Justice League is your typical superhero movie: heroes save the world from a seemingly impossible force. However, it is a welcome break from dark and gritty films that are almost unpleasant for viewers to watch. The primary source of conflict is Steppenwolf, played by Ciarán Hinds, who wants to destroy and subjugate the world- in that order, mind you- and the heroes must stop him. It’s pretty cut and dry, yet entertaining.
The beginning of the film splits its time between each hero fairly equally. The storytelling, in the beginning, is somewhat disjointed as a result, but it works because it brings all of the pieces together at the end while making each hero relatable.
Ben Affleck’s Batman is dealing with a crisis of conscience after the death of Superman when these mysterious bug-like monsters begin attacking people and places around Gotham and Metropolis. He seeks out Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman, portrayed by Gal Gadot. Together, Diana and Batman seek out other potential heroes to help in the fight against Steppenwolf and to save the world. They bring together three other people with “abilities,” or superpowers. The people they find are Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg played by Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, and Ray Fisher respectively.
Things the movie did right:
Each hero is given a substantial amount of screentime. We get the opportunity to see into their real, non-hero lives. For example, The Flash’s father was wrongfully convicted of the murder of his wife. This motivates Flash to seek out a degree in criminal justice, but he has been struggling to make ends meet on his own. Aquaman’s mother abandoned him with his land-dwelling father, which led him to become a sort of recluse who comes out only to help the people of a remote community by the sea. Cyborg struggles with his mechanical side and blames his father for his condition while still loving and caring about him.
Once the fighting is about to begin, the young adult Flash admits that he is terrified and he doesn’t have the slightest idea how to fight. Batman offers him encouragement and takes on a mentoring role with Flash. Flash grows more and more into his position as a member of the team as the film progresses. The Flash is one of the most interesting characters because he is open and honest about his faults and flaws if a little- or a lot- awkward.
The relationships between the superheroes are excellently written. They don’t immediately get along like magic but have to work together to learn to operate as a team. Bruce Wayne is an absolute jerk to Wonder Woman, and she doesn’t take it. They have a physical altercation, and the rest of the team is visibly uncomfortable during this exchange. Aquaman thinks that Batman is sort of a joke with his dressing up as a bat to fight crime. The Flash tries to interact with and make a strong first impression on each character, but he bumbles each attempt.
The movie moves quickly once it’s going. It starts out slow as it delves into each superhero’s personal lives- with the sole exceptions of Batman and Wonder Woman, who have already been introduced to the audience- and balances out the action with scenes developing relationships between the characters. When the action near the end gets going, though, it really gets going and keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat.
The fight scenes are beautifully choreographed. After each fight scene, the newly formed team learns more and more how to operate as a unit rather than just like a bunch of strangers punching bad guys until they die.
Connecting to the previous film, Batman vs. Superman
Everything that is happening in this film is a direct or indirect consequence of Superman’s death. Everything. The arrival of Steppenwolf, the activation of the “mother blocks,” the way that Lois Lane isn’t able to write serious newspaper articles, and Bruce Wayne’s guilt- it all connects back to Superman’s death.
Things the movie did wrong:
Failed the Bechdel Test
There aren’t many women in the movie with speaking lines, and there is almost never a scene where the women speak without making a reference to a man, such as Steve Trevor for Diana and Superman/Clark Kent for Lois Lane and his mother. The above-mentioned altercation between Wonder Woman and Batman was because Batman said something insensitive to Diana about Steve Trevor. There was one scene where an unnamed woman talks to her husband about the dangerous situation they are in, but her lines are brief and par for the course- irrelevant, really.
Wasted time on side characters
This one is sort of a mixed bag. In some ways, spending time with Superman’s family and loved ones is helpful, as it shows the effects of the previous movie, Batman vs. Superman, in which Superman dies. For fans of DC in general, it connects Justice League with previous movies. However, Justice League spends a lot of time following random characters, some of whom the audience has no investment in, such as Aquaman’s fellow Atlanteans. There was a small family of four, which had been shoehorned into the film presumably to bring home the severity of the threat against humanity, but really, they weren’t necessary. They could have been left out until the very end when they are rescued, and the effect would have, more or less, been the same.
All in all, the film was enjoyable, and there were little moments of humor sprinkled in to lighten the mood. The relationships between the characters visibly grew and developed over time, and they learned to work together by the end of the film. My rating for this film, taking all of the above points in mind, is a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars. If you enjoy fun, easy to watch films about superheroes with a happy ending, go and check this one out. It won’t disappoint.