Justice League – A review

While most certainly far from perfect, Justice League was a monumental improvement over last year’s bad and extremely confusing Batman v Superman and a great jumping off point for future DC movies. It was a fun, easy movie to watch, which is not something you’d normally say about a movie directed by Zack Snyder.

In fact, sometimes it felt like there was a completely different director running the show, which makes sense. Following the suicide of his daughter, Zack Snyder stepped away from production and Avengers mastermind Joss Whedon was his pick to oversee post-production. While the personal tragedy Snyder experienced is awful, his stepping away was the best thing to happen to this movie.

It moved quickly, which was a huge positive over the expected Snyder weighty slog. It was a little sloppy, and you could definitely tell that it underwent some serious work in reshoots, but it came together in a fun package that was really refreshing to see.

My totally uneducated, outsider, talking-out-my-ass-on-a-blog-nobody-reads perspective is that Joss Whedon saved this film from utter disaster no matter what any cast members say about him just finishing up what Snyder already put together. Given the fact nearly every joke from the movie was in the trailers, my feeling was that Whedon had to add some humor in at the last minute to try to save things from Snyder’s usual washed out, overwrought, tedious style. It feels like Whedon did everything he could to try and salvage this movie, and it worked more often than not.

The most important thing that worked here was the team. They’ve assembled a great cast as the Justice League, even if Ben Affleck is trying to find a way out of playing Batman again. Since there are rumors about his departure, people are saying his performance is a clear sign he doesn’t want to be there. I think that’s just feeding the narrative, since he seemed perfectly fine to me. Gal Gadot once again rules as Wonder Woman, further positioning herself as the one to carry the DC Extended Universe.

Ezra Miller as the neurotic Barry Allen/Flash made him the best of the new characters; it was a refreshing take to separate the Flash from the CW show. Ray Fisher was good at Cyborg, a character I never thought I’d give a crap about, though his CGI looked a little awkward. The weakest of the newbies was Jason Momoa’s Aquaman. His job is to be Badass Guy Who Played a Badass on Game of Thrones. He was cool and all, but he just seemed to be playing Jason Momoa.

Steppenwolf was the film’s villain, and wasn’t great. However, nobody was watching this for the villain, and he serves his purpose. He’s evil, he has a plan, shit looks dire, the League has to unite quickly to stop him. Comic book movie villains have become increasingly expendable so I don’t feel the need to know more about him beyond that he’s a threat. He worked for what he had to be.

Joss Whedon really did a bang-up job trimming the fat off this movie. Looking at the stars talking about a couple deleted scenes, it’s easy to have Vietnam flashbacks to the horrors of both cuts of Batman v Superman, packed full of scenes that bog the story down and cripple the flow. What could have been three hours was whittled down to 1 hour and 59 minutes, including the credits. That kept the story moving and grooving from start to finish. It wasn’t the deepest, most complex story ever, but it was simple and entertaining. Crisis, heroes needed, heroes unite, world is saved. And the mid- and after-credits scenes were excellent.

I’m not sure if this moment was even in the movie. One moment in the 8 million hours Whedon probably had to cut

Also, I’ve seen a lot of criticism of Danny Elfman’s score, but as one who swears by the Tim Burton Batman flicks, I loved it. It brought me back to the old cartoons and was not as obnoxious as Junkie XL’s usual DC scores.

But there were some real issues. JL’s post-production brought reports of huge costs during reshoots to digitally remove Henry Cavill’s mustache he grew for the new Mission: Impossible (The M:I producers wouldn’t let him shave it). Almost every scene he was in must have been reshot since Superman’s upper lip/entire face looked incredibly odd nearly every time we see him.

A note on faces: After commenting to my friend Drew how bad Cavill’s face looked, he asked if Ben Affleck looked so weird because of some sort of CGI. Nope, that’s just a really bad facelift.

As for the CGI, this was quite possibly the worst I’ve ever seen in a major motion picture. At one point it looked like we were watching a movie on Syfy. From Cavill’s face, to Snyder’s shitty fight scenes, to the entirely CGI Steppenwolf, Justice League often had a very cheap and phony look to it. When Steppenwolf encounters the Amazons, it looked so bad I was shocked they didn’t take more time to improve the effects. You could definitely tell that post-production was rushed based on visuals.

Steppenwolf may have been born to be wild, but his character arc certainly didn’t take us on a magic carpet ride…

Also, Snyder’s style and aesthetic had their place when he did 300 and Watchmen, movies that needed very comic book-y presentation to really work. For the DC movies, his visual style detracts from all that is good and interesting about these characters. Every fight scene looks cheesy. The slow motion, unbelievably exaggerated movements, fake ass backdrops all done to make it look like a comic. It’s an interesting idea, but it’s played out and exhausting, like he’s trying too hard to be like COMICS ARE COOL AND THIS LOOKS LIKE ONE. I have no better way to phrase it other than I purely hate the way Snyder makes things look. Everything looks fake and like it won’t stand the test of time – especially since it can barely stand today.

Fanboys so desperate to validate their time spent watching these movies will try to defend Snyder’s “vision” when in actuality he’s a tool whose vision approximates to, “Bro, these heroes are like gods and we’re totally gonna make this gnarly movie with carnage and it will be EPIC, broseph!”

Zack Snyder is the type of person who drinks Four Loko.

JK Simmons got it done as Commissioner Gordon

And the use of “Icky Thump” while Aquaman is swimming was corny. And Amber Heard was so bad in about 45 seconds of screentime, I’m nervous for the Aquaman flick.

But all in all, I had a great time watching Justice League. I wanted a simple, easy, nostalgia romp to remind me why I first became a geek when I was going crazy for the old Batman, Superfriends, and Justice League cartoons as a child. I don’t need The Godfather with superheroes or something. I got exactly what I paid to see.