DIR: Zack Snyder • WRI: Chris Terrio, Joss Whedon • PRO: Jon Berg, Geoff Johns, Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder • DOP: Fabian Wagner • ED: David Brenner, Richard Pearson, Martin Walsh • DES: Patrick Tatopoulos • MUS: Danny Elfman • CAST: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher
Things being grim as they are (you know, just, in general) the concept of a team of superheroes sworn to protect mankind at all costs, from threats both human and otherwise, is an appealing one – if not particularly original. The DCEU got off to a lukewarm start with Man of Steel in 2013 and its reception only cooled with the disappointing Batman V Superman and quite frankly incomprehensible Suicide Squad in 2016. Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman offered a refreshing reprieve this summer, but one out of four doesn’t make good odds for an expansive, cohesive cinematic universe a la Marvel. What with rumours of planned stand-alone films for these characters now being cast in doubt and Batfleck hoping to jump the DC ship sooner rather than later, the future of this motley crew’s silver screen adventures is uncertain. Which is a shame because, despite being messy, clunky and riddled with dodgy CGI, Justice League offers just a glimpse of what the DC universe could be if taken in hand by a more capable creative force.
In a world still reeling from the loss of Superman, a malevolent being from another world by the name of Steppenwolf sees an opportunity to feed on humanity’s despair and wreak devastation. Realising the impending doom hurtling towards them, and filled with remorse for his part in Superman’s death, Batman (aka Bruce Wayne aka Ben Affleck aka Batfleck) seeks to create an opposing force to this evil. Joined by Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), they enlist the scrappy, if somewhat excitable, speedster Barry Allen ‘The Flash’ (Ezra Miller), underwater cowboy Arthur Curry ‘Aquaman’ (Jason Momoa) and the cybernetically enhanced Victor Stone ‘Cyborg’ (Ray Fisher). Mismatching jigsaw pieces though they may be, the team comes together in order to protect the one common interest that they all share; the Earth.
The film is deeply, deeply flawed. The story is only just serviceable, the villain boring and unthreatening, the CGI looks unfinished in some places and straight up ugly in others, action sequences take place too quickly for the audience to properly comprehend what’s happening on screen, and Wonder Woman and her fellow Amazonians are ridiculously over sexualised. And that’s the short list.
And yet… there is something compelling about these characters. They bounce off each other in a way that’s strangely endearing and each actor does their best to bring something extra to their character. True, character interactions are not free from hammy dialogue and the film’s pacing means things often feel too rushed. But there is something undeniably thrilling in seeing these iconic characters work together on the big screen. It’s just a shame that their current incarnation, moulded in Zack Snyder’s vision, lacks a strong framework to allow them to better shine. The characters save the film from being a complete and utter disaster, but they alone can’t save it from being a mild disaster.
While undoubtedly Snyder is genuinely passionate about these characters, he seems to suffer from a fundamental misunderstanding of what they represent and, most importantly, what cinema-goers expect from a story involving them. Justice League understands that a character like Superman means something to people; it just can’t show us convincingly why.
12A (See IFCO for details)
Justice League is released 17th October 2017