What I'm Watching: Justice League

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Well Justice League was certainly 'a thing' wasn't it?!? If 'less is more' then JL is proof that 'more' (basically everything from a 3+ hour film you can squeeze in to less than 2 hours) definitely equals less. If you don't want to read on I will say this; I did not hate it… It has entertaining elements but it's not good. It’s not a BvS sequel, but more of a hard edit directly away from last years movies. Probably go watch it, and if you do, stay for the 2 post credit sequences.

The good: I kind of enjoyed just how much of a big, dumb mess it was. It was certainly all over the place, and marked a decent attempt at a course-correction. It was like a mix of the multicoloured food fight from 'Hook' meets all Transformers battle scenes with a simple 'getting the band together' plot impetus. It's better than the mess that was the cinematic release of BvS, and infinitely more coherent than the horrific Suicide Squad, and as an 'A, B, C' film it sort of works.

The bad: There's a lot that feels shoddy, ill-conceived, rushed and it contains some CGI that looks worse than TV quality in many places that somehow left me aghast that they felt they could get away with. Several people in the cast looked a bit bored, Superman (yes he’s alive) in particular had a wooden vibe and after having a scowl on his face and after acting like a prick in his last 2 movies, to now see him smiling lots and cracking jokes in Justice League was plain unsettling! And this seriously wasn't helped by his 'uncanny valley CGI upper lip' one bit! Some supporting characters didn't really need to be in here for what little they did or were needed for (I'm looking at you Commissioner Gordon... JK Simmons got a raw deal with how little he had or of what we saw of him.) The different director styles were extremely jarring and you can see the seams of the new narrative that has been restructured; this is done enough to cool down all the ’extreme, dower, brutal Snyder-isms’, but the 2 director tones of this movie (maybe 3 if you include the Warner Brothers corporate mandate) are visibly sandwiched together. It’s also clear that an editor has come in here and mercilessly edited and chopped this film down a mandated 2hrs maximum. 

The ugly: The low 'up-skirt' male gaze take on WW is a massive step back from how fantastically she was handled in her solo film. The humour in places is sterile and flat, the plot (and I use the term 'plot' generously) is paper-thin, the villain ’Steppenwolf’ is a CGI monster that could have been better, the action is clunky at times, there's far too much 'falling-with-style' CGI from almost everyone, characterisations are odd (WW moves seemingly as fast as Flash, WW seems to fly as much as Aquaman, and so on, giving people no unique abilities). Yet given all the nightmares that the production and reshoots added to the making of this movie it's kind of crazy that they have managed to release anything at all! (Especially one that if you're sympathetic enough it sort of stands up as it's own thing and as a standalone 'course correction' for DC.) It's genuinely 'something to see' but overall the story threads that this film has to unknot as BvS was just so epically broken that it's amazing that it's come out as a functional film. Dialogue is horrible in several places too.

Some bad things that concern me; The odd age dynamic bothers me a lot. In this franchise Batman is just so old compared to everyone else. For example, he's been Batman for over 20 years, Superman has been active for maybe about 4 years, Flash maybe a year, cyborg about 4 months, Aquaman maybe about the same as Wonder Woman yet they both age differently to humans and have operated in secret... So we have a really weird chemistry of 'young, hip, still finding all my new powers' and 'I'm getting too old for this/maybe I should retire. This can also apply to the acting cast too, going by some of the things Ben Affleck has said publicly too'. I could do with a dialling back of 'quippy Sheldon/Flash' being a young, goofy joke-machine and I'd have loved an extra 10 minutes to explore more of Cyborg (something I didn't think I'd say, but Ray Fisher does great with the little he had and I quite liked what he provided). There was an interesting moral debate between Diana and Bruce which injected an exciting bit of dialogue and somewhat of a weightier theme that does feel like it'd have been worthy of more exploration.

So overall? I didn't hate it. Far from the misanthropic nightmare of BvS, it was an enjoyable, fun at times, experience and a serviceable ride. However, it is ultimately still a mess and it should have been a lot better. Part of me wants to see this DCEU limp on, recover and come back as the 'cinematic underdog'. Yet I’m torn between 'please wrap it up and start again.' This has been a red-hot effort, but starting afresh would probably be easier than pushing on' and the opposite opinion 'forget SS and BvS, treat WW and Man Of Steal (both films I really liked a lot regardless of a few minor problems) as origins and maybe this will work from now on'. I did have a good time at this film despite all the negatives. 6/10

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