Poor, poor Warner Bros. and DC Films. They seemed like they finally had things on track with “Wonder Woman”, the first watchable DC flick not directed by Christopher Nolan. While “Justice League” is unequivocally better than the disastrous “Batman v Superman”, it’s loaded with the same type of problems that are now commonplace for movies that begin with “Directed by Zack Snyder.”
“Justice League” looks and sounds like a movie created in an effort to appease every negative opinion expressed about the DC Films movies that preceded it. “BvS” is too dour? Well, let’s have a few characters that basically speak via zingers. Even the super serious Batman gets in a few one liners. It’s as if screenwriters Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon thought they could snark “Justice League” into a Marvel Studios utopia.
To recap where we are in this world, Superman (Henry Cavill) is dead and Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) is now encountering creepy bug-like aliens in Gotham. Since Bruce has the heebie-jeebies about Earth being attacked by alien forces, he and Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) join forces and attempt to unite a handful of “metahumans” to defend the planet.
One of the best aspects of “Justice League” is that it doesn’t waste any time in getting the newbies some screen time. Two of the characters, Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa), are a massive boost to this movie’s overall appeal. Their backstories are given adequate time and the actors are clearly having a blast. Sadly, Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher) has the worst character name, the worst backstory, and is hidden behind copious amounts of CGI.
CGI is also the greatest flaw of “Justice League.” Just like the final battles in “BvS” and “Wonder Woman”, the big bad villain is nothing more than a rubbery cartoon character with a mean-sounding voice. In this case, it’s an alien named Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarán Hinds) and his appearance is so ridiculous that any attempt at tension between he and the heroes is completely lost.
“Justice League” is only saved from abject failure by the charm of most of the actors. Gal Gadot dominates the screen at all times and she’s the very definition of movie star. Her grace and coolness is at such a high level that she should eventually demand to be saved from this mediocre-at-best franchise.
There’s not much that Ray Fisher could do behind the aforementioned CGI blowout and he definitely drew the short straw. Ezra Miller gets about 90% of the laughs and he’s great in spots, but an entire movie of that character (which is planned) could make patience run thin.
On polar opposites of the spectrum are Jason Momoa and Ben Affleck. Momoa, reveling in his first massive big screen role, turns an exceptionally goofy comic book character into a whisky-swilling bro that makes saying “dig it” seem cool again. Affleck, the saving grace of “BvS”, is completely asleep at the wheel with disinterest written all over his face.
It may be difficult to blame Affleck for his onscreen boredom. The ridiculous story and dialogue from Terrio and Whedon (complete with a cringing “booyah” from Cyborg) would be enough to send any actor into a comatose state. This plot is loaded with holes that turns Wonder Woman into little more than a blunt force weapon and the most layered character, Batman, into a guy that awkwardly tries to crack jokes.
If DC Films really wanted to make movies that are both fun and well received, they need to expel Zack Snyder as soon as possible. “Wonder Woman” proved that these DC characters have big screen potential, but Snyder is the common denominator in their downfall. His movies all appear flat, clearly shot on a soundstage with green screen, and nothing more than loud action sequences that are borderline impossible to follow. He turns real actors into lifeless shells and when he loads up on CGI, it’s unbearable.
“Justice League” is another missed opportunity to raise the level of this movie world. At some point, even the most hardcore fan has to demand more than just a blasé cash grab.