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Justice League – what worked & what didn’t (spoilers)

Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman & Cyborg unite for this superhero showdown.

Justice League
Credit: Warner Bros

Justice League has arrived on all Home Entertainment platforms, and with it a lot of hope and anticipation that the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) has managed to finally find its feet. After having delivered the likes of Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman, Justice League now takes centre stage as the first major team-up movie for these characters.

DC are still persevering with a universe that I would personally like to see end. There are high points for sure… Gal Gadot is sensational as Wonder Woman and the stories chosen haven’t given Henry Cavill’s Superman a fair crack of the whip yet. But by fast-tracking their way to a superhero team-up movie, the end product feels too rushed throughout.

There’s hope that the franchise is slowly learning from its mistakes which can only be a good thing. It would be great to get fresh talent on-board to write and direct the next slate of the DCEU if we have to pursue this path. I’d rather a line drawn under this iteration and a new vision realised that retains Gadot and Cavill but approaches its stories from a new standpoint.

That said Justice League is nowhere near as bad as the early reports have suggested. It’s quite enjoyable and has a few great set-pieces and sequences thrown in. So let’s take a look at what passed and what failed in our breakdown of the film.

This article goes into detail on specific plot-points seen in Justice League and, as such, is full of spoilers. If you haven’t seen the film yet but still want your Justice League fix, check out our spoiler-free review of the film.

Read our spoiler-free Blu-ray review of Justice League

Watch all of the TV spots and clips released for Justice League

Watch an exclusive Wonder Woman clip from Justice League

If you continue reading, please be aware that from this point onwards there are lots of Justice League spoilers.

*Spoiler Alert*

 

Justice League

Credit: Warner Bros

Alfred doesn’t recognise this world. Me neither – FAIL

A line Alfred (Jeremy Irons) utters to Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) at the start of the film, and we know just how he feels.

Critical reception for all of the DCEU films (with the exception of Wonder Woman) suggests that we all don’t want to be here. This universe has been handled poorly thus far. Not enough time and effort has been made to build up a proper legacy for these characters to inhabit. So this world where Superman is mourned as a beacon of hope and justice after levelling most of Metropolis in Man of Steel and BvS is just foreign to me. The Superman they mention in the trailers isn’t the one we have seen onscreen in these movies.

Superman – PASS

Henry Cavill has not been given a decent chance to portray a proper screen version of Superman yet. By the end of Justice League, we may have got him to a point where Superman can be a truer iteration of the character that we all know and love.

The rug was pulled from under Cavill when Zack Snyder and Warner Bros decided to postpone Man of Steel 2 in order to fast track Batman v Superman and Justice League. I have a massive problem with how this Universe’s Superman handles things. Check out our Man of Steel and Batman v Superman reviews and what worked and what didn’t in Batman v Superman for more on that. So a lot of his actions so far seem a far cry from the traits of a classic Superman. But there are some great moments in Justice League when we get thrown a bone. From Clark and Bruce’s exchange at the very end of the film at the Kent farm, to his mid- credits sting racing The Flash, this is the Superman we want and deserve.

Batman – PASS

Ben Affleck is perfectly watchable as Batman & Bruce Wayne, and does well in Justice League. His role has noticeably become lighter in tone. This isn’t a bad thing, but there are times when he says a comedic line or gives a look that Batman just wouldn’t have done in the comics. But Bruce’s chat with Clark at the end of the film is brilliant. It really captures the essence of both icons. And the line where Bruce said that he bought the bank just so Martha could keep the Kent Farm was gold.

Justice League

Credit: Warner Bros

Superman returns – FAIL

The death of Superman was handled so badly by Zack Snyder in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and parts of his resurrection aren’t really dealt with much better. Fast-tracked again, we see Superman still wilfully destroying public areas and using all of the grace of a bull in a china shop when using his powers. When he is resuscitated by Batman and co. he is still understandably shaken but he’s not evil. He’s Clark, he just doesn’t understand why he’s been brought back and he reacts with anger. I’m not a morning person either so I can totally identify with that. But why is Superman putting civilians in harm’s way (yet again) when he confronts the Justice League at this point? It’s not what the character would do.

