The DC Extended Universe. It sputtered out of the gates with Man of Steel, turned on to an uneven road with Batman v Superman and knocked over some bins and made a mess with the joyride of Suicide Squad.
And then came Wonder Woman which blew away fans, critics and that one curmudgeonly hermit in a cave in Timbuktu. But could the DCEU keep up that momentum with Justice League, the DC equivalent of The Avengers? Well it is not as deep and slick as the record-smashing Amazon’s adventure Justice League, which features DC heroes coming together to save the Earth from evil Steppenwolf and his army of parademons, is one heck of a fun ride. Here’s my spoiler free review in four punches:
Punch 1 – Unite the Six
With multi-hero films there is always the obstacle of properly balancing all the characters. And props to JL (can I call you JL? I’ll just call you JL) for giving all the characters their moment in the yellow sun. From the trailers I was a little worried that Flash may been a bit too silly and that Cyborg’s CGI suit looked a little too CGI. But Ezra Miller’s twitchy, quipping Barry Allen was light, refreshing and hilarious standout addition and Cyborg looked great on the screen, buoyed by a surprisingly resonant, stoic performance by Ray Fisher.
Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was a blast as usual and finally, finally, FINALLY Henry Cavill’s Superman lightens up a bit, giving us a more classic Superman. His CGI-ed-out mustache made him look more like Plastic Man though. Blame Mission Impossible. Jason Momoa’s Aquaman is fun but the character is somewhat one note. Batman has a few moments but is sadly overshadowed by the other heroes. Sorry Bats.
Punch 2 – Can’t fight alone
The movie is a big superhero flick so we must have big superhero action, and JL delivers it in spades. Bats does his shadow fight technique and shows off his wonderful toys, Wonder Woman does her slow down and smash thing, Cyborg blasts stuff and Aquaman stabs fools with his mighty “trident”; well it was a five pronged weapon so a “quidrent?” Flash goes all slo mo but you don’t feel the super speed as much as you did in the Quicksilver prison escape in X-Men: Days of Future Past, which is the gold standard for speedster scenes.
But oh my golly gosh Superman was super in this movie. You felt the raw power of this mighty Kryptonian like never before on the big screen. I got chills. Chills I tell ya! And seeing the Justice League all gathered together and fighting as a team was like a comic book fan’s dream come true.
Punch 3 – Lighter side of DC
The DCEU gets a lot of static for being overly grim and dark and serious. This was a drawback for Man of Steel and BvS while Suicide Squad was not dark enough. JL seemed to take a page out of Wonder Woman’s best-selling book and lightened up things considerably. How much of this is because of Joss Whedon finishing the film for Zack Snyder? Only those on the inside will truly know.
But thankfully the movie has fun and takes the audience along for the ride. The characters bounce off each other pretty well and the humour is not overdone to the point of distraction – I’m looking at you Guardians 2 and Thor: Ragnarok. Snyder is known for his muted colour palettes but JL has vibrant hues that jump out at you, like it was a living comic book. On the music side composer Danny Elfman plays on nostalgia with some familiar hero themes but the new stuff does not do anything to titilate our eardrums. You phoned it in Elfman. You phoned it in.
Punch 4 – It all comes together…mostly
While I had a grand old time with JL it is not picture perfect. The story flows decently enough and the heroes are brought together smartly but the plot is the generic of the generic. And DCEU continues its trend of flat, uninteresting villains with Steppenwolf, though Ciarán Hinds‘ gravely voice does make him sound intimidating at least.
And the movie also lacks a deeper, unifying theme like Wonder Woman or a Winter Soldier. But even with the flaws Snyder and Whedon delivers an entertaining popcorn comic flick worthy of its source material. And the mid-credits and end credits scenes were better than any Marvel post-credits scene in years. Do stick around for them.
Rating: Justice League gets 3.75/5 digitally removed strands of facial hair
For more from Zack Snyder you can check out my ranking of his seven films (pre-Justice League) here.