It’s all riding on this. It’s do or die time, DC. If this movie isn’t great, you’re probably not gonna live it down. Let’s do this.
Wha- AGAIN?! Can DC have just one movie where this doesn’t happen? Okay, look. I’m beginning to feel like an endangered species. Because I walked out of this movie and my immediate response was: “Hey, it was cool.” This is just the core reason I tend to not consider Rotten Tomatoes the end all, be all. 39% just feels way more brutal than this movie deserves. But 86% is just silliness. No way does this movie warrant that level of praise. And there’s a discussion to be had here. We seem to have developed to a point in society where we either have to absolutely love something, or absolutely hate it. Things can’t just be average, anymore.
The movie I walked out of was far from perfect. But it struck me as just a perfectly serviceable comic book movie. And that’s fine. There was plenty in the movie to like, and plenty to scratch my head at. That said, there’s another thing that I think factors into all of this. What are you the most interested in when it comes to watching these movies? For example, I am a character person. If you can sell me on the characters, I’m usually extremely forgiving of narrative hiccups and the like.
But these movies have a tremendous uphill battle because they’re not new characters. They’re characters I’m extremely familiar with. Characters I’ve loved for years. I’m watching to see if the characters are being done justice (ha). If they’re handled well, I’m generally pleased. And I feel like that’s what the majority of people going into these movies are looking for. So in that respect, I can understand why the general audience score is as high as it is. Because the movie did the characters well. They’re likable, they’re fun, and they’re pretty close to what we’ve come to expect, based on the comics, the cartoons, and so-on.
That being said, I am also a writer, and as a writer… this movie’s a little bit of a mess. It’s not nearly as bad as people seem to be making it out to be. We’ve covered quite few incoherent messes on this site. A lot of people seemed to have trouble following it. I think I only felt confused… maybe once? Otherwise, the plot was fairly straightforward and the events were exceptionally easy to follow. There are certainly points where I can tell things were cut for time. But overall my issue wasn’t really in following the movie. Now, admittedly this may also come from comic book fan knowledge that I have.
For example, Steppenwolf’s plan. He was after three Mother Boxes, which wound up not having the same function (at least not entirely) as they do in the comics. It’s suggested that they’re still sentient supercomputers, given Cyborg’s history. But they also seem to have the same functionality as Hell Spores. My knowing this probably helped me follow things a bit more. In fact, it’s possible that my knowing what a Mother Box is, period, helped me follow things. And that could be a failing of the movie – relying perhaps a little too much on the foreknowledge of fans to be able to tell what’s going on. An average person most likely won’t know what on Earth a Mother Box is, so they’d be confused. The movie otherwise did fine laying out the plan. Bring the Mother Boxes together and raze the Earth, creating more parademons to conquer the planet for Darkseid.
That said, there are plenty of things in this movie that don’t really work. Some things were a little convenient. One scene, for example, had Aquaman show up out of nowhere. He just happened to know where the others were and decided to swim by, save the day, maybe have a little team-up if they were still up for it? Really the movie has quite a few moments like that.
For all its flaws, however, there was a lot that the movie did well. As I mentioned, the characters were well-realized. Gal Gadot continues to steal the show as Wonder Woman. And Ben Affleck is still a pretty good Batman. Cyborg had some surprisingly good moments, himself. Given his situation, it’s easy to see how he’d be a little standoffish. I especially liked one line he had in an early conversation with his father on the subject of him now being a “monster.” I’m not expecting him to be the exaggerated brainy-jock he was in the Teen Titans cartoon (who, by the way, had a decent level of depth to him as well). But I could get a sense of what he was like before his current predicament made him so guarded.
If there were two characters that I wasn’t entirely on board with, they were Flash and Aquaman. Now I’ll start by saying that I did actually like the both of them. Quite a bit. In fact, they were both directly involved in some of my favorite moments of the movie. But they didn’t really deliver the characters I’ve come to expect. Flash is witty. He’s funny. He’s funny in this movie, but not really on purpose. Here it was more that he was green, which made him kind of awkward. He was a noob. So a lot of the humor with him came from how freaked out he was. That’s fine for the time being, but I’m looking forward to future movies when he’s more confident to the point where he cracks jokes a bit more often and isn’t so awkward.
Aquaman was also cool. I liked him. But I can’t help but feel like he was a bit too… rowdy. Like they were trying to compensate for his reputation by making him a bit of a blood knight. That said, in this movie Aquaman clearly hasn’t fully accepted his responsibilities to Atlantis yet. I’ve only ever been all that familiar with Aquaman in comics where he’s an active king. So I couldn’t say how he’d be in this situation. But I also don’t really see this character making that step. His attitude is too… too devil-may-care. But that may very well be something his solo movie will address since they went out of their way to set it up here.
Another thing I appreciate about the movie is its sense of humor. It actually has one! But how is it? I remember talking about it after walking out. We were comparing it to The Avengers. Because that’s inevitable. I recalled my experience with that movie being extremely funny. The Avengers is a movie that managed to get a lot of really good laughs out of me. By contrast, Justice League didn’t really do that. The movie was consistently funny, from Batman’s sarcastic jabs at people and Flash’s awkwardness to Cyborg just no-selling people, left and right. Even Steppenwolf had a few funny lines, like when people he’d kidnapped kept begging for their lives. But there were only a few wildly funny scenes. One involving Aquaman and Wonder Woman got my entire theater to burst out into uproarious laughter.