And he doesn’t seem that bothered to let his mum know he’s back – he leaves it to Lois to call her. And whilst he’s playfully walking in the fields during sunset he seems to have forgotten why he was brought back in the first place – to help the Justice League to prevent Armageddon. Like now.

Superman returns – PASS

That said, the actual confrontation between Superman and the Justice League is perhaps the films best sequence. Take out the collateral damage situation and you have a great showdown that really showcases how powerful Superman is and why he is needed to lead the Justice League.

Superman clocks The Flash at super-speed – PASS

During the confrontation when Superman has most of the Justice League in his bare hands, it’s up to Barry Allen aka The Flash to step in. He rushes towards him and the film slows down to see the action. Most people wouldn’t see The Flash coming but Superman does. That knowing glance over to him as the Flash is hurtling towards him is pure gold. Kudos to Ezra Miller who really sells it too. The scene is hilarious, exciting and easily the highlight of the film.

Justice League

Credit: Warner Bros

Cyborg – PASS

Ray Fisher is good as Cyborg, everyone’s 6th favourite member of the Justice League, but when the story backs itself into a corner; Cyborg seems to have a way out. A character like his (who is made up from one of the Mother Boxes) seems to have limitless possibilities and exposition (and literally every electrical attachment a super team could need).

Wonder Woman – PASS

Gal Gadot can do no wrong. She is excellent once again and keeps the film ticking over nicely. It’s a shame the plot didn’t utilise her a little more though. Her exchanges with all of the Justice League members really bring a much-needed warmth and human element to the story, and this helps keep you invested in the larger-than-life spectacle. She is easily the DCEU’s most valuable player. And Wonder Woman 2 needs to just hurry up.

Justice League

Credit: Warner Bros

The Flash – PASS

Ezra Miller is the man responsible for bringing most of the comedy to the table and lightening up the dark tone. He does well, but occasionally they have him run in a really bizarre way… think Phoebe from that episode of Friends when she teaches Rachel to run like no-one is watching. But Miller’s rapport with his fellow superheroes is solid, even if it takes a while for the character to really step up to the plate. He looks great too.

Aquaman – FAIL

This isn’t Jason Momoa’s fault but the character has barely anything to do in the film. He isn’t introuduced well at all, his backstory (which granted will be told in his own film in 2018) still leaves the casual viewer indifferent but he does have some funny lines.

Arthur Curry pollutes – FAIL

Aquaman doesn’t seem too bothered about the oceans after he wilfully smashes an empty whisky bottle into it before diving in. Think of the marine life man!

Justice League

Credit: Warner Bros

Superman is too smug – FAIL

I’ve said it many times already but the DCEU just haven’t got Superman’s character down right. This is at no fault of Henry Cavill’s, but the writing is so poor that we just don’t feel any empathy for him, and this is a criminally bad mistake to make.

THIS IS SUPERMAN. The leader, the head of the DC Universe, the benchmark to be measured up against as a superhero. No lessons seem to have been learnt since Man of Steel or Batman v Superman. Clark still doesn’t seem to register just how his actions have changed the world. The severity of the situation should have resulted in a far more nuanced demeanour from him. But instead we get him smiling smugly (mainly because Lois is close by).

Steppenwolf – FAIL

Steppenwolf looks like he has been plucked straight from a PS3 game’s cut-scene. Why isn’t the solid motion-capture work used to such great effect in the likes of the Planet of the Apes movies used here? His facial expressions were too cartoony and a cheap way to go, especially when you have the excellent acting talents of Ciarán Hinds at your disposal. Andy Serkis is in a corner somewhere crying. And if it was to be just CGI, then why not have Steppenwolf look like he’s just come out of Injustice 2 on a 4K TV off a PS4, rather than a Lord of the Rings-esque mid-level boss rendered for an unreleased PS3 title.

Justice League

Credit: Warner Bros

Batman’s crab-bot – FAIL

The Batmobile wasn’t very good in Batman v Superman, but Bruce has managed to find an even lamer vehicle this time around. That Bat-Crab thingy is an utter waste of space.

