[ random movie time ]
What does it take to be a hero? Wait, wrong movie.
Full disclaimer: I have A LOT of feelings over superhero movies. So this one is super long. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, just know that I did enjoy watching Justice League, and I’d recommend it. If only to cleanse your DC palate.
I didn’t have high hopes for Justice League. At best, there were a lot of lukewarm “It was okay”, “It was better than BvS” (lol) and “I enjoyed it” from friends who have already watched. The disappointments that were BvS and Suicide Squad were still fresh on my mind. Or, more accurately, still being actively repressed.
And yet! During the last scene of this brave DC effort, I was smiling. The movie was good. After the second post-credits scene, I actually felt excitement (that new character though!!! Please, let us rejoice!!!!!!).
I think, if you are a non-DC, non-comic fan entering the theatre, you might come out with more than a handful of disappointments. Critics are correct when they say JL is, as expected, a bit of a narrative mess.
Without context, the weird blips in the script would be much more unforgivable. I have examples, but random movie time remains spoiler-free. The whiplash in tone might lead to permanent injury. Some of the awkward dialogue would trump the cast’s great chemistry. The villain and the backstory… I won’t even go there.
Plus, fans of Batman would be hard-pressed to rate this movie high. In a ensemble of obvious heavy-hitters, the scriptwriters had to highlight what makes Batman so unique: his intellect, his discipline, his strategy, his struggles and duality. Excepting a few scenes that require a lot of squinting, all he offers are quips, potentially unresolved romantic tension (which I love!!!! DIANA/BRUCE ALL THE WAY), and money.
Thematically, the moral of the story also leaves much to be desired. It gave Diana a leadership and acceptance story arc, but I feel like they strong-armed her into the resolution. JL preaches a lot about teamwork, but really fails to exemplify it. “You can’t save the world alone”, indeed, unless…?
The failure to bridge the gap from “Once upon a time” to the conclusion is becoming a grand tradition in this particular line of movies.
Like Batman v Superman, the Justice League Movieassumed characterizations and events in reference to a context that was poorly-established (or even entirely absent) from the prequels. For example: everyone mourned Superman as a beacon of hope. The world plunged into a darkness. But how did he become a beacon of hope? In what part of the dark prequels did anyone, including the audience, associate Superman with anything other than godly strength and moral attitude? A chiseled jaw?
He did smile for like 5 seconds in that one scene though…
And perhaps in an attempt to fill in any narrative hole, JL drew from so many rich sources that they did them all a disservice. So many scenes could have been fleshed out for sequels instead. Remember when we expected an epic Batman versus Superman fight, but we also got the Death of Superman? It was cool and it made sense, but nobody was asking for it.
But as a long-time fan of the DC animated universe (specifically all the direct-to-video offerings from Public Enemies to the Judas Contract), and as a fan of graphic novel aesthetics in general, I had fun.
First off, that first few shots in Gotham were gorgeous. Dark, gloomy, and a bit of a caricature of itself –exactly how Gotham should be. Even the scenes that were 99% CGI later on got to me. I could grab it, frame it, and call it a straight leap from the comic books.
A big part of the frankenstein criticism is because the scenes leapt from one part of the world to another, from Atlantis to Themyscira to the coffee room at the Daily Planet. This was all accompanied by non-sensical tonal shifts. But sometimes that’s how it is in the comics! You flip a page and you’re transported somewhere else entirely.
Another bonus is that the whole film reminded me of one of my favorite DC animated originals, Justice League: War. In fact, it’s almost the same thing, give or take a few characters. Parademons everywhere. I love Justice League: War. Lol.
Comparisons against the Marvel behemoth are unwarranted. They are completely different beasts. While Marvel integrates realism with comic book premises, DC goes all out and says: this is a comic book universe. Accept it. Enjoy it. Live it.
The DC cinematic universe is a world where gods exist, where Zeus made the rounds and aliens don’t have to be explained with sci-fi jargon. Contradictions happen. They all just have to exist in the space of a story. This kind of play with realism is what makes reading old comics so much fun. Ah, it’s called suspension of disbelief.
There are other good things that make this a good, albeit not strong or remarkable, offering from DC: the funny quips by this new baby Flash, the breathtaking action sequences, the mostly-great CGI, and the soundtrack. The soundtrack was AMAZING. From the initial setting up to the individual character themes, the songs got me pumped. It’s got like 20 seconds of BLACKPINK, and that will never not be a plus.
Diana Prince/ Wonder Woman remains a treat. For five seconds I was afraid the male gaze version of the Amazons would destroy what Wonder Woman built (hello, crop top armor?), but the chase sequence in Themyscira was one of the best I’ve seen in recent memory.
I need to stop while I’m ahead. Comment below for stuff! I need to go look for trivia and read fanfiction now!