DC Comics’ heroes unite on the big screen and it’s been a long time coming - from Man of Steel to Wonder Woman all roads have led to this epic team up, but in the shadow of the MCU is it too little too late for Batman and company? The answer, from me, is yes - but that’s an oversimplification.
The story sees Batman and Wonder Woman calling upon Earth’s supers to unite in the face of impending alien invasion led by Ciaran Hinds’ baddie Steppenwolf. The death of Superman has left them light so they recruit Jason Momoa’s Aquaman, Ray Fisher’s Cyborg and Ezra Miller’s Flash as soldiers for the coming war. The supporting cast is filled with great character actors in the shape of Amy Adams, J.K. Simmons and Jeremy Irons. For all its stellar talent, budget, build up and source material though, Justice League is an unusually flat and vacant affair. Poorly rendered and barely realised; this thin and forgettable story is placated by big bangs and snappy dialogue that land as crudely as the noticeably bad CGI.
DC presumes their audience and delivers a hot mess of little coherence
Where Marvel hires smart, DC instead follows the ‘bigger is better’ route. Robert Downey Jr. owns the role of Tony Stark and James Gunn’s indie sensibilities make him the right fit to direct a film such as the Guardians of the Galaxy. With the exception of Gadot’s Wonder Woman none of the performers in the DCEU feel appropriate for, comfortable in and remotely familiar with the characters they’re playing. Momoa’s Aquaman is Point Break meets brooding idiot, Affleck looks utterly miserable in the middle of it all. Whilst Miller and Fisher are fine that’s only opposite their tedious teammates. Also, for all the criticism Marvel’s bad guys receive, Steppenwolf takes the cake as one of the worst screen villains of all time - looking absolutely shocking and making Dawn of Justice stomper Doomsday seem like Prospero in comparison.
Worried that I was just hating out of frustration I asked other audience members on exit what they thought. Being a morning screening on the day of release I expected polarising DCU opinion but the best review I heard came from a young couple; he, a fan of superhero films, went in with very low expectations and didn’t hate it as much as he thought he would. She - an impartial film fan - fell asleep half way through. And that sums it up for me - a supposed epic action film decades in the making that was so boring, so poor in quality that it can send a paying customer to sleep.
Next to the excellent Thor: Ragnarok, the gulf in quality between the two franchises is blatant, and in my opinion that comes down to understanding; Marvel listens to their audience and experiments with new things, DC presumes their audience and delivers a hot mess of little coherence.
If they’re going to continue with the franchise DC could do far worse than handing the reigns over to Patty Jenkins and getting the hell out of their own way. She can’t do worse than this dull mess.