Director Zack Snyder understands comics. He understands that colour and tone are just as important as the characters in comic book stories. Snyder’s comic book films (Watchmen, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) look and feel like comic books on the big screen. He continues that trend with Justice League, a film DC fans have been waiting eons for.
Justice League follows the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The world has lost hope after the death of Superman, and a villain called Steppenwolf has sensed it. He comes to Earth to reclaim three alien devices called Mother Boxes, which he plans to use to – surprise, surprise – destroy the Earth. In Superman’s absence, Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman/Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) decide they need to recruit more meta-humans (read: superheroes) to defend Earth against threats. Enter The Flash/Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), Aquaman/Authur Curry (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg/Victor Sloane (Ray Fisher). This is your typical superhero team up comic book origins story: A powerful villain appears and a group of heroes realise they cannot defeat them individually, so they team up. It’s a tried and true formula, but it works to establish the team.
Justice League feels like a film for DC fans. Such little time is spent establishing The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg that their origin stories feel like presumed knowledge. As a DC fan I know their backstories and do not need to see them again. The casual viewer, however, may feel like they are being thrown into the middle of a story. This is most obvious with Aquaman’s story, when Mera is introduced without any context given about who she is. I know who Mera is, but the general movie-goer will not. It allows the Justice League to be formed much faster, but makes the plot feel rushed.
The Justice League comics have always been about how a group of individuals put aside their differences and unite to fight for Earth. Affleck once again portrays a terrific older Batman who realises he might not be able to do everything by himself. Gadot shines every time she’s on screen as Wonder Woman, especially during her fight scenes. Momoa’s Aquaman is an interesting take on the character, being portrayed as a laid back surfer-bro/rockstar rather than a regal king. It surprisingly pays off. Fisher’s Cyborg was an unexpected stand-out, his struggles dealing with his new body and mind made me sympathise with him much more than I have reading other Justice League comics. Finally, Miller’s Flash, new to his powers and portrayed as a clumsy, social outcast, provides the comedic relief for the team.
All of the characters have their unique personalities and it is great seeing them finally interact on the big screen. Snyder does a great job at capturing the comic’s themes of unlikely heroes uniting in defence of the Earth. Once again though, it would have been nice to see these differences explored more with a longer run-time (the film comes in at two hours including the end credits, as opposed to the three hours of the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate edition). Batman and Wonder Woman’s differences are explored, but not the other characters’.
The highlight of Justice League, as with Batman v Superman, is the action sequences. Each member gets their moments to shine individually and in the team environment. Snyder does a great job at translating the over-dramatic spectacle of comics to live-action. It is easy to see his camera shots taken as stills and organised on a page. One example is The Flash in slow motion, his ‘speed force’ trailing behind him, racing to tap Wonder Woman’s sword back to her in mid-air so she can catch it and cut down the para-demon chasing her. The combat and special effects looked great.
Steppenwolf may be a one-dimensional character, but the villains in Justice League really just exist to force the team to work together against seemingly impossible odds. The fights against Steppenwolf were highly entertaining because they showcased the League using their strengths to overcome him.
Justice League is a more light-hearted film than Snyder’s other work. There is more humour injected into the film thanks to Avenger’s director Joss Whedon being brought in for reshoots, but Snyder’s tone is still largely maintained. I enjoyed the banter between The Flash and Batman, The Flash explaining that he does not understand brunch as a concept, and Batman telling The Flash his superpower is being rich.
On the other hand, some of the mid-fight quips definitely felt forced and disrupted the fight scenes. Also, the attempts at humour by portraying Wonder Woman as a sexual figure for the male members of the league felt out of place (see Beyond the Trailer for a great analysis).
Justice League is the film I have been waiting for ever since I fell in love with the DC Comics characters. Seeing these characters finally united on the big screen had me smiling throughout the whole film. Snyder’s ability to translate the visuals of comic books to the big screen is wonderful. The chemistry of the team feels genuine, and the action sequences and special effects look great. DC’s mandate to keep the film to two hours may have restricted some character development, and could leave movie-goers not familiar with backstories feeling lost, but it is a minor complaint for a film that provides terrific service to DC Comics fans.
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