Only in America can a movie that has made over 200 billion dollars in profit be considered a box-office bomb.
I liked Justice League.
I didn’t love it with giddy glee nor did I hate it so much I demanded of God my 2+ hours back. But I liked it. I might even get the DVD when it comes out.
I saw it over this past weekend (as usual several weeks since it was released) after most of the professional and fanboy reviews were in.
I struggled for some days with this review – I just couldn’t put my finger on what I liked and disliked about it. I think that is because the movie couldn’t decide what it was either.
Justice League suffered from bearing the burden of being both a capstone and a touchstone.
A capstone: the finale of the first phase of the DC Cinematic Universe (DCCU) – giving us a conclusion to all that came before it. On that level, it worked: it reconciled the cliffhangers from Batman vs Superman: Superman’s death, Wonder Woman’s place in the DCCU, etc.
And to compare Justice League with the original Avengers movie is an unfair as it is inevitable: Avengers was the capstone of Marvel’s cinematic universe, but did so in a thrilling way – fans (and even non-fans – therein lies the key) were excited by a fun plot with fun characters.
The DCCU has hardly been fun.
Expectations were low for the movie – most assuming it would be the usual fest of ultra-violence and brooding sociopaths with no redemption or hope. A typical Zach Snyder film. (He left the movie after the suicide of his daughter – something that is unimaginable and my deepest sympathies and condolences go to him and his family. I can’t imagine his sadness and am very sorry for his loss. But his movies are still shit.).
Then Joss Whedon “took over” and word spread the tone was lightened and (gasp) bits of humor were injected. By this time Batman vs Superman made only the darkest basement-dwellers look forward to Justice League; while Wonder Woman gave the rest of us comic book fans cautious optimism.
DC’s capstone was satisfying, but only just. There is no avoiding the feeling that DC is struggling in Marvel’s shadow and is constantly in a state of catching up (which it has with rare exception since the 1960s).
Familiar and “new” heroes get together and fight off an alien menace. Sound familiar?
“Yes, but it’s Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman! People will flock to see it!”
Fans will, to be sure. But the rest of us? Are you willing to risk $300 million on that?
It had its great moments: the only shining point of the big battle amongst our heroes was watching Superman’s eye follow the Flash as he approached and the ensuing superspeed slugfest. You just have to see it to understand what that is going on, I won’t spoil it. We know exactly what is going through Flash’s mind at that moment. “Oh shit” was left unspoken and hardly touches how Flash must have felt.
And kudos to the secondary cast – particular Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, JK Simmons as Commissioner Gordon and Jeremy Irons (stealing ever scene) as Alfred.
Justice League is also the touchstone of the future DCCU. From here would spring an Aquaman movie, a Flash movie, and a more-in-tune-DCCU-Batman and Superman franchise reboot.
Herein lies the problem – DC is again copying Marvel with Avengers Age of Ulton. It was also a lynchpin, but it spent too much time being a lynchpin and forgot it was supposed to be an enjoyable movie.
Admirably, Justice League avoided some of the problems with Age of Ultron. Time and background was given to the newbies: Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg. But was it enough to make us anticipate their movies? With the large scope of the movie, it may have gotten lost. As with the comics, the stories of the smaller characters are lost compared to the big three. Still, Justice League showed us as much of Aquaman and Flash as Civil War did of Spider-Man, which lead to Homecoming; a success…
Another problem with the Flash is the parallel with the excellent handling of the CW Flash. My very first thought when I saw the trailer introducing the Speedster was, “Why not Grant Gustin?” Leave it to DC: not only are they plagued by their failures, but also their successes.
(and by the way, the DCCU is the Spock-with-a-beard universe compared to DC-CW. Gustin’s Flash – even another actor with a comparable personality – would have been an ill-fit. To his credit, Ezra Miller did a great job – he’d have made a great Peter Parker.)
Justice League had other good moments. Batman giving Flash advice: save one person at a time. I wish the movie would have continued with the theme: Flash’s rescue of the Russian family should have reminded us of that.
There’s more: some of the humor was well-placed and in character (a problem that notably plagued Thor: Ragnarok). The only real awkward/ill-placed bit of funny was in the aforesaid rescue of the Russian family. Anyone who knows the name Dostoyevsky probably knows it is not Russian for “Goodbye”.
But DC is not really known for their comedy. Over the past few decades, they’re not really known for their comic books either…
A disjointed and mixed review for a disjointed and mixed movie. I’d like to discuss it further, would you?
Copyright 2017 Michael Curry