Review: "Justice League" is not a complete garbage fire

Well, it's not “Batman v. Superman.” Of course, that's not saying much. 

Plagued by production woes, including the ultimate exit of Director Zack Snyder due to the death of his child, and re-shoots by “Avengers” Director Joss Whedon, Warner Bros.'s “Justice League” proves to be a bloated mess in the same vein as “Batman v. Superman” and “Suicide Squad,” albeit League proves to be not a complete disaster.

The movie follows Batman (Ben Affleck), as he attempts to assemble – I mean unite – a team of superheroes to defeat the forces of Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), a villain who wants to take over the world after years of imprisonment. Steppenwolf's baseball card includes a contrived backstory about previously never mentioned war between his forces, made up of Parademons, and those of man, Atlantians, Amazons, and presumably the Green Lanterns, the last of whom are never introduced except for five seconds of footage in which a nameless fighter dies while using a Green Lantern ring.

Steppenwolf wants to terraform the world to look more like his own home world through the use of three McGuffins called the motherboxes. One resides with man, one with the Amazons, and one with the Atlantians. The Green Lanterns are left out, and never formally introduced – I suspect their small cameo was shoehorned in after the script was written to appease to fans. The McGuffin boxes are a convenient way to have all members of the Justice League to have a stake in stopping Steppenwolf.

Adressing the team, composed of Batman, The Flash (Ezra Miller), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and yes, Superman (Henry Cavill), while there are moments of chemistry, where the team is meshing (most likely a result of Whedon's re-shoots), the team overall feels like a bloated mess, just like the film.

Affleck's Batman seems burnt out and tired, as if Affleck doesn't want to be there. Miller's Flash tries, but doesn't have enough screen time to make the audience care about his character. Some of his scenes feel like they were also shot for the film's trailer, and nothing else, meaning certain scenes make no sense within the context of the movie. Wonder Woman remains to be the shining ray of hope for the DC Extended Universe, but not even she can save this movie.

Aquaman just doesn't work, he's an unlikable asshole that has his entire backstory explained to us in 10 minutes in the same vein as “Suicide Squad.” He is a ripped jerk who shouts “My man” and stabs things with his pitchpork, seemingly overcompensating for the often mild-mannered Aquamen of the past.

Cyborg, out of all the characters in the film, has the most interesting arc, being that he was brought back to life by his dad after suffering from a horrible accident, and could have posed some real questions on what it is to be human, that is if his arc in its entirely was not completely redundant, as spoilers, the team brings Superman back to life in the exact same way. Cavill's Superman, by the way, continues to be an unlikeable block of wood, albeit, thanks tot he Whedon reshoots, he is now allowed to crack a joke every now and again.

Steppenwolf is as generic a villain as you can get, and it has nothing to do with Hinds's performance. He is written and designed like a generic videogame villain, with a million mindless minions that all look the same. Whedon tried to fix his character, as there is a moment where he becomes almost self aware, but it is too little, too late, which is a great way to describe the studios's attempts to un-Zack Snyder the movie.

Overall, “Justice League” is a bad movie with good moments. Whedon's reshoots elevated what would have been a complete train wreck into mere mediocrity. The film won't hurt you, but its moments of joy are few and far in between. The movie, like the rest of the DC Extended Universe movies (save Wonder Woman), is still a drab mess, though the studio did attempt to brighten the color palette a little, though it just doesn't work. The costumes Snyder had designed for the film were meant to work in his very specific lighting, so there are moments where the team just looks goofy and fake, like a Saturday morning cartoon. Eagle-eyed fans will notice the uncanny valley effect on Henry Cavill's upper lip; Cavill famously turned up to reshoots with a mustache for another film that had to be composited out in post. It doesn't detract from the film, unless you actively look for it.

When you sit down and think about what happened in “Justice League,” the script crumbles into an incoherent mess. Batman needs to assemble a team to defeat Steppenwolf, who wants to take over the world. The team gets their asses handed to them, and when an opportunity to bring Superman back to life arises, they realize that is what they have to do. After some generic shenanigans, Superman does indeed give them the upperhand, but the team realizes somehow that Steppenwolf's power comes from his axe, so Cyborg and Wonder Woman destroy it, rendering him powerless. Nothing means anything, nobody is essential to this team, nobody needs to be in this film outside of studio mandate.

“Justice League” is a multimillion dollar movie that has a script that would flunk Screenwriting 101. It doesn't know  what it wants to be, it has talented stars, but doesn't know how to use them. At times, it seems like a big budget version of “Super Friends,” and for all that is riding on this movie, it fails to be a superior portrayal of the Justice League than the Justice League animated series that ran over ten years ago on network TV. See it if you want, but it's nothing special.