I feel like a full disclaimer might be necessary at the start. I love DC Comics. The characters, stories, and general universe are what I grew up with and have always enjoyed. I’ve been excited about recent films in this universe, and this fed into my excitement for Justice League.
However I was completely tempered in that excitement by knowing Man of Steel was not enjoyable, and Batman vs Superman was only a good film for about two-thirds of its length, and then became a bad film. Wonder Woman was great, but was also potentially a fluke. The history of Justice League as a property and this specific movie worried me too, along with some review headlines I’d seen and those articles about the Amazonian armour. So I was prepared for a film I only enjoyed because it was in a universe I love and still had massive problems.
Fortunately I can tell you that this film does not have massive problems. Justice League is a joy of a film. The characters, the team up, the dialogue, and most of the action are terrific. Almost everything I was worried about does not happen, and the film does things I did not expect it to do which help elevate it from where I was worried it would end up.
You can tell this is slightly tempered – the look and style of the Amazons is bad and did not need changing. Some of the aesthetic for Wonder Woman verges on bad. The villain is not good and has not discernible motivation or personal narrative. The film does not get a pass for these things – it should do each of them better and I’ll be looking for the DCEU to improve on them in future.
It does so much right though. And better than right – it does it surprisingly well. I had a worry over Barry Allen being introduced here because we have a solid portrayal of him right now on television. Not only is the Flash his own character here, he might be better than the TV version. Certainly his opening scene with Bruce Wayne had me with a giant grin on my face as Ezra Miller steals the film from under Ben Affleck’s feet.
I was also worried about the introduction of Aquaman, because he’s never been done well even in the comics. Jason Momoa looks incredible, and the film knows it. A strong guitar riff with him slugging whiskey from a bottle sold me on his characterisation here, and if he keeps it up in his solo film I will be very pleased. His back story is briefly given here, and even then it is done in service of this film rather than as long set up for a future movie.
Cyborg has a surprisingly good arc through the film, starting broody and sullen, but with strongly realised motivation that makes it understandable. Without paying attention to it, the film shows him adapting to his situation and gradually resolving his issues.
Wonder Woman and Batman do not have to do much characterisation, and so are allowed to move the plot along themselves and line up the set pieces. This is done well with two confident actors, but I’m always looking forward to Justice League getting back to the team and showing us those interactions that make the film a delight.
My biggest concern was the problem that Marvel also has – the need to have the heroes fighting each other. All the way through I was working out the next scene on how the JL would be forced into conflict. It happens once, and then it is in service of this film to establish a couple of key power sets purely to set up some comedy moments later on.
This film has restored my faith in DC to deliver a good film that is genuinely enjoyable. As we entered the final showdown all I needed the film to do was stick the landing on what had gone before and I would be happy. At this stage most other films in this universe turn into a prolonged, boring, punch-fest. The action sequence was lengthy, but not unduly so, and was not all about the violence. It contained enough character moments to continue some of the arcs we had started and establish the team well.
Throughout Justice League I laughed, I grinned, I exclaimed at some of the things we were shown, and I had a whale of a time. I recommend this to anyone who wants a fun superhero film.
Notes (with spoilers):
- Green Lanterns!
- The LOTR style Mother box exposition could have been the trailer in and of itself
- Both post credit scenes were perfect – more of that please (“a league of our own”)
- Some noticeable moments were pure Whedon, but for the most part I didn’t feel his impact – this is Snyder’s film
- That said, there is A LOT missing from the trailers, all for the better
- Wonder Woman and Cyborg is a friendship I don’t think I’ve ever seen and I like it