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– by Joseph Jammer Medina

It’s finally here. After years of waiting, we finally had a chance to check out the hotly-anticipated Justice League movie. A lot certainly seems to be riding on this film. Coming on the heels of the hugely successful Wonder Woman and the year after the critically-maligned Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, audiences seem to be looking to this film as the “make it or break it” film for the DC Extended Universe.

Will this be the film that affirms the positive direction that the franchise was heading in, or will it be another step down? The answer (as I’m sure you’ve read or seen at various other outlets by now) is a little bit of both in that it’ll likely be seen as a significant step up from previous films, but a step down from Wonder Woman.

The film picks up some time after Batman v Superman, with Superman dead, and Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) working to bring an alliance of metahumans to ward off an impending invasion. Among these heroes are the crass Aquaman (Jason Momoa), the eccentric Flash (Ezra Miller), and mysterious Cyborg (Ray Fisher). The invasion in question comes from the alien Steppenwolf. His overall goal is to unite three Mother Boxes and pretty much take over the world. You know, typical villain stuff.

Justice League very much seems to be a direct response to the criticism that Batman v Superman received. You won’t find a dreary, heavy, overly-complicated plot here. Not at all. Instead, we have a light, fun superhero romp that’s high on energy and character interactions, and low on twists, turns, and idea-focused storytelling. It’s an incredibly straightforward narrative, which has its pros and cons. Let’s talk about those pros first, because there are plenty.

As mentioned above, the absence of a complex plot gives room for a lot of great character interactions. If you come into this film hoping to see a solid realization of some of your favorite DC characters, this film doesn’t disappoint. Batman and Wonder Woman are back in top form, continuing their arcs from the previous film. Batman’s own arc is a bit predictable, but I actually found Wonder Woman’s arc here to be an unexpected surprise — one that builds off of what we’ve seen in both Batman v Superman and Wonder Woman.

Ray Fisher’s Cyborg is a fittingly tragic character. While some may find him boring, I was enticed by the actor’s low-key, understated performance. He’s moody, dry, but most intriguingly, broken. Sadly, we don’t get quite enough time to fully explore him as much as I’d like, but it’s a solid backbone for any other future film.

Ezra Miller’s Flash is a revelation. He’s the perfect interpretation of the character in my mind. When put up against Grant Gustin’s generic white bread (but likable) portrayal of the same character, it stands out. This Barry Allen is incredibly smart, socially awkward, and charmingly naive. He really nails the nerdier aspects of the character, and you really get the impression that he’s a bit of an outcast — especially with all the time he spends trying to prove that his imprisoned father didn’t kill his mother.

Jason Momoa’s Aquaman is another great character here, but if there was one of the group who didn’t quite match up to the others, it’s him. Now, that’s not to say he was bad. He was fantastic, and they brought in some great moments for him. I just don’t think he was given nearly enough screen time, and unlike the others, I never felt like I was able to see what made him tick. Regardless, I’m still very excited to see what he has to offer in the upcoming Aquaman standalone feature.

Between the character moments, simple plot, and capacity for a handful of fun set pieces, we end ups with a product that makes for a great popcorn flick — one that capitalizes on the strengths of the core group. But, of course, keeping things simple isn’t always a good thing.

The short runtime really limits our ability to delve into these characters as much as I would have liked. Some may say that’s because they didn’t get their own standalone film, but I think it’s something that could have been resolved with an extra 15-20 minutes of breathing room. While Marvel has spoiled us into expecting to get a standalone film for most heroes before seeing a team-up, it really isn’t the only way to go.

The villain also suffers greatly here. In true Marvel fashion, he’s developed just enough to be an obstacle. Many outlets point to him being “another CGI villain,” and while that isn’t entirely incorrect, I think CGI often gets a bad rap, with people associating paper thin characters with CGI. Reminder: all Pixar characters are CGI. Caesar from the new Planet of the Apes prequel series is CGI. CGI has nothing to do with it. It’s the writing of the character that is lacking. Now, that aside, I think it was a very conscious tradeoff on the part of writers Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon. Better to spend most of our time with the characters, right? You can be the judge on whether or not it worked, but ultimately, I think it was a tradeoff that worked in their favor.

