Justice League's marriage of the darker hues of the cinematic universe and the lighter shades of the Saturday morning cartoon doesn't work a lot of the time but when it does you will find yourself giddy with excitement.
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In 2013 Warner Bros. released Man of Steel starring Henry Cavill as the titular hero from Krypton the film was successful enough that DC Comics and Warner Bros. decided it was time to throw their hat into the ring of Shared Cinematic Universes with Marvel. This was where Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice further expanded the universe introducing Batman played by Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot who played Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman. With the release of BVS and then Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman the DC Extended Universe was further expanded and we saw the introduction of characters like the Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and now in 2017 only four years later they all come together to face off against the New God Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) and his legion of Parademons as he tries to take over the world in Justice League.
Justice League is the culmination of what I’ve always seen as the Superman trilogy in the DCEU franchise with the forging of the League to combat the growing tide of crime that has erupted since the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Not only that but an even greater evil on the horizon in the pixelised form of Steppenwolf a “New God” who wishes to conquer Earth after a failed attempt over 5000 years ago.
I’ll start with the positives because I enjoy being positive – The action is phenomenal Snyder has outdone himself in Justice League with the incredible set pieces for our heroes and villains to do battle in. The score is used to heighten several of these battles and if you listen out you’ll recognise two iconic themes during several of these clashes.
The characters are outstanding, Barry Allen is an adorkable young hero who is only starting to find his footing when he is found by Bruce. Ezra brings an infectious charm to Barry Allen and how he deals with being a super fast metahuman doling out razor sharp quip. He is easily the heart of the team that helps ground them. Keeping with the theme of young and untested meta-humans Victor Stone aka Cyborg is a brilliant addition to the roster. Ray Fisher gives a deeply moving performance as the half man half machine who is unsure what he is when audiences first meet him in the film. It’s a fascinating journey watching him rise to the occasion as he realises he still has a stake in a world he may no longer be apart of in the traditional sense. Rounding out the new trio of heroes is Arthur Curry aka Aquaman who seems to be the quintessential loner, he rebels against the belief that no man is an island. Wishing to be left alone it’s not until disaster literally comes knocking at his door does Arthur actually step up and help the team. Momoa is oozing with charm and brings the same level of presence he brought to his iconic turn as Khal Drogo in Game Of Thrones. Gal continues her winning streak as Wonder Woman though you can definitely tell that she has grown into her role and become far more comfortable in that armour she dons for battle. If there are any issues with the ensemble it’s with Affleck who is given some unusual choices in dialogue, he seems far too light-hearted especially after the events of BVS and though there are moments of genuine intensity from him there are several questionable moments of poorly placed comedic quips from him that feel more in place in a Marvel film.
With Affleck’s performance inconsistency’s throughout the film I can segue into some of the issues with Justice League. The first problem is the pace, the film runs at a speed akin to the Flash as we get introduced to all our leads and their supporting cast in the first half an hour and we check in with them all throughout the entire film, unfortunately, there are so many characters that anyone who isn’t familiar with the comics may get lost as the film travels between Gotham, Metropolis, Central City, Themyscira, Smallville and even Russia.
Something that I’ve always loved about the DCEU films are the villains they are always a cut above the plain jane vanilla Marvel villains that they can even be more interesting than the heroes. Sadly Steppenwolf leans more towards a Marvel villain in his execution, he’s simply a big bad boss for the Justice League to rally around and beat the s**t out of at the climax of the film. He has moments of genuine terror and there are allusions to a deeper figure but the film never explores him enough to make me care about his motivations as much as I did Zod’s in Man of Steel.
The tone though is the most infuriating element of the film as a new lighter and more carefree element wrestles with the darker hues of this universe that has been developed across the previous four outings. If the direction was better it could have been magnificent unfortunately with two directors with two different styles at play here the film feels at odds with itself undercutting the strengths of both directors and highlighting their weaknesses. It is a shame because there are moments that remind you of the emotional journey you’ve taken across this particular universe in the DC Multiverse.
Justice League is ultimately a marriage of the darker hues of the cinematic universe and the lighter shades of the Saturday morning cartoon many of us grew up with in the late 90’s. This doesn’t work a lot of the time but when it does you will find yourself giddy with excitement.