Henry Cavill’s CGI face (sans moustache) is just ridiculous – FAIL

There’s some laughably bad CGI used at the start of the film to digitally remove Henry Cavill’s facial hair when reshoots were needed. His current employers rightly refused to let their star change his appearance mid-shoot for their film, leaving Warner Bros having to shoot ‘around’ Cavill’s moustache. The end product is hilariously bad and looks terrible as Superman is answering questions from a group of kids. At this level, there must surely have been a better way to re-shoot this scene.

Amy Adams is wasted. Yet again – FAIL

Amy Adams is a fantastic talent that isn’t afforded any real scenes to get her teeth into. The return of Superman was a prime opportunity to give her more to do onscreen but instead, her character is relegated to being a cheerleader once more. A crying shame given her acting talents.

Justice League

Credit: Warner Bros

Aquaman sitting on Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth – PASS

One of the funniest bits of the film sees Arthur Curry speaking unusually candidly about his hopes and fears. It turns out he was accidently sitting on Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth and the end result is awkwardly hilarious.

Billy Crudup as Barry Allen’s Dad Henry Allen – PASS

A nice piece of groundwork laid down in Justice League was Barry’s relationship with his dad, who is serving time in prison. Played by Billy Crudup, we can expect Henry Allen to play a pivotal role in the future of the DCEU and in a standalone Flash film.

Zack Snyder not using his visual skills to depict key moments from the comics – FAIL

With comic book films, I’ve never really understood the excuse of delivering a poor product. You literally have a tried-and-tested storyboard in front of you. If all else fails, just copy that scene-for-scene from the page to the lens… it’s already done the heavy lifting for you. This is especially true of someone like Zack Snyder, who feels far more competent when he’s adapting someone else’s work (Watchman) as opposed to his creating his own (Sucker Punch).

With so many iconic, key moments being thrown about in Justice League, surely Zack Snyder could have delivered a few onscreen? If you are going to speed through pivotal narrative moments, at least give them their visual dues.

Justice League

Credit: Warner Bros

Diane Lane is wasted – FAIL

Diane Lane is a wonderful actress. Given that her son has died, she should have had a very important role to play in his return but that just doesn’t happen. A rushed reunion scene also does nothing to extract any real emotion for the situation playing out on-screen. These mistakes are so easy to rectify with a little bit of care and attention given to the characters, rather than the spectacle always being at the forefront.

Amber Heard is wasted – FAIL

She’s in one scene. She will, of course, have a larger role to play in Aquaman, but why couldn’t she have had more to do in Justice League?

Lois is very thirsty… and hungry – FAIL

These lines spoken by Martha Kent (Diane Lane) to Lois Lane (Amy Adams) were a joke right? Cue childish sniggers across auditoriums as more hammy dialogue plagues the DCEU.

The ease in which Steppenwolf got the third (are arguably most important) Mother Box – FAIL

Having held the final box, the Justice League instantly all seem to forget its importance, and just leave it lying around in the rubble as Superman rises. This makes it far too easy for Steppenwolf to get it. It’s the easiest box to obtain, given he fought hordes of Amazonians and Atlanteans to get the other two. He just had to pick this one up off the street.

So Clark Kent is back. How do they explain that away? – FAIL

They don’t. But there is a scene with Clark in the streets of Metropolis – something catches his attention and he springs into action by running down an alley, ripping his shirt open to reveal the iconic ‘S’ before flying into the sky. It would have been great for them to linger on that ‘S’ for at least a second but typical in all Snyder films; cool moments seem to frequently be trumped by an eye-blitzing desire to give the audience epilepsy with fast cuts.

The Mid-Credit and Post-Credit scenes – PASS

These are actually really good. The mid-credits scene recreates a timeless nod to the comics with The Flash challenging Superman to a friendly race to see who is faster. The end-credits scene finds Lex Luthor escaped from jail and now donning a particularly fetching suit (think Gene Hackman) whilst he convinces Slade Wilson aka Deathstroke (Joe Manganiello) to join.

Nods to the future – PASS

With a glimpse at one of the Green Lantern’s in a historic montage at the start, and Bruce Wayne saying that there will be space at the table for new members in their new headquarters, the future is laid open for more familiar names to suit up for the Justice League. And then of course there’s Lex Luthor beginning to form his own group of super-villains with Deathstroke making a nice cameo appearance.

Justice League is out now on 4K, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital.

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