Nov 21st, 2017, 03:05 PM

Review: Justice League

By Laurence Hewitt
Ben Affleck, Ezra Miller, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher and Jason Momoa speaking at the 2017 San Diego Comic Con International, for "Justice League", at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California. Image credit: Gage Skidmore
Lovers of mustache, look away now.

Justice League is a lot. A lot of what? Well, if I'm honest, I am not entirely sure. I'm not convinced that Justice League is a good movie per say, it is, however, a hell of a good time. The DC cinematic universe has been a real rollercoaster, with only one stand out critical and commercial success being Wonder Woman. Justice League arrives after a stellar year of superhero films, all the previous five being both huge commercial and critical successes. 

Justice League feels like a product of two distinct directors. The credited director Zack Snyder, who had to sadly step down earlier this year due to a personal tragedy, remains the overall creative driving force of the film. The film's visuals are decidedly Snyder, as is the general story. In every other regard though the film feels like a Joss Whedon picture, the director who was brought in to oversee re-shoots and finish the movie. It is almost too evident what scenes are Whedon's and which are Snyder's, even when disregarding the obvious green screens, wigs or Henry Cavill's jaw (which don't worry, I'll get to), the dialogue and style are dead giveaways. Snyder's League is more thoughtful whereas Whedon's are quip machines who throw out jokes almost as much as they throw punches. It doesn't feel too out of character though, the two parts function fine on their own, but when pushed together it feels slightly off, there is a distinct vibe of the movie being rushed to hit its release date.

Regarding plot, there frankly isn't much to say—it's your standard superhero fare, big scary CGI villain wants to destroy the earth and a band of heroes stops him. The simplistic plot is expected, although it's in the character interactions where this film thrives. Any scene involving the league interacting is just as good as any other Whedon superhero team-up (The Avengers), the characters have a real vibrancy and depth, you enjoy watching them just because of who they are. Any scene without them interacting though is a complete mess—bar a few between Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot)—the scenes feel slow and entirely out of place. Thankfully, once the first 30 minutes or so are over the film kicks into high gear and focuses on the team, with the odd quick jaunt to Steppenwolf and his Parademon legions. The problem with this pickup is that the pace feels off, the film is either too slow or going to fast through the scenes we want more of. It creates a bit of a tonal mess, but it works just well enough to be worth the sudden shifts.

Now, onto the main talking point: Henry Cavill's jaw. In the most baffling choice in the history of cinema, the filmmakers decided to cover up Cavill's mustache (which he couldn't shave due to his role in Mission: Impossible 6) by completely replacing his top lip to chin. The questionable CGI overall works in the film's favor perversely, giving it a Sunday morning cartoon vibe. The mustache hatchet job, however, is a travesty—it ruins otherwise good scenes because the eye gets drawn to this puppet-esque man. On a more positive note, the film's soundtrack is an absolute knock-out, the use of Danny Elfman and John Williams' old Batman and Superman themes was a masterstroke. It creates a sense of history for these characters which is not present otherwise. DC films have always had strong scores with this one being no exception: the sweeping orchestral music gives the film a much grander feel than what is needed, every moment feels ten times bigger, every beat perfectly punctuated. 

Justice League is an interesting beast, it has too many flaws to be a "good" movie but at the same time, I walked out smiling like an idiot, because at the end of the day I got to see some of pop culture's biggest icons (and Cyborg) on the big screen together. What I wanted from Justice League is what I wanted from The Avengers, I wanted to see my favorite superheroes together doing cool things and by that metric, Justice League passes with flying colors. It's stopped short of being a great film by its non-league aspects, although, even The Avengers had some pretty severe wobbles, it just got to the good stuff quicker. Also, be sure to stick around to the very end, as both post-credit scenes are a complete joy.

When Justice League flies, it soars, but when it stumbles, it falls. The important thing is that by the end it wrenches itself back up one last time and gives us a glimpse of what these films can be, and hopefully will be.