Justice League hit the big screen with quite a muted response, which was a severe kick in the teeth for a film which was supposed to be the DC Comics Extended Universe answer to The Avengers. The $250 million+ budgeted film opened to a disappointing $93 million at the US box office, before clawing its way to $229 million. Globally it banked $657 million – a solid enough number, but a far cry from the $1 billion that was hoped for.
However, if the Transformers films have taught us anything, it’s that you can’t judge a movie on box office alone. So is Justice League actually any good?
We’ll…yes it is, in a fun comic book way. However it’s also an incredibly frustrating, disjointed movie. People constantly talk about ‘filmmaking by committee’, but Justice League is a movie that is so guilty of that charge that it doesn’t even hide the fact. It’s not surprising really, considering the behind the scenes shenanigans which ultimately led to it hitting screens in a bastardised form.
Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice and Suicide Squad were both given a rough ride by critics, despite scoring solid box office numbers, while Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman was lauded by the critics and the public alike. That film’s success managed to give everyone hope that Justice League might offer some serious course correction to make it match the huge success which Marvel is having. However, this DC Comics team-up flick had a troubled production – it was quickly retooled in preproduction following the negative reaction to Dawn Of Justice and it took a major blow when director Zack Snyder left the film during post-production for personal reasons (some rumours insist he was shown the door). Joss Whedon was brought in to complete editing along with rewriting and adding reshoots, delivering a work which is a hybrid of two very different styles. That’s just the short version, but suffice to say, much of the movie was changed from what was originally given the green light.
All-in-all, it works as a fun superhero flick, mainly due to the chemistry of the cast. Ben Affleck again shows that he’s the greatest on-screen Batman yet, Gal Gadot impresses once more as Wonder Woman, while Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa and Ray Fisher all get moments to shine as The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg respectively. It’s no surprise that Henry Cavill returns as Superman, offering up a new set of emotional colours for his version of the Man Of Steel.
Justice League’s main lump of Kryptonite is Ciarán Hinds’ Steppenwolf, a CGI constructed baddie who looks and acts like something out of a second rate fantasy video game. He just doesn’t work and anytime he’s onscreen you’re pulled out of the moment by his shoddy CGI rendering (what the hell is wrong with prosthetics). The annoying CGI isn’t just restricted to Steppenwolf, most of the key action scenes are hindered by too many pixels, which jar with some visually arresting moments elsewhere in the film. The finale descends into a computer generated hell, a shame because the cast have so much more to offer than pixel pinball. There has been a lot of talk about Henry Cavill’s digitally removed moustache – but that’s barely an issue considering his limited screen time. In the future, nobody will even talk about his facial fuzz.
This time around Whedon ups the humour quota from what we got in Dawn Of Justice and he offers each character some neat lines – even Batman gets a laugh or two – but it’s Miller’s The Flash who is the major comedic draw. Danny Elfman’s score returns some of the characters back to their musical roots and he makes use of his old Batman theme as well as John Williams’ iconic Superman score. Both are very welcome.
Justice League is flawed, but the good outweighs the bad. Ben Affleck gets to expand on the character of Batman (sadly, this is likely his last turn), while the newer characters are given strong introductions. Henry Cavill also gets the opportunity to make Superman more like his comic book counterpart and this all gives the DCEU the chance to go in an interesting direction in the future – if negative reactions and disappointing box-office allow this to happen.
You get a solid smattering of behind-the-scens extras. They’re mostly around the ten minute mark, but they look at character, costumes and the construction of a few key scenes. You also get two brief deleted scenes showing Superman’s return. Tellingly, the piece on villain Steppenwolf is just 3 minutes long.