Justice League a Critical Review
I’ve taken a few days to digest the travesty and disappointment that was Justice League. As a comic fan of over 30 years I had high hopes. I’m what millennials would term a ‘fanboy’ – in my day we were outcasts and spat on in social settings but in this golden age of comic book movies we hold the keys to the kingdom. Normally when I see a shit comic book movie I can sum up what was wrong with it in a few sentences. Justice League was such a comedy of errors it took me several days to get my thoughts straight. Before you are character by character breakdowns of Batman, Flash and Superman that I did over 3 days. I may do a few more if I’m still full of zeal tomorrow – we’ll see:
Batman: As the movie came to an end it felt like Affleck had given up all semblance of trying to be Batman and was just standing there in a giant rubber body suit...months after the original filming...with his paunch visible, his double chin on display and with a doomed look on his face. It was like watching bad Disney world dress up actors - which in turn heightened the campness as it was impossible to take seriously. It took me back to bat nipples in Batman and Robin except George Clooney's Batman was a lot more Batmanny. This Batman isn't even the inaccurate dark, sadistic murderer of B v S. This Batman was just a fat old rich man with lots of gadgets that were designed to reinforce jokes about him being rich and having no powers. He did zero in the movie and even his attempt at action was neutered as his team members reminded him they all had powers and, so he needn't bother. In ditching Snyder's vision they've entered make it up as you go along territory utilising the throw it at the wall technique..."
The Flash: So the Flash is the best part of the movie in that he is the only thing that elicited a response from me at any stage. I even laughed out loud at one point. However he was woefully underdeveloped as a character which wouldn't matter as much except they're going up against the mega popular Flash TV show that has developed Grant Gustin's Flash over 4 long seasons. There's no way they were ever going to be able to do him justice in this film (bad pun?) and I doubt even a solo Flash movie preceding this would have sufficed. They needed to go full Iron Man with the character - have him appear in at least 2 solo movies and multiple cameos before JL.
Ezra Miller is a good choice for the character despite having no resemblance to the blonde aryan Barry Allen of the comics (he's a nice Jewish boy as he tells us himself - the total opposite of the classic Barry Allen). I'm guessing most of his lines come from the Whedon reshoots but they are mostly funny and do provide some entertainment in the confusing CGI fest of bullshit we are otherwise watching. For some reason he runs like he's crapped his pants. There's no explanation to why or how he has a costume, although as it looks like it's made of red spray painted American football pads and a cycling helmet I guess he just made it himself...no real explanation why he needs a costume...I guess he's just a superhero and that's what they do...
There was one set piece where he accidentally sexually assaulted Wonder Woman at super speed...which was then laughed along at by the other actors, clearly meant to be light comedy relief...I mean yeah I get it was unintentional within the diegesis of the movie but that joke was written in...so really it was a sexual assault joke at now of all times...by Whedon of all people. I mean really? Just seemed a bit of a mis-step although I've not seen anyone else mention it on any other review or post...so what do I know?
On the subject of off-key jokes there's another bit where Aquaman accidentally sits on the lasso of truth and starts spouting chauvinist comments about how hot Wonder Woman is...until they all realise the cause..whereupon she gives him a raised eyebrow and they all laugh along...so yeah Aquaman is secretly just eyeing up Wonder Woman all the time and sees her as a piece of meat...this following Patty Jenkins triumphal solo Wonder Woman film which has been hailed by mainstream media as a feminist milestone. Just seemed like a joke that came at great expense and wasn't even really funny.
Back to Flash: The special effects for his super speed are mainly not good enough...he's perpetually in slow motion but unlike the excellent Quicksilver scenes in X-Men: Days of Future Past or X-Men: Apocalypse, or even the Quicksilver of the Avengers Age of Ultron it brings nothing new to the table.
There is one scene that's worth a watch involving Superman as we get to see the Flash and Superman try and outmatch each other in speed - something which has been waiting a long, long time to come to the screen, ever since the classic silver age comic with their famous race. But it's certainly not enough. Again Gustin's Flash seems to do it better.
I'd like to see more of the Flash but only if they use his movie to reboot the whole DCEU, as per the Flashpoint storyline that is rumoured to be the focus of the film...just try and preserve Wonder Woman somehow and reboot everyone else...
