Justice League Review
This review of the most recent DCEU film, Justice League, will be broken up into two parts: non-spoilery and spoilery. This is the non-spoilery review, so if you haven’t seen the movie, and you don’t want to be spoiled, it is safe to read this review. I won’t talk about any of the fun Easter Eggs and references. I hope you enjoy this review.
If you’ve been paying attention to the critical reception to Justice League, you might have noticed it has been a bit… bleak.
My review of the film takes a slightly different tact because I enjoyed Justice League a lot.
I will freely admit that I went into the movie with low expectations, so if it was better than Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman, I would be happy. Not exactly a high bar, but this movie far exceeded those expectations.
Admittedly, I’m a DC comics fan. I grew up on the amazing animated cartoons and movies made in the 90s and early 2000s. This movie feels like one of those 90-minute quick animated films that DC has been putting out for ages, only in live action. And seeing the characters that I love up on the big screen filled my heart with joy. I’m actually excited to see where they go from here, which is something I thought I’d never get to say about a DC movie.
Does the movie have problems?
Yeah. It has some major problems. The villain is forgettable, the mandate from WB to keep the movie at two hours can be felt in the choppy editing, and Henry Cavill’s CGI-removed mustache is a bit nightmarish. It’s not a perfect movie, but it didn’t have to be. It had to bring together a team of heroes who don’t all mesh well and don’t play well with others, and it had to make sure that the team dynamic worked well. And boy did Justice League deliver on its characters.
One of the biggest reasons I enjoyed Justice League is how it treats its characters. The members of the Justice and their rocky team dynamic lay at the heart of this movie. If the team’s interaction didn’t work, then that would be the end of it. Luckily, DC and WB seem to have finally started to figure out how to do their characters justice. With a few spoilery exceptions, the characters work well from start to finish. The members of the team interact with one another like any team of disparate misfits would. They butt heads and don’t get along. They get themselves into trouble and figure out ways to get out of situations when the plan goes south. The best scenes in the movie are when the members of the newly formed league gather in one room and talk to each other. The audience can feel how much certain characters don’t like one another.
Jason Mamoa’s stern, loner Aquaman feels like he can best survive alone, until he’s proven wrong, and is forced to work with people he doesn’t know or trust for the good of both his peoples. I would love to see more of Aquaman and Atlantis, Mamoa’s badass surfer version of the character is simply inspired, but I guess I’ll have to wait until his solo movie next December to get more of his world.
Ray Fisher’s Cyborg struggles with who or what he is after his deadly accident. He feels betrayed by his father, and is unsure about his place in the world. Of all the new characters introduced in the movie, I didn’t expect Cyborg to be my favorite, but he is great. The moment where he stole the movie for me is when he’s having an argument with his father, who made him into a cyborg, and he talks about the people who whisper about the monster of Star Labs. His father tries to comfort him by telling him he’s not a monster, and Cyborg replies only with, “It’s interesting you thought I was the monster.”
It’s moments like these that really give the characters definition.
Ezra Miller’s Flash is a much needed dose of levity in the DC cinematic universe. Even though the tone of Justice League is far lighter than BvS, the Flash brings the audience into the movie. He’s just excited to be a part of the League. He wants friends, and he thinks it’s so cool to be standing in the Batcave with Batman.
I would too, Flash.
Speaking of Batman… They finally brought us Batman! He’s no longer Murderbat mowing down thugs with his car and machine guns. He’s guilt-ridden, sarcastic, jokey Batman from the comics! And his awkward interactions with Aquaman are hilarious. Ben Affleck is great as Bruce Wayne/Batman and as a hardened leader who is willing to do whatever it takes to win, even if will likely get him killed. Plus bonus points for having Batman actually do some detective work and strategy. Now give me the rest of the Batfamily and a Red Hood storyline!
Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is the heart and moral center of the Justice League. Gal Gadot’s performance continues to improve on her appearance in her solo film, and in the absence of Superman, she is the hope and light of the team. She functions like a foster mother to Cyborg and cautions Bruce when she thinks he’s gone too far. She’s also an absolute badass who you do not want to cross. Her interactions and verbal sparring with Bruce creates a lot tension in the group, and there’s a couple of tense moments between them that threaten to tear the team apart.
Speaking of the team, as much of a joy as it was to see the characters I grew up with interact and quarrel on screen, I also loved how they interacted and fought as a team when they got together. Seeing the Justice League in action felt like I was watching a comic book on the screen. All their different abilities worked seamlessly together once they got used to having each other around. The CGI wasn’t always great in the fight scenes, but they were entertaining to watch and the teamwork was handled well.
The final aspect of Justice League that I enjoyed, without going too deep into spoilers, is how they handled the world building. It felt way less ham fisted than in BvS. Instead of beating the audience over the head with references, they show you brief glimpses of characters in flashbacks that signal big events to come in future movies.
So yes, the movie has some major problems with pacing, needing more character background that got cut to keep it under two hours, and a video game style Big Bad Evil Guy villain with little motivation. However, just because a movie isn’t a 10/10 doesn’t mean it’s horrible. Are there things I would change about the movie and its production? Yes, absolutely. I would have let the movie be two and a half to three hours long. I would have changed a few story beats. But I’m choosing to focus on the good that came out of Justice League. Justice League proves that DC can get its characters right, and they can have a light-hearted romp of an adventure movie. This is a signal to the audience that in the post-Snyder version of the DCEU, we can look forward to a bright, hopeful future for DC movies.
And I’m looking forward to seeing that future unfold.
That’s all I’ve got for now. Thanks for reading! Also, be on the lookout for my spoiler-filled Easter Egg post for Justice League. We have so much to talk about.
Have you seen Justice League? What did you think? Did you like it? Hate it? Have no strong feelings toward it whatsoever? Leave a comment down below and we can discuss the movie. I’m sure there will be some divided opinions. Try to leave out the spoilers though!
If you haven’t seen Justice League or saw the critical response and thought the movie must be horrible, I encourage you to go see it and come to your own conclusions about the movie. Who knows, you might have fun watching the movie like I did.