Life moves pretty fast. When we don’t stop and look around once in awhile, we miss it. Man, Ferris Bueller wasn’t kidding!
Just a couple of weeks ago, I saw “Thor: Ragnarok” and found my interest in superhero movies returning. It had been awhile since comic-book adaptations had been interesting. The third “Thor” film defied expectations and created a wild, wonderful world that showed how amazing the anything-is-possible world of comic books could be on the big screen. In less than two weeks, my renewed enthusiasm took a sharp punch to the taint from the absolute slog that is “Justice League.”
There are so many things wrong with “Justice League” I barely can figure out where to start. It’s the most Frankenstein-ed franchise film I’ve seen and barely more coherent than the theatrical cut of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”—which irked so many people last year. This kind of movie should be a home run: a superhero team-up featuring the most popular iconic heroes of the DC Comics Universe. It’s a movie that features Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. It should be no-brainer; unfortunately, it’s a different kind of no-brainer.
This is a ghastly movie. Director Zack Snyder was continuing his polarizing, dark deep dive into heroism and iconography when Warner Brothers decided his visually interesting, emotionally obtuse dissertation needed a lighter touch. So they brought in Joss Whedon (“Avengers”) to make the movie incredibly vapid, with a lot of awkward jokes and conversations that feel tonally out of place with grander designs laid into the foundation. Batman (Ben Affleck) has gone from a bitter, middle-aged Batman to a jokey version that feels more like Adam West than Dark Knight.
Whedon’s style is so sleight, it barely exists. He’s still doing the same shtick he started with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”: life-and-death situations where every character has a funny line to diffuse the tension. The style doesn’t lend itself as well to Batman as it does Iron Man. To be fair, Robert Downey Jr. is a lot better at pulling off the rapid-fire joke routine than Affleck.
Most of the onscreen talent walks away unscathed from the bubbly, baffling blockbuster. Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) is still as charming as ever. Jason Momoa (Aquaman), Ezra Miller (Flash) and Ray Fisher (Cyborg) all bring different levels of energy and intensity to their superheroes. Henry Cavill is great in the role of Superman, even though he’s consistently given so little to do.
I’d recap the movie’s story if it had one—an original one anyway. Remember the superhero movie where an evil, one-dimensional villain has to steal a thing to take over Earth? Apparently so did the creative team behind “Justice League,” because that’s the tired-ass device they decided to go with. The villain, Steppenwolf (Cirián Hinds), might be the most lackluster antagonist in a superhero film. It’s a motion-capture performance that feels like the studio decided to stop spending money halfway through leaving audiences wondering why the character looks unfinished.
Even the little things most big blockbusters get right feel wrong. The visual FX are kind of terrible. There are scenes where the lighting changed from “gloomy” to “oversaturated,” which made everything look weird.
It’s difficult to review “Justice League” as a movie because it is not a shared vision, but a final product that feels molested by the studio and stitched together with the most mediocre of intentions. In trying to make it appealing to all, they’ve stripped away the core elements that made them interesting. “Justice League” tries so hard to be every other superhero movie. Its revised goals are so menial, it barely becomes anything more than a series of scenes and moments that feel unconnected or worth caring about.
My ultimate feelings line up with every other uninspired franchise film that farts its way into theaters every other week. Put this on the shelf next to any “Transformers” or “Twilight” film: Uninspiring movies that exist to adapt a known property and deliver the bare minimum while bringing nothing new to audiences.