Justice Is A Dish Best Served Lukewarm
To say DC films have had a rocky ride would be an understatement. A run of disappointing, underwhelming adaptations was mercilessly brought to an end by Wonder Woman earlier this year. Whilst not necessarily as impressive as some of the other superhero films on the market, Wonder Woman proved the studio could save face and produce the goods. With some momentum beginning to build, DC drop a handful of familiar heroes, including Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and Batman (Ben Affleck), from their universe to combine and face a powerful foe in Justice League.
Whilst the film manages to produce an action packed 2 hours chock full of great chemistry between the characters, a clever but overused dose of humour and some good action scenes, the lack of a convincing villain really hurts the authenticity the film is trying to achieve with its overarching threat facing the heroes. Add to that a distinct lack of characterisation or back story (beyond a 20 second expository laden monologue by Bruce in his jet) for any of the characters and what we end up with is a bit of a disjointed title that ticks the boxes, has some fun along the way, but is crying out for a real spark that never seems to come.
The film picks up after the events of Batman V Superman so for those who haven’t seen that film its highly advisable to watch it as you may well be a bit lost here. With Superman dying at the end of that film, the world, including Bruce Wayne, mourn the loss of such an iconic hero at the start of Justice League. Whilst they do, something sinister threatens to destroy the world. Step forward Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), the self proclaimed destroyer of worlds, who’s world domination can only be stopped by assembling the Justice League warriors and thwarting his plan. In terms of plot, Justice League is happy to lump itself in with the generic end-of-the-world plot line that seems to be in every superhero film. The villain himself, complete with antler helmet and deep, maniacal laugh, is your standard villain and really doesn’t give the feeling the heroes are ever in danger.
Despite its plot issues and generic villain, Justice League does boast some great chemistry between the characters and a decent amount of time is given to show the five heroes interacting together. The action is well shot too although some of the scenes, including the climactic final battle, are so thick with horribly done CGI it dilutes the gritty realism Justice League aims for but wildly misses with an inconsistent colour palette and overall tone to the film. There are times where you can’t help but feel Justice League would work far more effectively had it released a few individual films before this. Cyborg (Ray Fisher), The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Aquaman (Jason Momoa) in particular are given no characterisation or motivation for what they’re doing beyond a profound sense of justice and it feels a little jarring. It could be argued that Marvel is guilty of the same thing, especially in the Avengers, but these characters had their own properties and enough time to build to that point. DC have not. Although Justice League does have its own problems, some of the characterisation issues could so easily have been alleviated by taking the time to flesh the other members of the League out and really give us a reason to root for them.
Justice League isn’t a terrible film. Nor is it a particularly good one. Justice League is simply a fun film that doesn’t take itself too seriously and goes about its business with little fuss. The action is thick and fast, the pacing is suitably quick and the humour is good and genuinely funny throughout. There are glimmers of brilliance here but its lost in a title that revels in a mediocre plot line and no characterisation for the new faces. Of course, this won’t matter if you’re a fan of DC as you’ll know who these characters are from other media forms but for everyone else, the lack of fleshing out the characters is a real problem. The expository heavy dialogue does nothing for the title either but the great chemistry between the cast and a general enthusiasm toward making this an entertaining ride is hard to ignore. Its not perfect and the film is littered with numerous issues but if you’re a fan of DC heroes then this is one of the better DC efforts and certainly worth a watch even if the standard has been set ridiculously low by these films.