Josstice League (2017)

Though strongly-cast & characterized with nice team action and ZS-visual afterimages, JL’s a heavily-flawed CBM in rushed corporatized production, tonal-inconsistency, awful choice in villain, & incomplete team – failing to do the original superhero team any justice. 4/10.

Plot Synopsis: After Superman’s sacrifice in the heavy Metropolis fight, Bruce Wayne is inspired by the Man of Steel’s selfless act and driven to do right by him, enlisting newfound ally Diana Prince to face an even greater threat. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman recruit and assemble a team to stand against the otherworldly Steppenwolf and his Parademon army including the fastest man alive in Flash, king of Atlantis in Aquaman, half-man half-machine Cyborg, and a couple more surprise members as they finally face-off.

*Possible spoilers ahead*

Official CLC Review

60 Years Later

From Debut On March 1, 1960, The Original & Most Iconic Superhero Team Popularized The Concept & Dominated Media From Cartoons To Lunch-boxes; New Age Of Films

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros. x DC Comics

Superman. Batman. Wonder Woman. The Flash. Green Lantern. Aquaman. Cyborg. On the date of their first appearance back in March 1st, 1960’s The Brave And The Bold #28, DC Comics’ Justice League rocked the world and entire industry of comic books by combining the original and most iconic superheroes in pop culture – in an unprecedented new way. The first of its kind [years before Marvel would copy the concept for their own team: The Avengers (1963)] and instantaneous hit flying off the shelves like hotcakes, The League dominated their way onto television screens, lunch boxes, memorabilia, and merchandising with massive sale of record-breaking proportions. Fast-forward 57 years to today, and the world is a dramatically-different place; beyond the print and cartoon media of-old, society has advanced to the point of technological dominance and the abilities to bring those same iconic stories from the comic books to the big screen in multiple dimensions – the ultimate vision of experience making billions at the box-office as the world’s most popularized genre. DC pioneered this genre as well, bringing the first superhero films to the big screen from the groundbreaking release of ’78’s Reeve/Donner Superman to The Dark Knight trilogy – but, for some reason, never gave cinematic justice to most of its other heroes beyond Batman and Superman. Meanwhile, the MCU did the opposite – focusing by mandate of not having the rights to their most iconic product in Spider-Man on their lesser-known hereoes, and parlaying it into a cinematic universe with 20+ feature-length films and multiple Avengers crossover-teamups. Finally, WB has given DC fans what they’ve waited with burning passion and desire for 57 years on: a Justice League blockbuster film. The end product, though, may be worse than having no film at all. Though strongly-cast & characterized with nice team action and ZS-visual afterimages, JL is a heavily-flawed CBM in rushed production, tonal-inconsistency, passionless corporatized sterility, awful choice in villain, bad studio exec-choices, and incomplete team – failing to do the original and most storied superhero team enough justice.

The League

The Biggest Achievement Of The Film Owes Gratitude Behind-The-Scenes: An Expertly-Cast & Characterized Lineup – Except One

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros. x DC Comics

Let’s start with the pros. The League itself is fantastic – an expertly-cast canvas of lifetime-roles each of the actors and actresses brings to life, lifted by magnificent prod/costume design and backstory-reimagination. Ben Affleck’s mature, war-torn Batman is perhaps the best on-screen one in the history of cinema: bataranging right off the pages of Frank Miller’s 1986 dystopian-classic Dark Knight Returns comics with a more cynical edge, and a strong characterization-backbone for the film and bringing together the league – feeling so guilty and inspired by Superman’s hope-driven sacrifice against Doomsday, he vows to never let the world get in a position he has to again. Cavill’s Superman is another bright spot – though he’s featured too-sparingly, he is further-catalyzed into the hope-driven messionic figure we all know him as by the film’s end: a physical and metaphorical redemption down to even a brighter suit and the ’78 Reeve theme playing in the background. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, of course, is the highlight and best comic book film casting since the aforementioned hope-symbol of magic first made us believe a man could fly. The Trinity is well-represented – each getting a major scene devoted solely to them enough to make their fanbases gush [and easily, alone, worth the price of admission]: Batman’s rooftop-interrogation, WW’s bank-heist, and Superman’s final big [very-red] showdown with Steppenwolf. The new recruits: Flash, Aquaman, & Cyborg were the wildcards here, but they end up stealing the show & succeeding [overall]. Momoa’s Aquaman is the best of the pack: strikingly-badass from his tsunami-drizzled, beer-smashing punk-ballad scene on the docks – eviscerating any preconception of the fish-man being a lame-character by a fascinating cultural-infusion of Hawaiian/Samoan majesty playing off their connections to the sea and beefed-up superheroicism with groundbreaking underwater-CGI. Ray Fisher’s Cyborg is the biggest surprise of the film – and, arguably, heart of it. A disability motif bringing to light the psychological traumatizations of those having them, DCEU-Cyborg is a beautifully-symbolic, complex character with depth that is brought to life by a balanced and layered [star-making] performance by Fisher – a perfect comic-book Cyborg by the end of the film as his alien-technological suit upgrades into the classic look that screams ‘booyah’.

