A couple of weeks ago, a buddy of mine and I went to see Thor: Ragnarok (again). Afterward, we were discussing if Ragnarok was worthy of being in our personal top five Marvel movies.
For both of us, it was.
Last week, I watched a review of Justice League and the most positive thing they could say about the movie was that they considered to be the 2nd best DC Cinematic Universe movie behind Wonder Woman.
So, now, after seeing it, where does Justice League land, in my opinion?
Meh? It’s watchable, but it’s also kind of boring.
Instead of the top five Marevel movies, think about which one you would consider to be the WORST of the MCCU movies (starting with Iron Man in 2008).
Your pick for the worst Marvel movie is still able to tell a more coherent story and may actually have a better villain than Justice League.
Despite this, you may ultimately agree that Justice League is the second best DC movie to date (and that depends on how you felt about Man of Steel). The bar, though, is so low at this point, it’s hard not to beat those expectations.
Justice League also has the misfortune of following Thor: Ragnarok: It’s easily the best Thor movie to date, and it’s a showcase of the MCCU hitting all the right notes.
So what worked in Justice League?
Certainly, adding a bit of humor to the movie certainly helped along with making Batman less murdery (although Affleck’s “phoned-it-in” performance seems pretty obvious he’s lost interest in the role – or maybe that was his intent for Batman to sulk because he’s not killing so many bad guys this time around).
Gal Gadot is still great as Wonder Woman. Flash and Cyborq are pretty good, and even Aqua-brah is at least tolerable. It’s disappointing that the movie didn’t take a bit more time fleshing out the back stories of these guys, especially Aquaman. They made him look cool, sure, but there’s just not much revealed about his own story outside of the fact that he’s Atlantean. There are some funny moments, and there are a few moments of seeing the group start to bond that are fun to watch.
It certainly feels like Whedon had a hand in some of the bonding scenes.
The opening song is a bit gut-wrenching. It’s meant to echo the feeling of the world losing hope as they mourn the death of Superman, but the song also touches a bit close to home with the political situation here in the U.S. and elsewhere.
I’m still a bit disappointed in Cyborg being in the League, but that’s mostly because of my background. When I read & collected comics in the 80s, the sixth member of the Justice League was Green Lantern and Cyborg was part of the Teen Titans.
What didn’t work?
It’s hard to get into what went wrong with the movie without delving into spoilers. Basically, Batman, for reasons, suspects that something bad is coming, and that the world is in danger. He needs to put together a team to fight this thing and hopefully stop it and help restore “hope” to the world. Beyond that, the story is a complete mess.
Part of the problem with Justice League is that it wants us to forget about Batman vs Superman. Part of the entire theme of that movie was that world wasn’t sure about Superman, but now that he’s dead, everyone loves him. Batman already has files on the “recruits” so it feels odd that he’s got to find them and/or isn’t sure how to approach them.
Another part of the problem is the main villain: Steppenwolf. For one, he looks too much like Mars did in Wonder Woman. He’s just not interesting. He shows up, and he’s out to destroy the world: for reasons. There are hints about a backstory, but there are almost no details.
Unless you’re deeply familiar with DC comics, you’ll have no idea who or what Steppenwolf or parademons or mother boxes are. They could have swapped any of the bad guys out with vampires or zombies or giant alien robots and you’d care about the same.
Why does this suck?
Towards the end of the credits, the movie recognizes some of the brilliant creators who have worked on Justice League over the years. The Justice League/Justice League of America/JLA have been in comics since 1960, yet Warner Bros/DC could not find a single story from almost 60 years of comic archives by some of the greatest creators in the industry that would have worked in a movie?
The other sad thing is that the villain most fans were truly excited to see doesn’t show up until the post credits scene. He looks amazing, and I look forward to seeing him in action. But again, in my comics background, that bad guy isn’t one of the JLA’s normal opponents.
I guess Steppenwolf is meant to be a kind of an harbinger of Darkseid, but outside of Steppenwolf saying the word “Darkseid” once in the film, the movie never mentions anything about that.
It’s almost like the movie creators put a list of names of villains that could be powerful enough for the League to fight on a wall and just threw a dart at the wall to pick one at random.
And don’t get me started on what happens with Superman.
Ultimately, the movie suffers from the same thing that all of the DCCU movies have suffered from: they’re desperately trying to catch up to Marvel. But, they don’t want to spend the time in creating individual movies and building the characters up to a point where a movie with them working as a team makes sense.
From a software perspective, it’s like rushing a product that tries to catch up to a competitor and trying to convince buyers that they have the same “feature set” as the competition, even though the competition has spent years getting to where they are. Look at this list of features, marketing says, we check all the same boxes as the other guys.
That’s what Justice League is: See? We’ve got all the things as those other guys! They have six super-heroes; we have six heroes. They have witty banter; we have witty banter. They save the world; our guys save the world, too. They care about protecting innocent civilians, and, now, so do our guys.
And for better or worse, DC can now say they’ve checked off all the boxes, and that Justice League is “just the same” as the Avengers.
Except that Marvel can still tell a better, more coherent story on their worst day.
I won’t even bother comparing it to Thor: Ragnarok, because that wouldn’t even be a fair fight.
Justice League may check off all of the boxes and it may be better than the clusterfuck that BvS, but DC still has a long way to go before they’re able to put together something that competes with the Avengers.
I wouldn’t rush out to see this one; maybe it’s worth a rental. A cheap rental.
As much as DC likes rebooting their comic universe lately, I’d say that maybe it’s time to boot Zack Snyder and start over. (Find a way to keep Gal Gadot though)
I found the second post credits scene to be a complete cringeworthy mess despite the fact of who shows up in it. It’s amazing that a single two minute scene can make you exclaim “Wait, what?!?”, then “Yes!”, then “Oh, for fuck’s sake” by the end. Again, you’d think this scene would drop hints that would tie this movie into the sequel, but nope, not so much.
Will DC try to make individual movies for Superman and Batman (and Flash and/or Cyborg)? Aquaman is basically done, so they’re committed there. Obviously, Wonder Woman is a go as well. Flash seems to be getting pretty positive vibes from other reviews I’ve read, so… maybe?
There are also the constant rumors that Affleck wants out. Do they do an Affleck solo Batman movie and have him pass the torch to a younger guy to be the new Batman? Do they just let him off after the solo Batman movie and then retcon Batman as a younger actor and hope nobody notices?
(No, really, Batman is really this guy not that old Affleck guy – fake news!)
Of course, if not Affleck, then who would be the next to wear the cowl?