Review Rebuttal: Justice League is a disappointing pile of styleless schlock
Ironically, this movie was not done justice.
Note: We have a scored review of Justice League which you can read by clicking here. Given how divisive the film is, some of our writers felt differently so we offered a positive and negative review from writers who felt differently about the movie.
Justice League is the biggest disappointment in my life since doctors told me I had rheumatoid arthritis. Some of the greatest characters in all of fiction have been treated with little to no care in this movie, the movie has no surprises, it’s some of the most average schlock you could ever put on the screen. There’s almost nothing to like about this movie and it feels soulless.
Spoilers for Justice League ahead!
From the moment the movie opens, it’s made evident that no one making this movie carefully examined the final cut to see if there were any noticeable continuity errors. After a brief prologue, the movie opens with Batman tracking down parademons in Gotham City. He’s clean shaven, maybe a bit of stubble, and then, a day or so later, he goes to see Aquaman on the opposite side of the world and has a full-blown beard. There’s no card that says “Two months later” or anything to give you a sense of the passage of time. Some people might say it’s not a big deal and if the movie was better, it wouldn’t be, but that’s just one of many issues that show how unorganized making this movie must have been and how they just squeezed something out to make the release date.
With a movie that had extensive reshoots (yes, they were as extensive as rumors led us to believe), Justice League feels incompetent and jarring. Joss Whedon (director of The Avengers and Age of Ultron) and Zack Snyder both directed this movie, but neither person was working at the same time as the other. Zack Snyder created the core film and filmed all of the principal photography and Whedon came in to help finish the movie, at the request of Warner Brothers, after Snyder's daughter tragically passed away.
Whedon had already been helping write the reshoots for Justice League, so he was the obvious choice. The idea was that Whedon would add some more humor to the movie and make it a bit lighter. However, by having Whedon change the tone, it makes the movie feel like a strangely edited mess.
Snyder’s visuals are distinctive, while Whedon’s are a bit more traditional. When you see the movie constantly flipping back and forth between the two styles is jarring. There’s no clear vision with this film or the DC universe as a whole and it’s so abundantly obvious.
Justice League is a blatant appeal to those who didn’t enjoy the darker Batman v Superman. Unfortunately for Warner Bros., not only did those who didn’t like BVS not show up for this movie, but even those who are strong advocates of the 2016 gladiator superhero duel decided to sit out. Justice League didn't even break $100 million in its opening weekend and it's got some of the most beloved superheroes to have ever existed.
Batman v Superman is a complex deconstruction of superheroes and has some really interesting themes, it’s not executed very well, but the core premise is interesting and if Warner Bros. would’ve stuck to improving writing and story instead of changing the tone, we could’ve ended up with a vastly better Justice League film.
What we get is a generic superhero team-up where an evil, uninteresting threat is coming to Earth to make everyone miserable. Batman must go around the world attempting to recruit a group of superheroes so they can save the world! When their team-up ultimately fails to stop the evil forces, they attempt to resurrect Superman and this is probably the worst part of the film. The one part they had to really not mess up, they messed up.
The Death of Superman was pretty much ruined in Batman v Superman. It was rushed, unearned, and wasted the biggest moment in comic-book history, essentially ruining any impact it could ever have in the future if they tried to do it again. There was some hope that maybe they could at least do his return in a satisfying way. They didn’t. They botched the whole storyline. When Superman comes back, he’s evil for no reason at all. He sees the Justice League in front of him and decides that they’re all bad. Why? Hell if I know.
A mediocre fight ensues with one good moment where Flash is running to go take down Superman, but as Flash is moving at superspeed (presented in slow motion in the movie) Superman begins to slowly turn his head toward Flash, proving that he’s as fast, if not faster than Flash. It’s a great moment and it’s pretty funny, but that’s the only good thing about this scene.
Superman, while in his angry phase, shows that he didn't forget the events of Batman v Superman (unlike the rest of the film crew). When Superman begins to fight Batman he asks him “Do you bleed?”, a clear callback to BvS. If they wanted Superman to be evil, they could’ve had Darkseid or Steppenwolf abduct him and revive him using a motherbox, essentially turning him into a soldier of Darkseid to use in the final battle of the movie.
Once the fight ends, Superman sees Lois Lane (who has nothing to do with the movie at all besides this moment, not even exaggerating), calms down and is suddenly A-OK for the rest of the movie.
To make matters even worse, Batman v Superman makes even less sense after watching Justice League. Remember when the dirt moved on Superman’s casket at the end of that movie? Yeah, that doesn’t make any sense now because the implication that he wasn’t actually dead means nothing in this movie. Remember that nightmare scene with Batman fighting a bunch of soldiers in the desert because of evil Superman and Flash comes back in time to warn Bruce Wayne? Yeah, that still makes no sense at all and probably never will!
Justice League goes to great lengths to make you unhappy, it’s a bunch of nonsensical drivel. The plot is so by the numbers that the villain’s plan is almost an exact copy and paste of Zod’s in Man of Steel. They want to destroy the Earth so they can make a new home for their awful CG people. Steppenwolf is probably one of the worst comic book movie villains ever, he looks like a character straight out of a budget Dark Souls clone, he has no range at all, and every time he was on screen I found myself thinking about anything other than the movie. There was zero tension, he just felt like a weak thorn in everyone’s side and like he was put there because they thought maybe there really needed to be the main villain but couldn’t put in the effort to write one worth caring about.
Aside from The Flash and Aquaman, really no one in this movie is enjoyable. Ben Affleck as Batman/Bruce Wayne looks like he’s mega depressed and would rather be anywhere else which is super disappointing because he’s arguably the best part of the DC universe, Ray Fisher as Cyborg feels wooden and lacks depth because all of his interesting scenes were cut, and Gal Gadot’s only enjoyable moments as Wonder Woman seem to be when she’s fighting. Superman has no character development at all, either. Remember how dour he was in BvS? Forget that, he’s super happy now despite just trying to kill his friends. They clearly wanted to get him to the point where he is the more heroic and triumphant Supes that everyone knows and loves but how they got there was incredibly reckless and laughable.
There’s so much exposition from all these characters and they just stand around in rooms talking about how this big evil threat is coming, but no one is actually propelling the plot forward. It's almost like they’re just jogging in place trying to drag the runtime out.
Even though the movie is two hours long, it feels substantially lengthier than Batman v Superman which is 30 minutes longer in its theatrical cut. It’s so painfully dull and does little to keep the viewer engaged. There is no one scene that I could pull out from this movie and say “This is how we should be making superhero movies!” There’s no Batman warehouse fight scene in Justice League, there’s no No Man’s Land scene like in Wonder Woman, there’s nothing of substance. Justice League lacks any sort of style or pizzazz both in visuals and storytelling.
Critics don’t hate DC movies because they hate Warner Brothers or they’re biased toward Marvel, they hate DC movies because they know they can be better and expect better. Whether it’s from a past era of DC with The Dark Knight or older Superman movies or the current iterations of these characters with standout movies like Wonder Woman and even the slightly divisive Man of Steel. They’re capable of something more than this and we shouldn’t just sit here and accept what they’re giving us, it’s disrespectful to fans, the creators of these characters, and the characters themselves.
The first ever Justice League movie should’ve been better and that’s something I hoped I’d never have to say.