Justice League Review: The Best Of A Bad Situation

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Justice League is out now. Warner Bros.

Justice League isn’t quite the disastrous coup-de-grâce many of its detractors anticipated (myself included.) Nor is it a confirmation that Wonder Woman was more than a fluke and the DCEU finally has its shit together. On balance, the same snags that kept the former entries in Warner Bros.’ would be franchise releases from greatness remain, except this time there’s a hair more to recommend. Thankfully, Joss Whedon knows how to superhero movie, which keeps the ghost of the Snyderverse precariously at bay.

Needless to say, this film, even more than Batman V. Superman, needed to work-not just make a killing at the box office mind you, but marshal the remaining fans necessary to sustain this universe for decades to come. Much like the desultory treatment of the return of Superman is meant to serve as a rallying cry for its squabbling heroes, Justice League was clearly staged as DC’s triumphant “ye of little faith” moment.

There are improvements to the franchise ushered in by Justice League, no question, but they are by no means linear. While it's true Henry Cavill has finally found his footing as the last son of krypton, Gal Gadot’s turn as Wonder Woman is once again devoid of any sort of gravitas. Sure, it’s nice to behold these revered heroes strike poses in a world not exclusively comprised of murky tones and 90’s inspired gloom, but the video game hellscape that accompanies the film’s climax is only marginally better.

The rumoured knotty production of Justice League juxtaposed with the ongoing critical success of the MCU, gave way to the fear that the film suffers from a lack of identity; this fear is only half realized. Indeed Justice League is a dediced departure in tone and aestetics from its predecessors but doesn't attempt the same breed of irreverence made famous by its rival cinematic universe. There are humorous moments and a fair share of Whedon-esque digressions, but this team-up film is more concerned with indulging in the iconic status of its main players. This approach is made most evident by Danny Elfman’s score. An uncharastically muted affair, seasoned with call backs to DC’s pop culture highs, namely the return of the Batman 89’ theme and a cheeky perversion of John William’s unmistakable Superman theme.

Individual performances notwithstanding, there is a welcomed enthusiasm in the presentation of the titular roster. Whedon spends less time deconstructing heroism, and more time reveling in it. Ezra Miller has the most comedic chops of his co-stars and manages to be funny with little more than subtle facial gestures and a careless assimilation of half baked one-liners. Ray Fisher makes for a compelling Cyborg, and Jason Momoa's Aquaman pleads “how badly do you want to see my solo movie?” The chemistry shared between the cast is intermittent though even at its best, it really isn’t ever anything to remark upon. They assemble, they bicker, they trade tired anecdotes, they save the world, they go home.

Ben Affleck doesn't really work as Batman. When it comes to portraying fictional juggernauts as ubiquitous as the caped crusader, it's important that the persona of the actor behind the cowl is either non-distracting, or somehow avails the performance. Like newcomer Christopher Reeves, or real life playboy Robert Downey Jr. respectively. Saying nothing of the fact that Affleck clearly has one foot out the door, his celebrity makes for a counterintuitive interpretation of the Dark Knight.

Conversely, much to my surprise, and relief, Henry Cavill spends his abbreviated time onscreen wholly embodying the winsome boy scout fans have been waiting to see since 2013. The last ten minutes of the film, which are headlined by Supes, are almost worth the price admission all on its own. It’s a dispiriting token of what might have been if the team conscripted to course correct the missteps of the DCEU had authored its trajectory in the first place.

It seems every release in this burgeoning, shared DC universe is a small step in the right direction. Justice League is no exception; unfortunately, the finish line is still miles ahead.


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