I have to admit, I was more than a little weary going into Zack Snyder’s Justice League. After a couple glaring misfires trying to capture the Superman mythos, both with Snyder’s needlessly cynical Man of Steel and the convoluted Dawn of Justice, DC had begun to right its course with David Ayer’s ambitious Suicide Squad. It seemed to finally find its legs by giving Patty Jenkins the helm of Wonder Woman, which abandoned unnecessary brooding to craft a genuinely uplifting superhero story (origin story and all).
Now, with Justice League, DC’s cinematic universe finally seems to have tackled superhero cinema, and created something that’s entertaining, action-packed, and — dare I say — fun!
Granted, it wasn’t a film that won me over from the get-go. The first act is a little shaky, and littered with the sped-up/slowed-down/sped-up again action sequences that have become Snyder’s trademark. Well, that and a truly juvenile grasp of existential dread that he’d previously forced into all his characters, whether the story called for it or not.
Once that passes, however, Justice League proves itself to be a thoroughly enjoyable super-powered romp, that not only balances the screen time of its significant roster of heroes, but seems to have a really good time doing it. Taking a page from the MCU’s playbook, Snyder and company seemed to have come to terms that a little bit of levity can go a long way. And while it’d be easy to give most of the credit to Joss Whedon, who was brought onboard to punch up the script (he has a co-writing credit), then later reshoot key scenes after Snyder had to bow out after a family tragedy, some of the most lighthearted moments were seen in trailers that circulated months beforehand.
That being said, it’s not that hard to spot Whedon’s fingerprints, mostly in scenes which manage to be fun while differentiating themselves from his quip-heavy (sometimes too quip-heavy) Avengers movies. Unfortunately, some of its shortcomings also seem to pull from its MCU influence, namely with Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), an entirely forgettable big bad with a paint-by-numbers plan of world domination.
As Steppenwolf’s villainy leaves a little to be desired, the resulting story tends to run a little thin, and doesn’t all quite fit together. Though that may have to do with the suits at WB mandating a two-hour runtime, resulting in as much as sixty minutes being trimmed before being deemed fit for audiences. Still, it’s not a glaring flaw. Namely because plot always tends to run a little thin with this genre, and a longer movie would’ve likely undone the balance that they’ve managed to strike.
Although Justice League doesn’t erase DC’s past cinematic shortcomings, it builds a worthwhile experience on its faulty foundation, one that’s likely to delight both comic lovers and casual fans out looking for pure superhero escapism.
Justice League hits theaters November 17th