By: Daniel Kiilgallon, Staff Writer
Over five years ago, Marvel Studios released The Avengers, the culmination of a collection of solo movies leading up to the first team superhero film of it’s kind. Ever since, audiences have received an absolute onslaught of comic book movies including well over twenty major titles from franchises like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, DC Extended Universe (DCEU), and the X-Men series. In many ways, superhero films have become less of a major event and more routine, with a new title hitting theaters at least every couple of months. While I have personally enjoyed each movie in the DCEU thus far, the franchise has struggled from a financial and critical standpoint that clearly hasn’t been able to match the success of its competition.
This film underwent some major production challenges, highlighted by the departure of director Zack Snyder following the tragic death of his daughter. Shortly after, Josh Whedon (The Avengers) was hired to write and direct a number of additional scenes in a reshoot, bringing the production budget up to a staggering estimation of $300 million. Furthermore, during the post-production process, Warner Brother’s CEO Kevin Tsujihara “made clear he wanted Justice League to be under two hours,” according to a report by the Wall Street Journal. Personally, I think that the blend of Snyder’s and Whedon’s visions actually ended up working well in crafting a more lighthearted movie, but the two hour limit really bothered me. That simply isn’t enough time to tell a story of this magnitude that features and introduces so many major characters.
Justice League at last brings together DC’s famous superteam featuring Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg. Early on in the movie, Batman reunites with Wonder Woman to assemble the Justice League. They decide to quickly recruit the other previously listed members once a threat to Earth emerges in the form of alien “Parademons.” The army is led by an immortal, hammer-wielding commander named Steppenwolf, who has returned to Earth with the goal of conquering the planet by collecting three powerful “Motherboxes”; it is now up to the Justice League to stop him.
Steppenwolf had a very cliche scheme and wasn’t psychologically menacing by any means in this movie. However, I really don’t think that this hurt the film very much as a complex villain isn’t exactly necessary for the purpose of the story. Steppenwolf at least posed a viable threat and there were certainly times when I felt like our heroes were actually in danger.
While Justice League’s antagonist may be average at best, the depictions of the heroes were far from that. I can honestly say that each and every character on the team was portrayed excellently by the perfectly casted ensemble group. Gal Gadot follows up her performance from this year’s Wonder Woman with an equally impressive take on the character that forces her to assimilate into the modern world and take on more of a leadership role. On top of that, I would add that Affleck and Mamoa each bring a necessary combination of physicality and humor to their characters of Batman and Aquaman, respectively. Meanwhile, Ezra Miller and Ray Fisher provide natural charisma playing the younger heroes of Flash and Cyborg who are trying to figure out their own powers. Overall, Justice League absolutely proved that this iconic team could be portrayed successfully and display natural camaraderie on the big screen.
While the studio-mandated 2 hour runtime clearly hurt the pacing and character development of this movie, I still had a blast watching Justice League and finally seeing these heroes come together in the DCEU’s best film to date. I really think that this universe has nailed down these intriguing characters, but I just wish they were granted the proper time for complete backstories and more bonding moments with one another. I hope that these glaring issues can be patched up in a proper director’s cut of the film, as was the case with 2016’s Batman v Superman. Nevertheless, I think that with Justice League, DC has laid the groundwork for plenty more fun movies in the years to come.