You probably have an idea of what I’m gonna say about this.
You’re probably expecting me to rip this movie to shreds. Tell you that it’s incomprehensible, it’s dour, it’s broken, it’s all of these things I’ve said about everything in the DCEU before. With all of these new characters, you’re probably expecting another Spider-Man 3, but worse. Well…
I liked Spider-Man 3. And I think I like this.
Surprised? Me too. Before you go all “does Dawson think the DCEU is good now?” I don’t. I’m not even sure if this is a good movie. I might be latching onto a little ray of mediocrity that I hadn’t seen here before, and I might look back on this part of the review thinking I’m crazy. Nevertheless, I think Justice League might be a good movie. We’ll see if that opinion stays.
Something the DCEU has been consistently good at is casting, at least in appearance. Everyone they pick looks the part. The question of whether or not they can act is a completely different topic, but the answer to that is usually yes. I thought the actors in this movie did they absolute best they could with the material they were given. I want to highlight Henry Cavill as Superman, he really redeemed himself from the dark, boring Superman we’ve seen previously. He’s lighthearted, funny, and most importantly, hopeful. A hopeful Superman is an unfamiliar sight in this universe, but it’s very very welcome.
Ezra Miller as The Flash was a great pick, even if half of his jokes didn’t stick. Jason Momoa was pretty good as Aquaman, although he wasn’t used that much. I want to comment on Cyborg, but I felt like he barely showed up. Ben Affleck was surprisingly checked-out as Batman, I got the sense that he was itching to get this thing over with and move on (Edit: Rumors that he’s leaving the role have only fueled this opinion). Gal Gadot was great as Wonder Woman, as always, but there’s a problem here that affects everyone, no matter how big their role in the movie: Development.
Hoo boy. Development is a major problem in this movie. Flash, Aquaman, Cyborg, even Batman suffer from lack of development. Flash has maybe a minute to establish that he has a father in prison for the murder of his mother (and it’s not even certain that he did it), Aquaman has a jarringly short minute-long scene that explains all of his motivations, Batman seems to have undergone intense personality changes with zero explanation, but this isn’t even as bad as it gets. The worst affected is Cyborg. Cyborg has the most development required of all of the new characters, but he has maybe the least amount of time dedicated to his character. We have one scene that introduces him, his background, and his main motivation. And it’s under five minutes. This running theme of not developing anyone to the extent they deserve leads to a lack of tension throughout. We don’t know any of these people, so why should we care if they die or not?
I actually have an explanation for this. There is one single issue that, if it were fixed, could potentially make the movie many times better. The movie’s length. It’s too short. This isn’t because of under-writing or anything like that, it’s Warner Bros. fault. They sent out a mandate that ordered this movie to be under two hours. Why? Of all movies to do this to, they chose the one that deserves to be the longest? On top of that, this movie has two directors, both of which have wildly different visual and tonal styles. Don’t you think that forcing this movie to be less than two hours is a mistake? There should be so much more dedicated to these characters. They’re national icons. This isn’t a case of Spider-Man, where we’ve already had two separate franchises detailing his origin, most of these characters have never appeared on the big screen before 2017. They might have thought that everyone already knew these people’s backstories, so they could afford to skimp out on them. This is true for comic fans. Because of their prior knowledge of these characters, comic fans won’t have any problems filling in the gaps left by this movie, but most everyone else will. Not everyone has deep, insightful knowledge of these characters. To the average moviegoing audience, these characters will be cardboard cutouts of the heroes they represent. They look good, but once you get down to it, they’re flat. I would have preferred they all get their own movies before this one, but DC is so intent on catching up to Marvel that they actually forgot about the groundwork Marvel laid before they released Avengers.
I mentioned in the previous paragraph that this movie had two directors. This isn’t because of any attempt to be super artsy or gimmicky, it’s actually quite sad. Before the movie was finished, Zack Snyder’s daughter committed suicide. It’s a horrible thing to happen, and as a result, he had to leave the project. This is completely understandable. If I had something that tragic happen to my family, I would drop everything too. However, instead of bringing in someone who could kind of emulate Snyder’s style, they brought in the polar opposite: Joss Whedon. Joss Whedon is not a visionary director. He doesn’t have a penchant for making his movies look incredible, he likes slightly self-aware comedy. These two styles do not mesh well, and as a result, it’s very easy to tell who shot what. Because of this, the movie ended up coming close to what could only be described as a tonal tragedy. Jokes happen without warning, and it doesn’t help that not nearly enough of the jokes land. There are a good number of really cool looking moments, but those moments tend to be overshadowed by the awkward, clumsily handled humor.
Something else that could have been drastically improved was the CGI. Dear. Christ. They need to step it up. It was better than Wonder Woman’s CG, I’ll give it that, but that’s not necessarily a tough standard to surmount. Superman’s mustache CG was laughably terrible at times, and Steppenwolf looked atrocious. Speaking of Steppenwolf (the main villain), he sucked. He’s literally such an awful villain that I can’t think of anything more to say than “he sucked.”
I started this review with something resembling a positive opinion. I enjoyed watching the movie, and I’ll stand by that. I don’t really know how far I can justify that enjoyment now that I’ve thought about it. Most of my enjoyment came from seeing these characters brought to life on the big screen. Well, as much life as DC would allow. There are some OK action scenes, and Flash’s speed is utilized to cool effect, but it’s not really more than a lifeless blockbuster. That might be fine for some people, but I want something more. Justice League didn’t give me more.
After letting this sit for a while, I have forgotten nearly everything that happened in this movie. I was gonna post this last Tuesday, but I thought I needed to let it sit for a bit and see if anything I said remains, and it mostly does. It’s still the best DCEU movie, but… not very memorable.
Next up: New Pixar.Connect to me