The Action & ZS-Visual Afterimages

The Striking & Visually-Stylistic, Epic-Scale Action, Cinematography, & World-Building Of The DCEU – Thanks Owed Zack Snyder

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros. x DC Comics

Ezra Miller’s Flash is the only mixed-interpretation – as we’ll explain in-depth later-on.. but at least his CGI is epic, as well as the rest of the film’s. The visuals of the film are [mostly] stunning. The stylistic influences of Zack Snyder are clear-to-see – no matter how you feel about his products as a whole, he is unquestionably one of the greatest visual directors in the industry, together with various cinematographers achieving a masterpiece canvas of crisp, striking, artistic shots and framings that wow ocularly no matter what themes and storylines are going on alongisde it. Before he left the project, he must’ve plotted a great deal of shots in the film – from the war sequences to Amazons to even the opening credits, and there’s a refreshing color-infusion brightening the previously dour-filtered grunge of BvS and MOS. The scale and jaw-dropping VFX work to bring the slow of wildly-diverse set pieces and worldbuilds in JL as an achievement – from the realms of Gotham City to Themiscyra to Atlantis to the Speedforce. The fight choreography is phenomenal, delivering the popcorn-value and strong fights a comic book film demands and the DCEU has consistently delivered across their projects – this time even more satisfyingly by League-action weaved between all its heroes equally it’s a damn experience to watch.. The CGI gets a bit messy in Whedon’s bizarre extremely-red final-act, but I prefer the epic mythological feel of fantasy sets like this – and, from an overall-viewpoint, the film is a treat for the eyes. There are plenty of Easter-Eggs and comics-references, plus huge fandom service moments like Superman vs. The League, Aquaman parademon-surfing, Superman vs. Flash speed-race – oh, and every League-action scene. Even the post-credits scene teasing the Legion Of Doom and bringing two of the biggest bads in comic book history to finale-product in Deathstroke and Lex Luthor is pure saturday-morning-cartoon, stand-up-and-cheer event-entertainment enough to at least give CBM-fans a spectacle.

Snyder v. Whedon: Dawn Of Tonal Messes

Dark & Nihilistic At Times, Cheesy & Parodical In Others, A Frankenstein Of Styles Poorly-Mixed & Corporatized, Passionless Film Of Poor Studio Decisions

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros. x DC Comics

The problem is.. everything else. The film feels so corporatized and passionless; even MOS and BVS, however you feel about them and irrevocably-flawed, were extremely-creative, bold, risk-taking films that pushed the boundaries of both mega-blockbusters and comic-book films when the MCU served up the same panderative formula with new names 20+x. The biggest criticism and sin many film aficionados and lovers have with the MCU is here found the exact same in Josstice League – and it makes me sad and do something I never thought I would’ve: miss 2016’s Batman v. Superman. The film is a tonal mess as well – as well as perhaps being the reason JL feels like just another MCU project we’ve seen 30x before, Joss Whedon’s timbre feels outmoded and cheesy. Zack Snyder’s tone [by BvS, was not as much of a problem in Man Of Steel] is overly-dour and dark-and-serious; instead of mixing the two anthitheical feels for maximum potential and the perfect-mix of hope and groundedness, the film combines the worst elements for a frankenstein’s monster of inauthenticity – leaning too far into Whedon’s bad decisions for the opposite of BvS and a 180 to make your head spin in confusion. Batman is cracking jokes and smiling [as well as delivering a ‘don’t.. NOT like you’ line that almost made me walk out of the theater, WW is reduced to a female-caricature getting boob-planted by a goofy Flash, Cyborg’s mood and entire existential out look on life is changed by the flip of the switch in the finale, and the film is far too short to feel like an event of stakes and development at a 2-hour mandate. Just one of the awful decisions by the studio-execs at WB, the film should not have continued production after Snyder lost his daughter to suicide, after the trainwreck-reaction to BVS it ~directly-sequels with one detour of WW not enough to cure the bad tastes left in the mouths of a lot of DC fans by the [theatrical cut WB made weird editing and continuity-cut decisions on to make jarring and incoherent-feeling as a film, in the presence of a Cavill-mustache it took $30M to remove and is still laughably-noticeable from the first scene that takes you ~out of the film, and this soon into the universe before each of the main characters had an origin film to make the audience care and connect with them beyond the name-recognition and pop-cultural identity.

