'Justice League' Can't Power Through Lackluster Storytelling
By Devvon Eubanks
Comic book superheroes have always been a source of inspiration to me. Seeing enhanced men and women perform amazing feats made me understand there is more to humanity than meets the eye. While we might not be able to see through walls or punch through concrete, each of us is nevertheless destined for greatness. Both Marvel and DC Comics have contributed to this belief by showing us amazing teams of metahumans who face incredible odds and come out on top. In 2012, Marvel’s “Avengers” made their debut, uniting characters that had long been the stars of their own series. Not to be outdone, DC has slowly built up their own lineup of heroes, teasing a team of their own in 2014. Now the legendary “Justice League” is finally here to take their place in film history after DC’s “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “Suicide Squad,” and “Wonder Woman.” With an estimated production budget of $300 million and fan anticipation across the globe, how does DC’s renowned team fare?
“Superman is dead.” This is the headline of every news story as the world mourns the loss of the Man of Steel. However, a new evil is slowly approaching after centuries of dormancy. Because of Superman’s trageic death, three ancient mystical containers called “mother boxes” have been reactivated, and in Themyscira – the hidden island of the Amazons – an entity known as Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) suddenly appears and fights to claim the Amazons’ box for himself. Knowing that the union of these boxes could spell the end of the world, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and Batman (Ben Affleck), conclude that they need to quickly recruit a team of heroes to fend off the impending invasion and stop Steppenwolf’s plans.
Coming off of “Batman v. Superman,” Zack Snyder once again returns as director, with his signature somber tone, dark colors, and unique cinematography. Locale placements are not much different from “BvS,” apart from one trip to the colorful island of Themyscira. With the introduction of Steppenwolf, however, the presence of evil is felt more, as this tall, horned warrior and his horde give off an otherworldly aura to an already brooding background.
Coming in at two hours, the film does go fairly quick, but it has a few dead spots that makes the journey feel slow. And despite this amazing cast of characters, there are only a few action sequences, with the focus being more on dialogue and building camaraderie between each team member. “Justice League” actually feels a bit like Snyder’s earlier work on the “Watchmen,” only with better characters and more to work with. But the quality just isn't here, as more time could have provided more opportunities for action, better enemies (the parademons are boring), more dialogue, and an extra cameo or two. But what is here works decently and will keep fans engaged as the film progresses.
The characters are pretty good, too. Many veteran actors reprise their roles from “BvS” and do just as well here. Gal Gadot still does an outstanding job as Wonder Woman and “Batfleck,” whether people like him as the caped crusader or not, still does the character justice. Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry, the Aquaman, is badass in his updated look. The “king of the seas” has always looked kind of dorky in a lot of media, like 1973’s “Superfriends,” but Momoa’s character is certainly one of the best takes I have seen in a long while and is quite funny. Victor Stone's Cyborg, played by Ray Fisher, is another outstanding take on a character and is the most faithful to DC’s source material. Finally, we have Ezra Miller as Barry Allen's the Flash, returning from his cameos in “BvS” and “Suicide Squad.” As the group's comic relief, Allen cracks jokes and provides a lighthearted presence, which is refreshing. This take is considerably younger and less experienced next to some more prominent representations, which may be an issue for some fans.
The main problem with the newcomers is that they are introduced too quickly without a lot of previous exposure. As there have been no films that have adequately introduced them, it might be harder for the audience to connect with them. In Marvel’s films, all members outside of Hawkeye either had their own movies or had a significant role in previous films, so by the time “The Avengers” came around, audiences were familiar with just about everyone. And personally, I would have loved to see a Flash film that competed with “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” Additionally, some of the new recruits don’t get to use many of their abilities. Barry, for example, explains that he has never been in a combat situation, so his role in the team is to provide support and save civilians from harm. But he never gets a chance to punch waves of parademons in the face at mach speed. Wonder Woman and Batman do most of the heavy lifting in action sequences, while Aquaman and Cyborg provide a bit more assistance with plenty of stabbing and energy blasts. Overall, the dialogue of the team flourishes, while the combat is decent, but underwhelming.
While having some flaws, Zack Snyder’s “Justice League” is a decent first run of their own heroic team up. However, DC needs to find its stride before their films can be fully appreciated by fans and critics alike. “Wonder Woman” was the best offering since Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight,” so if they can keep giving us that kind of comic book movie experience, the future of DC films will be in a league of its own.