So far, the DC Extended Universe has had something of a bumpy road to get to this point; Man of Steel was an ambitious if severely flawed retelling of Superman's origin, Batman v Superman tried to do too much too soon and it backfired badly because of that, Suicide Squad was an odd film that suffered greatly from studio intervention, and Wonder Woman was an awesome origin story that did justice to her and her mythology. DC Films and Warner Bros. cut a lot of corners, made a lot of sacrifices, and rushed things far too soon (particularly the death of Superman) so that they could get to Justice League and hopefully catch up with Marvel. This movie went through something of a troubled production due to WB/DC wanting to make a huge course-correction following the fallout of BvS's critical slamming, and when Zack Snyder's daughter tragically passing away earlier this year, Snyder stepped away from production (as well as the public eye) and Joss Whedon stepped in to do extensive reshoots (sounds somewhat similar to what happened with Suicide Squad, doesn't it?). Now, with Justice League finally arriving, is it the massive, course-changing event WB and DC were hyping it up to being? Well, sort of. Beware there are some unavoidable spoilers ahead…
Like BvS, this tries do too much in a short amount of time, which is hard enough as it is seeing as half of the titular League haven't been introduced or established in their own solo movies. But unlike that misfire, this movie gives us characters that we can root for, that are heroic and the chemistry between them is what makes the movie enjoyable and fun despite the disjointed story. Ben Affleck's Batman is way more likable and caring than his relentlessly grim and brutal depiction in BvS, even though he can typically be a self-righteous jerk at times, and if this is indeed Affleck's final time in the role then he picked a good note to go out on. Gal Gadot still brings genuine heart and wisdom to the role of Wonder Woman, managing to be the beating heart and soul of this universe, as well as the team's moral compass, and her chemistry with Affleck is electric. As far as the new recruits are concerned, they work more effectively than expected; Jason Mamoa is clearly having a blast as the wild and dangerous Aquaman, whilst also bringing some genuine emotion to certain points, plus his interaction with Amber Heard's Mera bodes promising potential for the upcoming Aquaman movie. Ezra Miller's Flash is more excitable, neurotic and humorous than the CW's TV depiction, and that helps make his Flash more distinguishable, and Miller brings real dynamic energy to the role while also having great rapport with the rest of the cast. Cyborg plays a more integral part to the story, but Ray Fisher's performance was only passable at best, which came as a result of his distracting CGI-altered face.
Yet, even though Wonder Woman, Aquaman and the Flash stole the show, Superman WAS the show. The character of Superman was severely botched in both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman by being reduced to an angst-riddled, joyless creature who didn't really enjoy being a hero and ended up being killed off far too soon before we could have formed any emotional attachment to him, but when he comes back in this film... Oh boy, does he come back. It's taken three films to get to this point, but here, Henry Cavill IS Superman (finally!), capturing the warmth, passion and soul that makes Superman such a hopeful, optimistic and iconic hero, and hopefully, this'll prove to be a great launching pad for future Superman movies. It's great to have you back Superman, you have been sorely missed.
However, while the characters and their interactions were executed perfectly, certain elements of others’ background and development felt rushed or cut short, which adds to one of the major problems Justice League suffers from: rushed pacing. Thanks to a mandate set by Warner Bros, the film was shortened to two hours, and that kind of ends up hurting the movie somewhat as this could've benefited from being longer so that the character development could play out smoother and more naturally, which would've given the story some time to breathe. Here, you can tell sometimes that sections of this movie were cut out, although it is not as glaring or jarring as it was with Batman v Superman's theatrical cut. Frankly, we wouldn't be surprised if Warners decide to make a bit more money off the back of an extended edition. Also, if you know nothing about these characters or their backstories from the comics, or haven't even seen the other DC movies (especially Batman v Superman), then you are going to be completely lost, which will be problematic for a general audience.
As far as the main villain is concerned, Steppenwolf ends up being a colossal disappointment, which is a real shame considering where he comes from and the potential that comes with that. They barely acknowledge Apokolips, Darkseid and the mythology of the New Gods, and because all of that is never explored fully enough, Steppenwolf is never a real threat, which isn't helped by the fact that his lack of presence comes as a result of him being just another lame CGI creation like Doomsday, Enchantress, Incubus, and Ares. Speaking of which, the CGI in this movies ranges from passable to being inexcusably bad in certain areas; a lot of the movie looks fake, which could've been excused if it looked pretty much like Wonder Woman or Thor: Ragnarok, but some of the CGI visuals looks completely unappealing, which only sparks horrific flashbacks to 2011's Green Lantern. Why did Steppenwolf and Cyborg have to be CGI creations? What the hell is up with Superman's upper lip?!
In the end, Justice League is an enjoyable fun, if severely flawed movie that is better than the first three entries in the DCEU, but falls short of Wonder Woman's heights. The League themselves are perfectly portrayed and have great chemistry with one another, but their storylines are rushed thanks to frantic pacing, the villain was weak and the CGI was very dodgy occasionally. In future, WB and DC may need to hold off on doing team-up/ensemble movies for the time being and focus solely on solo movies in order for us to gain more emotional attachment to these characters, and hopefully, the Aquaman movie will do just that. But, just announce a Superman sequel already, please!
Expected rating: 7/10