The chances of this film being a disaster were high from the jump, I talked a bit about this in an editorial I wrote this last week. You have a film here that was reshot at least twice for multiple reasons. First, you have a studio in Warner Bros that is absolutely scared to death of bad reviews for this film given how bad Man of Steel, Batman vs Superman, and Suicide Squad were received by mainstream critics. Secondly, you had an entire cut of the film that was scrapped because executives didn’t like Zack Snyder’s original vision. Then Zack Snyder’s daughter tragically dies and he leaves the project for Joss Whedon to take over and order even more reshoots of the film. That doesn’t even bring up Ben Affleck’s recent troubles off the set and his unhappiness with the direction of the DCEU. Justice League had ALOT to overcome to be a success.
Following the death of Superman, crime has spiked around the world and even worse, an army of Parademons are attacking led by Steppenwolf who has returned to Earth to claim the Mother Boxes and resurrect the being known as Darkseid. Bruce Wayne must speed up his plan to bring together a team of heroes to protect Earth, including bringing in three new heroes Aquaman, Flash, and Cyborg. With time running out, Batman with the help of Wonder Woman leads their new team in the fight to stop Steppenwolf from obtaining the three boxes and plunging the world into darkness.
Let’s get the negatives out of the way. If you notice any differences in tone, you have to remember that this film basically had two directors. So it’s hard to tell who is at fault when something goes wrong and who to praise when something goes right. From what I can tell, much of Zack’s original premise was kept in place. If you go back and watch the first trailer before the reshoots can see the tone was serious and straightforward. But this was a big problem for WB executives as they forced reshoots to add more humor and color to the film and Synder’s original vision had been done away with.
As far as the villain goes, Steppenwolf is as generic as they come. Marvel is notorious for weak villains, but here the plot is more menacing than the bad guy and he doesn’t come off as a real threat in the film especially when Superman shows up (spoiler alert). I also found Flash’s comedic relief to be tiring after a point as well, but to his credit, he and Superman have arguably the best moment of the film when Flash realizes he isn’t the fastest guy on the block anymore.
So what did work in Justice League? DC is finally finding the balance in making a superhero movie fun and keeping the tone in balance. We have seen DC movies take itself too seriously while Marvel films are obnoxiously humorous. Justice League balances itself in the limited time they have. The introductions of Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg gives you enough of what you need to know about the characters without throwing the entire flow of the story out of whack.
This allows Gal Gadot to be a shining star in the film as the defacto leader with Superman out and Affleck as Batman to basically be Ben Affleck in 2017, a depressed broken old man with a slight sense of humor. I know Warner Bros was adamant about Justice League being less than 2 hours, but you feel the overall narrative along with the fleshing out of the characters would have been better if it was given another 15-20 minutes of footage that was likely cut to meet studio demands. You don’t need to be 3 hours and 15 minutes like the extended cut of Batman vs Superman but a little more time would have been the difference between a good movie and a great movie.
The venom directed towards DC I believe is overblown. After Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, and now Justice League, is it clear that the films have improved and while the critics are leading the backlash, the audiences have been in favor. With the said, I think Warner Bros needs to have a sit down about how to move forward with this universe. They understand that giving Zack Snyder too much power of this universe early on was a mistake and that moving away from Ben Affleck in the future may be a smart idea.
The reshoots are going to hurt the bottom line in the long run, but the quality of films has increased so if they want to compete with Marvel, it’s time to create a plan and stick with it. Justice League is a thoroughly enjoyable Superhero team up that has opened the door for DC to be taken seriously in the genre.