Produced by Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder,
Jon Berg, Geoff Johns
Screenplay by Chris Terrio, Joss Whedon
Story by Chris Terrio, Zack Snyder
Based on Justice League by Gardner Fox
Directed by Zack Snyder
Starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams,
Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen,
J. K. Simmons, Ciarán Hinds
Have we broken through? Have the rough drafts been scrapped and the iterations of the Batmobile reached a point where it won’t loose a wheel?
Folks, I think we’re there, and Justice League and the DC cinematic universe has figured itself out. Is it perfect?
Far from it, but my prep for the film came in the form of watching Avengers: Age of Ultron and Wonder Woman.
My logic being, let’s take what we have to build on and look forward from there. Zack Snyder’s Justice League had the advantage (through very shitty circumstances) of being punched up by Joss Whedon and also the distinct pleasure of being the next chapter to Gal Gadot’s and Patty Jenkins’s incredible Wonder Woman movie from earlier this year.
Sure, I’ve been a Man of Steel apologist, and perhaps you might judge me for going against the grain by also championing Suicide Squad so take my ringing Justice League endorsement with a grain of salt, certainly. I can’t blame you for that. I’ve also spent a few Sunday afternoons with Batman v Superman: Ultimate Edition because I wanted to. You aren’t the boss of me!
Justice League doesn’t spend a lot of time with convoluted introductions to the team. That all moves very quickly, starting with Batman. In a hybrid scene that I would compare to the first appearance of Keaton, facing down one criminal on rooftop merged with Batsuit tech from the Batman: Arkham series places Bruce Wayne’s alter ego firmly into 2017. Sure he already was introduced BvS, but with lots of fans coming to the movie series (or giving it one last chance)! after Wonder Woman, this opening salvo cuts out all the bullshit and pits Batman against a Parademon before the title unfurls.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that they recreate one of my favorite scenes from Dark Knight Returns issue #1 as Ben Affleck ages into this “I’m getting too old for this shit” Batman.
Wonder Woman and Diana Prince make an equally dynamic superhero landing entrance, as she is displayed atop Lady Justice with an eye on some terrorists. In a bank sequence that rivals The Dark Knight and includes a ticking time bomb, Diana uses her gauntlets to dodge machine gun fire and save four city blocks from a weapon of mass destruction.
We are introduced to Aquaman (a shirtless Jason Momoa—as if there is ever a shirt-FUL Jason Momoa) just as quickly as Bruce follows the Arthur Curry to a frozen fishing village and exposes his secret. Cyborg and The Flash are introduced with a bit less fanfare on the Batcomputer during conversations with Alfred, but most importantly the League is assembled relatively quickly, juiced along by good storytelling and pacing.
Flash’s origin is perhaps being saved for his own movie, but Ezra Miller plays this loner Barry Allen in an awkward authenticity that borders on spectrum behavior. Whereas Grant Gustin’s Flash is fully assimilated into regular society and social norms, Ezra’s Flash is trying hard to figure out what ‘brunch’ is and is quick to join up with Bruce because he has no friends! Henry Allen played by Billy Crudup is locked up for the murder of Nora Allen, a parallel to the television show and modern origins of the character.
Ray Fisher plays Cyborg Victor Stone, who is seen being brought back to life in BvS by his dad and a Mother Box. We learn how the Mother Box energy is something no one quite understands but also is giving Victor more powers like flight and being able to form weapons with his tech. Victor resents his father for this ‘gift’ but works through these issues after joining the League with purpose.
The big bad comes in the form of Jack Kirby creation Steppenwolf of Apokolips. Darkseid’s henchmen is after the three Mother Boxes on Earth to create a Unity box to take over the world.
In a flashback to the Mother Box origin story we’re treated to an ancient battle with Steppenwolf facing Amazonians, Atlantans, Earth Men and versions of some familiar DC heroes that may return later in the franchise.
There is no secret to anyone that Superman does indeed return for Justice League. I’ll let you see for yourself how that comes about, but yes, you will believe a man can fly again.
In Gotham we’re introduced to J. K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon in a scene that parallels the 1989 Batman Bob Kane ‘have you seen this man’ sketch. The movie isn’t heavy on easter eggs, but I was quite pleased with this nugget.
Much credit must also be given to Geoff Johns for reigning in the director’s vision to cutting to the chase in this film. Justice League the movie reads on screen like the New 52 reboot, and those first exciting Johns and Jim Lee issues of the book. Even Batman cracks out a few moments of funny, in what I have to credit as Joss Whedon’s dialogue re-writes. Black Widow is given these moments in the Avengers films, which makes for even funnier moments, as both Widow and Batman come off as notoriously strict and disciplined.
There is so much to cover, plot wise that I will dance around the last half of the movie so that you can make your own judgments. Highlights include a Quinjet-like Batplane, more militaristic and a cargo vessel than The Dark Knight Rises‘ The Bat. The team fights together well, each team mate using their skills as an amalgam. Jeremy Irons’ Alfred is understated and cuts Bruce down in the subtle ways that he can. I could have used more Alfred!
The Bad: I don’t mean to end on a sour note but some of the CGI really seemed a bit off, especially the computer version of Ciarán Hinds’ Steppenwolf. I don’t know if it is the matter of Warner not having access to ILM that makes me notice the uncanny valley, but I do. Same goes for some scenes with Superman and overall with any big “this stream of stuff is going to goop all over everything and crystals are popping out of the ground” effects just don’t look…that real or that great.
We all know Warner and DC invested a lot of time and money into producing this thing, but if we go back to Doomsday in BvS, we also see muddy, disconnected rendering that I tend to gloss over in other franchises. I know CGI is a massive undertaking from Weta and other studios, but I could use a bit more attention to this stuff. At one point Alfred is watching the Batplane take off from the lake around Wayne Manor, and I thought, “Hey, maybe they could have left CGI Alfred in the cupboard instead of out here in the apples in pears, It just looks like video game guy is standing in a puddle and walking into the wall (which is what happens to me every time I play Tomb Raider).
My CGI rant aside, the DCEU has cleared the cobwebs and I will return to see this again and look forward to what they decide will be the next chapter. This Superman, without saying too much is a bit more cheerful than his last two movies, so being away must have really refreshed him.
The League is united, and I am backing the plays made by the film makers from merging established musical themes from Danny Elfman, John Williams and Wonder Woman’s theme from Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL. Composer Elfman does a masterful job using the score to acknowledge the rich history of these characters.
Top performances, modern tech, and a simple story have given us a great base that can finally rival Marvel Studios across the street with Justice League. This one won’t need an Ultimate Edition. Justice League is an incredible fresh movie on the heels of Wonder Woman. Do you think we can hand the next one over to Joss completely? His fingerprints were welcome to have all over the screen of this Batcomputer!