Justice League

Justice+Leage+is+an+entertaining+flick+that+excels+in+its+field+%28Courtesy+of+Flickr%29.

Justice Leage is an entertaining flick that excels in its field (Courtesy of Flickr).

By Matthew Dillon

Justice League is an entertaining flick that excels in its field (Courtesy of Flickr).

With the notable exception of Wonder Woman, Warner Brothers’ DC Extended Universe (DCEU for short) has a troubled four year history. Where the Marvel Cinematic Universe seems incapable of producing a truly bad film, the DCEU has produced nothing but duds like Batman Vs Superman and Suicide Squad. At least you can never mistake the two competing franchises, as it’s impossible to confuse the distant and morose DC movies with the uplifting and relatable Marvel ones.

Wonder Woman offered some hope. It was on Justice League to prove whether or not that change was a fluke. And while Justice League is a marked improvement, the future of the DCEU is still in question.

Set directly after the flashy, overly biblical and contrived resolution of BvS, Batman and Wonder Woman must figure out how to keep the world safe without Superman’s help. That already difficult task is further complicated by the arrival of Steppenwolf, an alien god intending to finish the prehistoric war he started against all of Earth.

From there, the plot and its characters spiral in every direction. Eventually we finally get our titular Justice League, an assortment of heroes bearing a loose resemblance to beloved characters. And little else.

The Justice League that made it to theaters was apparently the result of a late-game change in directors from Zach Snyder to Joss Whedon, which was accompanied by a number of expensive reshoots. And while this is far from an uncommon occurrence, especially for the DCEU; Justice League clearly suffered as a result.

The film is a tonal mess of clashing visions, as Whedon’s humor-driven character piece clashes against Snyder’s spectacle-obsessed tragedy. The editing desperately tries to make something consistent out of those two approaches with only mild success.

Admittedly, Whedon’s work is far stronger, as he understands that likable characters and a somewhat structured plot are what makes a film, as opposed to Snyder’s addiction to slow motion gunfire and strained religious allusions.

While Justice League gets more right than most of its predecessors, there’s still a major problem when it comes to the characters. In terms of powers, personality and even appearance, most of the cast are only barely recognizable as the long-running characters they’re meant to be adapting.

Whedon’s additions make them at least somewhat enjoyable, but they still fall short of the mark. Batman is uncharismatic, Aquaman is more beach bully than exiled monarch, Wonder Woman feels like a spectator and any supporting characters are completely superfluous. They’re even less palatable as a team, with little camaraderie to speak of. The only characters that really click are the tortured, distrusted Cyborg and the enthusiastic, innocent Flash, the only two characters that react to events in a human manner and have real arcs.

That’s not to say the film doesn’t have its moments. Justice League is well-cast if nothing else and on occasion the actors manage to salvage something from the script. And even though the fight scenes are often poorly edited and weighed down by questionable special effects, a few of them work.

Unfortunately, Justice League lacks a strong villain, and in spite of Marvel’s wealth of options, it went for Steppenwolf, a character largely unknown and unloved, even by comic book fans. Steppenwolf fails to present a real goal or even a memorable personality, as he leads his insectoid minions to gather the “Mother Boxes” for reasons they’ll hopefully explain in a now-doubtful sequel.

He also suffers from the worst of Justice League’s rubbery special effects, which accentuates his lack of substance. Special effects are not the end-all-be-all they’re often proclaimed to be and bad ones won’t help such a shallow, set piece obsessed film.

Despite all of this, Justice League is still miles ahead of Suicide Squad and Man of Steel. It’s certainly not a well-made film and falls apart under the slightest scrutiny but it’s a decent popcorn flick and a fun watch. It’s definitely preferable to the rest of the DCEU and it looks as though the franchise might turn itself around.