Hey good people! Your boy Ralph (The Perennial Aesthete) is here! First and foremost, I hope that everyone who is reading this had a blessed and joyous Thanksgiving holiday. A movie for Justice League has seemingly been on the horizon forever and finally we get to witness it. I can’t express enough how lucky I am to be living in these times where comic book characters we loved as a kid, are being brought from the comic books to the big screen. I had the opportunity to watch the Justice League film twice and I appreciated it even more the second time around. I found it to be delightful and entertaining, but not without it’s missteps, sort of speak. By far, the film is not flawless, but I felt that it’s flaws were outweighed by it’s terrific direction, decent dialogue and excellent casting, acting, score, visual effects and editing. As you read further into the review, I just want to give you a heads up that there are some spoilers. As long as it’s not an inconvenience to you, continue to read on!
As of today, Justice League has climbed to $481.3 million worldwide, while also earning $171.5 million domestically after two weeks in theaters. Obviously, Warner Bros. was hoping for a better performance at the box office, with a goal of at least crossing the $1 billion mark overall, and I’m not sure if Justice League will get there. Does that make the film a failure? There was so much written and discussed about the film’s troubled production; awful test screenings, director Zack Snyder leaving the production due to a heartbreaking family tragedy, Joss Whedon being appointed to do an untold number of re-shoots, with Henry Cavill’s digitally erased mustache being the most infamous of the re-shoots. Due to Marvel’s successful head start in the cinematic universe, I think DC Comics/ Warner Bros. movies have been analyzed and over analyzed again and again.
I’m not going to turn this post into a Marvel versus DC Comics post because I’m a fan of both of it’s comic books, the characters and as well as it’s films. Admittedly, I have a soft spot for DC Comics because my late father first introduced those comics to me when I was a kid. Marvel’s characters seem to be grounded in reality, while DC’s characters seems more mythical or god-like. Getting back to the Justice League film, I’m going to discuss what work for the film and what didn’t work. Just like Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson once quoted, “you know I like my dessert first,” so here’s the good stuff. What enjoyed about the film is that the idiosyncrasies of Ezra Miller as Barry Allen/ Flash were endearing and humanizing. He was clearly cast in a hero-in-training role, which was one of the brighter spots of the film. Was it just me or was he channeling the animal spirit of Jimmy Fallon? I don’t want to get into specific detail, but you are not a comic fan if you wasn’t grinning ear to ear during a scene with Cavill’s Superman in a mid-credit sequence. Honestly, that was pure comic book bliss for me.
I found Jason Momoa to be very memorable in the role of Arthur Curry/ “The Aquaman” (as he is referred to in the film). Aquaman was one of two characters in which I was concerned with; I’ll get to the other one shortly. I thought Momoa’s character would heavily depend on independence and machismo, but his casting was surprisingly refreshing in an era of touchy, emotional strongmen. If you take Ezra Miller out of the equation, Momoa seems to be having the most fun in the film and his natural charisma is evident, which makes his character extremely likable and one of the highlights of the movie. I’m really looking forward to what Momoa and director James Wan will bring forth in next year’s Aquaman movie.
Ray Fisher as Vic Stone/Cyborg does an exceptional job in his role as a tormented character, which was revealed through his father’s suffering to save his son. I also thought it was a creatively, brilliant decision to place him at the heart of film due to the lack of popularity among non-comic book fans. From the looks of things, it was pretty conspicuous that his role was slimmed down after Whedon took over the film shoots. Need further proof? Go back and look at the clips and trailers leading up to film. Just about all of the scenes featuring Fisher, were nonexistent in the final film.
If Ben Affleck sticks around for a while and I truly hope he does, he can highly possibly emerge as the definitive live-action version of Bruce Wayne/ Batman. Will he equal or surpass Christian Bale’s work in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy? That’s too early to say. For the record, I’m satisfied and eagerly hoping that Ben Affleck’s role continues to evolve from a murderous vigilante, as first introduced in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, to a leader and strategist, as I thought he was portrayed in Justice League. It didn’t seem not too long ago that Affleck received numerous death threats after he was cast as Batman. It appears times have change, along with Affleck’s character under the cape and cowl.
