Justice League: aims high but hits studio interference

The path to a live action Justice League adaptation has been long, rocky and uneven. From starting production with director Zack Snyder, to bringing Joss Whedon on to do rewrites and reshoots after the untimely death of Snyder’s daughter, these troublesome issues are only a small bump in the road to release. With Justice League, Warner Bros hopes to move away from some of the negative heat past films have received and get back into critics and fans good graces. Justice League begins in Gotham City, with Batman (Ben Affleck) doing his normal thing, stopping bad guys and instilling fear in those who wish to oppress others. After discovering an alien scout in Gotham, Batman enlists the aid of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) to find the other inhumans of the world and get them together to stop an impending evil called Steppenwolf, whose sole desire is to terraform earth to emulate his own planet, destroying mankind as we know it.

As much as this film hits so many childhood fantasies, there are plenty of issues. For one, the two-hour runtime is a horrible decision by Warner Bros that creates a very rushed narrative resulting in thinly scripted new characters. However, the worst aspect of “Justice League” lies in its antagonist. Steppenwolf is one of the most boring and ultimately forgettable villains in the superhero film genre. The guy barely gets any screen time, his plan to destroy the earth is dull and clichéd, and ultimately, he’s no competition for the Justice League.

Despite glaring flaws, this film isn’t without its merits. Snyder’s direction, along with Whedon’s influence feels quite fresh and unique. Even with a lot of help with the screenplay, as well as reshoots from Whedon, Snyder’s visual aesthetic still feels present, albeit much less so compared to previous films like Watchmen and Man of Steel. Affleck’s portrayal of Batman is once again a scene stealing performance. It’s hard to throw too much praise on the man without sounding like a fanboy, but the fact remains that this is easily one of the best iterations of the caped crusader in his storied history. Also, Gadot’s Wonder Woman is spot on, losing no traction from her appearance in her self-titled debut film this past summer. Cavill’s appearance as Superman is easily his best yet, although he doesn’t have muchscreen time overall. His scenes with his mother and Lois Lane hit emotional beats that are otherwise nonexistent in the rest of the story, so seeing him back onscreen for those moments alone was well worth it.

Justice League is a choppy ride from start to finish. Characters are a bit thin, the main antagonist sucks, the story feels rushed and a looming presence of studio interference feels largely at fault for these issues, minus the awful bad guy. Despite these issues, the film is a lot of fun, with an overall lighter tone than Batman v Superman and solid character development for the already established heroes, all making for a solid entry in the growing DCEU.

Gus Hunninghake

(Image courtesy of DC)