From the off the DC Extended Universe has been rushed. So I suppose it’s only fitting that the climax of its first ‘phase’ should be too.
No more so than with Batman/Bruce Wayne’s (Ben Affleck) assembly of the titular all-star team. He is, in fact, in such a scramble to begin his whistlestop superhero version of Pokémon Go (gotta catch ’em all), that he forgets to properly deal with the very first criminal we see him coming up against. He’s just too distracted by the new, big computer-generated threat in town, Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds, not that you would know it). In an attempt to drive the lead heroes together we’re forced into a level of logic that takes more leaps than even the hoppiest of frogs, as well as a fair amount of corner cutting. The most egregious example of which being that we’re suddenly supposed to believe that Wayne is all hung up on Superman’s “death”. Oh, so NOW he’s a beacon of hope? One film ago Batman was trying to murder him in cold blood!
He needn’t have worried; (mild spoiler) Superman (Henry Cavill) is alive and – barring some momentary amnesia – quite well. And if somehow you didn’t already know this going in, you will do when Cavill’s name pops up second in the opening credits. Supes becomes the final piece of Bruce Wayne’s Justice League jigsaw puzzle. Joining the pair in the fight against the entirely forgettable villain Steppenwolf (something about boxes, taking over the world, etc) is Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), who shines the brightest of the bunch, as well as newer faces in Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash. Considering that the scariest thing about the antagonist is all of the exposition we’re delivered explaining his nefarious past, it’s a good job that the protagonists are so much fun.
Ray Fisher brings some emotional heft as Cyborg, a human/machine mish-mash. Ezra Miller’s Flash takes the lion’s share of the comedy that’s peppered throughout with a charming performance. And Jason Momoa oozes cool as Aquaman (even if he does litter in his own ocean). Together, along with Superman and Batman (who’s useless in battle, yet great at logistics), they provide the film’s biggest strength: chemistry. The six bounce of each other with witty dialogue that has Joss Whedon’s (co-writer and director of the movie’s extensive reshoots) fingerprints all over it. And even though the actions scenes are layered with visual effects, there’s something remarkably satisfying in seeing this lineup of superheroes collectively battling it out, particularly in their first big coming together. It’s in the set pieces that credited director Zack Snyder’s style is most telling…they’re massive in scale, but he sure does love CGI (much of which is wildly inconsistent). None, however, is as immediately noticeable as Cavill’s now infamous moustache removal misfortune; an obvious rush job as a result of a messy production, and a glaring symbol of Justice League’s shortcomings.
No, it’s not the wholly rewarding team up of years in the making that had been hoped for. But you know what, it sure beats Suicide Squad and Batman V Superman. Neither of those films had Danny Elfman’s nostalgia-filled score. Or a sense of humour. Or heroes actually being heroic. And yet Justice League does. A stumbling step in the right direction it is then.
Rating (out of 5):