While Marvel seem to go from strength to strength of late, the DC Cinematic Universe continuously stumbles (sometimes horrifically), despite its best intentions. I must confess though, I’ve always been in DC’s corner. We all want to forget ‘Suicide Squad’ ever happened, but I genuinely loved ‘Man of Steel’ and admired ‘Wonder Woman’. I even found things I really dug about ‘Batman v Superman’. They didn’t always work, but at least they were their own thing and not just copying what Marvel were doing. So I went into ‘Justice League’ - the long-awaited teaming-up of DC’s biggest and brightest - with a certain degree of optimism. At the very least, I wanted it to be fun.
Oh, how very wrong I was.
Some aliens are going to attack Earth now that Superman (Henry Cavill) is dead, so Batman (Ben Affleck) asks Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) to help him assemble a team of likewise talented individuals to help stop the evil threat - Barry Allen A.K.A. The Flash (Ezra Miller), Arthur Curry A.K.A. Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Victor Stone A.K.A. Cyborg (Ray Fisher). The mission - to stop evil alien warlord Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) from getting a bunch of magic energy cubes together and destroying the planet.
Let’s leave aside the fact that this is basically the plot Marvel have already been developing over fifty-seven films in their own universe, because the problems with ‘Justice League’ extend much farther than how derivative its narrative is (when you can work out the fuck is going on anyway). This film is such an unbearable mess that if it weren’t for the fact I was reviewing it, I would have walked out after 20 minutes. The screenplay is less a screenplay than a collection of cement-heavy clichés and endless attempts from Joss Whedon to remind us how clever he was in the 90s (and you know when you’re hearing a Joss Whedon line because it has that oh-so-special brand of immaturity and misogyny that only he can produce). It throws a bunch of new faces at you, gives you shitty and rushed intros then expects you to give a rat's ass about them without earning it, all the while stripping the characters we do know of anything that made them interesting in the first place.
Good filmmaking might have helped, but that’s nowhere to be found, all the more baffling when the best thing the previous DC films had going for them were their visuals. The cinematography is badly framed, the production design is messy, the editing robs the film of any focus, and the visual effects look cheap as hell. Rather than learning from the criticism that the other films were too dark and developing both the tone and look, they’ve just dialled the colour up and made it "funnier" - or at least what a committee of people determined to save face after the reviews both ‘BvS’ and ‘Suicide Squad’ got would deem funny. There’s no singular creative vision on the film, rendering it a tonal mess, obnoxiously loud and hideously dumb beyond belief. There were moments in this film so staggeringly stupid that I actually gasped, either because they were unfunny, grossly non-canon or just outright sexist. Even Danny Elfman’s score is a shocker, emphasising the film’s embarrassing need for approval by referencing the original classic Superman and Batman themes for no reason whatsoever. I've never missed Hans Zimmer more. It even has Wonder Woman's theme without the guitar. I mean, what even is the fucking point?
There’s also little reason to comment on the performances, because there are barely any performances to begin with. Ben Affleck looks weary and devastated, having wandered into a franchise he clearly wants to find any way to get out of, and Gal Gadot maintains the bravest of faces while watching all the important work she and Patty Jenkins had done for female representation disappear before her eyes. Ezra Miller tries his best but can’t overcome the fact Barry has basically been written as a joke, and Ray Fisher has literally nothing whatsoever to work with. At least Jason Momoa and Henry Cavill look like they’re having fun and making the most of a bad situation (yeah, spoiler alert, Superman comes back and how he does is thunderously stupid and the bad CG to erase Cavill’s moustache needs to be seen to be believed). Worst of all, I want to find whoever made five-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams speak this atrocious dialogue and have them imprisoned, because making Amy Adams look this bad is a crime against humanity. Her best moment is fondling Cavill’s chest because it’s a damn pretty chest and she’s clearly getting any joy she possibly can out of this.
This film is such an unbearable mess that if it weren’t for the fact I was reviewing it, I would have walked out after 20 minutes.
So whose fault is this? It’s hard to say. The production was having major problems before the tragic circumstances that led to Zack Snyder’s departure as director, and even with his flaws, his visual sense is sorely missed here. Whedon tries too hard to make the whole thing fit his aesthetic (which didn’t work with ‘The Avengers’ either, yet he’s still peddling this same flavour of bullshit). I suspect the blame lies with more than one person, rather the cacophony of voices so desperate to make a hit that ticked all the boxes that the film itself drowned in all the noise, and what we get is this impotent rubbish.
‘Justice League’ is a bad film. There isn’t even a great film hidden in there somewhere, it’s just bad from beginning to end. I found myself genuinely embarrassed watching it. The Batman and Superman narratives have been driven into the ground, and The Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman could not have been introduced in a more incompetent manner. Just declare the whole thing a failure and let Gadot and Jenkins make their own Wonder Woman franchise. It would spare us having to go through this painful waste of time all over again.