The Worst Villain Choice Of CBM-History

A Villain Only Working In The Context Of Darkseid Not Even Making A Cameo, SW Is An Inexplicably-Weird Choice & Laughable: Old, Frail, Weak Snail-Joke To The League

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros. x DC Comics

Why did WB rush this so badly? If it’s to compete with the MCU, that ship has past sailed and Snyder understood from the beginning there’s no way to fight a box-office and [inexplicably] critical behemoth like the MCU at their own game; the only way is to go a completely different direction like MOS and BVS did, here retconned into a note-by-note copy that doesn’t please Marvel or DC fans. That brings me to the film’s biggest and most breaking flaw: the villain. Why, for the love of all things good in this world, would you choose Steppenwolf as your main villain for the origin team-up film of the world’s most iconic superheroes?!?! A villain only remotely-working in the context of Darkseid, the great comic book villain in the history of superheroicism by Jack Kirby and one not even shown one glimpse of in the final product, Steppenwolf is the most jarring and ill-fit choice possible. The Legion Of Doom, Starro, A.M.A.Z.O., Crisis On X Earths, Darkseid, The Injustice League, The Monitor/Anti-Monitor.. there is no shortage of all-time iconic and great villains in the library of DC Comics to choose from.. so why’d we get served a B-villain without his only redemptive factor, and why does he look so damn weird? I would’ve not even had a problem with Steppenwolf if he looked anything like he did back in 2016’s Batman v Superman: a 15+-foot monster-alien screeching and teleporting from Doomsday’s birth-chamber to a Lex Luthor frightened like a little child. Instead, we got a mussel-looking, frail, shriveled, skinny old guy in cosplay – looking like he’s more ready for a retirement home than being a legitimate threat to The League and most powerful superheroes on the planet. One criticism many had of MOS and BVS was that the characters were too powerful and destructive – heck, Cavill vs. Zod leveled the entire city of Metropolis and Doomsday lightning-struck Gotham buildings into rubble. As with its tonal-mixes, instead of putting only the pinch of seasoning we asked for in the metaphorical restaurant of the DCEU, their solution was to dump a vat of salt on the dish – going complete-180 with one of the weakest and biggest jokes of a villain in CBM history even Alfred could’ve OHKO’d. There’s literally no explanation of how the Parademons came to be – ignoring the biggest horror/sci-fi potential of the monsters being human beings transformed by-cocoon into monsters, and no explanation of who, what, when, where, why, and how Steppenwolf is here or why he was exiled?

A Terrible Ezra-Flash

A Jittery, Painfully-Awkward Power Ranger Not Even Knowing How To Run: Not The Flash & A Bad Decision To Not Merge DCTV

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros. x DC Comics

Next, The Flash. I hate the way The Flash looks in Justice League. One of the most iconic superheroes and speedsters in comic book lore, Barry Allen is too important a character to get wrong in as big of a production as the Justice League movie. The easy choice would’ve just been to tap Grant Gustin from CW’s 2014 The Flash tv show – perhaps the most celebrated superhero TV series ever only rivaled by Marvel/Netflix’s 2015 Daredevil and a unanimous hit with critics and audiences to become a top 5 biggest show in the world. Gustin is the perfect Flash – a geeky CSI-underdog able to make us smile at his glorious foibles and beaming hopeful-in-a-rainstorm charisma as much as feel bad for his tragic orphaned backstory through emotive acting and 5+ years of appearances since his first cameo in 2012’s Arrow. There is no justification and logical explanation for why the flailing-DCEU, especially after the failure of Batman v. Superman from critical, commerical, and fan-standpoints, would not lean on the wildly-successful DCTV for help setting up [and expanding, DCTV already has hundreds of heroes across 16+ shows all with multiple seasons to pick-and-choose from] their universe. More unforgivable: WB has made an active effort to learn nothing from the success of their own TV-franchise – failing to recognize the heart, knowledge, characterization-prowess, and work-ethic it takes to continually-build and sustain a TV franchise: nearly-impossible with the fractional resources/budget of a mega-blockbusters and time-demand of entertaining for 20+ hours per season instead of a 2-hour breeze. Josstice League’s Flash is a basement loser we feel more pity and painful-awkwardness from than relatability and Americana-underdog charm – one who is bizarrely-jumpy and jittery like he’s high on drugs, constantly whines about ‘needing friends’, cracks strange jokes like the blood sugar one, has weird & eclectic tastes like K-Pop and grunge-metal, and is not even remotely comic-accurate.

