Justice League was released in Nov. 2017. In the film, DC’s heroes join forces to take on Steppenwolf, the evil agent of Darkseid who is hell-bent on finding the three Mother Boxes on Earth and using them to destroy every living thing on the planet. And he would’ve gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling superheroes!
Anyway, we put together our list of what was specifically great about Justice League alongside a few things that were not-so-great about the movie. It should go without saying, but some major spoilers are lurking.
Good: It doesn’t take itself too seriously
One of the biggest complaints about several of the DCEU movies is that they take themselves a bit too seriously. There is dark and brooding, and then there is dark, brooding, and completely humorless. For once, the balance is just right with Justice League. Barry Allen – The Flash – adds quite a bit of humor to the film as a young, neurotic kid with a big-time need for some friends and extracurricular activities.
But even the dry and often boring Bruce Wayne (played by Ben Affleck) had his moments, stating his superpower as “I’m rich” when asked by Allen, making wisecracks with Alfred (Jeremy Irons), and a handful of other intentionally funny moments. The point is, Justice League knows what it is; this is a hero ensemble movie in an era filled with hero ensemble movies, and without the humor it would’ve been nothing more than a repeat of Batman V. Superman.
Bad: Batman is the weak link
This is almost certainly intentional, but Batman serves little purpose in this movie. He’s seen as the architect of the team, gathering intel and utilizing necessary gadgets with his vast fortune, but beyond that he’s pretty useless in a fight. That’s understandable, given that he’s the only member of the team without a superpower taking on an extremely powered villain. But it’s still somewhat sad to watch Wonder Woman and the rest of them kicking ass while Batman stands in the corner shooting at parademons with some sort of laser gun.
Again, this is all pretty intentional, it seems. And with Affleck trying to find a way to avoid ever playing the character again, it makes sense that Justice League would serve to transition Bruce Wayne – who is looking a bit old and gray at this point – into retirement.
Good: Superman returns!
The big (not so secret) spoiler for Justice League is that Superman returns from the grave to fight alongside the rest of the team. Just how that was possible was left to the imagination of the fans, but there seemed to be a clue at the very end of Batman V. Superman. As the camera slowly zooms in on the dirt laying on top of Clark Kent’s casket, we see a few specks of dirt begin to rise into the air as the camera cuts to black. Superman is alive!
Well actually, he wasn’t. Maybe that was meant to foreshadow his return, but at that moment Kent was dead as dead can be. Upon learning of the power of the Mother Boxes – and knowing they had one in their possession – Wayne convinces the team (and a reluctant Diana) to attempt to use that power to raise Superman from the dead. It works like a charm, and the Man of Steel is right there fighting alongside his new friends at the very end.
Bad: Superman’s return kills any sense of suspense
The downside of Superman’s return is that it destroys any feeling of real danger. When the team is taking on Steppenwolf and his parademons for the very first time, sans Superman, you get the sense that they’re overmatched. Having Superman on their side was a clear advantage, and it plays out the way you would expect at the very end.
Compounding the issue, Superman’s return moves pretty quickly once they first mention the possibility. They revive him quite a bit earlier than expected, around the middle of the movie. He wakes up immediately, and after a brief moment of confusion – the Pet Sematary moment, as Allen would probably describe it – he’s back to his old self again. Really, the entire movie hinged on a moment where there was little conflict.
Good: Not too formulaic
If you want to look at it with a glass half full, you could say that Justice League avoided being too formulaic. As previously stated, this is a hero ensemble movie coming at a time where hero ensemble movies are practically falling out of the sky. The set up is often the team struggling to unify, a bunch of in-fighting, and then everyone coming together at the last minute. Justice League avoided a lot of that and went pretty much straight into team unity — for the most part, anyway.
You’re really thrust into the action from the very beginning, almost as if a three-hour movie got edited down to about a two-hour movie. The plot moves quickly and with little resistance. Batman and Wonder Woman are already on the team, and Flash is quick to sign up. Cyborg and Aquaman take a little bit of convincing, but they come around on their own. Superman, as we’ve established, is 100% on-board with taking down Steppenwolf after about a five-minute period where he’s a bit foggy on the situation.
They may have some disagreements and trust issues, but nothing like we’ve seen with Marvel’s Avengers movies. For the majority of Justice League, the team has their eyes squarely focused on the prize, which is defeating Steppenwolf.
Bad: There is little backstory
The downside of having a two-hour movie that felt edited down from a three-hour movie is the complete and total lack of backstory. The diehard DC Comics fan isn’t going to have any trouble knowing who these characters are and their motivations, but the average movie-goer is going to have some questions.
Steppenwolf’s intentions aren’t explained until after he’s had a serious amount of screen time, and even then it’s with a monologue from Diana. At no point in the movie does Steppenwolf actually give his point of view or explain why he wants to destroy the Earth so badly. He just does.
As for the heroes added to the team – Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman – they just kind of appear and are thrust into the action. This is the problem with rushing to do Justice League before establishing any of those characters with their own solo movie or trilogy. Not to compare too much to Marvel, but at the time of The Avengers, there had been two Iron Man movies, one for the Hulk, one for Captain America, and one Thor movie — and Hawkeye, Black Widow, Nick Fury, and Agent Coulson had all appeared in supporting roles.
Good: Team chemistry
Despite the rush to put the team together, there is excellent chemistry. Barry Allen provides several laugh-out-loud moments, especially in his interactions with a clearly exasperated Bruce Wayne. There seems to be a theme early on that Wonder Woman needs to embrace her role as a leader, and the rest of the characters look to her in a way that seems pretty instinctual.
Aquaman, who is created in the movie as having somewhat of a brash, anti-hero, dude-bro personality, gets along well enough with the others despite his objections. He even has a rare, tender moment, releasing his inner feelings courtesy of Diana’s lasso. Overall, despite the rush to throw the characters together with a common enemy, the team chemistry between Wonder Woman, Batman, Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman is believable.
Bad: Steppenwolf as a villain
Another downside of how quickly they move through the plot is how it resulted in completely wasting Steppenwolf as a “bad guy.” Again, his motivations are stated through the eyes of Diana – who knows of them from stories passed along a centuries-long game of telephone – but never explicitly told to us directly from the source. Darkseid is never seen or even mentioned, and overall the fight between the good guys and the bad guys always feels pretty small scale.
Despite the destruction of the Earth being stated pretty clearly as one possible outcome, the stakes just never feel that high. Once Superman is revived, it seems pretty clear how Steppenwolf would eventually be overpowered. In the end, all it really took was Superman and Wonder Woman teaming up to destroy his axe. Ho hum.
On the whole, Justice League is an OK movie. The average movie-goer might be wondering who some of these characters are, and there are several other issues. Steppenwolf was pretty weak, the situation was never all that dire, and the only emotional hook that exists is borrowed from Batman v Superman. But the diehard DCEU fan shouldn’t be dissuaded in any way from lining up and spending their hard-earned cash to see it. Justice League is funny, has plenty of action, the characters have chemistry, and it keeps the viewer engaged throughout.
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