Movie Review : Justice League

A few days before seeing Justice League at the cinema, I had watched a bit of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice on cable TV. Seeing it again confirmed my earlier review of the movie as being very good despite the flak it had received from critics when it was released last year.

I was more taken in by the dialogue scenes in Dawn of Justice than by the action/fight scenes. As I had observed in my review of it; “Much like Man of Steel, it is a movie you will need to see time and again to appreciate. That’s not to say you won’t appreciate it at first viewing”.

It goes without saying that Justice League is DC Films’ answer to Marvel Studio’s The Avengers. Whilst, with seventeen films into its cinematic universe, the latter has achieved remarkable success; the former, with five films into its Extended Universe, is still struggling to gain a foothold.

Perhaps, still smarting from criticisms that its previous releases were too serious, DC Films decided to go the less serious route this time around with Justice League. But coming on the heels of Thor: Ragnarok by which Marvel Studios set the bar even higher with its patented comedic super hero movie shtick, Justice League was comparatively out of its league.

I don’t know whether to put it down to it having been directed by 2 directors (Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon) coupled with some re-write and re-shoots but there was a glaring continuity gaffe in Justice League that I could not overlook.

In the closing scene of Dawn of Justice at the burial of Superman, the levitation of the sand atop Superman’s casket clearly suggested that Superman was about to resurrect before the scene faded to black and the end credits began to roll.

However, rather incongruously in Justice League, his corpse had to be taken to a Kryptonian space ship and resurrected there. This clearly negates the relevance and import of the final scene in Dawn of Justice and suggests a disconnect between the storylines of both movies.

Comparisons between Justice League and Marvel’s The Avengers are unavoidable especially as the former, in some scenes, left little doubt as to the inspiration behind those scenes. Clark Kent/Superman is clearly DC’s answer to Marvel’s Steve Rogers/Captain America, Bruce Wayne/Batman is DC’s Tony Stark/Iron man, Diana Prince/Wonder woman is Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Victor Stone/Cyclone is Bruce Banner/Hulk and Barry Allen/The Flash is Peter Parker/Spiderman.

However, Justice League did not quite pull off the comical exchanges that ensued when Tony Stark recruited Peter Parker for the Avengers. In Justice League, the exchanges between Bruce Wayne and Barry Allen came off as predictable and quite frankly; not so funny. It lacked the comedic bite that was immediately noticeable between Tony Stark and Peter Parker. Where Tom Holland’s Peter Parker came off as boyishly naïve and endearing, Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen came off as effusively annoying.

Word has it that Warner Brothers Pictures had insisted that the movie be no longer than two hours. Perhaps, this would explain why Justice League came across as rather rushed and seemingly incoherent especially in the backstories of its super heroes. Some scenes from the trailer were cut from the movie and this detracted from the overall experience of the movie.

Justice League was as lacking in actual comedy as it was in having a memorable villain. Lead villain, Steppenwolf, was as one-dimensional and unimpressive as his sidekicks, the also hideously unimpressive parademons. Steppenwolf’s presence in the movie seemed more perfunctory than pivotal to the storyline.

The decision to go less serious also impacted on the way some characters differed in the movie from the way I perceived them in the trailer. For instance, in the trailer, Jason Momoa’s Aquaman came across as highly intense. However, in the movie, he came across as a trying to-be-funny-but-not-so-funny Khal Drogo with more than a hint of Jason Momoa in real life. This completely killed the intense-vibe about him that I had earlier perceived from the trailer.

Ben Affleck’s dark and brooding Bruce Wayne/Batman from Dawn of Justice gave way to a less intense and somewhat sensitive sometimes clean-shaven and sometimes bearded one in Justice League. Somewhat different as he was in this movie, it did not however change the fact that Affleck remains the best Batman till date.

But on the positive side, there were moments and performances in Justice League that provided some redemption for the movie. Ray Fisher as Victor Stone/Cyborg gave an impressive performance. His backstory may not have been sufficiently fleshed out but his brooding and mysterious mien was consistent with the mindset of one still trying to come to terms with his half man and half machine persona.

Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman proved yet again that she is without a doubt the sexiest female lead in movies today. My daubing her sexy here does not in any way objectify her. Her being sexy is always inextricably tied with her being tough enough to kick bad-guy ass from here to Themyscira and back without a strand of her hair falling out of place. She doesn’t even need to try coming across as being both sexy and bad ass. She exudes both effortlessly.

But by far the best performance was Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Superman. He pulled off being tough and funny at the same time effortlessly. His resurrection (as continuity incongruous as it was) was, for me, the only truly stand-out moment in the movie.

As Cavill has shown since Man of Steel, his superman does not come across as a one-dimensional Mr. Nice Guy as the late Christopher Reeves’ and Tom Welling’s in Smallville. Cavill’s Superman can throw down in the dark and brooding department (as he did in Dawn of Justice) and has absolutely no gender-based qualms about hitting back against a woman in battle as proved by the head-butt from hell he unleashed on Wonder woman.

Justice League was a disappointing installment in DC Films’ unfolding Extended Universe. It felt rushed and under-delivered when considered in light of the heightened expectations that heralded its release. Personally, it was so unimpressive that I am not overly excited about the upcoming Aquaman stand-alone movie.4/10

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Esosa Omo-Usoh

Lawyer, movie reviewer, music lover, one time regular writer of unhappy poems inspired by Rock songs, daydreamer and people watcher… in that order.