Every so often, you find yourself watching a film and thinking ‘What on earth is going on?’, and in recent memory, no other moment so accurately defines the DC viewing experience. Back into cinemas once again is a world that feels so removed from reality that not even the comforting familiarity of the cinematic remains; a universe crafted by the visionary Zack Snyder, obviously.
Perplexingly, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) is left feeling affirmed by Superman’s selfless sacrifice for the good of humanity – his compassion for a man he once despised changes with a realisation that could have come to him a lot sooner if he had paid any attention to news footage detailing his enemies many rescues. Superman, as everyone is aware, wants the best for the human race. Now that Batman has finally reached this conclusion, his attention to the safety of humanity sharpens – but, a new villain has arrived; Steppenwolf, of whom it is hard to feel anything other than vacant towards. He, alongside an army of CGI, wish to acquire three cubes to take over the world. Unlucky for him, a league assembles to stop him from doing just that.
Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot have proved in previous DC productions that they are capable of providing crowd-pleasing performances. Gadot, now a fan-phenomenon, was praised for her lead-performance in Wonder Woman earlier this year, whilst Affleck was also lauded by some for his more flexible take on Bruce Wayne in the critically slammed Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. In Justice League, they appear disinterested in their characters, and a detachment from the material is evident in scenes that are naively conducted to encourage empathy. So, it is genuinely disconcerting to pitch that these two key players offer the best performances amongst the cast. Performing to the script and playing it safe, avoiding anything overly dramatic, ensures that the characters’ presence doesn’t become a drag on audiences; unlike others.
Aquaman (Jason Momoa) talks in a manner that leaves the impression of a man who has wandered in from the set of The Fast & the Furious following a frightful fiasco involving costume misplacement. His personality revolves around the audience taking prevalent liking to the tough guy – if the audience doesn’t, he will leave a sickly taste on the tongue. He is a character born of objectified muscular fixation with nothing funny to say, turning up only when absolutely necessary, which simply adds to his existence as a mumbling plot-device poorly imitating personality. As for The Flash, Ezra Miller’s portrayal is irritatingly persistent; always chiming in to deliver a line that only serves to add another layer of awkward density to the lingering atmosphere Snyder has mustered. An attempt to follow in the footsteps of Marvel and inject some vital comic relief is understandable, but in this case, a failure nonetheless. Ray Fisher’s contribution of Cyborg leaves such a little impression that to include any more than this brief observation would frankly be wasteful. Together though, they are the Justice League, an assemblage of pop-culture figureheads fighting under any means possible to entertain an obnoxious, ill-conceived narrative.
The majority of the set-pieces unfold with the agile grace of a five-year old brat throwing his brand new DC playset thunderously at his bedroom wall. From the opening scene, in which Batman fights with one of Steppenwolf’s underlings, there is the sense that much of the action has been removed from the cut. Watching it, it felt like the main action was briefly storyboarded and displayed as it was jotted – this leaves the impression that characters’ movements have been cut, leaving audiences to piece together the brawl, providing frames from their own imagination. For a film that was supposed to be shy of three-hours long, there was inevitably a lot of dissection during the editing process, but this end result is ludicrous. Oddly, such editorial butchering provides this film with a solitary compliment; shockingly, it isn’t boring. There is no anticipation of things to come, or compassion for the film’s characters, but it moves at such a breakneck pace that in moments where one feels under the danger of slipping into boredom, the location changes and another preposterous scene commences.
It must be addressed that Justice League was budgeted at an estimated whopping 300 million dollars – how something so costly appears to be produced at such a cut-rate is a mystery. An early scene set on Wonder Woman’s home of Amazonia looks like a cinematic from a Warcraft game, and even then, one conceived prior to this present decade. In alignment with this, a gullibly tender scene between two characters on a farm appears to be in the vein of Michael Bay and a ragtag team of CGI-slinging simpletons trying to negligently emulate shots from Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven. The film is ugly, tedious, and often without purpose; offering extreme frustration in that slim entertainment is bizarrely provided through even more incompetency, regards of the editing department – and, it’s still not as bad as Suicide Squad. Bravo.