Unite the Justice League – The What’s A Geek Review
Folks at the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) has finally unveiled Justice League, the much-awaited film that marks the introduction of the eponymous superhero team. The trailers themselves show a wild and explosive ride with our favorite DC Comics heroes in the big screen. And while the film succeeds to be an entertaining superhero flick, the Zack Snyder-Joss Whedon piece is proof on how creative and flawed superhero films can get.
The film marks the fifth installment in the growing DCEU media franchise. In this continuation of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Batman (Ben Affleck) enlists the help of Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) to gather “warriors” in the looming threat that is Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds). In their journey, they team up with Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), and Victor Stone (Ray Fisher) to put an end to the alien threat.
Where is Superman (Henry Cavill)? Is there really a Green Lantern cameo? These are among many questions fans have that make them itch to watch the film in cinemas. If you haven’t, read along for our What’s A Geek! review. If you have, feel free to join (or rage? with) us in our discussion.
You Can’t Save the World Alone: Justice League
Fans of the DCEU will be familiar with how Justice League is supposed to “unite” major [super]players in their universe in one explosive adventure. The ensemble cast mentioned thus features other talents such as Jeremy Irons (Alfred Pennyworth), Diane Lane (Martha Kent), Connie Nelsen (Hippolyta), Amy Adams (Lois Lane), and J.K. Simmons (James Gordon). Fans and moviegoers bank on Justice League to reinvigorate interest in the DCEU, especially after the reception to BvS and Suicide Squad (2016).
Thankfully, Gadot’s performance as the Princess of Themyscira and Patty Jenkins’ direction in Wonder Woman (2017) gave fans an idea how a “good” DCEU film can be like. Of course the next question is whether or not the exhilarating experience from Wonder Woman has been carried over to Justice League.
It’s understandable if one thinks the DCEU is struggling to meet expectations of fans given its competition. Marvel’s Thor Ragnarok (2017) did mark its 17th feature film in the all-expansive Marvel Cinematic Universe. With Avengers: Infinity War (2018) looming over the horizon, it’s not wrong to say much of the future of the DCEU rests on the hands of Justice League. In fact, you can feel the pressure throughout the film. The feature succeeds to entertain but pales when it comes to “attaching” itself to viewers.
Here’s What’s A Geek! and our first impressions, which you can read below. Spoiler Warnings however, as some thoughts can’t be shared without spilling a few beans.
Time for the Team-Up, Time for Nitpicking
If there’s anything superhero films need, it’s the iconic superhero team-up. It’s beginning to be a trope staple, because who doesn’t want to see heroes kick some solid A? The DCEU presents their own version of the iconic team-up with Justice League, and it’s undoubtedly fresh with the thrill from start to finish. Really, if you want to have a good time without anything to nitpick, the film is something to look forward to. It’s not everyday that you get to see DC’s top-tier heroes in live action, defending the world like they always do in comics.
The film may have taken a page off comic book stories because they wanted it to look that way. Unlike their Marvel counterparts, however, the DCEU tries to display such stories with theatrical splendor. It’s almost as if watching an epic unfold in front of your very eyes. Marvel tries its best to make their stories “attached” to the readers, that it can happen to them. On the contrary, it’s as if the DCEU tries its best to isolate the viewer – not in a bad way, but the kind of isolation that happens when you’re watching a play. Viewers are separated from the rest of Justice League thanks to splendid action, witty dialogue, and Snyder’s signature cinematic “mood.”
If Justice League felt a bit hard to relate to, alongside its other DCEU counterparts, it might have been intentional. The film tries to have viewers look at heroes from another angle, that these team-ups seem over-the-top because superheroes are over the top. They are gods among men, and they remain as such. Sadly, the film may not have stressed this as efficiently as they wanted to.
Packs A Punch, But Not “the” Punch
What dialogue and story lacked, the pacing and banter compensated. Unfortunately, you may still ask whether or not the rather long build-up for these scenes was the worth the wait. There’s never a dull moment thanks to consistently entertaining fight scenes all throughout the film. The witty banter between our heroes is something you’d expect to come from Whedon. In fact, numerous references in the film was a breather. The first DCEU Justice League film packs a punch, but not “the” punch to establish DC’s foothold in the superhero film genre.
