Yeah, they resurrect Superman
You already knew that
This is a critique not a review so stop reading now if you actually plan to go see this one
By now you know the reviews are bad and guess what? My opinion won't be any different. Which is a pity because the JLA was my childhood favorite. I am one of those guys who has been silently rooting for DC to knock my socks off. My socks are still on.
So first off, was it as bad as Batman Vs Superman? The answer is no. It is better than BVS, it does have that going for it.
Next question, was it anywhere near as good at the first Avengers movie? The answer to that one is the biggest problem with Justice League. You already knew that it couldn't be as good before the film was shot. Everybody knew it would never measure up.
What drove the Avengers were the characters. Ironman, Captain America and Thor all had their own films which served to paint richly layered personas for the men behind the masks. The fans were invested in the characters they had come to know and love. After these first three films, Marvel was in the fantastic position of having it's fans basically demanding that the studio make The Avengers.
Justice League on the other hand was created to be force fed to movie goers by a studio that has never really had a bone deep handle on the property it owns. The movie didn't have any indepth characters. It only had some thumbnail sketches, established with as much cinematic shorthand as possible. As I've said repeatedly, Warner Brothers gets Bugs Bunny on an instinctive level, they don't have a clue about Superman. Consequently Warner was looking for a man on horseback to lead them boxoffice safety and sadly found Zack Snyder.
A devout Randite Objectivist, Snyder was a terrible choice for helming a project that featured an optimistic, idealistic, hopeful and selfless hero. Snyder is driven by stoic philosophy with devout atheism at it's core. It made him a great director for 300 and an okay director for Watchmen. While Watchmen wasn't a hit but he was true to the story that Moore had written. Snyder honestly didn't understand Superman, not even a little bit. Jonathon Kent's battlecry was, "don't get involved." Martha Kent's was, "you don't owe these people a damn thing." Snyder's Superman reflected those values. He fought General Zod because he didn't have much choice in the matter. Sure the visuals were great but these days the visuals are always great. Man of Steel was as unfeeling as a hunk of metal.
That was carried over into Batman Vs Superman. Now Snyder was a lot more comfortable with Batman. In someways he had a better handle on the character than Christopher Nolan did. Batman actually did a lot Batman stuff. Sure, he was more homicidal but there is precedent for that with Batman. Dark and brooding is something Snyder excels at.
Hope and optimism not so much. In BVS there is a montage scene of Superman saving various people and doing Superman things and all the while the music in the background is a dour, depressing funeral march. It says a lot about Snyder that he rejected this:
In favor of this:
Glorious and triumphal was replaced with meandering and pointless.
On top of everything else. Snyder kills off Superman at the end of Batman Vs Superman. A ridiculously pointless gesture as everyone knew that Superman sure as hell wasn't going to stay dead. And unless you are telling the story of Easter, when you raise the dead, you jump the shark. When you make death reversible you kill dramatic tension because nothing is ever really on the line. Reversing death is the ultimate do-over.
Justice League starts with some kids on a phone video asking Superman a few questions. Does the S on his chest stand for hope? That kind of thing. Then one of them asks Superman what he loves most about Earth. Superman just looks off in the distance and smiles dreamily. Not bad but not really all that good either. That sums up Justice League in a nutshell.
Wonder Woman stops a terrorist attack by the Alt Right who wish to "re-instill fear in the world." This the second time I've run into this weird theme this year. I have no idea what the flying hell they are talking about, which is worrying. Whenever the Left accuses me of doing something that, not only have I not done but don't even understand why I would be doing it, it invariably turns out that they were projecting.
Something to keep an eye on.
Let's see. Batman runs into weird flying space bug zombies with computer stuff on their faces. Since he knows that he doesn't have any superpowers and will probably need them. He runs off to round up the heroes that can do the heavy lifting for him. Affleck played Batman as being so bone weary and filled with ennui I honestly expected Batman to die at the end of this. There are a lot of rumors that Affleck wants out of this mess. I now believe all of them.
Next up is Aquaman. *sigh* Aquaman... A hero with a some problems.