This next criticism will likely make me a bit of a minority. This simple plot made the film lack a real heft to it, and it made me miss the ambition that Snyder had in his previous two DCEU films. Sure, the actual execution of those films is debatable, but to me, I really enjoyed seeing Snyder stretch his narrative muscles here, and as a filmgoer, I had a good time really engaging with the story. That’s largely been given up in favor of a more palatable story and rewarding character dynamic. This is very much a film that you can watch in passing, moreso than Snyder’s last films.

My final big criticism falls on some of the dialogue. There were about a handful of typical Hollywood cheesy lines that were very hard not to cringe at. With some lines, I got the sense that lines were workshopped by a bunch of high level execs who read a pamphlet on what one-liners need to be made in a popcorn action flick, and many fell flat for me. That being said, it by no means broke the film for me.

Justice League is an interesting beast. In addition to being poked and prodded by Warner Bros., this film was also subject to a change in director when Zack Snyder’s daughter tragically committed suicide. In his place came Joss Whedon, and many feared there would be a huge conflict in tone.

While I’ve heard many people say it’s easy to tell who shot what, I’d argue that the end product is more seamless than we give it credit for. Snyder set out to make a more lighthearted film, and that really permeates throughout. The only big red flag here are some odd shots of Henry Cavill’s Superman, where his upper lip is very clearly CG’d in order to remove the mustache he had to wear for another role he was playing before and after reshoots.

And speaking of Superman, yeah, Superman’s in the movie. As someone who actually liked Cavill’s more torn take on the Man of Steel, I actually enjoyed his transition into the hero readers know and love. He doesn’t go full Boy Scout just yet, but like with many of the characters, it’s a smooth start of a transition, and it really has me pumped to see what the eventual Man of Steel 2 will bring to the table.

All in all, I’d say Justice League will likely be seen as a big improvement to the previous Zack Snyder entries. It really allows you to sink your teeth into the characters more than ever before, and makes you want to see what the future holds for them. Though this did come at a cost.

At the end of the day, it does ultimately make for a more disposable film. I had a great time, don’t get me wrong, but even as I write this, I’m finding my memory of the film slowly fading away. Perhaps for better or worse, I don’t think conversations surrounding this movie will continue on for years as they have with previous entries. But perhaps this is the turn we all needed in order to get the more meaningful films down the road.

Grade: B

Are you excited to see Justice League this weekend? Let us know down below!

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  • FeixPunk

    Same as always, its fun but this, that, and this are wrong with it. I hope for the DC fans that it’s good, but best to go in with limited expectations.

  • Jerry Nice

    Hell yes.

    I must admit that I was hesitant to read the review here at first, mainly because I’ve felt DCEU is often pitted fairly/unfairly against media darling Marvel on LRM.

    This is a well written, unbiased & (most likely) spot on take of the film. I can’t wait.

    It was always going to have hiccups due to the unforeseen tragedy that took place for Mr. Snyder, but glad to hear it’s not overbearing.

    Thank you for the great review.

    • Joseph Jammer Medina

      Thank you! I try my best to be fair, but of course, every critic has their own biases. I think the important thing is to acknowledge what those biases are going into it so readers know how to gauge your review.

  • Wild Dreams

    So it’s not terrible ???? That’s a feat in itself with as much negativity as I’ve heard about this I was expecting steaming poop. I’ll check it out eventually but I hope all the DC fans have a good time this weekend.

  • Kevin

    It’s bullshit like the rest of the movies in the DCU. They should scrap everything, hire Chris Nolan and continue where The Dark Knight Rises ended and slowly introuduce the Justice League oh ya bring back Hans Zimmer because I heard Danny Elfman’s score for JL and its terrible!!!

  • Duck O’Death

    I enjoyed BvS immensely when I first saw it. I still enjoy it. Enjoyed WW even more. As long as the plot doesn’t take too many strange/confusing turns (BvS did some of this) I’m sure I’ll love JL.

    • Joseph Jammer Medina

      Sounds like you’ll enjoy it!

    • Games

      You will love it!

  • Alejandro Gonzalez

    Sounds like i will be having a good time this Saturday. Thanks for your fair review.

  • Victor Roa

    good review, I like how you defended CG there. It always feels like a buzz term in reviews, but at least you explained it better.

