Published Nov 15, 2017It's hard to believe that Batman Forever, Joel Schumacher's flamboyant, brash take on the caped crusader, was once the most panned picture in the DC Universe. Sure, it was lacking in almost every department, but at least it had personality.
Zack Snyder's films, meanwhile, have only gotten more tepid with each passing title. A filmmaker once known for breathing life into the comic book genre with his visually stylish take on Frank Miller's 300, his recent output (2013's Man of Steel, 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) has left comic book fans both fairweather and hardcore wanting.
And Justice League, a film filled with cheap one-liners, limited backstories and CGI wankery, may be his most lifeless yet.
As anyone who's seen Marvel's The Defenders knows, it's not always easy to take multiple characters from various franchises, bring them all together and make a go of it (especially when over half of them have barely been introduced before).
The film begins as the world is mourning the loss of Superman; at the same time, a new evil force from a forgotten time named Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds, bathed entirely in CGI) rears his ugly head. His goal is to reunite the three mother boxes (yes, seriously, that's what they're called) and harness enough power to take over the world and all its inhabitants. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck, playing Batman at his most unlikeable) decides to recruit a team of heroes to defeat him.
With Wonder Woman dominating the box office this past summer, it's no surprise that Gal Gadot gets the second most screentime next to the Dark Knight. What is notable, though, is how one-dimensional her character seems this time around. A leader of a small rebel army in her previous picture, here she plays second fiddle to Gotham's richest bachelor, and many of her scenes revolve around the Lasso of Truth — that's great for comedic relief, but feels like a cheap move after the step forward her character, and the DCEU, made when Patty Jenkins was at the helm.
The other characters don't fare much better. Aquaman (Jason Momoa) only seems there to be objectified by the audience, Cyborg (Ray Fisher) stalks around in robotic armour and acts cold and The Flash (Ezra Miller), a rare bright spot in an otherwise damp cinematic experience, seems like nothing more than a mouthpiece for Joss Whedon to ply us with his trademark zippy wordplay (which will delight Buffy fans ready for the second coming of Xander Harris).
Like a lot of movies coming out of Hollywood in the wake of myriad high-profile sexual assault allegations, the most culturally significant aspect of this movie may be the shadow cast over it by its stars (Affleck), producers (Brett Ratner, who Gadot wants removed from the next Wonder Woman movie), screenwriters (alleged fake feminist Whedon), poor costume choices and the death of a loved one close to the director.
Not only that, but Justice League is tremendously tone-deaf, even for a superhero movie. The only thing close to some kind of progressiveness comes from its opening visual montage, which depicts white supremacists taunting Muslim shop keeps, homeless citizens with cardboard signs that read "I tried" and banks foreclosing on family farms — but these scenes only last a matter of seconds.
In the film's very first scene, Superman is interviewed by a pair of children holding up a cellphone, and he explains how the logo on his chest is really meant to be a symbol of hope. It's a nice idea, but like the two hours of fake fights that transpire after it, doesn't really mean much.