An Incomplete Team

A Mystifying Omission Of One Of The Most Iconic & Legendary, Foundational Members Of The League & DC Comics, No GL, Martin Manhunter, Or Superman For 2/3 The Film

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros. x DC Comics

The suit of Ezra’s Flash is an indescribable horror to look at: an ugly Power Rangers-esque amalgamation of metals the costume-designer must have been on drugs or never have.. experienced running before, since metal would do nothing but slow a speedster down and be a nuisance. There’s a reason olympic athletes show up in breathable mesh or wickable fabric to the 100M dash.. not a knight’s cosplay. Furthering the hypothesis that the designers of JL’s Flash have never seen someone run before, Flash looks like he’s roller-skating or doing a flamboyant spectacle when he runs – making one of the coolest powers one could ever have in super-speed unbelievably-lame to behold. Don’t even get me started on the lightning – yellow lightning is a hallmark characteristic/signature of Barry Allen & The Flash, matches well color-wise with the red-suit by classical chromatic art-theory, and has been foundational to the character since the golden-age of comics. Heck, even the symbol of the flash on the chestplate of every suit [including JL’s] is a white circle with a yellow lightning-bolt – irrefutable evidence the scripters of Flash just didn’t know or understand the character. Beyond, the team is dramatically incomplete-feeling; how can you possibly do a Justice League movie without Green Lantern: one of the first and most legendary comic book heroes of all-time? Sure, his last movie was okay, but if you’re going to recast everyone even going out of your way to ignore the easy possibilities to bring up DCTV icons and foundational League-members like Green Arrow, Black Canary, Supergirl, Martian Manhunter, etc. the franchise has already established perfectly – you could’ve just recast GL too. Even a cameo in the end-credits or finale of the film indicating Hal Jordan’s joining of the team would’ve been good enough, and the film even does show on in the war flashback, but it fails one of the most important and necessary characters for a JL film.

Conclusion

Injustice For The League

Though Strongly-Cast & Characterized With Good Visuals, A Heavily-Flawed, Rushed, Passionless, Tonally-Bizarre Corporate Mess W. Joke Of A Villain & Incomplete Team

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros. x DC Comics

Overall, 2017’s Justice League is a bizarre film and massive disappointment of disastrous proportions. On-par with the MCU films crafted by the franchise’s own patriarch: Avengers 1/2 director Joss Whedon, the film breathes the same formulaic, passionless, corporatized sterility that cinema lovers hate about the franchise. The film is a tonal-mess – a frankenstein’s monster of stitched-limbs from antithetical directorial styles and timbres clashing in its saturday morning cartoon fun one second, then dour-and-nihilistic gloom the next. The studio-execs at WB pushed a film there was no justification for releasing this early: major flaws and crises in the flailing DCEU and mixed products from critical, commercial, and fandom-standpoints they all ignored [including the previous director’s loss of his own daughter to suicide] for a paycheck. The villain is laughable: a servant of Darkseid whose only redeeming or remotely-interesting factor is his relation to the big bad of comic book history not even shown for one second, and an old, shriveled, mussel/snail-looking guy in cosplay The League would’ve taken down in 2-seconds flat, realistically. The team is incomplete without major players like Green Lantern or Martian Manhunter, and Superman doesn’t even show up for 2/3 of the film for a canvas of fantastically-cast and characterized lifetime-roles in the team, but one that doesn’t get enough runtime-exposition over 2 hours and feels lacking by-numbers. The one bad hero in The League here is Ezra Miller’s Flash: a jittery, painfully-awkward Power Rangers dudebro not even remotely comic-accurate and one of the biggest universe mistakes ever not just leaning on the infinitesmially more successful DCTV and bringing up their perfect Flash in Grant Gustin – not to mention, easily-expanding The League with other staple-icons universally-loved by critics in fans like Green Arrow, Black Canary, Supergirl, Martian Manhunter, etc. if competing with the MCU was WB’s only goal by rushing JL like this. Gosh, I’m so upset with this as a lifelong DC fan – the DCEU needs to make serious foundational changes and corrections or die. Please, for the love of humanity, stop the pain and madness. Though strongly-cast & characterized with nice team action and ZS-visual afterimages, JL is a heavily-flawed CBM in rushed production, tonal-inconsistency, passionless corporatized sterility, awful choice in villain, bad studio exec-choices, and incomplete team – failing to do the original and most storied superhero team enough justice.

Official CLC Score: 4/10