridiculously cheesy exposition dialogue to explain to those who aren’t educated previously on the personalities.
The need to make sure that all audience members understand the characters is key, I get that, but good lord find a better way to do it. Please. DC movies in recent years, except for Wonder Woman (2017), treats its opening minutes like exposition pages in a comic book. In theory it’s nice to treat media the same, but sometimes that is just not possible.
Justice League also suffers from what is the determent of many super hero movies: a horrendously non-charismatic villain. Steppenwolf is meant to be a destroyer of worlds, a slayer of gods, and a truly dangerous baddie.
Nevertheless, instead of making his malevolence intriguing, Steppenwolf’s history of devastation was simply told via a voice over with elder battle field footage montage explaining the ultimate battle of good versus evil.
Speaking of Snyder, he had to leave Justice League for an understandable grieving reason to mourn the loss of his 20-year old daughter. Most of the re-shoots of post-production were handled by Joss Whedon, the inspiration for the greatest of launching point of the Marvel cinema universe, The Avengers (2012). It is readily apparent where Whedon’s influence came about; there are numerous amounts of whip-snappy comments, most of which land not too awkwardly.
Most the comic relief comes from Ezra Miller’s interpretation of Barry Allen as the Flash.
I think I am in the minority here, but I do not enjoy Miller as the Earth’s fastest man. His innocence and goodbye demeanor wears thin. I understand that Justice League does possess more “fun” that Snyder’s previous DC adventures, but the melting pot of Whedon’s tone and Snyder’s style doesn’t make for coherent viewing experience. Miller as the Flash is the best embodiment of this clash.
Jason Momoa as Aquaman is the brightest newcomer to join the DC Universe. As Aquaman, he brings his own charisma that bleeds through the sub par writing. As the protector of Atlantic, we get to see him battle within Atlantis with Steppenwolf; the scene itself is cool.
Yet, the corny dialogue that takes place following the battle between Arthur Curry and Mera, played by Amber Heard, ruined the action for me. After originally denying Bruce Wayne’s plea to aid him in saving the world, Aquaman suddenly agrees to join Batman’s fight because of a bleeding-heart declamation from a character we have no reason to respect or adhere to. Sure Steppenwolf attacked Atlantis, and that is the reason Curry gives later in the movie, but if that was his spark to help, then why even have Mera there at all?
Justice League has a numerous amount of action sequences that allow all the characters to shine in the spotlight. Gal Gadot as Wonder Women gets to kick ass in slow motion numerous times. Ben Affleck as the caped crusader gets to show off all his new toys. Ray Fisher plays the former football standout Victor Stone turned Cyborg and shows off his new body’s latest technological enhancements. Miller gets to zig-and-zag, and even the titular Superman comes back from the dead to save the day.
Snyder does have the ability to make things looks awesome. There is no denying that. His style made 300 (2006) a cult action classic, and I loved his visual interpretation of The Watchmen (2009). Nonetheless, despite his past achievements, Justice League falls into the same trap many bad comics based, and video game based movies for the matter, fall into. You cannot simply transpose comic book-esq diction onto the silver screen. You need to adapt and make it work for a different medium.
Justice League feels like you are jumping across the pond on unstable rocks. The movie jumos from scene-to-scene and quip-to-quip. While you may land and avoid getting drenched, there are ripples and splashes that echo throughout the water. One most broad level, you land and have minimal damage at the end your hopping. But by the end when all things said and done, you find yourself drenched with the waves created by the negative consequences of all your bounding.
Justice League takes you for a ride, but it’s a bouncy one that leaves you with a cranky headache. The DC comic movie universe has one bright spot, and that’s director Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman. I really do pray for someone to steer this ship back on the ethos that her vision embarked on. Right now the spirit is lost at sea with no winds behind its sails.
STANKO RATING: D