Fear and hesitation are not words often associated with superhero film releases, but anyone who’s been following Warner Bros. tumultuous journey from 2012’s Man Of Steel to Justice League would be justified in their trepidation. It’s been a bumpy ride, but with this year’s critical and financial juggernaut, Wonder Woman, it finally seemed like Warner Bros. found a way to right the ship. While Justice League doesn’t hit those same heights, it still manages to hold the course and continue the string of enjoyable DC films.
Following the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the world is without Superman and those close to him are still reeling from the loss. Learning from his encounter with Superman and Wonder Woman, Batman knows a threat is coming and he needs to bring a team together to face it. Unfortunately, that threat comes in the form of SteppenWolf, the film’s weakest element, a villain who’s motivation doesn’t extend past domination for the sake of it. Despite commanding legions and possessing grand power in the form of the mysterious Mother Boxes, Steppenwolf never comes across as the threat he’s supposed to be. He does succeed in one thing and that’s finally creating a reason to bring our heroes together.
The movie’s greatest triumph is its cast. Coming into this film with little to no big screen exposure for characters such as The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg, it was a very big risk to hope that they would create an impression to hold onto, but every hero has their moment and fills their role well. Returning to the party are Ben Affleck’s Batman as the grizzled veteran trying to make amends, while Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is haunted by her past and is struggling to take charge. Having been previously teased in Batman v Superman, Ray Fisher finds the right balance of stoic and strong to not make his Cyborg seem mopey, and Jason Momoa is every bit the treat that he seems in the trailers, clearly having fun making his Aquaman seem cool as he kicks ass. But it’s Ezra Miller that steals the show, bringing a likability to the nerdy and bumbling Barry Allen every time his Flash suits up and runs across the screen. The five heroes have an incredible amount of chemistry and seeing the team together on screen for the first time is definitely the main appeal Justice League has. Now, at this point it’s been made quite clear that Superman makes his triumphant return in the film, and while the means of his return are a bit basic, his revival shoots new life into both the story and the team. This is without a doubt Henry Cavill’s finest showing as The Last Son of Krypton. No longer is he the brooding and unsure savior, but finally the smiling and confident Man of Steel that he should be.
Unfortunately, as fun as the cast is and the energy they bring is evident throughout, the film is far from perfect. Suffering from severe pacing issues and a rushed third act, it’s clear that this was a film directed by two directors. Zack Snyder’s tragic loss and departure is well documented and Joss Whedon’s replacement was a great save, but the two director’s very different styles clash and it’s somewhat distracting at moments. It’s an unfortunate but understandable result of a terrible situation. Visually, the film is gorgeous but there are some instances of the CGI not being quite up to par. Considering how well executed the CGI was in both Batman v Superman and Wonder Woman, it feels like a bizarre sudden step backwards, but thankfully it’s never distracting enough to be pulled out of the movie.
Justice League is the culmination of years of storytelling and course correction and while it wasn’t the smoothest ride, it thankfully led to a satisfying climax. The movie is undoubtedly sloppy, but the fun had while watching is more than enough to enjoy the experience. At best, comparisons to the classic Justice League animated series can be very easily made and at worst the film could be compared to your average Marvel film. But no more are the accusations of DC taking themselves too seriously with their films and the trend set by Wonder Woman and now continued in Justice League proves that the dark days are over.