Justice League: The Gizmodo Review

Image: Warner Bros.

Zack Snyder's Justice League is both the best and worst of everything we've seen from the Warner Bros. DC Extended Universe movies. There are plenty of things to like, and about an equal number to dislike. But ultimately, its good things bumped up against the bad enough to leave me with hope and excitement for what's to come.

Taking place after the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Justice League is mainly about Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) assembling a team of superheroes to defeat the villain Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds). The team, of course, consists of Barry Allen, played by Ezra Miller; Arthur Curry, played by Jason Momoa; and Victor Stone, played by Ray Fisher. In comics, we know them as the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg.

While Affleck's Batman, Gadot's Wonder Woman, and even Henry Cavill's Superman have been fairly well-defined, Justice League has to spend a lot of time introducing and setting up these new characters, which makes for a very disjointed narrative. Jumping around to continually help establish who the new characters are, what they can do, and how they fit in is understandable, but it never quite feels cohesive. The movie really feels like five movies, smashed frantically together.

However, once the characters are established, they're relatable and interesting. Barry, for example, is incredibly insecure. Diana is harboring guilt over her long absence from protecting humanity. Victor feels like a confused outsider, and so on. They're simply-defined characteristics, to be sure, but they give everyone just enough depth that, once things really start happening, they have goals to achieve beyond just beating the bad guy.

The bad guy, unfortunately, is possibly Justice League's biggest problem. Steppenwolf is so incredibly non-threatening that he feels almost superfluous to the movie. He's not superfluous, and there are plenty of attempts to make him threatening, but it's all undercut by how generic he is. If he was Lex Luthor, Darkseid, Doomsday, or any of DC's other top-tier villains, Justice League would barely need to change anything about his role, because there is nothing distinct about Steppenwolf. The character feels like a placeholder for a better bad guy they forget to insert, and as a result, he never feels like a whole or worthy adversary. There's not a moment in the film where the Justice League's victory is ever in doubt.

In fact, everything the Justice League does feels too easy. Some of that is certainly due to the film's economical runtime, which is under two hours. This should be a good thing - way too many superhero blockbusters are too bloated nowadays - but Justice League clearly cut out some connective tissue instead of just telling a tighter story. Among those are scenes about a random European family that feel hugely out of place for most of the film; when their purpose is finally revealed, the payoff is minimal. Wonder Woman's first appearance is another such example. She's fighting terrorists who have this huge political agenda but they simply disappear, leaving you scratching your head. The disjointed storytelling, coupled with a lack of tension, continually works against the film.

The action scenes, on the other hand, have more to them than the previews may have led you to expect. They could have easily just been everyone punching things and flying around, but the heroes are given their defined (if expected) roles. Aquaman helps with water stuff, the Flash with speed, Cyborg with tech, Wonder Woman with strength, and Batman is the coach, making sure everything runs smoothly. When all the team members are fighting side by side, the movie is very fun to watch.

And yet they come with another problem: As those action scenes are happening, the visuals don't always look that great. Many of the effects in Justice League aren't just bad, they're very bad. It's very obvious which scenes with Superman were reshot, because Cavill's digital mustache removal isn't always seamless. Some shots with Cyborg look like he exists on multiple plains of existence. Thankfully, these problems aren't persistent, but they're there, and they will knock you right out of the movie.

But even when the film around them is sloppy or ineffective, the characters are likable - charming, even. That's not something that can be said for many superhero movies. So despite the fact that there are only some parts of Justice League that truly work, the whole film is a bundle of potential. It creates genuine interest and excitement for a Cyborg movie, an Aquaman movie, and a Flash movie. This film does a lot of heavy lifting, which at times hurts it immensely. But as a result a foundation has been set. We know who these characters are, what they can do, and we actually like them. Now, all DC and Warner Bros. have to do is make those films better.

Justice League opens today.


Comments

    i lvoe what Gal did with wonder woman, and im looking forward to seeing Ezra as Flash. im not a huge DC fan, but i do love super hero movies. Aquaman looks badass too. im usually one to get lost in movies and not think too logically or critically, so this looks like a good thrill.

