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No Grandeur for The Justice League


After the surprise dose in quality of Wonder Woman, DC’s Cinematic Universe is back to normal with Justice League.
Justice League is a severely disappointing movie in a film universe without a great track record to begin with. But in a way, it hurts more than Batman v. Superman or Suicide Squad, despite being overall better than both, because it’s the big team up movie of the DC characters; and the Justice League in title alone has a great degree of dignity to it. By all accounts it’s a more interesting team than the Avengers at Marvel, yet ultimately its’ movie isn’t a fraction as engrossing as theirs.
With Earth in a climate of fear following the death of Superman (Henry Cavill), an ancient villain called Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) returns to Earth with an army to conquer. Aware of this threat, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) goes about assembling a team to combat him. With Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), he recruits the Atlantean Aquaman (Jason Momoa), a young man with super-speed called the Flash (Ezra Miller), and a cybernetically reconstructed athlete dubbed Cyborg (Ray Fisher).
The generic story is the first real problem, being a very basic villain coming out of nowhere forcing a team together plot. But The Avengers had the same problem, however it was better written. Which is strange because Joss Whedon worked on both scripts. But this doesn’t feel like one of his screenplays at all, lacking the energy, personality and acerbic wit of his work. The film suffers too from Sudden Backstory Syndrome in which each character who hasn’t had their own film yet is given a very awkward and rushed exposition dump on where they came from. In fact a lot of the movie is rushed, which I get given how abruptly the conflict arises, but it doesn’t allow the audience to feel for the characters and their developing comradery. There’s one scene that seems to exist purely so we can see members of the Justice League fight (again, because The Avengers did it) which makes absolutely no sense, is completely out of character, and is never explained.
Ben Affleck is still a very good Batman despite his occasional habit to phone it in in some of his Bruce Wayne scenes. Likewise, Gal Gadot is still great as Wonder Woman, though certainly not to the lengths she was in her own movie earlier this year. Nonetheless, she’s the highlight of all her scenes and the best part of the movie as a whole. Jason Momoa also impressed me as Aquaman, having more charisma than any of the other newcomers and somehow making an underwater battle scene work. Henry Cavill is back as Superman, though I can’t say much more. He’s still as perfectly decent in the role as he’s always been. Ray Fisher is serviceable despite the constant poor CGI surrounding his performance. And Ezra Miller’s take on Barry Allen is a mixed bag. He’s the comic relief of the team, but his comedy is often pretty lame. His costume is also a little too mechanical, not diversifying him much from Batman or Cyborg. Connie Nielsen reprises her role from Wonder Woman, and Jeremy Irons is once again an enjoyable Alfred. Amy Adams is back as Lois Lane for no good reason, as is Diane Lane as Martha Kent. But at least the movie gives us J.K. Simmons in a small role as Jim Gordon, proving even with minimal screen-time, he’s fantastic in the part.
But another huge weakness of the film is the villain, and while Ciaran Hinds is a good actor, his character is a spectacularly forgettable antagonist. Being entirely CG and with bland aspirations to world domination there’s nothing unique to him at all, and he might be the DCCU’s weakest villain thus far -at least Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor was memorably horrible. The CG was generally quite bad, with the evil drones in particular having no substance. And while the action scenes were for the most part good, utilizing excellent teamwork, they were very effects heavy, taking some of the fun out. And of course there’s Cavill’s infamous moustache, which he grew for another movie and had to be edited out of re-shoots on Justice League ...and it is distractingly noticeable and off-putting.
The biggest disappointment with Justice League is not that it’s bad but that it’s dull. Dull and underwhelming. This is a movie centred around some of the greatest heroes in pop culture, and it’s often less entertaining and less grand than Murder on the Orient Express. At the end of the day, it’s a movie that’s likely to be beaten at the box office by the third instalment of a franchise based on a secondary Marvel superhero. And that’s a very sad defeat for an alliance of this clout.

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