About halfway through this movie, I leaned over to LapsedHeathen and said, “Dad, I think this might be a bad film.”
“Yeah,” he said, “it’s not great, is it?”
I mean, I think we all knew going into this that it wasn’t going to be as good as The Avengers. And I think we were right. But … there’s more.
At the time of writing this, Justice League is sitting at 41% on Rotten Tomatoes. The Avengers is at 92%. And sure, it’s all subjective, and so is what I’m writing now, but I think that gives an initial idea.
It’s worth acknowledging that The Avengers is the easy comparison for this movie. But it’s the inevitable one, isn’t it? If you wrote a book about a kid who finds out he’s a wizard and then fucks off to a magic boarding school to make two friends and fight wizard Hitler, you’d know going in what comparison was going to be made. And it’s the same deal here. So forgive me in advance if I compare this movie to the obvious, but the obvious is kind of the currency of the superhero. (Sorry.)
First interesting thing is that almost no one was there when I saw this movie today. And it’s a Saturday. But the place was almost empty. I went to see Thor: Ragnarok twice, once after it just came out and once after it had been out for a little while, and the place was packed both times. And, acknowledging the deserved reputation it has as a source, take a look at Wikipedia’s list of the highest grossing movies of all time. A lot of Marvel movies on there, right?
Two other people stuck around for Justice League’s (not particularly amusing) after credits scenes. One guy gave up halfway through the credits. Kind of looks like nobody gives much of a shit, doesn’t it? (Makes you wonder why I’m writing this.)
So, what was nobody giving a shit about?
Well, to avoid spoilers, I’ll give only the premise. This movie tells the story of a group of family favourite superheroes teaming up to stop an alien invasion. Said alien invasion follows a threatening guy with a signature helmet arriving through a portal, on his knees, with a long weapon, so he can go about using a super powerful cube (or three) to take over the world. Oh, and he brings an army through a blue portal.
While we’re here making these comparisons, The Avengers had a lot of things that Justice League didn’t.
- It had the advantage of being able to get straight into its story (which, yes, was your classic aliens fall from the sky to take over the world, but it did that well and it was about the characters so originality is secondary) as the characters had been introduced in other movies.
- It had a visual style and sense of humour that matched the tone of the movie.
- And it had, oh yeah. The actual feel of a movie.
And my review is basically expanding on these three points. So let’s do that. Comparing it to The Avengers the whole time. Because I’m unoriginal as fuck.
This film really, really, felt rushed. See, it had to introduce and explain the stories of The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg, without actually having all that much time to dedicate to any of them. It was dropping in and out of these introductory storylines shooting off exposition so fast that, honestly, I felt like I was only keeping up because I’ve been a fan of these characters my whole life.
See, The Avengers was a great movie. And one of its great strengths was, in fact, its simplicity. As it had already introduced all the heroes and the villain, it could focus on the story, drip feeding us exposition as was necessary. This allowed people who aren’t huge comic book fans to follow what was going on, and maybe even serve as an introduction for them, so they can go back and watch the previous films if they feel so inclined. (Or, so I’ve been told my people to whom that context is relevant.)
But Justice League? It just doesn’t have time. It wants to get to the story, but it has to give us all this backstory first. Heroes and the villain have to be introduced and to save time it ends up leaning on vague references to events with the assumption that we’ll understand them. And some of us will, but not everybody’s going to. And sure, a superhero movie’s going to get (about six, in this case) superhero fans watching it, but it’s not fair to act like they’re the only audience.
And this isn’t just detrimental to the characters, but also to the story. In the two hour (was it?) runtime we have to move straight on to the plot (ha?) but there’s not a whole lot of time left for it. The villain barely feels like a character because there’s no time to establish him or make him feel all that threatening with everything else that has to be squeezed in. And sure, Loki’s not the most threatening villain of all time, but OMG BIGGEST SCARIEST BADASS ever isn’t what they’re going for with Loki. And at least they did more than constantly tell us how vewwy scawy he is.
And since I have been comparing this to a Marvel title … You know how Marvel has a tendency to employ bathos? How the movies always have a lot of jokes and such. Well, so does this movie. But in my opinion, more often than not, they fell flat. There were some pretty funny gags in there (I’ll leave you to hear them for the first time in the movie itself if you haven’t already) but with Marvel movies getting praise for their fun, it’s a shame this movie failed.
It’s actually kind of funny. I remember thinking, when I saw Wonder Woman, that it had strong humour. Its humour built on each scene, while a weakness of the MCU is that, on occasion, its bathos can steal from the emotional weight of what’s going on in the film. Wonder Woman did a good job of handling serious subject matter, keeping DC’s generally more gritty tone, and not falling into the old DC trap of taking itself too seriously.
You only have to look at the poster for Justice League to see that, visually, the movie is a little darker than what you might see in a Marvel movie. Hey, let’s even side by side Justice League and Ragnarok, shall we?
You might expect Justice League to have a darker tone, while the colourful Ragnarok is indeed full of slapstick and everyone at some point being the butt of a dumb joke. (Also, Jeff Goldblum. So.) And in some ways, in some scenes, Justice League is. Even the colours in the climax brought to mind the above poster. But then it threw in all these vaguely MCU but not quite jokes that just weren’t funny. And it didn’t quite stitch together.
And really, I think you could say that about the whole thing. The extensive backstories weren’t mixing well with the rushed plot. We are told throughout the whole thing that these characters have chemistry, but I don’t see it.
And because of this janky stitching together, it doesn’t feel like a movie. It doesn’t build. The climax feels no more epic than the first fight. To me, the whole thing felt a little bit like a really long episode of a TV show, the level of excitement being just that: level. (And for some reason I kept getting TMNT vibes.)
And really, that’s all I can say. It’s a movie that spends its entire runtime reminding you that you’re not—but you could be—watching The Avengers. And Diana’s short skirt isn’t gonna save it. (Superman’s chest hair gave it a good go, though.)
And, in closing:
- Affleck doing the Bale Batman voice is upsetting.
- Lois Lane actually says “You smell good.”
- There are about seven hundred opportunities for the heroes to be morons, and they take them all.
- We were denied the Amazon screentime that was implied.
- You had ONE JOB GUYS. LEARN TO GUARD A NOT-TESSERACT.
And thank you for reading. If you’ve seen this movie, talk to me about it in the not spoiler free (I have designated them so) comments. And I’ve got some more reviews lined up in the near future, so stick about for them.