Movie Review: Justice League is a Jumbled Letdown

Justice League
Movie Review: Justice League is a Jumbled Letdown
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About the Author

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins is a thespian and performer who has worked with theatre, film, and TV across Ontario. He comes from Campbellton, NB, and has lived in North Oakville nearly 20 years. Currently, he studies Journalism at Sheridan College. Twitter: @MrTyCollins

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Superheroes are everywhere in cinemas these days, with new an endless parade of new movies in the genre coming every several weeks. Sadly, while Justice League had potential to be the landmark event film its destiny intended, the new DC Comics franchise of heroes continues to disappoint.

The most discouraging part of this latest entry is the producers and writers (a team of nearly 20!) should know better by now. The same creative team behind recent DC films Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad gave Justice League the same ineffective and sluggish qualities as its predecessors.

It wouldn’t be fair, however, to say this is the worst film in the series that began with Man of Steel in 2013. Most of the anticipated comparisons from fans will be matching League with last year’s disastrously dull Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

And (while it doesn’t say much,) Justice League is a clear improvement. The editing is tighter, the runtime is shorter, and there are no glaring plot holes in the story. Better still, the tone is more optimistic and textured instead of annoyingly moody and angst-ridden. (Like this summer’s brilliant Wonder Woman.)

But the glaring flaws are the same mistakes as the DC films that we’ve seen in the last few years. The script is razor thin and the villain is missing most of the story. The inconsistent tone and overcrowded cast make it feel bombastic and slow (especially in the agonizing middle 40 minutes.)

What Exactly is the Movie About?

All of the burdening problems in Justice League can be attributed to one thing: director Zack Snyder’s absent clarity. He doesn’t know how to focus a fantasy or superhero story, and the audience suffers for it. Without a concentrated focus, the action is empty.

It is worth noting he left the production in May due to a family tragedy. With less than six months to release, the movie was too deep in post-production to be salvaged or drastically changed from Snyder’s already imagined vision.

Justice League

Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

The film’s plot has been closely guarded in production since last spring, but there aren’t many revolutionary surprises or twists. For those interested, the story follows Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) assembling a team of surly superheroes to stop an alien Armageddon.

Justice League’s lack of theme bounces chaotically in the audience’s mind. It’s less exhausting than Batman v Superman was, but not by much. The movie changed themes and its message so many times I lost track.

So what is the message?

At first, the main question is “Why should we work together?”, and it continually shifts. Soon it’s “What’s the ethics in resurrecting the dead?”, and then “Can we control raw ancient power?” Because Snyder can’t decide what the movie’s about, it ends up being about nothing.

Justice League is a Predictable Copycat

Less forgivable than a murky focal point is the film’s lack of originality. The Flash’s slow-motion running to gently push things in a fight scene? Done by Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past. An ensemble fight in an abandoned, underground tunnel? It’s a shot for shot duplicate from last year’s Captain America: Civil War.

One element was lazily borrowed from Batman v Superman, the immediate predecessor to this very film. Without spoiling much (though dedicated fans will immediately know), one scene shows an alien resurrection going poorly. Snyder even goes so far to set the scene in question in the exact same location!

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Worst of all, the extensive cast is too large, and several characters are lost in the mayhem. Nobody gets enough screen time to show interesting development, and everyone is forced to be a one-note personality.

The series needs time to let heroes, citizens, gods, and villains cultivate deeper personalities. All of the much-loved characters from the comic books and the great acting talents behind them (especially Amy Adams’ Lois Lane and Jeremy Irons’ butler Alfred) are wasted because they only get 1-2 scenes each.

Justice League

Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

DC’s ensemble pictures simply aren’t working. They’re shallow beyond expensive fight scenes, but that emptiness doesn’t work here because of the slow pacing. While the speed and editing are improving, the characters need more thorough introductions. (Pompous Marvel fans would compare this arc as eerily similar to the Avengers franchise.)

Lastly, casual moviegoers don’t need to worry about previous installments. There are no real prerequisites to viewing Justice League, even though it’s the fifth modern DC film. It’s also not scary, crass or overly violent – it’s a standard PG action film.

Landmark DC movies have a Consistent Problem

Warner Brothers has unleashed a gargantuan marketing campaign for the film, hoping to attract lost fans from its recent snooze-inducing superhero adventures. And the studio is certainly investing; with a reported budget over $300 million before marketing, this is one of the most expensive movies ever made.

But after five years, it’s time audiences are told a cold truth. Pandering superhero movies in this franchise will continue to burden cinemas as long as they keep selling tickets. And yet, instead of wildly wasting this money, this series can still be saved.

If Snyder, DC Comics and Warner Bros. could find another reason to produce these superhero sagas other than selling tickets, it would help focus and give the series proper direction. Then maybe these wannabe blockbusters could be entertaining and coherent.

Instead, the studio is desperate to make “must-see” event movies too quickly. They haven’t invested the time to provide context or emotion into the colossal battles, or given nuance to the characters as a team or by themselves. The result is a final product that feels like a recently caught fish gasping for air while it flounders on a dock.

For now, the Justice League is a tiresome film and a letdown for the dazzling spectacle it could have been. The franchise is getting more exciting, yes. But it’s still got a long way to go.

Justice League
1 1/2 out of 4 stars

PG, 121 minutes. Superhero Fantasy Epic.
Written and Directed by Zack Snyder.
Starring Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Ciarán Hinds and Henry Cavill.
Now Playing at Film.Ca Cinemas, Cineplex Winston Churchill and Cineplex Oakville & VIP. Also in IMAX and IMAX 3D.

A Special Note

One last thing worth mentioning: franchise fans should stay in their seats after the credits. There’s a post-credits scene about the next DC movie that’s wickedly entertaining and worth staying for.

Look here for more current movie reviews by Tyler Collins. For breaking movie news and reviews, you can follow him on Twitter at @MrTyCollins.

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