  • Psychotic Bitch With a Knife

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/abf4c55f8983c6e2bcd5407a50af7105e21bc1244c3926fb91ceece1896a3cff.jpg

    The flash was more Wally West than Barry Allen.
    Batman hangs a guy off a ledge to use him as bait.
    Wonder Woman gets violated by flash and they kept showing her butt.
    The trailers were misleading and showed scenes that weren’t in the film.
    Aquaman can’t speak underwater without an air bubble provided by Mera.
    Stepponwolf looked retarded. The CGI was laughable.
    Martha loses the farm but Bruce Wayne buys the Bank.
    They use the mother box to revive Superman in the Kyptonian Ship from BvS (No black suit).
    Superman flies through the roof and they follow him and start fighting after Cyborg accidentally attacks him….Superman wrecks them and ask’s Batman “do you bleed?” then Lois shows up.

    Superman uses freeze breath and beats Stepponwolfe and then the parademons attack Stepponwolf.
    Superman and Flash have a friendly competition go on while saving people and the race at the end.

    There also a deathstroke scene which looks like the ” Purple Lamborghini video” and Lex still SUCKS!!!

    Aquaman was more like a combo of Hulk and Lobo.
    Batman trolls Wonder Woman about Steve trevor (He’s nicer but still kind of a dick).

    It was funny how goofy everyone acted…like Hang Over goofy.
    I give it a 5 out of 10 because of the cool visuals but the overall story was bad.

  • Israel

    Is ok. I forgot Thor: Ragnarok already.

  • Weresmurf

    This was really fun. Saw it tonight here in Australia. Enjoyed it more than Ultron. Probably as much as I enjoyed Avengers 1 (which its actually very similair to). I appreciated the shorter time, the fact the coming together was a focus point and all the characters got a development point. Definite issues were there but nothing major. Steppenwolfs face was shoddy but his body was awesome and he was an imposing villain. Flash was so good. Also everyone… 2 credits sequences which were FANTASTIC. There’s also a quick cameo during a battle people will adore and holy crap easter eggs and references dropped left right and center. Really enjoyed it. The DCEU future looks bright. Thanks Geoff Johns!

    • Jerry Nice

      Dammit, this got me stoked.

      • Weresmurf

        It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely fun. The best part of the whole movie is when the team starts working as a team. When they did that in Avengers that was cool (And I love Avengers. Ultron… not so much), here, it feels like they even went one step beyond that, where it feels not like a stab, but a ‘lesson learned’ when they do certain things. But ultimately, it’s a lot of fun, a lot of comicbook fun.

        • Mad Barchetta

          For the life of me, I can’t get how you can rate this over Ultron, but then I don’t get anyone who likes vanilla over chocolate or IPA’s over a kick in the mouth, so…

          • Joseph Jammer Medina

            I think I’d rate this over Ultron as well. Then again, I also like vanilla and IPAs so…

          • Mad Barchetta

            Ok, the vanilla over chocolate I can understand. My preference could depend on mood. But JL over Ultron and the IPA thing… ya’ll just crazy! Everyone always seriously undervalues the kick in the teeth!

          • Joseph Jammer Medina

            To be fair, it’s only in recent years that IPAs have been a thing for me. I blame living in Colorado.

          • Mad Barchetta

            Colorado? Guess that makes sense. My memory says smoking pot always made stuff taste better, so that could make IPA’s palatable.

  • Smerdyakov

    If you think this is a bummer, wait til you see Flashpoint.

  • AmiRami

    I’m never going to like Miller’s Flash. 1) Even if his portrayal is a revelation, what he is portraying is wrong. Barry Allen is not a socially awkward nerd. Thats Wally West. 2) My got that is literally the worst looking Superhero costume I have ever seen/ Nothing about it screams Flash to me.

    • el spider hombre

      i have to agree with you 100%. everything i’ve seen of miller’s flash seems extremely annoying and overdone. not to mention that he does NOT capture barry allen’s persona.

      and what’s with the shade thrown at grant gustin in this article? “generic white bread”?? his portrayal is IMMINENTLY more on point that miller’s. not the sure cock fire, almost arrogant, portrayal in the comics. but closer to it than this overly nerdy, socially awkward, painful to my ears portrayal from miller.

      • AmiRami

        yeah that Gustin comment was out of nowhere.

        • Joseph Jammer Medina

          lol you two have a point. Admittedly, my own reading exposure is Wally West-centric, so that likely has something to do with it. And while I love The Flash on TV, Barry is soooo…boring… to me. So I think I was just happy to see something more interesting. I can see why that’d rub Barry Allen fans the wrong way. Hopefully you didn’t take that personally.

