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Justice League
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date: November 17th, 2017

Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman's (Henry Cavill) selfless act, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) enlists newfound ally Diana Prince to face an even greater threat. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to recruit a team to stand against this newly awakened enemy. Despite the formation of an unprecedented league of heroes -- Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and the Flash -- it may be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.

Justice League was directed by Zack Snyder from a screenplay by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, story by Terrio & Snyder. Based on characters from DC Entertainment; Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder, Jon Berg and Geoff Johns produced the film, with Jim Rowe, Wesley Coller, Curtis Kanemoto, Chris Terrio and Ben Affleck serving as executive producers.

Opening on November 17 in 3D and 2D in select theatres and IMAX, Justice League is be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.


REVIEW

Disjointed and light on plot, Justice League manages to bring some of DC Comics' biggest characters to life in a way that's true to the comics and cartoons fans have grown up with, but the film's many flaws hamper what should be an unforgettable event. Instead, the movie sputters along from scene to scene, mixing great character moments and action sequences with mediocre special effects and a paper-thin story. While not an out-and-out failure, Justice League falls short of its lofty goals.

After two movies of build-up, following Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (BVS), Justice League wraps up the ongoing plot threads of those two previous installments while clearly setting in motion a direction for the DC Comics cinematic universe going forward. However, to get to the promised land of future movies that are more respectful to the DC Comics source material, fans have to sit through Justice League and, for some, that might be asking too much. With Wonder Woman the only true cinematic success for Warner Bros.' line of connected DC Comics movies, fans might even wonder if it's worth it to sit through another DC dud.

Discussing this film without taking into account the behind-the-scenes issues it dealt with is nearly impossible. Justice League, the final theatrical release version, is clearly a response to the immense backlash from BVS excessively dark and misguided tone. A huge chunk of this film was clearly left on the cutting room floor. The obvious retooling and reshoots, the more light-hearted look and feel of the film, the jokes, all of it. Not only that, Justice League is really the product of two creators - original director Zack Snyder and replacement (for lack of a better term) Joss Whedon. Whedon stepped in after Snyder had to walk away from the project due to a family tragedy. These two directors have very different styles, resulting in a movie that, at times, feels disconnected from itself. Justice League's production history is messy and complicated (which is very apparent in the finished product) and it plays a major part in the film's overall quality.

Aside from the two separate directors behind the camera, the runaway success of Wonder Woman clearly played a part in how this film ultimately came together. The character herself, and even her island homeworld, get a fair amount of screentime here, with her essentially being the defacto leader (which actually works and is one of the few positive aspects of the wobbly movie). Executives clearly paid attention to the response Wonder Woman received during its Summer 2017 release and made sure to capitalize.

However, there are quite a few things that Justice League gets right. There are plenty of great character beats, dialogue, and some solid action, but most of that gets lost in a film that feels like its cobbled together from two very different movies. Not only that, but it even feels disconnected from its own continuity, as the guilt and remorse Batman feels, and the sudden realization of what a hopeful figure Superman was, seems so disconnected to how the characters were portrayed in BVS and even Man of Steel. Never once did Superman really come across as a beacon of hope for the world in Man of Steel or BVS, and while Batman's motivation to do right by Superman after the alien's sacrifice in BVS is great character building, they push him way too far in that direction in Justice League. It just doesn't seem to really add up, and given how this movie takes place very shortly after the death of Superman, it only adds to the confusion of an already befuddling product. It just doesn't connect.

The film's core story, our heroes coming together attempting to stop the otherworldly Steppenwolf from collecting three Mother Boxes and decimating the world, is solid reason enough to unite some of DC Comics' top names, and would likely be a worthy foe in a better composed movie. However, the film pushes him off to the side for the majority of the runtime, with the main conflict coming from the quippy heroes themselves, which is a perfectly fine way to structure a story. Honestly, seeing the Justice League come together on the big screen is the top reason why anyone is seeing this movie, but there needs to be some palpable tension outside the team's problems to justify their conflicts and worry, and the movie fails to deliver. Moments where Steppenwolf makes his presence known feels so small scale and at times incomplete (both in terms of the film's story and production), and since those Steppenwolf scenes are nearly all duds (save for his attack on Themyscira and arguably the climactic battle), they don't have the impact they should to properly balance the film.

The only place where the movie doesn't really come up short is its stellar cast. Not a complaint to be found in terms of actors and their approach to each role. Whether is Batman as an aging savior, Wonder Woman as a burgeoning leader, Aquaman as a rockin' dudebro, The Flash is a novice hero, or Cyborg as the tortured, reluctant hero, each one works. They work surprisingly well as a functioning group. Even (spoilers) Superman's truncated return to the living works in theory and approach, but again seems to be the victim of heavy cuts and tweaking. There are moments where the movie is just electric because of how well this group of actors and characters function together. There isn't even a weak link in the supporting cast. The sole possible weak link is the character of Steppenwolf, but that seems to be more of the fault of heavy edits and weak CGI than actual actor performance.

The film's troubled production history really ends up being the true for of Justice League. Once again, another DC Comics film from Warner Bros. finds itself the victim of mismanagement and a misguided attempt to copy the successful Marvel Studios formula. More time was definitely needed to really address the film's issues and come up with proper solutions, instead of just rushing to hit a release date. For one, if the film had a more consistent tone - compared to the jarring back and forth between the light-hearted clearly Joss Whedon-directed moments and the darker Zack Snyder-directed moments - it would've flowed better. The movie plays out as a series of scenes instead of a naturally unfolding, progressive story, absolutely killing its momentum.And that is just one of the issues that could've been properly solved if more time and proper diligence was given,

Now, is Justice League the trainwreck that so many others have claimed it to be? No, not at all. It's disjointed and slight, yes, but it's still an entertaining time at the movies despite its problems. The characters are handled well, the cast is fantastic and there's are some solid action beats. But the film's lack of a cohesive tone, a compelling villain and plot, and its jarring nature does brutally hinder it. That all said, honestly, its few strengths do make the film watchable. However, if you're not a fan of the recent DC Comics-flavored output from Warner Bros. Pictures, this likely won't change that. There is something really satisfying about seeing the Justice League in live-action on the big screen, and this movie will just have to do until we get something better in a decade or so. Check it out, but at your own risk.

Review by James Harvey


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