Justice League 2017
I’m not entirely sure what bug got into me, but I’ve been full speed ahead trying to catch up on the year (more or less) that I’ve missed writing on this site. This is one of the biggest films that I missed from last year and while it made a decent amount of money, it was a pretty big disappointment for what a Justice League movie could have made. Out of the major superhero movie releases of the year, it was the second lowest grossing film just above Logan which was R-rated and it was the lowest grossing film of the entire DCEU. It was plagued by some behind the scenes nightmares like the tragic loss of Zack Snyder’s daughter midway through filming so that the film was finished by Joss Whedon. There was also the well documented issue with Henry Cavill being unable to shave his mustache for reshoots while filming the latest Mission Impossible which created some unnerving scenes of CGI hair-removal. The resulting chaos resulted in a rather chaotic movie that shifted in tone from the more serious and dramatic Zack Snyder films that came before it, and the more irreverent humor associated with Joss Whedon with a lack of overall cohesion. Some moments worked, but the team never quite came together as a whole.
One of the biggest issues with this film was the shifting tone of the movie. A frequent complaint about Man of Steel and Batman v Superman was that the tone was too dark and humorless. The overall tone of this film was much more light and had many more jokes than the previous two films, but the balance/transitions felt off more often than not with the timing of the comic relief. The best humor came from both Jason Momoa’s Aquaman with his cynical realism and Ezra Miller’s awkward optimism. The Flash actually felt like a similar character to Lex Luthor in the previous film but it worked much better here than it did there.
Another big issue was the villain Steppenwolf himself. While there have been some complaints about his CGI, the bigger complaint should be about his character motivations and actions. He falls under the typically boring destroy the world category but needs three seemingly random cubes and an army of bug-like creatures. The movie also sidesteps the concept that the parademons are created from the beings in the world and could potentially be humans that they are killing. When the audience is told about his previous defeat, we are shown that it took three armies to take him down, and yet when it’s time for the newly formed Justice League to bring him down, there’s no help at all from the Amazons or Atlanteans. And while they’re not quite fighting a giant cloud in the sky that plagues some of the worst superhero movies, three floating cubes isn’t too far off from that. There’s also little explanation as to either how he finds the mother boxes or why he doesn’t just use the same boom tubes to get all three of them in quick succession.
There have been many different versions of superhero team ups, but one of the biggest concepts is the actual building of the team. There are a few expectation subversions here in this movie, especially with the extreme ease of getting Barry Allen to join the team. There were also a few trope moments like the initial reluctance of Arthur Curry to join the team before he eventually gives in and helps them after their first encounter with Steppenwolf. There’s also a moment where the team has to fight each other, at least to some extent after the resurrection of Superman. There was also what was supposed to be an aspect of sympathy as we are shown a Russian family who are living on the outskirts of Steppenwolf’s home base. And yet we really learn nothing about this family, have no stakes for their survival, and it all felt incredibly pointless to keep cutting back to them as they appeared to be in danger, yet also appeared to suffer zero consequences of that danger whatsoever. The failings of the team also seem to be fairly insignificant aside from Barry’s occasional tripping and Victor’s initial reluctance. It makes the success of the team feel less significant when there aren’t as many struggles along the way.
It’s not an awful movie by any means. The action beats were all done well enough other than the underwhelming mini-battle at Atlantis. The Knightcrawler was an interesting bit of gadgetry, it was always a joy pretty much any time Wonder Woman came on screen, and it was great to hear shades of the Burton Batman theme. Honestly, just like thinking of this from the perspective of a comic book fan, there were usually seven original members of the original Justice League but here there are only six. It’s the same with this film, it just feels like there’s some element missing. There’s action, good characters, a weak villain but that’s often an issue in more well received Marvel films, even Superman’s CGI lip wasn’t as much of a distraction as some of the still frames that I’ve seen would have led me to believe. The one good thing about the perceived failure of this film is that it seems like it is causing DC to go a different direction from Marvel and split off into various different incarnations of the DC Universe rather than trying to tie everything into a single, connected universe. The MCU is great, but variety is even better. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.