At long last, building on the groundwork of Man of Steel (2013), Batman v Superman (2016), and Wonder Woman (2017), the ensemble has been assembled as Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and Flash join forces to tackle an Apocalypse-threatening villain from the Fourth World, Steppenwolf.
The trajectory to Justice League has not been as carefully structured as Marvel’s ‘Phase One’ movies, and as such, the pay-off isn’t nearly so satisfying. That said, Justice League really isn’t qualitatively all that much worse as a single film than Avengers. It’s not great, but it’s watchable.
The dynamic between Batman and Wonder Woman is probably the film’s strongest suit, as an aging Bruce and an overly-cautious Diana push each other’s characterisation forwards into new territory. The rest of the team, all making their first full appearances here, are all quite one-dimensional. Aquaman is a charming lad, and the only one genuinely as ‘cool’ as intended. Cyborg’s fine, at best, but his depth is actually overlaid onto him by Diana, rather than being something of his own development or agency. And lastly, while endearingly responsible for some of the better moments of comic relief, Flash’s portrayal isn’t going to feel especially new or clever to anyone who’s ever seen an episode of The Big Bang Theory.
Like Batman v Superman, the film’s CGI is exceptionally poor. And in this case, it isn’t confined to the third act: the entire film looks unreal, and all of its action sequences look almost exactly like scenes from the video game, Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe.
Much like the main Avengers get-togethers, it looks like the Justice League centrepieces won’t really have a distinctive tone, so here’s hoping that the solo outings find or retain their own respective niches. It seems a real waste, for example, to have established such a powerful rendering of the Amazons of Themyscira in Wonder Woman, only to have them reduced to looking like a bunch of hobbyist archers in holiday bikinis at Center Parcs.
As a final note, it’s really something to see two competing blockbusters this year, Justice League and Thor: Ragnarok, which both owe such a substantial debt to the mind and work of Jack Kirby.
Adam Karenina Sherif