Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s (Henry Cavill) selfless act, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) enlists newfound ally Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) to face an even greater threat. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to recruit a team to stand against this newly awakened enemy. Despite the formation of an unprecedented league of heroes — Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and the Flash (Ezra Miller) — it may be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.
When it comes to the critical reception of the DC Extended Universe, it seems like the franchise is incapable of getting a break. From clickbait articles about how upcoming entries are “in trouble” to some unnecessarily harsh reviews, it’s baffling that some of the criticisms for the DCEU don’t carry over to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, such as relying too much on CGI, rushed narratives and uninteresting villains. Whatever the case may be, things are starting to look better for the DCEU with the critical and financial success of “Wonder Woman” showing that there’s still potential in this franchise. As for “Justice League,” despite having flaws it can still be viewed as an entertaining popcorn flick.
“Justice League” spends most of its time trying to establish a new tone that’s not as harsh as “Man of Steel” or “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” by integrating more humor and brighter colors. This leads to some uneven shifts in style which will annoy fans of the darker elements of the DCEU. However, it never gets carried away with its newfound sense of humor in that it never becomes self parody — a problem that plagued “Thor: Ragnarok.” This lighter presentation makes the film feel like a live-action version of the animated “Justice League” series from 2003.
Now, there are some undeniable aspects of “Justice League” that are frustrating, such as the highly reported reshoots by former MCU collaborator Joss Whedon being very noticeable. Especially in terms of rushed editing and CGI — see: the awkward removal of Henry Cavill’s mustache.
Since Zack Snyder had to step away from the film’s post-production due to the tragic suicide of his daughter, Whedon stepped in to finish the film. Whedon’s quippy writing and direction creates some contradictions, such as Affleck’s recharacterization of Batman. The emotionally unstable Batman from “Batman v. Superman” is brushed aside for a more wisecracking character. This transition comes across as awkward, as this is supposed to be the same Batman that branded his criminals.
The score by Danny Elfman lacks the creative punch that Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL’s work had in their contributions to the DCEU. Their themes are barely featured and are instead replaced by the mismatched inclusions of Elfman’s Batman theme from Tim Burton’s Batman films and the John Williams Superman theme. These themes, while iconic, don’t work with these incarnations of the characters.
Now, there’s plenty to enjoy about this film, most notable are the strong performances by the ensemble cast. Affleck and Gal Gadot are still fantastic to watch, but the new cast members are also a blast. Jason Momoa and Ezra Miller both breathe new life into the franchise, with Momoa’s charisma and Miller’s gleeful personalities offering some of the film’s most enjoyable moments, leaving excitement for their future solo films. Ray Fisher as Cyborg — while the film doesn’t spend much time developing his character — does a great job at playing a character who struggles to hold onto his humanity in an artificial body.
Overall, “Justice League” is a mixed blend of stimulating and lackluster parts. While the film suffers from issues that seem to water down every comic book film, it does enough to keep fans interested in the characters and keep them engaged. By making adjustments to the franchise, the future releases of “Aquaman” and “Shazam!” show signs of a brighter future for the DCEU.