The release of Justice League marks the last of this year’s superhero features to hit theaters. How do the combined forces of some of DC’s biggest heroes stack up?
The last time we saw a collection of DC’s famous characters come together on the big screen, it was in last year’s Suicide Squad – which wasn’t as well-received as many had hoped. Since then we’ve had the success of Wonder Woman earlier this year, and of course Marvel’s been active as well – with new entries for Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-man and Thor. The latter is still playing in theaters, and is quite likely a reference point for those who frequently visit the theater to watch superhero flicks.
Justice League is a darker approach to the genre than Thor: Ragnarok – and way darker than something like Spider-Man: Homecoming. Less family-friendly than the Marvel universe, I personally really enjoyed Justice League – even though last year’s Suicide Squad had made me a little skeptical. The movie’s outlook is similarly bleak though – with earth in mourning as it sees its heroes leave them. We see quick references to David Bowie and Prince, but the primary focus here is the death of Superman. Losing him is somehow connected to a darkness that’s coming over the world, and we’re seeing an alien evil encroach on the planet at the same time.
This evil is fed by three ancient boxes that hold immense power and have been locked away since ancient times – but have now been reactivated and have brought Steppenwolf back. He has his sights set on revenge, and plans to cover the world in fire and ashes. Quickly wiping out a good part of Wonder Woman’s Amazon sisters upon his arrival, Bruce Wayne realizes the danger the planet is in and sets out to unite a small team of heroes to try and save the day.
This proves difficult, as Aquaman turns out to be more than a little reluctant and Cyborg’s extremely hesitant to embrace his newly found (and growing) powers for the greater good as well. The Flash is more than willing to fit in, but unproven in combat and terrified of the horrors they end up facing. Trying to overcome this, Wayne teams up with Diana Prince – with Gal Gadot once again assuming the role after this year’s successful Wonder Woman release.
The first half hour of the movie serves as an introduction to all of these characters, with Batman taking out an alien scout (a zombie/mummy/moth/monkey/cyborg hybrid), Wonder Woman thwarting a terrorist attack in London and showing the real life struggles of Barry Allen (The Flash) and Victor Stone (Cyborg). We don’t meet Aquaman until Bruce Wayne decides to travel north and locate him, but the Atlantian isn’t exactly pumped to join Wayne’s band of superheroes.
Meanwhile, Steppenwolf sets out to find the three aforementioned boxes – trying to create the “unity” which would eradicate life on earth and return it to a sort of primordial mix of lava and fire. Realizing that Steppenwolf is an adversary they might not be able to handle alone, Wayne pushes for the resurrection of Superman – the other major theme in the movie. This creates a dynamic where both themes intersect, since the Justice League team needs the same ‘motherboxes’ to attempt bringing Superman back to life.
Directed by Zack Snyder (with a few added scenes done by Joss Whedon), Justice League features the kind of audiovisual spectacle we’ve come to expect from a Zack Snyder movie – with a ton of computer generated imagery and camera angle changes. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea and that some prefer a more realistic depiction, but I personally enjoy his style and find it a good fit for comic book-inspired movies. When I compare it to David Ayer’s depiction of suicide squid, Justice League is an easy favorite for me.
The movie’s finale is somewhat unsatisfying (slight spoiler ahead), as Superman returns and joins forces with the team – but is vastly overpowered and makes everyone else look like amateurs. This will provide a challenge to a potential sequel since the Justice League team could be severely unbalanced this way.
Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed Justice League – its more action-oriented approach made me like it better than Wonder Woman and its darker tone make it a nice change of pace from Thor: Ragnarok which came out a few weeks earlier. Sure, it’s easy to pick apart the plot and blame Snyder for his use of CGI, but I watch these movies to have a good time and was definitely entertained for a good two hours.