Lets get this straight out the gate: Justice League is a messy little film at times. However, just because it’s a mess doesn’t mean that it’s not an incredibly fun film that’s easy to fall in love with. There’s a certain charm to seeing Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg finally sharing the screen together, in a film that clearly loves these characters and the different parts of the DC Universe that they inhabit. It’s just too bad that the studio mandated a run time that cuts into the story and leaves the film’s story and villain paper-thin. What could be a truly great film is regulated to being more of a fun Saturday matinee film, but honestly, maybe that’s exactly what this needed to be.
After the death of Superman in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Justice League finds Batman leading a lone crusade to stop the future from becoming the nightmare he envisioned of a post apocalyptic world. With the guilt of Superman’s death weighing on him, Bruce realizes he can’t stop the incoming threat alone, so he must turn to the few super powered heroes he has been able to locate for help. Every minute counts as the villainous Steppenwolf draws closer to retrieving the Three Mother boxes on Earth that will let him reshape the world to his hellscape. Together Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg must band together in the name of Superman to save the world and stop Steppenwolf once and for all.
The plot really is as thin as they come, but honestly, that’s ok. Because what Justice League lacks in plot it makes up for in its characters and their interactions. Zack Snyder and Warner Bros. have assembled an excellent cast to bring these iconic DC characters to life. Fans who were eager to see more of Batman and Wonder Woman are going to be pleased that Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot truly shine throughout the film. They’re the rock solid bedrock the film is built on, and both really truly bring their A game to these characters once more. But more importantly, it’s Ezra Miller, Jason Mamoa, and Ray Fisher who truly get a chance to shine as the newcomers Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg. Miller in particular steals just about every scene he’s in as Barry Allen, which was a very pleasant surprise as that was going to be the hardest part to sell with the TV series version to compete with. This version of Barry is a bit more of a fast talking, socially awkward take on the character who is not only incredibly smart, but incredibly funny as well. Ezra Miller was born to be The Flash, and if we walk away from Justice League learning anything, it’s that this Flash clearly deserves his own film.
But this film truly works because of the team ensemble, as the core players are all clearly loving to not only be together, but being a part of this universe. This movie hinged on whether you could buy the cast together, and if they gelled as a unit, and if the characters could even blend together. Shared universes are already a tricky balancing act, but thankfully Justice League doesn’t feel forced together, and more like a natural conclusion to the story started in Batman v. Superman. The narrative makes sense, and the cast truly sells a world that’s lost and hopeless without Superman. Each character has their own personal demons behind them that help push for a greater good in the world, and that alone makes them standing together in the shadow of Superman both a truly beautiful and heroic thing.
Though Justice League is a ton of fun, and the cast is great, it would be a lie to ignore the film’s glaring issues, or which it does have. The forced run time of under two hours is a huge issue for the film’s narrative and pace, as the film really never gets a chance to breathe in a way that would be hugely beneficial. All the characters are so excellent together that you want to spend more time with the, and the issue is, there’s no downtime for them to really get to interact where they can just get to know each other. Likewise, the shorter run time also makes Steppenwolf come off as a third-rate mustache twirling villain with no real rhyme or reason for what he’s doing. It’s clear that his plot line especially was truncated down by the studio’s mandated run time, which is incredibly frustrating. You don’t need to make him overly complex, but at least give him something to do than yell, “Mother box!” over and over again. While on Steppenwolf, it should also be noted that he’s one of the weakest CGI characters to be in a film in recent memory. Something about the character’s rendering feels off, so he feels overly fake the entire time, which makes for a rather jarring experience.
Still, getting past the problems, Justice League is a really fun time at the theater. The cast is great, and with Snyder’s visual flair and the dialogue of Joss Whedon, the movie truly feels like a special collaboration of sorts. While it doesn’t always fully come together, it works more often than it doesn’t, and to see the team interacting for the first time in live action truly is a geek dream. The good really outweighs the bad, and it’s safe to say that those who have had possibly had a problem with the DC Universe films up to this point may walk away pleasantly surprised by this film. Between Justice League and Wonder Woman, it’s clear that the DC films are headed in a much more optimistic and fun direction, and it’s a great look for the series. Keep an open mind, and give Justice League a shot, you just might be glad you did.