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Film Review: Justice League

Justice League
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Starring: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, and Ray Fisher
Premiered: November 17, 2017

From the superhero genre’s most divisive director of all time in the most divisive cinematic universe of all time and the most divisive box office and critical reception of all time comes Justice League: what could possibly go wrong?

Months after the death of Superman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the world is in discord and left defenseless against extraterrestrial threats. Steppenwolf and his army of Parademons wage an alien invasion while searching for three alien cubes called Mother Boxes in order to terraform Earth into a hellish wasteland of his home planet. Inspired by Superman’s sacrifice, Batman and Wonder Woman assemble other metahumans with incredible superpowers, including Aquaman, Cyborg, and the Flash, to form the Justice League and save the world from utter destruction.

If nothing else, Justice League might rank on top for having the most tumultuous and rough film production processes this year. Its surefire hit predecessor, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, financially underperformed and was critically panned by critics, moviegoers, and fans for its overly dark and dreadful outlook on superheroes. In response, the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) underwent a massive course correction, bringing in Geoff Johns as studio head and promising to show a brighter and more optimistic tone reminiscent of the rival Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). On top of all this, Snyder had bowed out from Justice League in May following a family tragedy and left the reins to Joss Whedon, who previously directed Marvel’s The Avengers, to oversee the rest of post-production and expensive reshoots rumoured to rework significant scenes and change the overall tone of the film. With all those developments and complications, it’s no wonder that Justice League might just end up being the most disappointing and frustrating blockbuster of the year.

I can now safely say that Justice League is a half-baked, rushed, and inconsistent mess of a superhero movie. The cracks and holes of its troubled post-production are incredibly clear, cutting down scenes, unnatural dialogue, force-feeding exposition and backstory, cringeworthy jokes, and terrible quips. By the 376th attempt at Joss Whedon-branded humour, I was rolling my eyes harder than Regan in The Exorcist. The CGI effects must also be mentioned as well, as the post-production woes can clearly be seen by the first seconds of the film. Camcorder footage of the previously alive Superman looks like a blotchy image of his mouth seemingly pasted onto his face, an obvious attempt at CGI retouching to erase Henry Cavill’s moustache in reshoots. The fully-CGI Steppenwolf never registers as a real presence, and might just be the blandest superhero villain of all time who dies in the most ludicrous and nonsensical fashion ever.

Everything from the bad jokes, shoddy editing, rushed CGI, half-baked plot and painstakingly obvious reshoots is only indicative that Warner Bros. truly has no idea what they’re planning or doing. In fact, it is amazing how much of this film feels like an $300 million dollar apology for the long succession of bad ideas and poor decisions from Man of Steel and Batman v Superman culminating in one final, desperate attempt to stay relevant while the MCU effortlessly heralded its seventeenth superhero film, (Thor: Ragnarok) with a wisecracking space Viking and a muscular green-skinned gladiator.

Comparisons to the Marvel Cinematic Universe should be encouraged and expected given the entire existence of the DCEU is indebted to the success of the MCU. Thus, for their first foray into superhero ensembles, Justice League fails in nearly every respect to The Avengers. It attempts to copy its most superficial aspects without recognizing the most important elements of their success, that being great character development, a balanced and rounded tone, and good stories. Marvel earned their place by planning out and establishing its superheroes and our emotional connections with them leading up to The Avengers. Late to the party and with dollar signs in their eyes, DC impatiently rushed to get their superhero cinematic universe out the door, failing at almost every step of the way, and leaving nothing but disappointment, contempt, and resentment in their wake.

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