Director Zach Snyder stepped away from the movie in May 2017, following the death of his daughter. Joss Whedon took over to finish the film. (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)
What do Joel Schumacher’s “Batman & Robin” and Halle Berry’s “Catwoman” have in common? There are two answers to this. One: they are considered to be two of the worst superhero movies, and two of the worst movies, ever made. Two: They are both better than “Justice League.”
Following the death of Superman in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” an other-worldly being known as Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) arrives on Earth to collect objects known as the Mother Boxes, which can cause apocalyptic destruction. To face the threat, Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) recruit other heroes to form a team to combat Steppenwolf.
If “Justice League” manages to do even a single thing right, it is that it confirms without a shadow of a doubt that the DC Cinematic Universe is a broken mess, and movie goers should expect more disasters like “Batman v Superman” or “Suicide Squad” as opposed to competent movies like “Wonder Woman” from DC.
The story is pretty straight forward: a bad guy is hard to defeat, so a bunch of heroes have to team up to stop the bad guy. It should have been as simple as that, but every story beat that should be in a movie like this is either non-existent or is handled badly. For example, there is no inner turmoil amongst the team, other than a quick shoving match between Batman and Wonder Woman. They all get along with each other without any fuss, and then they all work together perfectly whenever they have to fight side-by-side.
This lack of conflict between the team members could have been made up for if the characters were any good, but they are not. The movie pretends like each character has a bit of personal conflict in order for it to pretend like the characters have made some progress or that they have learned something. But these arcs are all things that basically get put out by the script in bad exposition or through character actions that exist in one scene and are then solved. If the characters’ problems are non-existent or are settled within the scene that they are brought up, then what is there to care about or get invested in?
While the way the characters are written is definitely detrimental, the actors do not help either. Every performance across the board, except for J.K. Simmons and Jeremy Irons, is bad. Other than Gadot and Affleck, none of the other members of the League have any sort of chemistry with one another, so every scene where they interact is flat and awkward. It is not just the superheroes’ whose actors are not doing well in this movie. There is a scene between Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Superman’s mom (Diane Lane) where they are talking about Superman being gone, and they just stare blankly at each other and talk in neutral tones for the entire scene, and it is terrible. Most of these actors are talented, but they were given bad direction and bad characters to work with.
With these uninteresting characters come boring and uninteresting fight scenes. The first two action set pieces in the movie, involving Batman fighting a criminal and Wonder Woman saving a group of people, are decent for the most part, though there are some glaringly bad parts to them, but the other action scenes are terrible. It is always either the uninteresting and generic villain fighting cannon-fodder characters to get something he needs to propel the plot, or it is the superheroes who are not interesting fighting the villain who is not interesting.
When it all comes down to it, “Justice League” is essentially just a movie trying to answer all of the complaints about previous movies, but answering them in ways that are actually worse than the original problems they were trying to solve. For example, “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman” were too dark and brooding, so now the tone is more lighthearted and the characters, including Batman, are all cracking jokes. It is more fitting, but it contrasts so heavily with what has already been established that it feels strange.
A problem with “Man of Steel” was that Superman seemingly destroyed a city and killed thousands of civilians, so now all of the cities and areas where fighting occurs are vacant, except for one family that is in the middle of everything that the film cuts back to in an attempt to make the audience care. Spoiler alert: it does not work, and the overuse of the family ends up making them uninteresting and not worth caring about.
To put it simply, “Justice League” is a movie that has basically everything going wrong in it. Everything from the story to the characters to the cover version of Leonard Cohen’s song “Everybody Knows” that was used in the opening credits is wrong.
Final Grade: F