"Justice League" is the fifth entry in the DC Extended Universe. It was mostly directed by Zack Snyder until an unfortunate family tragedy, leading Joss Whedon to step in and direct the movie in post-production. This movie focuses on the aftermath of "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" in which the world is vulnerable without Superman and an otherworldly being known as Steppenwolf is coming down to basically destroy the planet. Bruce Wayne/Batman is aware of this growing threat and he decides that it's the best possible time to recruit a team of superheroes consisting of Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, and Cyborg.
It's been made perfectly clear from me that I think the DCEU at this point is a mixed bag. While we have movies that I genuinely really enjoy in "Man of Steel" and "Wonder Woman", there are the other movies in "Batman v Superman" and "Suicide Squad" that I simply don't care for. Everybody knows that Warner Bros. isn't having the success that they want for this universe, so "Justice League" can be seen as the film that decidedly solidifies what lays ahead for this shared cinematic universe. The trailers for this movie seemed promising enough in terms of a lighter tone and actually looking like a straightforward, fun flick that hopefully isn't too bogged down by universe-building, so I went into the theater last night with all the hope in the world that it could "save" this universe so to speak.
What I'll say first and foremost is that the returning things that we already know of are a welcome return to this movie, specifically in Batman and Wonder Woman. These two characters have been established in previous movies and now we get yet another look at them. Batman honestly comes across as much more likable this time around, trading in his brooding and mindless killing for a hardened veteran hero who doesn't mind engaging in some of the banter that follows between his comrades. There's even a side of him that comes off as a mentor to characters like the Flash and that made for some really nice moments between the two. Mix that in with the returning determination to do right in Wonder Woman and you have a solid depiction of these two returning icons.
With the new characters, I first want to talk about Cyborg. The main reason he stuck out in my mind was that he's given a side of him that's empathetic and there's a genuine effort to make him an actual character, but he gets weighed down by also being an integral plot point. At times, it comes off as if there was a lot of focus in making him a walking plot point and making him a character was an afterthought. That's not to say that Cyborg doesn't have some moments that are character-driven, but he's ultimately here to help move the plot along. And while Ray Fisher is good in the role, it certainly hurts that the CGI on him doesn't look 100% finished.
The two new characters that I actually liked a lot were Aquaman and Flash. With Aquaman, he's essentially the badass surfer guy at the beach that everyone swoons over. He has a hardened "I don't give a shit" attitude and he's arguably the most laid back of the group when he wants to be, but he has own burden relating to Atlantis and the movie establishes him as the antithesis of all the jokes made about how lame his character is.
I liked Flash a lot mainly because he reminded me of Tom Holland's Spider-Man in "Captain America: Civil War". When it all comes down to things, he's a kid who's thrust into a world that's larger than life. He's a smartass with a good heart, but he's also just a kid who can't help but express his excitement in being part of this team. I found him to be the more relatable of the group. By and large, I don't have much of an issue in terms of the main heroes being portrayed. The issue, unfortunately, comes in how they're integrated.
As much as I liked these characters, the movies suffers from having this be the first outing for some of them. The movie's first half moves at a really quick pace it's quick enough for me to say that the movie comes off as rushed. It has to establish returning characters, new characters, the threat to Earth, and other plot points that form as connective tissue for the universe. The unfortunate part is that it creates some serious pacing issues for the movie. With everything being sped through, you don't get as much as time as you want on certain things; you ultimately just get quick little sequences to move along the plot. For example, Commissioner James Gordon is in this movie...for about two scenes. Is there any attempt at creating some type of camaraderie between him and Batman? It's just him explaining details of the plot so that we can move along to the next action scene. This movie not only would've benefited from a longer run time, but also having certain characters with their own movies beforehand.
Also, the villain in this movie is weak on every level. The CGI on him is bad and as an actual character, he's about as stock as you can get. His purpose is to wreak havoc on Earth and....um.....be evil...? If you're looking for any actual motivation beyond that, you're going to be very disappointed. The only thing he does is show up, give some boring monologue about being a ruler of worlds, and steal some shit. That's it. He admittedly does have a cool voice, but that's thanks to actor Ciaran Hinds. Everything else about Steppenwolf is about as uninteresting as you can get for a villain.
The movie's tone is something that I'm mixed on. On the one hand, it's cool to see an attempt at adding more humor and avoiding making everything unnecessarily dark and joyless. There's comedic banter between the characters and there's an occasional fun action sequence that feels lifted directly out of the comics, but on the other hand it comes off as conflicting. A simple example of that is when a supposed serious moment is going down and then some character decides to throw in a quip. That's when you could really feel Joss Whedon's stamp on this movie. As much as this movie is trying to be more fun and light-hearted, it still doesn't quite stick the landing in terms of establishing a consistent tone for these movies.
As far as the action goes, I already said that there's some fun sequences here and there, mostly pertaining to seeing the heroes work together to take out hordes of Parademons. I was entertained in most of the action, but the last act falls into something that every DCEU movie has fallen into: waves upon waves of fake-looking CGI being thrown at you to the point where it gets tiring to watch. It's not only a problem of some really bad effects, but also of us having seen it all before. It's the heroes fighting off a bunch of faceless enemies in order to save the world and there's nothing new here in terms of stakes. In other words, it's your typical third act climax for a comic book movie.
In the end, "Justice League" is a very mixed bag. While there's some entertaining action, fun character moments, and a genuine attempt at making the DCEU more watchable for people who want a tone that's not so depressing and self-serious, it still falters in terms of pacing, effects, a memorable villain, and plot. There's some fun in this movie for sure and I can certainly understand how someone can enjoy this movie as a whole, but I just found it to be meh. I will say that it's better than both "Batman v Superman" and "Suicide Squad", but being merely better than two crap heaps shouldn't be what you're striving for. Most anybody is going to see this movie anyway, so it's not about me recommending seeing this movie or not. It's about you inevitably seeing it and forming your own opinion.