Justice League is cynical.
Don’t get me wrong, the Marvel films are cynical too. It’s all cynical. Hollywood is a cynical industry.
It strikes me, however, that Justice League is an example of the cynicism of Hollywood gone horribly awry.
That’s not to say that it’s terrible, or even that bad. It’s certainly far better than Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad. But for all their faults, those films at least presented a consistent worldview. Justice League feels tonally consistent, at odds with itself, in unnatural ways.
It goes beyond the fact that Joss Whedon was brought in to do rewrites on Zack Snyder’s depressive and dark world, peppering in bits of Whedon-esque dialogue, mostly to The Flash and Aquaman (though, in fairness, all of the characters in this film do get brief moments of lightness, except for Superman, who continues to be The World’s Most Emo Teenager).
There’s a moment, early on, where a street grocer is being attacked, explicitly for being Muslim, implicitly because the death of Superman (which we, the savvy audience, know is destined to be short-lived, because when has Superman ever stayed dead?) has torn asunder the bonds between men. There’s another moment where Wonder Woman stops some terrorists who want to make some kind of statement about sending humanity back to a simpler time. It’s not really referenced again, it’s just kind of … there.
It’s nice to pretend as if man needed the death of a modern-day God to tear us apart, but if we’re being honest, we see enough in the world today to tell us that no excuse is necessary.
Instead, we’re presented with a barrage of cynically thrown together moments, as if to indicate that somehow man will overcome, and yet we’re also presented with moments that scream at us to look at the divides in our world, look at how we squabble amongst ourselves.
There’s no coherent worldview to Justice League, and there really should have been. What’s the message here? I struggle to see one. There’s certainly no unity of purpose to the members of the Justice League. At least with The Avengers, you felt like it meant something. This? This is just nothing.
Ezra Miller is good as The Flash, he manages to be the only character in the film who seems believably human. So credit where credit is due.
And Jason Momoa is … fun, in a certain way, as Aquaman (or should I say, Aquabro?)
This movie’s special effects are … bad. Real bad. The special effects when Aquaman goes to defend the magic box that’s underwater? It looks terrible. Cyborg looks like a cheap TV character, like someone who fits better on DC’s Arrow or The Flash TV shows. Clark Kent has never looked more alien. Steppenwolf and his minions? They look like video game characters. Honestly, that’s what most of this film looked like. There’s a lot of really obvious green screen that I assume was demanded by reshoots but man does it look bad.
This whole film kind of felt like a video game if we’re being honest, and they can’t even get the sequel hook stuff right. If you’re going to introduce us to Steppenwolf, who is undeniably a boring villain with boring aims of generic world destruction, at least use him as a stepping stone to the Bigger Bad that is Darkseid. Nobody cares about the Evil Justice League.
Amy Adams, a great actress, has been reduced to being Superman’s memory totem from Inception, a reminder of his humanity who occasionally delivers an awkwardly written line meant to be the opener to some Pulitzer winning essay that will not be winning a Pulitzer anytime soon.
If it sounds like I’m being overly negative, I should be clear – this is still better than Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad. This is just more fresh in my memory. I’m not sure I could offer much more criticism for this movie so I’ll just say:
I want DC to get it right. I really do. DC has much better, much more iconic characters than Marvel, and the potential for great individual stories and great crossovers. Maybe, after the success of Wonder Woman, and after this movie bombed relative to expectations, they’ll take the opportunity to reflect, to reconsider the direction of the franchise. I sincerely hope they do.