When the reviews came in for Batman v Superman, the one prevalent criticism was the film’s dour, overly serious approach, particularly when pitted against the more comedically inclined, playful offerings from the MCU. So you can understand why director Zack Snyder would’ve strived to present a film more adventurous and endearingly self-deprecating with this latest instalment into the franchise, and yet what transpires with Justice League is a film that feels so contrived, vying desperately to inject a sense of effervescence, and yet feels so forced and tedious when doing so.
Superman (Henry Cavill) is dead. The world may be mourning, but the former’s one-time adversary Batman (Ben Affleck) has found his faith in humanity restored, wanting nothing more than to keep the good people of Earth alive and well, but with a new, formidable opponent on the rise, the nefarious Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds), he’s going to need some back-up. So he assembles a team of superheroes, consisting of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher), but even this unlikely collective are going to have their work cut out, needing even greater reinforcements to help their cause.
While Marvel made it seem somewhat easy to have a film full of different heroes come together in a seamless fashion, which we saw in The Avengers, what Justice League proves is that it’s far from being a straightforward task, as Snyder struggles to interweave all of these contrasting characters in a triumphant way, instead feeling so convoluted and overbearing. The narrative structure is messy, resulting in a feature that manages to feel long, and yet so rushed at the same time, leaving us with far more questions than we have answers.
It’s a shame a more simplistic approach wasn’t taken, and even in the opening act we see a world post-Superman, tying in to a pertinent modern landscape as we see how hate is overcoming generosity, but it’s a theme we merely touch upon, and swiftly move away from, emblematic of a film that moves carelessly between stories, not giving any time for any one thing to truly flourish.
There are moments of light-relief littered throughout the movie, but the one-liners feels so forced, mostly coming out of the mouth of the The Flash, whose commitment to witty gags is unrelenting, with a mind that seems to move as fast as his feet. It’s here Marvel films are just so successful, implementing comedy without compromising on the severity of the situation at hand, a balance Snyder has struggled with here.
It is the execution in question, because the ideas are all commendable, but like Suicide Squad, the flaws outweigh the positives. It’s not exactly a film you want to find too many comparisons too, and yet it’s somewhat hard to avoid – particularly as this too suffers from having a weak villain, that is presented, surprisingly, with such underwhelming special effects.
Also like Suicide Squad (uh-oh), the film suffers from having an obligation to introduce so many new characters and ensure we’re invested with them all by the closing credits. A monumental task not many filmmakers could overcome – and it does beg the question why we couldn’t have had each of the superheroes’ spin-off solo films first, to allow us the chance to establish those relationships and come to terms with their respective sensibilities before bringing them all together in Justice League. It’s what The Avengers did, and it worked so well – and if DC had any sense, copying the Marvel formula right about now wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world.
Justice League is released on November 17th.