Warner Brothers is putting all their eggs in the basket on hoping that the re-shoots, directed by Joss Whedon, help the film to avoid becoming the mess that the DCEU’s two offerings were in 2016. It never reaches the awesomeness that Wonder Woman was this summer, but the team-up is watchable.
After Superman’s death, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) became a changed person and, realizing trouble is brewing, Bruce and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) team up to recruit a league of heroes to face the looming threat of Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds). Steppenwolf is after the Mother Box–three boxes–that can cause a lot of damage when put together. To put a team together requires the aid of Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Miller), and The Flash (Ezra Miller). The way that the Justice League comes together doesn’t reach the same level as Marvel’s The Avengers did so in 2012.
They have to join the battle without Superman (Henry Cavill) and without the hope that he represented. There’s very little time to mourn the Last Son of Krypton as action must quickly be taken to defeat the biggest villain in recent cinematic history. Steppenwolf isn’t alone: he’s aided by hundreds of zombie-like flying figures who feed on fear. DC wants to start some franchises so of course his plan is doomed from the get-go.
Now for the major spoiler: it’s no surprise to see that Superman is back from the dead. Did anyone really think that DC would let one of their prized heroes go away into the night? His return and the way they deal with it helps drive the film’s plot, but also makes for some fun between Superman and The Flash. This was where they were smart not to reveal too much in the trailers. That’s not to say viewers are likely to not see it coming because it felt too inevitable.
DC was late to the picture in getting their characters working correctly on the big screen and there were questions about casting Ezra Miller as Barry Allen/The Flash when Grant Austin has done such a fine job on the DC TV series. Question no more, because Miller is the breakout scene-stealer of the team-up.
While Justice League may not have the humor that Thor: Ragnarok had earlier this month, there are some funny scenes with the Lasso of Hestia. Aside from Allen’s quips, that’s as far as the humor goes. It’s a dark film, but not too dark.
There was no doubt that the Amazons were coming back after Wonder Woman became the smash blockbuster this summer. Connie Nielsen returns as Hippolyta, but her time on screen is short enough to help set up the film. One thing is clear: as far as cinematography is concerned, it’s best to leave the filming of the Amazons on Themyscira to the people who know it best: Wonder Woman cinematographer Matthew Jensen and director Patty Jenkins.
DC introduces us to Atlantis, where the Atlantean Mera (Amber Heard) is also introduced. How DC introduces viewers to Arthur Curry/Aquaman is important not only for the film, but for the hopeful franchise. A bad production design would have turned off the those who aren’t die-hard fans and would be seeing it anyway. Not enough time is spent to develop these characters guarding their Mother Box, but it’s expected that more will be revealed in the Aquaman movie. It’s just enough to feed one’s interest for now.
If there’s anyone who knows something about writing strong characters, it’s Joss Whedon. Given how much Whedon did after taking over for director Zack Snyder, it’s no surprise to see him credited for the screenplay with Argo’s Chris Terrio. For the life of this script, they could have done with more Martha Kent (Diane Lane) and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) – the two of them feel like they are just bit players in the larger picture.
It’s no surprise to see film composer Danny Elfman bringing back all the favorite character theme songs, including the iconic Superman and Batman themes that pre-date the 1990s. The music helps to offer some nostalgia, but not that much.
The good news for those on the fence is that the superhero team-up is fun and it’s a fast-paced two hours. That’s not to say that Justice League is a great film–because it isn’t–but it’s not the unwatchable mess that DC gave us with Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad.
Warner Brothers opens Justice League in theaters on November 17, 2017.