    Yeah one to wait for on Netflix...

      Nope. Just saw it. I’ll be seeing it again tomorrow. Totally worth the watch at the movies. Loved it!

    Sounds as shit as i thought it would be. I wonder why Warner Brothers just can't make a decent film. What's their problem.

      Its like anything, you try something and the first time it is rubbish.

      You then go out and say, ok, I am going to fix it and this time it will be amazing, and unfortunately it also turns out shit.

      Then you start feeling the pressure so the defined ideas you had when you started get thrown out.. If i have more explosions people will love that cause they said the first one didn't have enough, people don't want backstories, they told me that after the second try.

      By the end you are like the 6 year old kid that can't beat the main boss in a game, you will try anything, even the most stupid, dumb ideas. This is Warner Brothers.

      They did make a decent movie. It was called Wonder Woman. It was critically acclaimed and made a crap load of money.

      I see Justice League as them finally clearing the decks. Snyder is done now. They have a whole year to get back in gear. Shazam, Aquaman, Batman and Wonder Woman 2 all have great directors. They'll be fine.

      Stop being so miserable and just enjoy a disposable colorful superhero movie.

        Wonder woman was crap. Even my daughter didn't like it. Hell, you must be easily amused.

          Agreed. I didn't get the hype for wonder woman. I enjoyed it for the most part, but it really didn't leave a lasting impression personally.

          I guess a LOT of people are easily amused as it did great in ratings and box office.

        Wonder Woman was awful. Watch it again, seriously. Lame script, predictable story, boring characters.

        It's pretty bizarre how many people seem to have been duped into thinking it was good.

    Can't not see that version of Wonderwoman as Xena. Totally a Xena ripoff.
    Awesome, don't get me wrong. She's as kick-arse and amazing as you can get, but in a Xena way, not Wonderwoman.

      You do know Wonder Woman predates Xena by about 50 years, don't you?

      Xena was totally a WW ripoff.

    After watching numerous attempts at turning a super hero comic book character into a movie I'm now convinced that it will never result in a decent, coherent, believable, enjoyable story. It's a bit like getting a second rate piece of chocolate - your expectation are high but you walk away telling yourself "hmm it wasn't that bad".

      You want believable in a genre with flying aliens, fishmen, guys in suits (metal or rubber) that ignore G-forces, or can shrink themselves to atom size, act like a spider, etc etc?

      As soon as you're watching a superhero movie, you need to be suspending belief for the duration. Then you just need coherent for it to be decent and enjoyable.

      Think the first Transformers movie. As soon as you accept there are giant alien robots masquerading as machines, the movie becomes coherent, enjoyable, and decent.

      Or watch the first Iron Man movie, which built up to the versions we see since. Plausible, in its fantastic setting, to build a rough draft, then refine later in the comfort of his megamansion.

      Again, as soon as you buy into the fantastical parts of the movie, its plausible, coherent, decent, and enjoyable. The steps are logical, even while based on impossible ideas.

    Wow, is it just me or does that top image look like really bade CGI? It looks like they have been greenscreened into a photograph.

    I really enjoyed the movie, and i hated the others except for wonder woman.
    It would of been better if Whedon made the whole movie, but you could definitely tell his edits and it makes the movie so much better than what it would of been.
    I do agree about the CGI though - it's pretty terrible. Steppenwolf and Cyborgs scenes look really really bad.
    I did however like the classic look of cyborg at the end though, i was so not a fan of the "megatron" look

    Last edited 20/11/17 12:27 pm

    Wow, there's a great variance here in the comments. I saw it last night and I thought it was a great superhero movie, for yet another superhero movie. One thing it is not is another fucking Marvel movie and that makes it a good start for me. I didn't think it was rushed and i thought the pacing was great and the character intros were great. There were some parts that did feel campy but in a nice kind of way, but also had great scenes that were emotive as well, moving even. I would watch it again easily, and i gave it a 4/5 stars. I could watch every scene with Wonder Woman in it all day.

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