Batman. Superman. Wonder Woman. The Flash. Cyborg. Aquaman. These are some of comic book history’s most storied heroes ever who have saved infinite dimensions from countless cataclysmic events — but they just can’t seem to beat public perception. Justice League takes place shortly after the events of Batman vs Superman. Superman’s death in the battle against Doomsday seems to have made the rounds on the inter-galactic Internet and the grossly overly-CGIed big bad Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) randomly shows up on Earth to do comically generic bad guy things. Guilt-ridden by his role in Superman’s death, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) attempt to recruit some new metahumans to help them push back against Steppenwolf’s invading army of parademons.
For all the ups and downs — the nerdy Easter eggs and cringe-worthy one-liners — Justice League is nothing more than a movie with moments. That said, there are some damn good moments hidden in the jumbled amalgamation that is Joss Whedon and Zack Snyder’s clashing visions, including an early delightful nod to a certain Green character. Whedon was tasked with re-shooting parts of the film after it was deemed too dark and producers hoped to make it fall in line closer with Wonder Woman’s tone — and boy does it show. The tonal whiplash from one scene to the next would be enough to take even the Man of Steel himself out of commission. It would be nice to say the tone issues were relegated to the narrative, which comes off as unsure about whether or not it wants to be broodingly dark or funny as hell, but the consistency problems are so much bigger.
The larger problem is that the characters themselves feel like completely different people from scene to scene, and in Wonder Woman’s case, the character has seemingly regressed a bit from the woman we see at the end of her solo film. Jason Momoa’s Aquaman is a bad boy, even if he is often given stereotypical surfer-bro lines and mannerisms. Momoa’s presence makes Aquaman one of the more enjoyable characters to watch go to work because of just how much fun audiences can tell he’s having. It’s a wonder why the sassy ocean-dweller flip-flops between being willing to stomp out some parademons alongside his new super-powered friends to reluctant and brooding. The same can be said about Bruce, but at least it shows some lightening of heart in his character in the aftermath of Batman vs Superman.
Even the characters with a semblance of consistency fall a little flat, like Barry Allen / The Flash (Ezra Miller) who is so very obviously the film’s main stream of comedic relief. It’s too bad then that half of Flash’s jokes or quirky little moments played for laughs come up short. It’s a shame to be sure, because one of the best aspects of the film is how much effort they put into making Flash’s powers look as close to the comics as possible, but he gets little love elsewhere. The entire character is mishandled, considering his biggest contributions to the team come in scenes where he simply pokes something and essentially jump-starts a battery. Fans of The Flash know he is capable of so much more and at the very least, Justice League will make people want to watch these new characters in their eventual solo films in hopes of finding them closer to their full potential. Cyborg (Ray Fisher) is also one of the more consistent characters, perhaps to a fault, as he never lets up on his angsty-teen-Frankenstein complex. Even so, Cyborg is a key character in Justice League and his role will likely only grow in importance as Darkseid makes his way to Earth.
At least all the heroes get more than one shining moment of badassery, all set to a nostalgic score by Danny Elfman which brings back his iconic Batman theme from the ‘90s Tim Burton films and John Williams’ Superman theme. Overall, there are only a handful of scenes that will be remembered from Justice League, but even if they are only slight glimmers of hope, there is a lot to look forward to in the DCEU’s future as some of these new characters see their own stories fleshed out and explored in the years to come.
Mario Avalos is a senior at Florida International University, pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature, along with certificates in Film Studies and Professional and Public Writing.