Alas, for every positive there must be a negative, it seems. And in this case, let’s talk about the effects and the action. Now I will say that some of these action scenes are amazing. The Amazons vs. Steppenwolf was great. And a certain action scene around the middle of the movie, which I’ll talk about later, was also awesome. But then there are other action sequences that one gets the feeling should be better than they are. And the reason there’s a problem with them basically comes down to everything being hard to see. For one thing, the movie still has that Snyder-like problem of lighting an entire action sequence in murky colors. But then there’s the climax, which I feel like originally had that problem and then Joss Whedon changed the lighting when he took over? The problem here is that the red lighting over most of the climax simply doesn’t help. It makes things difficult to follow.
Let’s look at The Avengers again. In that movie, the climax doesn’t do that. The lighting of the city looks fairly normal, in fact. It would’ve been easy to make everything dark, using red or grey or blue lighting. But they didn’t. And because the lighting looked natural, the characters popped more. It made them easier to follow. For crying out loud, even Power Rangers got this right. But there’s also the factor of some of the action simply being blurry, no doubt because there’s simply too much information on the screen at one time. Stuff being crammed onto the screen doesn’t necessarily increase the scale of your movie. In fact, it makes your movie feel claustrophobic, rather than big.
Furthermore, a lot of the final fight was kind of boring. A lot of pretty straightforward punching, kicking, swinging at people pointy objects, etc. I’d wanted to see Wonder Woman doing more of her cool lasso fighting like she did in her own movie. We didn’t get to see a terrible lot of high-speed fighting from Flash. Though again, I can forgive that because he’s new. Same with Cyborg not contributing to the action a whole lot. Aquaman was more or less fine, and Batman’s fighting was cool. Though I’d have liked to see him whipping out gizmos to fight a little more frequently.
And then there were the effects. They were less than great. Steppenwolf was kinda meh to look at. Honestly, I wish they’d just have the New Gods look really close to their comic book counterparts. As opposed to thinking “well they’re aliens and no Kryptonian, so we should make them look alien.” It just strikes me as wasteful when you have all of these really visually striking characters and you throw that out for something that looks just so… generic. I also wasn’t overly fond of how they made Flash’s running look in some scenes. It just looked really weird.
Since we’re talking about effects, we now come to the point where I have to bring it up. The Superman face problem. So the story goes that Henry Cavill had another role that dictated he have a mustache, thus he couldn’t shave. So in this, they decided to CG the mustache off. The problem is that it creates some uncanny valley moments as his face just looks off. Now it isn’t always noticeable. In fact, at times he looks perfectly fine. But those moments of weirdness were very noticeable when they happened.
And now that we’ve brought up Superman, at last, let’s talk about that. This is where we’ll get into “Spoiler” turf, not that this part wasn’t obvious. So spoiler alert: Superman’s back. Batman came up with a plan to use a Motherbox and the technology in the Kryptonian ship to bring Superman back to life. And I did like them actually debating the ethics and plausibility of a plan like that, by the way. In the end, the plan works out pretty well. Except for the part where Superman goes nuts for a bit after waking up. In fairness, Cyborg did shoot him. It was an accident, but there ya go. Superman proceeds to fight literally all of them since he’s not quite in his right mind. The fight is kind of pointless, but ultimately pretty cool to watch. His exchange with Wonder Woman was great, and there’s an absolutely golden moment in the fight with Flash so I won’t complain.
Superman ultimately takes off to sort of collect himself and everything, which also struck me as a little superfluous. But I can understand why. It was to give him a little time with Lois and Martha. Afterall, he’s already died once. It’s entirely possible it could happen again. But we know how this all winds up going. Superman shows up to help in the climax and we officially have our Justice League. His presence in the climax was felt, as this is the first time I feel like they genuinely nailed the character. It’s the first time he really felt like Superman at all since the one or two scenes I think they got him right in Man of Steel. More of this guy, please.
In housecleaning, I appreciate that the movie finally added a bit of color to the DCEU, rather than everything being sort of washed-out. I also loved a lot of those little fan service moments. Things like seeing a Green Lantern at one point, hearing the Danny Elfman Batman theme, early in the movie, and Cyborg saying a certain word towards the end were all extremely cool moments for anyone who has a history with these characters in one form or another. I do still have a few minor problems. I’m fairly certain Steppenwolf isn’t dead (Yet. Darkseid could very probably be less than thrilled with his failure, though), so will we see him again? Also, if Barry is only just now getting his Forensics job, then how did he get his powers? Or are they using something more similar to how it happened in the show?
There were a few little continuity tweaks I sort of have to wave off. The situation with Cyborg was changed a little, but that’s honestly such a tiny thing I can’t be bothered caring. There’s also a bit of a question as to if the world knows who Superman is or not. As far as I can tell, they didn’t, but Clark was also noted to be dead at the end of Batman v Superman. The Planet ran a story on it and everything. So how are they going to deal with Clark not being dead, now? Or maybe the world does know about Superman. Yet I have to assume they don’t since he’s seen clearly walking around at the end of the movie in his Clark Kent getup and no one stops him at all. Here’s hoping they answer that later. Or maybe there’ll be an Ultimate Cut of some kind.
All in all, I enjoyed myself. It wasn’t a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it was hardly something I’d call awful. Call me weird, I guess, but I don’t seem to ever be on the same page as either side on these movies. It’s a straightforward and perfectly average comic book movie that’s fun enough, has likable enough characters, and a firm enough grasp of the spirit of the genre (especially on this side of the Big Two) that I can forgive many of the film’s failings. Up to and including choppy editing, pacing issues, subpar effects, and a few minor plot holes. All in all, it was a perfect case study of something I’d probably call Junk Food.
With all that said and done, folks, that’s it for today. Thanks for reading, as always.
Keep up the awesome,