Justice League gets an awful lot wrong, but gets one important factor fantastically right
First things first: Justice League isn't as bad as you'd feared.
Now that we've got that out of the way, the bad news: Justice League isn't as good as you'd hoped, either.
While it feels like just about every major blockbuster these days has some major issues getting across the finish line, Warner Brothers and DC had some particularly testing hurdles that would've been enough to stall just about any other production, where it not for the fact that Justice League NEEDED to happen to continue the franchise.
After the tepid reaction to Man Of Steel and Batman V Superman, the initial two-part Justice League movie was whittled down to one, perhaps in part due to Zack Snyder losing favour within Warners. Following the massive popularity of Wonder Woman, including the much lighter tone that movie presented, it is clear that a new direction was being sought for the future of the DC canon.
Then, following the tragedy of his daughter's suicide, Snyder removed himself from the production altogether, and he was replaced by Joss Whedon, to finish of the production. Reshoots were ordered, tens of millions more were spent to redefine and redirect the tone, and an order apparently came down from on high that the film was not to cross the 2 hour mark.
And so here we are, with what is reportedly the second most expensive movie EVER made, being made to order, with more than one visionary behind the helm.
Clip via Warner Bros. Pictures
We've been told that Whedon has stayed true to Snyder's initial vision of the movie... but the thing is, this new lighter, more fun vibe that follows on from Wonder Woman's success isn't something that aligns with Synder's sensibilities, but it does perfectly match up with a Joss Whedon project.
So we end up with a weirdly schizophrenic, Frankenstein's monster of a movie, with a replacement director trying to follow the style of an original director second guessing himself. It leads to some bizarrely rushed introductions, mixed with overlong action scenes, and mishandled explanations for very important set-ups.
All of the problems are there in the opening scene with Batman, as he darkly flies around the rooftops of Gotham, trying to capture a burglar, only to end up in an overly CGI'd fist-fight with an alien that arrives out of nowhere, and disappears without explanation.
It sets up so many questions that it never has any intention of answering, and is just one of a number of scenes in which stuff happens just to move the plot along, regardless of how much (or, more likely, how little) sense it actually makes.
The bizarrely simple-yet-incomprehensible plot, mixed with the truly underwhelming villain (Steppenwolf, voiced by Ciaran Hinds, never once feels like he is approaching a threat), and the video-game cut-scene special effects and action scenes will give some viewers PTSD to the worst parts of Suicide Squad.
However, just like Suicide Squad, there are certain aspects to the movie that warrant excitement: specifically the casting and the performances, but unlike Suicide Squad, the negatives of the movie aren't so overwhelming that they overpower any attempt the enjoy it.
Despite the rushed introductions, we immediately get a strong impression and an instant appreciation of Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller) and, to a lesser extent, Cyborg (Ray Fisher). In a very limited amount of screen-time, these new additions do wonders with their characters, and the interactions they have with the already cemented Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) are wonderful.
Like the stand-outs in Suicide Squad, namely Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and Deadshot (Will Smith), we are aware that these characters have been dropped into a movie beneath their quality, and we get very excited to see what Warners are going to do with them next.
The brightened up tone also helps the movie not feel nearly as sluggish as Man Of Steel or Batman V Superman did, but that truncated running time doesn't do anyone any favours. The can't-be-cut, super-expensive action set-pieces remain in place, fighting for screen-time against the infinitely cheaper, but far more enjoyable banter-y back-and-forth between the five current members of the League.
What we end up with is a movie that features Batman, Wonder Woman and more famous superheroes, entertaining the hell out of us when they're just standing around talking to each other, but coasts in neutral any time an explosion is needed. It isn't so much 'Superhero Movie Fatigue' as it is 'Superhero Action Scene Fatigue'. Nobody has figured out what to do with these tremendous characters other than have them punch stuff, and blow up stuff they can't punch.
Fingers crossed, with the fantastic ground work done with the characters here, the stand-alone movies for Aquaman and The Flash will come up with something more interesting for them to do.
Two more things:
(1) Stay around passed the end credits, as it pretty much sets up the next Batman movie, and
(2) Unless you've been actively avoiding it, you'll know that Henry Cavill returns in this movie as Superman. We're not going to say how exactly he is brought back into the fold, but just like the other characters, he is handled really well, far better than in MoS or BvS. Fingers crossed this will continue on in whatever they decide to do next with the character.