Superman: so I keep hearing people saying: "finally in this movie they got Superman right, not like that last movie!". If by 'right' you mean utterly generic and characterless then yeah sure...what I liked about Man of Steel and B v S was that we got to see Superman from a realistic view - clearly an idea stolen from Alan Moore's Marvel/Miracle Man story line - how would humanity react if there was a god like entity in existence who could do literally anything? - it would change everything - religion, the balance of superpowers etc... this was good stuff to me. We've seen Chris Reeves and his clone Brandon Routh do the saving cats from trees routine before. We don't need it again - I loved Man of Steel because it dared to take this new approach and the best parts for me of B v S were this dark, gritty take on Supes. What let that film down was that it was a piece of narrative shit, that made zero sense, had the terrible CGI Doomsday cave troll stolen from LOTR and got Batman utterly wrong - a sadistic killer who uses guns (the utter opposite of Batman in every way - although still better than his chubby characterless RichMan Justice League appearance).
So what have they done to course correct for Superman in the Justice League: well like the spineless sycophants they are at Warner Bros they've bowed to the critics by removing the broody dark aspects and literally brightening the colour palette so Superman almost glows in florescence - the costume that looked so good under Snyder's drab washed out palette now doesn't work at all in this high brightness overly saturated set of colours...it looks like one of those shirts that preening body builders buy with colour grades over where muscles are meant to be to heighten their curvature...it looks like cosplay (most especially in the last scene where he races the Flash).
Worst of all of course is Superman's uncanny valley upper lip.
In perhaps the greatest sign that we are living in the end times Warner Bros CGI'd out Cavill's moustache in the reshoots. And of course the reshoots seem to have been for the entire movie as he has this weird upper lip in every scene in the movie. Surely they other film company would have accepted millions of dollars for Cavill to wear a false moustache rather than ruin the entire movie with this terrible CGI? The world has gone mad. Every single scene he's in I found myself just starting at his lip unable to pay attention to dialogue or anything else.
On the subject of Superman's death: The Death of Superman was a huge comic even in my early teens back in 1993. I remember buying every single issue from Forbidden Planet in Oxford Street over a period of 2 years following his death, his funeral, the four supermen who replaced him and his eventual return after a long, long period away. It was a big deal at the time. I still have the black bagged Superman #75 with the black and red armband to mourn his death. So when Snyder killed him off at the end of B v S I assumed it was going to have some gravitas to it...that he'd stay dead for a few films maybe...or at least that bringing him back would have some consequences. And it seems that maybe this is where Snyder was intending to go. As we can see from the dream sequence in B v S there is an alternate future where Superman is brought back, turns evil and subjugates the world. The Flash comes back in a confusing scene in B v S to tell Bruce Wayne that 'Lois is the key'.
I'm going to assume that Snyder intended a whole dystopian story arc that would fully embrace evil Superman as per Superman 3...except this time rather than flicking peanuts at glasses we'd see the result of what happens when an actual god goes mad.
What with the poor reception and feedback to B v S, the desperate attempts to change the direction away from Snyder's bleak vision mid-movie (JL was filmed back to back with B v S) and the lesson learned from the popularity of the altruistic Wonder Woman, it seems WB have just ditched this entire story arc. "Lois is the key"...so when Superman is revived, which takes literally minutes and has no real drama to it, he goes very temporarily evil (you'd think Batman would have prepared for this, brought some of that kryptonite dust from the last movie along particularly as he's familiar with madness following resurrection as per his experience with Lazarus pits in his long 20 year career as Batman) and then Lois is brought along and he stops being evil. That's it. No evil future. No Flash actually being sent back to leave the warning. No ramifications of his death which ostensibly happened between movies. The whole thing was utterly, utterly pointless. Just a waste of all our time and of a great story arc from the comics that we will now never see done properly on the big screen. Such a waste.
I could go on about Superman's awful usage in the movie. But I'm boring myself writing this. One last point; once he's back Bruce asks him for help against the awful CGI bad guy and he agrees but not before flying back to Smallville to have a weirdly positioned scene with Lois who tells him "you smell great" - the guys been dead for months...I'm betting he doesn't smell great...he faffs around doing fuck all in the corn field for a while and then Lois says 'hadn't you better go and help Bruce?' to which he sort of grins as if he'd forgotten and lazily gets ready to fly off...
...meanwhile the entire Justice League has been getting trounced and Batman has already pointlessly tried to sacrifice his own life at least once for no reason (why did he assemble a team if he was just going to do it alone and kill himself in his weird vehicle?). Once Superman shows up the villain is immediately defeated. You'd think he might have turned up a bit earlier considering...
But where does this leave us? Superman is so much more powerful than the other members in this version of the JL and Batman is so depowered that he's just a mockery of the character (long gone is the Batman of the last movie who actually bested Superman) that they're going to have to invent a narrative plot device every movie to depower him or remove him from the field of play...
To be clear I like Cavill in the role. I just want to see Cavill and not uncanny lip man and I want WB to make up their minds what the fuck they are doing. This film is the mess to end all messes....