Shying away from reviews before I watch a film so as not to unintentionally bias my opinions of it normally works quite well for me. However, with the release on Friday of ‘Justice League’ , I couldn’t help but catch the buzz around this one.
Eagerly anticipated and hugely hyped, the only buzz I could hear around this film was that of flies circling a corpse. Yes, the reviews were in. And they are NOT kind.
The film’s torturous production echoes the eerily similar fate of DC’s not-quite-turkey from last year ‘Suicide Squad’. Controversial casting decisions, re-shoots to make the film more fun, rumours of a slightly rubbish antagonist have not done the film any favours in mirroring Suicide Squad’s negative reception. Plus, most seriously, a personal tragedy for director Zack Snyder saw Marvel’s Avengers stalwart Joss Whedon step in to finish some of the direction in the latter stages of the shoot (not that the stylistic transition is noticeable mind).
So, given all this, plus my absolute loathing of the incomprehensible mess that is ‘Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice (I still even hate that dreck title!), I went in to Justice League expecting to ab-so-lutely despise it.
In fact, I would even go as far as to say I actually quite enjoyed it. From what I gather, the film’s main criticism comes from the notion that it appears to be copying The Avengers’ template. There is no getting around this, it does.
The DC Avengers’ assemble to protect Earth from an all-powerful demon (here a horn-helmeted Sauron-a-like named ‘Steppenwolf’ from the planet Apokolips, looking like the bastard love-child of Christopher Eccleston crossed with a week-old joint of roast beef) who is seeking three mystical cube-like MacGuffins mundanely monikered ‘The Mother Box’ that when united will….blah blah blah. So far, so Avengers: Infinity Wars. Or maybe Transformers’ All-Spark. Or maybe Tomb Raider’s Pandora’s Box.
Anyway, the simple plot has been shredded by critics for its total lack of originality, but don’t they say there are only eleven true film plots in the world anyway?
What exactly was it critics were expecting from this film? The gritty kitchen-sink social realism of Ken Loach? The philosophical musings of Tarkovsky? The angular German expressionism of F.W. Murnau?
No. Audiences just wanted a big, long, loud, eye-popping piece of Summer(y) entertainment. And they got it.
Yes, there are plot-holes – I avoided looking into them but did notice a few at the screening. Yes, the film is not the five star classic it wants to be. Yes the Para-demons reminds me of those frigging annoying flying things off ‘Highlander II: the Quickening’ (quite rightly voted one of the worst films ever made) and, yes, Ben Affleck still does not have the grit, the brooding psychosis, charm or charisma to play a mentally-broken vigilante. Instead he continues to permanently jut out his jaw and looks like he’s straining to hatch a monster loaf.
But, having said that, overall, the results are 120 minutes of well-paced, consistently entertaining action that should be commended for sticking to what it knows it’s good at (i.e. every scene involving Wonder Woman) whilst trying to emulate the guaranteed-success formula of Avengers’ Assemble.
Further to this, I feel the film has been unfairly criticised for trying to sew the seeds of the spin-off films from this one central film, the polar opposite way around to Marvel’s strategy. In essence, it seems the film’s production crew can’t do right from wrong. They are on the receiving end of tons of scathing criticism that I genuinely don’t believe is deserved.
All the cast give solid turns, even the peripherals – J.K. Simmons’ Commissioner Gordon, Diane Lane’s Martha Kent, Jeremy Irons’ Alfred, Amy Adams’ Lois Lane and Joe Morton (essentially playing Miles Bennett-Dyson from Terminator Two: Judgement Day again).
The laughs come thick and fast (pun intended) courtesy of The Flash as he pulls off the comic relief role with aplomb, all gawky social awkwardness-cum-wide-eyed wonderment.
Jason Momoa’s Aquaman is possibly the least interesting new addition and many have not taken kindly to his casting as the hard-drinking Mer-Man. Who knows? Maybe his solo film will develop his character into somebody more likeable and interesting enough to carry his own film. But then again, maybe it’s just impossible to make fighting underwater exciting?
A nice mid-credits gag and end-of-credits teaser hints at one major antagonist’s unfortunate return and an intriguing new villain for the inevitable next film.
So, all-in-all, a clear case of damned if they do and damned because they did here as the daggers were out for Justice League from the start, but go into it with no preconceptions and no comparisons to its Marvel rivals and you should have a really enjoyable time.
Besides, the film is still a hundred times better than Dawn Of Justice, and that can only be a very good thing indeed.
Project Square Eyes (Wednesday the 22nd November 2017)