          • AmiRami

            I didn’t take anything personally :-). Admittedly The Flash on TV has gotten a bit stale after the repeated “Oops, I shouldn’t have gone back in time” shtick. But TBH the TV Flash is much closer to Barry Allen than the DCEU one is. The one in the comics can be a bit of a bore at times too.

  • DAH

    Thank you for this review…cant wait to see the film..and share my thoughts on here….

  • I’m a HUGE critic of the DCEU and their movies…and here’s me saying, ignore RT, the critics and all the negative nancies.

    I enjoyed this movie and embraced it for what it is rather than what it could have been. It is indeed entertaining and as Jammer rightly said, could mark a positive turn in the road for DC.

    And pls stay for the TWO post credits scenes.

  • noahwayne0

    Your headline describes basically every superhero movie ever made except Superman The Movie, Batman Begins, and the Dark Knight.

  • WTFITBS

    I thought this was going to be a two part film. Do they still plan on introducing Darkseid?

  • Kronx

    Finally got to see it. When the characters were together, bouncing off each other, it worked. But the structure and story were so weak, that it really undercut everything.

    The point of a superhero is to save the defenseless by doing the impossible. But, except for one family shoe-horned into the end, there’s no real indication that our heroes are really doing that. At no point did I feel like there was real danger.

    (Hell, in the beginning they show Steppenwolf being soundly defeated, which doesn’t exactly inspire terror later on.)

    But I do feel like with this and Wonder Woman, the DCU has turned a corner.

  • Mad Barchetta

    Ok, seen it for myself and my thoughts, for the 0.001% of readers who care. 🙂

    Overall, I found it a nice enjoyable distraction with potential to be rewatchable. I think my opinion probably falls somewhere in the middle of the overall pack:
    My daughter hated it, and she rarely hates anything. I thought it deserved much better than hate.
    One review I read said it was the best DC film since TDK. That’s generally a low bar, so faint praise. I place it just behind WW, and at the moment a toss-up with TDKR. It’s MUCH more fun than TDKR, I think.
    I think <40% on RT is a bit harsh, but I get why it ends up that way…I can see why the imperfections would outweigh the positives for many. Not so much for me as of this writing, but repeated viewings will tell.
    I agree with most that the plot is a bit light, and I think it hurts that they are using this story to introduce half the cast. The Avengers benefitted from having introduced almost everyone already (with a slight re-intro of Banner/Hulk) and being able to launch directly into how they would play off one another. It helped to really streamline the plot and focus on the origin of THE TEAM moreso than anything else.
    Much like the MCU, I would say the DCEU is in danger of struggling to create compelling villains. Lex has been pretty much universally reviled (a shame) and their Joker is neck-and-neck in that regard (a bigger shame). We're also seeing a pattern: really big/tall individual with god-like strength (well, ACTUAL god strength in one case), in a full on physical beat-down at the end of the movie, finally being defeated with a final big power/weapon/individual generally not part of the rest of the film. Perhaps a bit of an overgeneralization, but if you look at Doomsday/Ares/Steppenwolf, I think you would agree they are all rather similar Big Boss battles at the end, and all the JL seems to have is a bunch of tanks and DPS.
    One of the positives that I have most commonly seen noted is that WB/DC got the characters right. I'll address each of them. One thing to remember: I'm someone who is a HUGE fan of the DCAU and all comparisons begin and end there. At the same time, I was a long-time comic reader, so I have a lot of perspective here.
    Superman – This is the FIRST time since MoS that I think we finally see the ACTUAL Superman, as I understand the core of the character. For me, this is one of the top two personalities they finally portrayed accurately. I might be inclined to think that this was Whedon's influence, with the after-birth battle (sounds kinda icky…) being a Snyder creation. Still, thank you DC for getting this one right. Stick with that tone for him and you'll be good.
    Wonder Woman – Consistent with her own film and BvS. She's not quite the regal princess that I was used to, but I am very fond of Gadot's portrayal of her.
    Batman – Sorry, but while I think Affleck brings the best balance of traits and physical presence of all the actors to have portrayed him, I'm not really a fan of how he's been written. He remains firmly in the shadow of Kevin Conroy and the DCAU Batman, which is just how I want my Batman to be. Stoic, focused, tactically sound at all times, firm and direct to the point of bluntness at all times. The main thing: He's always RIGHT and sometimes that means being a dick. This Batman frequently seemed at a loss, over his head, and is it necessary that every time he sees a big hit coming that he curse? Not having a problem with the cursing, but it's verging on repetitive. Compare that to the DCAU Batman who would just stare directly at the incoming blow with a hardened grimace. Sorry, but I just like my Batman more infallible and less comedic than this one. Still, I give them full credit for portraying a live action Batman with the same level of physicality as the animated one.
    Aquaman – While I like that there are aspects of this version that are lifted from the classic Peter David era of the comic in the 90's, and I enjoy Mamoa's underwater biker vibe, I tend to like the idea of Aquaman having a more regal bearing. More warrior king, less berserker mercenary. Maybe that will be developed in his solo flick, as he shifts towards ascending the Atlantean throne. He's a fun character too. I wouldn't have minded dialing the bravado down from 11 to just 10, but he's got potential for the long-term. (Note: The character is one of the few in the DCAU that I felt wasn't portrayed well. They always showed him as more of a self-important, demanding hothead, and I always thought he deserved better.)
    The Flash – Not bad. Definitely not Barry Allen, and I can't imagine why they felt the need to make this Barry Allen, when it would have been just as easy for him to be Wally West. He was fun, felt a lot like he was there more for comic relief than anything else. I imagine they felt they wanted to have someone on the team who wasn't as experienced as the others and he was the one they picked.
    Ok, him and Cyborg, but Cyborg was portrayed as much more mature. There's potential for growth and I found him quite enjoyable. Still…the change in continuity also creates somewhat of a conundrum, with his origin. The original story says he was hit by lightning AND simultaneously doused in chemicals from his crime lab to result in his powers. So…not a CSI yet? Is it really JUST lightning or did he have his own stash of chemicals at home? Or maybe he was in in the chemical aisle at Walmart? Meh…
    Cyborg – His involvement is adapted from the New 52 intro of the JL. He was ok, but a bit unremarkable as characters go. Not sure where they can/will go with him from here, as I wonder if he's interesting enough for his own movie. At least he has abilities that help to differentiate him from the other punchers. I appreciated the "boo yah" at the end. Loved that aspect of the Teen Titans cartoon, with him being a very exuberant, fun-loving heavy hitter of the team, but now that would make him a bit similar to Aquaman. So, where to go? You got me. (Imagined future scene: After successful attack gambit, Cyborg, "Boo-yah!" Aquaman, "My man!" Flash – awkward nerdy comment followed by failed high-five attempt. C and A share rolled eyes and walk away.)

