Under Review: Justice League


Courtesy Photo

“Justice League” unites the major DC heroes, but falls short on character development.

Ryan Chang, Assistant Online Editor

When I walked into the theater on Sunday night, I was cautiously optimistic for DC’s “Justice League.” Emboldened by the critical and commercial success of “Wonder Woman” (2017), I believed that the DC Extended Universe was off to a fresh start. I couldn’t wait to see classic heroes like Cyborg, Aquaman and the Flash on the big screen for the first time, teaming up in a crossover that was supposed to rival Marvel’s cinematic universe. Despite the disappointment of “Batman v. Superman,” the trailers for “Justice League” promised a fun, lighthearted experience that would finally do the classic superhero team justice.

Though the film did make some welcome improvements over its predecessors, I still left the theater wholeheartedly disappointed at the incoherent, overloaded mess that was “Justice League.”

From a visual standpoint, “Justice League” is surprisingly lackluster, featuring chaotic action sequences that are aggressively mediocre by modern blockbuster standards. Director Zack Snyder continues the unfortunate trend of dark, murky set pieces, which clash with the movie’s attempts at humor and levity. In addition, issues with actor Henry Cavill’s mustache, which was digitally removed in the final cut, make Superman’s mouth look cartoonishly misshapen.

The film’s biggest flaw is that it attempts to do too much, so pacing problems plague the entire film. The first half hour or so is dedicated to Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman’s (Gal Gadot) travels to recruit the members of the League. The film then immediately launches the team into conflict with the antagonist Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds).

Throughout all this, the film does not develop Aquaman (Jason Momoa), the Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher), so the new heroes are one dimensional and weak. Cyborg mainly serves to further the plot along with little else distinguishing him. Aquaman, while thankfully not as goofy as his comic counterpart, comes off as trying too hard to be cool. Thankfully, the Flash, who struggles to match the confidence of his counterparts while harnessing his powers, brings a little more depth. While it is undeniably fun to watch Batman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, the Flash and Aquaman take on a horde of Parademons, the new heroes still don’t have as much of an impact on the plot as they should.

The film’s climax only exacerbates this issue when a recently revived Superman defeats Steppenwolf in a few punches. The combined efforts of Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg weren’t enough to take down Steppenwolf, but Superman resolves the conflict in less than five minutes. This anticlimactic finale isn’t just unsatisfying; it undermines the necessity of a Justice League by having Superman act as the world’s biggest deus ex machina.

“Justice League” makes some welcome improvements over previous entries in the DC Extended Universe. Most notably, Superman is no longer the dark, brooding loner from “Man of Steel” and “Batman v. Superman;” he now matches the cheerful, hopeful comic icon. Ezra Miller does an excellent job of portraying an inexperienced Barry Allen who still has much to learn about his powers, so I have hope for better character development in other films. The film as a whole feels much lighter than previous DC films thanks to welcome banter between the heroes.

While “Justice League” makes some promising steps for the DC Extended Universe, it creates just as many problems going forward. As a stand-alone film, it’s muddled by a weak plot, mediocre action and unimpressive character development. As the culmination of the DC Extended Universe, “Justice League” is an embarrassment, particularly in light of the recently released trailer for Marvel’s “Infinity War,” which became the most viewed trailer ever in 24 hours. People are losing interest in the DC Extended Universe (just look at the film’s $500 million worldwide gross, a low total for a superhero blockbuster). The Justice League is one of the most iconic superhero teams of all time (arguably more so than the Avengers), and it deserved better than a mediocre, poorly executed movie from DC.