Justice League (5 out of 10)
“I don’t have to recognize this world. I just have to save it.”
One thing I’ve always admired about professional film actors is that, no matter what project they are acting in, and no matter how negatively they might feel about the characters, plot, script, etc., they usually can bring their A-game to their performance and make you feel like they really care about what you’re seeing on screen. Alec Guinness, for example, made Obi Wan Kenobi iconic with his portrayal of the character in the original Star Wars trilogy, despite various stories stating he loathed the script and thought the things he had to say were ridiculous. Every so often, though, there are actors whose performances are so bland and uninspired on screen that the viewer can be all but certain that the actor playing that role had little to no interest in the project and looked like he (or she) would rather be somewhere else
That’s clearly the case in DC’s newest mess of a film, “Justice League.” Despite being my favorite part of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” it’s pretty clear that Ben Affleck (giving a much more disinterested and dispassionate performance) would rather not don the cape and cowl again as Batman aka Bruce Wayne (which has also more or less been confirmed by major news outlets). While his reasons could be numerous, it probably didn’t help that this latest outing for the Caped Crusader and his new mega-team of superheroes is a disjointed, messy, uneven clash of styles, with both Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon (uncredited) getting director duties on the project. I think most comic book film fans will be able to pick out which scenes were directed by Snyder (who had to leave the film production because of a family tragedy) and which scenes were directed by Marvel alum Whedon. The dark, foreboding, gloomy bits of the film have Snyder’s stamp on it, while the lighter, funnier parts feel much like a Whedon-directed superhero film. I definitely enjoyed the more Whedon-like scenes more, and wish that he had been given the reigns from the outset to see how the rest of the film would’ve turned out. It may have ended up too much like a Marvel film, but considering how well those films have done, both commercially and critically, I think it would’ve been a welcome change for DC.
The acting (outside of Affleck) is solid enough, particularly Ezra Miller as The Flash. Bringing some much needed, Marvel-like humor to the proceedings, Miller is a good fit as the lightning fast but socially awkward comic-relief. Gal Gadot returns as Wonder Woman, and again does a great job in the role. Jason Momoa gives Aquaman a sort of surfer dude personality, but is decent enough, although not given much to do other than walk around shirtless and make many female (and some male) audience members drool. Ray Fisher is interesting as Cyborg/Victor Stone, but his character isn’t explored as much as I would’ve liked. Henry Cavill returns as Superman/Clark Kent, in a role he seemed destined to play. The rest of the performances are decent enough. Unfortunately, the film suffers, once again, from a weak villain, played by Ciaran Hinds. Not only does his character, Steppenwolf, bring almost zero tension to the film, it doesn’t help that he is one of the most poorly rendered CGI characters I’ve seen in a major, big-budgeted film over the last several years. In fact, the film as a whole has atrocious CGI throughout, with many scenes coming across as no better than an average video game in quality. For a film that’s almost entirely filmed with a green screen in the background, as well as CGI characters in the foreground, you’d expect they would put more time and effort into making things feel more realistic. Unfortunately, what we ended up with feels rushed and sloppy, and hurts the film greatly.
While I did find Justice League slightly more enjoyable than its predecessor, “Batman v Superman,” thanks primarily to the much-needed comic-relief, it unfortunately becomes another muddled film in the garbage heap of DC Extended Universe films. Despite some decent performances and a few solid character moments, Justice League falls far short of the majority of Marvel’s offerings in the comic book film genre. By the end of it, you may feel much like Ben Affleck and want to move on from these shoddy DC films for good. I give Justice League a 5 out of 10.
- Ryan Zeid