Friday, July 13, 2018
Based on the characters from DC Comics, Justice League is the story of a group of superheroes who form a team to stop a major threat from unleashing havoc on Earth as well as secure a trio of boxes to stop this threat. Directed by Zack Snyder with additional direction by Joss Whedon and screenplay by Whedon and Chris Terrio from a story by Terrio and Snyder, the film is superhero movie that feature many revered superheroes who come together and save the world as they also deal with themselves. Starring Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Amy Adams, Diane Lane, Amber Heard, Jeremy Irons, Connie Nielsen, J.K. Simmons, and Ciaran Hinds as the voice of Steppenwolf. Justice League is a thrilling though underwhelming film from Zack Snyder.
The film is a simple story in which a group of superheroes team up to face a super threat as it all takes place on Earth following the death of Superman/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) during a major battle. For Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), he is consumed with guilt for not doing enough to help Superman as he encounters a major threat forcing him to call upon Wonder Woman/Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) to help him recruit other figures with special abilities. The film’s screenplay by Chris Terrio with additional work from Joss Whedon does play into the stakes yet it doesn’t do enough to introduce the other characters that would be part of this team and information about these mysterious boxes that the Justice League has to get to stop this antagonist in Steppenwolf. The first act is about Wayne and Prince recruiting the other supers into the Justice League with the Flash/Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) immediately saying yes while Cyborg/Victor Stone (Ray Fisher) and Aquaman/Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) initially decline until Steppenwolf get involved with their personal lives.
The boxes that are known as the Mother Boxes are all sources of power that Steppenwolf wants to use to destroy the world but he had been thwarted many centuries ago by an alliance of men, Atlanteans, Olympian Gods, the Green Lantern Corps, and Amazonians who agreed to hide the boxes from Steppenwolf. The character of Steppenwolf is a villain that is underwritten due to the fact that he’s not compelling and is never really fleshed out. The script also doesn’t do much Stone as there is little to know about his origin as a kid who survived a car accident only for his father Silas (Joe Morton) to have one of the three boxes to use to create a new cyborg body that Stone would use to retrieve all sorts of information. While Allen and Curry do get a bit of back story, they’re also hampered by the script’s shortcomings due to the fact that they never get a proper introduction though there’s brief mention of why Allen can run so fast and emit electricity.
Zack Snyder’s direction is definitely lavish with some dream-like compositions to play into a world coping with loss as well as a growing sense of hopelessness and danger. Shot mainly at the Warner Brothers Studios in Leavesden in Britain with additional locations around London, Los Angeles, Chicago, parts of Scotland, and Iceland. Snyder does establish a world on the brink of chaos and despair as he does create some unique wide shots for some scenes including Wayne’s meeting with Curry in an attempt to get him on board. There are also some close-ups and medium shots in the film to play into the characters interacting with one another as Snyder does know where to put a few moments of humor in the film as well as giving audiences a break for the action. It’s among some of the things that Snyder and his replacement in Joss Whedon would succeed in doing but it’s not enough to make the film more engaging than it needed to be.
Among these issues is that there is this feeling that there’s a longer film in there somewhere as Whedon had to make some compromises to make it less messy but it undercuts some of the moments with the characters as Stone isn’t given a lot to do in how he became Cyborg while the sequence about the origin of Steppenwolf and the three boxes seem to feel like there was a longer version presented. Then there’s many of the visual set pieces as it relates to the action where Snyder and Whedon try to create so much action and visual textures yet the emphasis on visual effects do overwhelm the action including the film’s climax where the Justice League faces off against Steppenwolf and his army. It also has these clunky moments where they try to do so much but ends up being overkill in moments where it wants to be funny and exciting with moments that are serious. Overall, Snyder and Whedon crafts a worthwhile but lackluster film about a group of superheroes coming together to save the world.
Cinematographer Fabian Wagner does some fine work with the cinematography in terms of setting the mood for some scenes at night with its lighting although the reliance on de-saturated colors is overkill as it doesn’t do enough to make the film visually vibrant in favor of grittiness that doesn’t entirely work. Editors David Brenner, Richard Pearson, and Martin Walsh do some good work in the editing in creating some fast-cuts for some of the action though there’s moments where there is too much fast-cutting where it doesn’t do enough to establish what is going on in these action sequences. Production designer Patrick Tatpoulos, with set decorator Dominic Capron and senior art director Matthew Gray, does excellent work with the look of the Batcave where Wayne does much of his work and serves as a temporary base for the Justice League as well as the look of the place where Steppenwolf wants to use the Mother Boxes. Costume designer Michael Wilkinson does amazing work with the costumes in the look of the characters as well as the casual clothes they would wear when they’re not working as superheroes.
Makeup designer Victoria Down does nice work with the look of the characters from the look of Cyborg as well as the tattoos on Curry. Special effects supervisor Mark Holt and visual effects supervisor John “D.J.” Des Jardin do some terrific work on the visual effects for the design of the monsters though its usage as set-dressing isn’t inspired while the look of Steppenwolf is underwhelming as well as the awkward look of Clark Kent when he smiles. Sound designer Chuck Michael does superb work with the sound in the way the aliens sound as well as some of the weapons and the layer of sounds in the film’s climax. The film’s music by Danny Elfman is wonderful for its orchestral bombast that help play into the action and suspense along with a few low-key pieces for the non-action scenes while music supervisor Karen Elliott does do some OK work on the soundtrack as it includes music from the White Stripes as well as covers of songs by Sigrid doing Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows and Gary Clark with Junkie XL doing the Beatles’ Come Together.
The casting by Kristy Carlson, Lora Kennedy, and Kate Ringsell is great as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Billy Crudup as Allen’s father Henry, Joe Morton as Stone’s father Silas, Amber Heard as the Atlantean Mera who knows Curry’s mother, Connie Nielsen as Prince’s mother Queen Hippolyta who would send her daughter a signal about Steppenwolf, Michael McElhatton as a terrorist Diana defeats early in the film, Diane Lane as Kent’s adoptive mother Martha Kent, and J.K. Simmons as Gotham police commissioner James Gordon who briefs members of the Justice League about the kidnappings at Gotham. Amy Adams is fantastic as Lois Lane as the reporter for the Daily Planet and Clark Kent’s love interest who copes with not just loss but also the sense of hopelessness despite the efforts of the Justice League. Ciaran Hinds is OK as Steppenwolf as he provides the voice of this menacing figure though it’s a character that is severely underwritten and not really given much to do but go after the Mother Boxes and kill good people.
Henry Cavill is good as Clark Kent/Superman as he’s first seen in an Instagram video as the superhero where he would later be part of a plan to be revived as Cavill has his moments despite some bad visual effects on his face. Jeremy Irons is excellent as Alfred Pennyworth as Wayne’s longtime butler/assistant who is the film’s conscience of sorts as someone who helps the Justice League with information as well as be aware of what is at stake. Ray Fisher is alright as Victor Stone/Cyborg as a former athlete who survived an accident that would have him sport a machine-like body as he deals with his abilities and being alive as Fisher has his moments though he’s not given a lot to do. Jason Momoa is superb as Arthur Curry/Aquaman as a half-Atlantean/half-human man that has the ability to control water and such as he is reluctant to join the Justice League until Atlantis was attacked prompting him to join as he does provide some funny moments.
Ezra Miller is brilliant as Barry Allen/the Flash as a young superhero who can run very fast and emit electricity as he is an admitted loner that has a hard time trying to get friends as he is also a fanboy of sorts in working with Batman and Wonder Woman as he is fun to watch. Gal Gadot is amazing as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman as the Amazonian princess who learns about Steppenwolf’s return as she decides to help Wayne out in forming the Justice League while dealing with her own reluctance to help out humanity. Finally, there’s Ben Affleck in an incredible performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman as the vigilante who decides to form a team as a way to make amends for his anger towards Superman while being aware of this threat as knows he’s been in too many battles but is hoping to save the world.
Justice League is a horrendous film from Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon. Despite its great cast, some nice action set pieces, and bits of humor, it’s a film that falls short in what it needed to be as this epic superhero cross-over film with high stakes. Especially as it rely too much on visual effects and spectacles that don’t really do much for the story that needed to flesh out the characters more. In the end, Justice League is a drab and lackluster film from Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon.
Zack Snyder Films: (Dawn of the Dead (2004 film)) – 300 - Watchmen - (Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole) – Sucker Punch
Joss Whedon Films: Serenity - The Avengers (2012 film) - Much Ado About Nothing (2012 film) - The Avengers: Age of Ultron
DC Extended Universe: Man of Steel - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - Suicide Squad - Wonder Woman - Aquaman – Shazam! – Birds of Prey - Wonder Woman 1984 - Zack Snyder's Justice League - (The Suicide Squad)
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