While this can be forgiven, it’s still hard not to frown considering Justice League officially sets the pacing for the rest of DCEU films. It doesn’t help that the characters seemed off, as they try to be “humanized” in a setting almost as if ripped off a comic book volume. The “theatrics” DCEU wants to present didn’t seem to blend well with the fast-paced impression the film gave. The characters themselves didn’t seem to mesh well with the story. Cyborg and Batman appear to be in a brooding contest. What Aquaman lacked for a substantial backstory, he makes up with his hardheadedness. The King of Atlantis is the muscle of the team: fierce, quirky, and doesn’t back out from a challenge. The Flash’s wittiness is good for a younger Barry Allen.
Meanwhile, Diana effectively became the “mother” of the team. Batman in this film was more of the guilty ex-boyfriend than the “Man With a Plan.” The new “more human, less hero” approach is an effort we can’t dispute. Unfortunately, Superman’s introduction as less “a Symbol of Hope” and more “the guy that solves everything” can confuse viewers on the real deal with character development.
Witty Works, Underwhelming Templates
Viewers cannot deny that Justice League prepared quite a thrilling experience. Despite its mixed reception, we think viewers on both camps would agree that the film provided enough entertainment for its rundown. The dialogue, albeit with some parts obviously Whedon-esque, sets the film’s pace appropriately. However, we can’t help but ask if such a build-up was necessary for the “climax” of the movie. The story’s premise gives the impression of a universal threat that only a united Justice League can fight. In fact, certain complications with Superman prove that there’s much to be lost if the team’s plan fails before they even start trying to defend the world. There really was no other way to describe the climax that happened after aside from being underwhelming.
It’s less about poor narrative and more on the wrong kind of execution. This problem remains persistent throughout other DCEU films thus far. Heroes become built on the premise of greatness, but are in the end reduced as mere templates. Batman’s insistence on asking Aquaman “Do you talk to fish?” is almost an eerie metacommentary on the matter. The DCEU continuity aspires to have heroes that are scions of hope, to be the lights at the end of the tunnel. So to see them play a round of whack-a-mole with villains reduced to your monsters-of-the-week can leave a bad taste. Wonder Woman almost became eye-candy, Superman was a walking deus ex machina, the Flash was comic relief, Aquaman was the jock, Cyborg was the brooder, and Batman was the goddamn Batman. Viewers need more than mere templates.
Not Quite the Cinematic Universe Yet
This isn’t to say the DCEU should opt for a more no-nonsense approach. However, it would help future films if their themes remain consistent with the image they want to present to their audiences. The impression that DCEU films are thus far “trying hard” isn’t without basis. Since the DCEU aspires to follow a planned sequence of films throughout the years, they should aim to achieve consistency throughout all aspects of their material: from theme, to narrative, to execution.
Suffice it to say, Justice League is undoubtedly entertaining, but not entertaining enough to mask its flaws. Snyder’s and Whedon’s direction clash and blend in a lot of ways. Oddly enough, the resulting (and rather) chaotic brainchild gave us a new look on how superhero films can be presented. Unfortunately, there’s no denying that the holes in the film were big enough for both fans and casuals to see areas where the film could have improved. It’s worrisome enough that it’s obvious DC struggles to find its place in a superhero film industry dominated by Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (so far).
Five films into its cinematic universe, and DC has yet to make a superhero film after Wonder Woman to satiate its fans’ hunger for a ride unlike any other. This isn’t to say Justice League will be closing the DCEU’s chances of making a good superhero film. In fact, the film is proof that the DCEU is onto something, albeit it just needs polishing. Question is, how much more polishing can fans get before they give up on the franchise entirely?
The DCEU film had its worldwide release last Nov. 14, 2017. Fans in the Philippines can see the Justice League unite in theaters beginning Nov. 16, 2017.