The recent news that Zack Snyder is finally getting the opportunity to complete and release his cut of Justice League on HBO Max got me thinking about the 2017 superhero mash-up.
Unlike the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the DC Comics Extended Universe had a rocky road on its way to the big screen. 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 on its release in the summer of 2017. Wonder Woman’s success gave hope that Justice League might deliver some course correction, helping the DCEU match the monster success of the MCU. However, Justice League had a troubled production – it was quickly retooled 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. Joss Whedon was brought in to complete editing along with a rewrite and added 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.
Justice League just about 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.
Whedon ups the humour quota from 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
The DC superhero pic is flawed, but the good outweighs the bad. Ben Affleck gets to expand on the character of Batman (sadly, this might be his last turn), while the newer characters are given strong introductions. Henry Cavill also finally gets the opportunity to make Superman more like his comic book counterpart after serious turns in the previous two franchise entries.
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.
Gal Gadot and Jason Momoa both got the opportunity to continue playing Wonder Woman and Aquaman on the big screen, but Affleck has passed The Batman cowl to Robert Pattinson, while Cavill’s future as the Man Of Steel looks to be in serious doubt. It’s a shame, because the talent in front and behind the camera offered Justice League great potential. It was just never fully released.