    I had some quibbles with lines that I think someone thought sounded very profound, but were just clunky and a lot of the attempts at humor came across forced/flat to me. Minor offenses. I would have liked to see Superman not be such a deus ex machina for the team. Seriously, the only reason the battle didn't end after he hit Steppenwolf about three times is Supes flew off to save an apartment building. Once he entered the fray, all sense of risk was gone. Made the rest of the JL seem superfluous. (And what better time to use that word!) And, I honestly doubt the interactions of this team will ever provide me more enjoyment than those of the Avengers, just because of the personalities.

    I suspect the weak opening (it's all relative, eh!) might work like with WW, which also opened weakly compared to the MCU films this year, but showed great legs (really really not an intentional pun) over the long-term. However, keep in might lots of folks who might see this also just saw Ragnarok (perhaps multiple times, have Christmas shopping happening now or soon, might be waiting to see it over the holiday(s), and Star Wars is less than a month away and folks might need to save money. Given the timing, I would be surprised if this film could have the long-term staying power of WW, but it certainly seems likely to have better word of mouth than any other DCEU film (except WW) thus far.

    Still, I would say this continues the hopeful feeling that started with WW. I still say WB would have done everyone a favor if they had just swallowed their pride a little and copied the MCU template of introducing the characters FIRST and then working to a team-up, and certainly NOT starting with two of the biggest DC stories in history (The Dark Knight Returns and Death of Superman). I know patience is difficult for Hollywood, but it can pay off BIG, folks!

Joseph Jammer Medina is an author, podcaster, and editor-in-chief of LRM. A graduate of Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Television, Jammer’s always had a craving for stories. From movies, television, and web content to books, anime, and manga, he’s always been something of a story junkie.