What can you say about Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman? She is undeniably perfect for the role and Justice League has not changed that. Gal Gadot now epitomizes Wonder Woman—she is iconic, beautiful, fearless and think she stole the show in Justice League with her courage, in the face of overwhelming power. I think her character, along with other aspects of the film, was a gift and a curse; at no given moment did you feel that any of the team members were in any danger. You knew they were going to win, you just wondered how they would win. Again, great performance by Gadot and I’m definitely looking forward to the next Wonder Woman film.
Finally, we get to Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/ Superman. First off, kudos to Warner Bros. and DC for keeping Superman out of the clips and trailers, and not folding under pressure from fans to show any glimpse of the “Big, Blue Boy Scout.” For the limited amount of screen time he received, Cavill does a wonderful job in playing this version of Superman. No longer the tormented, reluctant hero, he’s now shaking hands with firefighters, lending time to talk to children and is owning up to the obligation to restore faith in truth and justice. I absolutely loved Man of Steel, another film that had it’s minor flaws, and for the things that I found wrong in Batman v Superman (read here), I enjoyed it for what it was worth. I just hope that Cavill’s character will continue to evolve, despite the challenges of humanizing a god-like character. For what he’s done as Superman so far, he’s handled it like a champ… or more so, a beacon of hope.
Still with me? Good. Now let’s get to the damn veggies. I think DC/ Warner Bros. dropped the ball on Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarán Hinds.) Don’t get me wrong, there were some scenes in Justice League that Steppenwolf was featured in was cool as hell, but he felt too much as a cookie-cutter version of villains from past superhero movies. He was basically a retread of Ares from Wonder Woman’s stand-alone film and he’s as easily interchangeable with a character such as Surtur from Marvel’s latest film outing, Thor: Ragnarok. It pains me to say this, but the character was a waste of Ciarán Hinds’s immense talent as an actor. It just wasn’t enough time spent on developing the character’s history, motives and specific reasons for his actions. Even some of the CGI effects in certain parts of the movie felt outdated. Overall, the film just felt rushed and never quite feels cohesive.
From what I’ve read on social media, I presumed that Warner Bros. was being too demanding and hasty with the final product, being too concerned with the length of Justice League and most importantly, not having enough faith in Zack Snyder’s complete vision for the film. I’m not sure how much Snyder’s personal tragedy has affected the completion of the film, but there were some glaring aspects of the film that was either poorly explained or undeveloped. One question I have though? Whatever happen to that heavily rumored pair of threads and some facial hair that was supposed to make an appearance in the film? That was definitely a missed opportunity that would have delighted DC fans all around. Maybe it’ll come along, neatly packaged in an uncut film version when it’s released on Blu-ray and digital download. Also, what was the significance of the family that the film seemed so intent to keep focused on? That was a bit confusing as well. Despite parts of the film being seemingly sloppy or ineffective, I managed to find the film highly entertaining and enjoyable. The biggest strength of Justice League is how the characters interact with each other, while allowing them to behave like their comic book counterparts. Warner Bros. seemed to have learned a lesson from the success of the Wonder Woman film, which allowed them to establish a connection with their audience.
With Marvel already ahead of the game, I could only imagine the difficulty to avoid Justice League from becoming a copycat film, by attempting to be more edgy and relying on internal-conflict to drive the film further along. Creative decisions such as these, didn’t seem to carry over well with most critics of the film, and their negative buzz appears to have hurt the film to a certain extent. No matter though; the film has established a solid ground, and it has created genuine interest and excitement for future DC-based films such as Aquaman, The Flash, Cyborg, Shazam and Green Lantern Corps. There are planned sequels to the Man of Steel and Wonder Woman films. There’s also another Batman film in the works. Going forward, from what we already know about these characters and their capabilities, DC and Warner Bros. should continue to develop their personas and keep the focus on their interpersonal relationships with each other, while also exploring and introducing lesser-known characters. Most importantly—for the sake of the fans, be patient in making those future films even better… and this is coming from a DC guy at heart. On a scale of 1-10, I give it 7 “Mother Boxes.”
Before I wrap up this review, I want to give special thanks to Shawn Martinbrough, Ethan Van Sciver, George Perez, Marv Wolfman and Jim Lee. I’m a huge fan of these guys and it was such a joy to witness their comic book creations making it to the big screen! May your success continue to motivate and inspire comic book creatives and fans all over the world.
What did you think of the Justice League film? Was it worth the wait? What do you hope for or look forward to the most in future DC/ Warner Bros. films? I’d love to read some of your comments and suggestions.
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Justice League Official Movie Trailer: