The fifth installment of the DC Extended Universe series, “Justice League” is supposed to be Warner Bros.’ competitive response to Marvel’s successful superhero movie saga. While “Justice League” is an entertaining step up from DC’s last film, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,”,released in 2016, the film is flawed in both its character and plot development.
The film sees Bruce Wayne, played by Ben Affleck, call on Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince to help him assemble a team to prevent the end of the world from the invasion of Steppenwolf, one of the earliest survivors of Doomsday, the monster that once killed Superman.
Instead of releasing an origin film for all five members of its superhero team, Warner Bros. first released “Man of Steel” in 2013 to introduce Superman. This initial attempt was followed by “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” in which the company introduced Affleck as the new Batman. The critically acclaimed origin film “Wonder Woman” introduced Gal Gadot to the DC Extended Universe earlier this year and seemed to mark a new era for the DC enterprise.
These hopes are quickly dashed by “Justice League.” Previous DC films have lacked proper character development, and this problem is again apparent in “Justice League.” When characters are featured in their own films before assembling, their first moments on screen together appear more epic because they have been highly anticipated by fans. Because the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg never got their own origin films, their integration into the Justice League is not as special as it should be.
Instead of spending time on characters, director Zack Snyder relies on the fact that fans often already know who these figures are and neglects the development process to get to the bigger plot arc faster. While the DC Universe movies are based on popular comic books, DC still has an obligation to create a fully formed cinematic universe — something it neglected to do in this context.
However, the new additions to the DC universe contribute an incredible amount of charm and humor to the dynamic of the Justice League despite the few interactions between them and the previously established characters.
Ezra Miller plays an endearing Flash who acts like a timid but excited fanboy, thrilled to get to work with his favorite superheroes. His reactions to these powerful beings around him reflect the audience’s reactions, and his growth as a hero pulls at viewers’ heartstrings.
Jason Momoa reinvents Aquaman, who is traditionally not taken as seriously as Superman and Wonder Woman, by giving him grit and charisma. Finally, Ray Fisher makes the robotic Cyborg sympathetic, providing audiences with someone to root for as he turns his curse into his greatest tool.
Gadot again graces the screen as Wonder Woman after the record-breaking success of her origin film released in June. However, viewers will be able to see a distinct difference between Patty Jenkins’ treatment of Wonder Woman under the versus Snyder’s in “Justice League.”
The film introduces the narrative that Diana has spent roughly 100 years between the end of “Wonder Woman” and the present day of “Justice League” hiding and grieving over the death of Steve Trevor, but this decision contradicts Diana’s character. The ending of “Wonder Woman” gives no indication that Diana cannot handle being Wonder Woman after Trevor’s death. “Justice League” nullifies that whole storyline by making Diana insecure again for no reason.
Finally, quite a few times, “Justice League” overly sexualizes women, whether with the illogical metal bikini armor of some of the Amazons, gratuitous camera angles or the over-glamorization of Diana in moments when it did not make sense. Overall, something felt very different from Patty Jenkins’ empowering, female-centric “Wonder Woman” film.
Another glaring failure of “Justice League” is the villain’s arc; Steppenwolf gets a clunky storyline and backstory that confuses viewers rather than instills fear. His whole mission throughout the film is to attain three Mother Boxes, but the film fails to clearly explain what these boxes are and how they work. Thus, the Justice League’s plan to stop the boxes seems implausible because the audience barely understands them.
Superhero films must juggle such a vast and confusing network of narratives that the parameters of the universe need to be established for the films to be digestible. Steppenwolf’s confusing storyline was further amplified by his poor CGI construction.
The most redeemable aspect of “Justice League” is its humor, which is mostly concentrated in the interplay between the title group. Beside any scene involving Wonder Woman saving the day, the film’s humor was its most enjoyable part Recent DC films, barring “The Dark Knight” trilogy or “Wonder Woman,” such as “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” have taken themselves too seriously and forced darkness to contrast with Marvel’s more comedic universe.
Yet, the juxtaposition of humor to the film’s more serious elements creates an inconsistent tone. The beginning establishes the hopeless state of disarray and hatred in Metropolis after Superman’s death that play on narratives of a class war and xenophobia, but it is not carried through the film.
While “Justice League” is an entertaining experience for fans of the DC Extended Universe, and a welcome upgrade from “Batman v. Superman,” there are several fundamental problems with the film. The long-awaited moments between heroes and enjoyable hallmarks of the genre are overshadowed by inconsistencies in tone and a lack of character development. If DC truly wants to compete with Marvel, it must consistently deliver films of the same caliber.