By Mario Ricciardi
To date Warner Brother’s handle on the DC Comics Extended Universe has given us a bleak, Superman origin story entailing a bleaker battle between the formerly mentioned and Batman. A messy collaboration between famous rogues and a very hopeful, optimistic Wonder Woman.
If anything, Warner Brother’s (and director Zack Snyder’s) turn at the helm should be famous for getting all the easy characters (Superman, Batman, The Joker, etc.) wrong and all the difficult characters (basically just Wonder Woman) right. This being said, have no fear because “Justice League” is here.
After Superman’s death, Bruce Wayne’s restored faith in humanity has him and Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) setting out to recruit a team of heroes to fight an impending threat against the very same humanity. Those heroes include Barry Allen (The Flash), Arthur Curry (Aquaman), and Victor Stone (Cyborg). The threat is Steppenwolf, an invader from the hellscape of a planet called Apokolips, and his army of parademons. Their goal: unite three mythical cubes able to turn Earth into a surrogate planet for a new Apokolips.
For as straightforward of a plot as this may seem, straightforward is far from what happened behind the scenes. Zack Snyder, the film’s director, had to step away from the project toward the end of filming due to a family tragedy, a new director was hired to finish the film and direct studio issued reshoots. The film’s composer was fired last minute to be replaced with a safer choice, script changes were frequent, actress Gal Gadot was suffering from pregnancy sickness, almost fifty minutes were cut from the film and actor Henry Cavill had a mustache which contractually could not be shaven off.
With all that going on behind the scenes, it’s amazing “Justice League” made it to theaters, but what we’re given is pretty good. Issues with muddled characterization are fixed and it proves to be the most exciting part of the film. From the initial casting choices, to the performances in the final cut, the cinematic Justice Leaguers are everything and more than their comic book counterparts.
Supes is hopeful, Batman is sharp, Wonder Woman is wonderful, Flash is a comical geek, Cyborg is tormented and intriguing and special props to Jason Momoa’s Aquaman, who turns the butt of superhero jokes into someone who can totally kick your butt, and still bring the charm. With such a unique cast it’s a shame to see the movie around them not hit any higher than the status quo.
“Justice League” has moments where it feels as if Zack Snyder wanted a standout film of epic proportions, but most of the final product is obvious of a studio taming it for focus groups. The movie falls into a familiar pattern of battle sequences leading to quippy one liners to more battle scenes to more quips. Steppenwolf is lackluster in the way which makes him a surface level I-just-want-to-rule-the-world kind of villain (no offense Tears for Fears), and considering most of the villains we get on screen, there’s no surprise there.
“Justice League” by all means does the DCEU justice. The movie takes a step down from “Wonder Woman” but reassures a shift in the right direction. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts from a potentially iconic cast, the film is not much more than formulaic. Snyder’s departure from the film marked a departure from the passion behind it.
Say what you want about his filmmaking, but it has always been inspired. The final product of “Justice League” is good, I enjoyed it quite a bit, but it feels too fabricated and clearly falls a far cry from the depth and artistry it could have been.