Justice League (2017)

Does it do Justice to these characters?

Director: Zack Snyder
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J.K. Simmons, Ciarán Hinds, Joe Morton, Billy Crudup, Amber Heard, Michael McElhatton

After the death of Superman (Henry Cavill), the Earth has been left vulnerable to attack from alien beings. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) enlists the help of Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) to recruit a group of powerful individuals, to prepare for the threat of an even greater enemy.

During post-production of this film, director Zack Snyder left the project due to a family tragedy. Joss Whedon stepped in to finish the film, which included rewriting scenes and performing complete reshoots. While it can't be helped, the end result feels like a compromise of visions. Included quips are often left feeling like a forced inclusion, and one gets the impression that larger plotlines have been excised entirely. For example, Wonder Woman defeats a terrorist group during her first scene in the film, and one gets the impression this group had more planned in the larger scheme of things.

With reports that Warner Bros wanted the film to be cut down to 2 hours, one wonders how much studio interference played with the final picture. The first act alone feels rather messy, as though it's in a rush to get introductions out of the way. Key character moments could've been expanded upon, with Aquaman's reported first trip to Atlantis feeling over before one knows it, and Cyborg seeming to handle each new power with ease. Once we're past that, and the League have gotten together, things flow at a smoother pace. The character interactions are a highlight, as their chemistry manages to provide many of the best moments. One wonderful inclusion is shared between Barry and Victor, as they bond over being the team's "accidents".

Of the films newest inclusions, Ezra Miller had the hardest job. Not only did he have to deliver a terrific take on Barry Allen, it had to be distinctive enough to not feel like a carbon copy of what Grant Gustin does in TV's The Flash. This is achieved through an awkward personality, and a motor mouth which dictates his role as the comic relief. While the latter doesn't always hit the mark, Miller's portrayal is endearing, allowing a humanity to this speedster who's new to combat, and being part of a team. Being his first major theatrical role, Ray Fisher impresses as Victor Stone, a former football player who now finds themselves as a Cyborg. He's still adjusting to his change of circumstances, which Fisher does well in portraying. His connection to Motherbox technology makes him an integral part to the story, but it feels like there's a few steps missing in his strained relationship with his father. But the film's scene stealing inclusion is Jason Momoa, as he provides charisma in portraying Aquaman, a heavy drinker who's coping with his own issues.

Gal Gadot remains the best thing about this franchise, as she embodies Wonder Woman once more in such a wonderful manner. Whatever issues may be had with this cinematic universe, her casting is one of the best things to come out of it. As Gadot delivers more of what we've already, Ben Affleck's role is different to the role he plated in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. His Dark Knight feels remorseful for his previously violent actions, and despite feeling like a studio response to the previous interpretation, it comes off as a better interpretation of the character. Affleck is game, but if only he could deliver the quips a bit better, as he seems bored during those moments. As for Henry Cavill, he delivers what's easily his best portrayal of Superman. A character focused more on saving the innocents, feeling like the loving big brother to the younger League members. Third time's the charm, as he finally feels like the symbol of hope the character is meant to be.

A phrase that's commonly repeated is "a hero is only as good as its villain", and considering this is the formation of the Justice League, one expects a tremendous antagonist to be faced. This makes it all the more unfortunate how Steppenwolf is one of the most woeful antagonists put to screen in the genre. Brought to life by the the vocal talents of Ciarán Hinds, and effects that wouldn't feel out of place in a shoddily designed Playstation 3 game, he's essentially a giant effect whose purpose is to battle the heroes. Powered by generic motivations in the quest to find the McGuffins of indescribable power, good luck remembering much about him after seeing the film.

But then, for a blockbuster which cost $300 million, it's shocking how many of the effects come off looking cheap and shoddy. Many of these are evident during the final act, but it's a shame the effects used for Cyborg can be distracting at times. As for Henry Cavill's top lip, it can be rather noticeable, especially during one of his first scenes.

The road to reach the finale does feel rather rocky, as the plot seems to stall in order to decide what's the best way of dealing with the Superman problem. Plus, considering the world ending properties which a Motherbox is told to have, the fact all of the characters leave it unprotected in essentially a car park feels extremely dumb.

But the third act is where things come to a head, where the big finale takes place, and a great deal of fun is had during this section. It feels like the moment where the film most comes alive, as characters protect one another, help save innocents (including a Russian family we spend a bewildering amount of time with), and feel like a genuine team. As with The Avengers, this is designed to be the formation of the eponymous super-team, and by goodness, the scenes of them working alongside one another gives one hope for the future.

It's unfortunate Justice League feels like a compromise of visions, especially considering the circumstances which led to it.  Despite a number of rocky moments, the end result is an entertaining time, shining whenever the titular team are together, giving one hope for the future.