Justice League is DC’s second film with a 2017 release date, and the sixth superhero film overall this year. However, Justice League boasts two of the most iconic heroes of all time with Batman and Superman, plus fans have shown love for both Wonder Woman and The Flash in their recent film and TV series, respectively. This should be a big cinematic event, but the fact that the biggest reactions from the crowd came from the mid-credit scene and post-credit scene speaks to just how underwhelming Justice League is.
Not that it’s super important, but here are the basics of Justice League: There are three “Mother Boxes” – or living computers; one in Atlantis, one in Themyscira, and one in “the world of man.” Steppenwolf, an ancient jerk who’s not given much background beyond that, wants to collect all three and destroy the world. Batman and Wonder Woman recruit Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and try to find a way to bring back their other super teammate in order to fight Steppenwolf.
Unfortunately there’s very little here in the way of surprises or twists. Things just seem to happen because they need to instead of feeling like they have been organically built up to. This may have something to do with the studio mandated runtime of under two hours (they eked by with 119 mins). The movie struggles to fit in some background for the six heroes and barely attempts to set up the villain. The end result feels like someone pieced together all the cut scenes from a video game and posted a feature length montage of all those scenes.
The other hurdle Justice League had to get over was the two, seemingly at odds, approaches to filmmaking. One from Zack Snyder and the other from Joss Whedon. Snyder was forced to step down before completing the film for personal reasons and Avengers director Joss Whedon was selected to finish the project. It’s unclear how much Whedon reshot, however, he does get a writing credit and his style of humour does seem to permeate the film via Flash’s dialogue and a several Aquaman quips. That all seems to clash with the darker, moody material that Snyder has become known for. For instance, after what appears to be a serious injury suffered by Batman we cut to Batman exclaiming “Something is definitely bleeding.” The line is played for laughs but feels out of place due to the severity of the situation.
This isn’t to say that it isn’t fun to see Batman dart around rooftops, Superman punch the big bad, or Wonder Woman strike that pose with her arms crossed and bracelets glowing. There are some laughs and nods to some deep cuts in comic book lore too. But, at this point, shouldn’t a Justice League movie be more than just hints at something great and a bunch of fun moments that come and go without much consequence?
It’s difficult not to be left feeling like these characters deserved more. At no point did I feel excited by these iconic characters interacting on screen. That’s a shame considering these are some of the oldest, most celebrated, comic book characters on their own. The fact that they’re teaming up should feel more monumental. Instead, the movie left me feeling like there was another movie, a better movie, happening off screen or yet to come.