Okay. So, image problem.
Also he's White and blonde.
Well no worries there, Warner tells itself, Khal Drogo is still under contract. Jason Momoomomoomoo gets hired to play barbarians a lot. He's typecast that way. And he can sell the part so long as he only has to stand there and stare menacingly. The problem is that there is just a little too much of the Hawiian surfer dude in his voice whenever he opens his mouth. Ultimately it makes him come across as a petulant rebel without a clue, rather than an untamable force of nature. And no one likes a rebel without a clue.
Flash was a lot worse. Snyder went with an autistic Millennial Woody Allen with Daddy Issues. Flash is traditionally the most lighthearted Justice League's heroes. A socially awkward Jewish kid whinging about his phobias was as close as Snyder was going to get to a funny guy.
Cyborg. No complaints and none were expected. Again, a very dour character, so naturally Snyder instinctively approached him with a light and respectful touch. Completely on point.
Anyone who saw the Wonder Woman movie and wanted more of the same had better learn to live with disappointment. She reverted to the same character we saw in BVS. There was some half hearted flirting with Batman and she remembered to moan about Steve Trevor in passing. You do get to see her framed so you can see her ass a lot. I don't object to that.
Easily the weakest character in Justice League is the villain. In Avengers we had Loki as our first villain. We got to know him in Thor. We understood his motivations. We even sympathized with him just a little. Loki was a multilayered villain and that went with him when he was transferred to the Avengers.
In Justice League we had generic, scary, bad, fight-man Steppenwolf. He couldn't have been more cardboard. I have no idea why they hired Cirian Hinds to chew the scenery with that one, any second year drama undergrad could have handled the part. He alternately hissed and bellowed his monologues, making me feel bad for Cirian Hinds. There was no investment in the character on the audience's part because none was possible. He was just that bad.
Superman is clearly the one character that was the most heavily rewritten by Whedon. Much as I hate Joss Whedon, I drastically prefer his version of Superman to Zack Snyder's. The way you can tell which Man of Steel belongs to which director is if Superman's upper lip looks weird and off putting. That's because those were Whedon's reshoots. Henry Cavil had grown a mustache for another movie and he refused to shave it off. Whedon's Superman was a deliberate reversion to Christopher Reeve's performance and I am perfectly cool with that. That is the Superman I want.
It's biggest weakness was the plot. In Batman Vs Superman an alien is using an alien machine to "terraform" the Earth into another version of his home planet. In Justice League an alien is using an alien machine to "terraform" the Earth into another version of his home planet. Snyder recycled the same story from the last movie.
The rest you worked out from the trailer. It becomes obvious that Batman's team of heroes can't beat Steppenwolf. Superman probably could but he's dead. Since dead Kryptonians are immune to terrestrial decomposition (which actually does make sense when you think about it) Kal-El is perfectly preserved. All they have to do is figure out a way to MacGuffin him back to life and then have a fight with him, then have him abandon them to go brood. Then have to go fight generic, scary, bad, fight-man Steppenwolf by themselves. Almost win then start to lose one by one and when all seems lost...
Da-dada-da Da Da Da
Yes, they brought back the John Williams score which I am also very cool with
Superman almost literally pounds Steppenwolf into the ground. Pretty much the end. And you already knew all of that about ten minutes in. A plot that is that easy to guess is always death to good storytelling.
Was there anything at all I liked about it. Well there was a lot I liked about it. It was a perfectly good popcorn burner from about twenty years ago and I do like schlock like ID4. It's just that I know it's schlock from the get go.
The action scenes are good and Whedon turned the Snyderness way down. The banter worked to a degree. My favorite scene was the fight scene between Superman and the Justice League. Particularity the part where Flash is revving up to fight Superman and he realizes that for the first time he's gong to have to fight someone is almost as fast as he is and a hell of a lot stronger.
This movie is what it is. A not terribly original Zack Snyder film that Joss Whedon reworked. It's an Okay movie, one that is entertaining enough. It's just not as good as it deserved to be.