I really enjoy movies based on comic books, whether they be good like The Dark Knight, or bad like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Every time I watch one (or re-watch one) I write up a post with my thoughts. I try to be spoiler free, but the older the movie, the less careful I am. This time it was the 2017 movie Justice League.
IMDb Rating: 7.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes critics: 41%
Rotten Tomatoes audience: 78%
My Rating: 6/10
Before seeing the movie, I had heard a lot about it. That was inevitable due to the nature of the film. This was DCs big gamble. Bringing together the Justice League with no prior introduction to three of the primary members (The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg). They had to go big and do it well, or it could potentially end any hope of a well-regarded DCEU franchise.
They did… fine. That’s it, just fine. Justice League isn’t a bad movie, but it’s not a great movie either, and DC really needed it to be great.
I want to start with what the movie did well. I know that a lot of people don’t like Zack Snyder’s take on the DC universe, but one thing Snyder is really good at is making action scenes. The fight scenes in Justice league are a lot of fun. The movement is great, the use of slow motion makes sense and helps tell the story of the fight, and the way the battles develop is wonderful. The fight scenes make this movie worth watching.
I also really liked Steppenwolf as the villain. I thought he was a great choice. He was powerful enough to force the League to come together, and his goal and backstory fit really well in the narrative. I didn’t know much about him from the comics, but I knew enough that the Justice League version was a good adaptation. I also felt like he was just a preamble to the real threat, which was the goal. Steppenwolf mentions Darkseid, and this movie did a good job of setting the stage for an epic battle between the league and that most powerful DC villains.
Danny Elfman’s score is also great. His use of the individual themes for each of the heroes while also creating a new and unique score was fantastic. It was a bold move to use the themes from the Christopher Reeves Superman films and Michael Keaton’s Batman movies, since they are not part of the DCEU, but it worked. It connected Justice League to the origin movies of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman while still being something new.
Now onto the less favorable parts of the movie…
The story was just okay. I was really hoping that having Joss Whedon involved would help clean up a lot of the story problems that the DCEU has had in the past. That didn’t really happen. The biggest issue that I had with the story was that the League never really worked together. Even during during the climactic battle there seemed to be no cohesion between the members of the Justice League. They didn’t use each others strengths. Batman is supposed to be a master strategist, but he has no plan for defeating Steppenwolf. The Flash’s speed doesn’t play any role in the actual fighting, and Aquaman and Wonderwoman are basically interchangeable brawlers.
[Minor spoiler alert] Superman was the other problem in the film. I get that you have to have Superman in the movie. He’s the face of the Justice League and the most powerful superhero in history. The problem is that he’s far too powerful in the movie. Steppenwolf isn’t even a challenge for him, and that’s a problem. As soon as Superman enters the battle, the story shifts to distract him from the actual fight, because as long as he’s around, none of the other heroes have anything to do. [End spoilers]
While I don’t think Justice League is a bad movie, it was a disappointment. There was a lot of hype surrounding the movie. Some of it was justified. The DCEU movies are trying to show that they’re relevant in a genre dominated by Marvel. Justice League was their best chance to do so and it fell short. Future DCEU movies will still be financially successful, and their style will still provide a counter to Marvel’s more formulaic movies, and that’s great. The problem is that, at this point, it’s unlikely that they will ever be viewed as being true competitors to MCU films.