Justice League Review: A good film, bogged down by the villain problem
Varun HK, DH Web Desk, Nov 20 2017, 14:31 IST
Spoiler alert: For Darkseid
All that's missing in this photo: The Green Lantern.
When ancient evil returns from the shadows to conquer Earth, six brave people must unite to defeat it and protect their home and the people they care about.
Oh, how the year ends for comic book movies. This year alone, we have had 4 films based on Marvel properties, with all of them being received well by critics and fans. On the other hand, there's DC, with far less luck and just one universally loved film so far. So hopes weren't high when Justice League came along, with the rumours of significant reshoots, major plot points cut or consolidated, and a particularly critical aspect removed entirely.
However, it seems DC has managed to present a film that can be considered a good reprieve from the doom and gloom of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Justice League is here, and it is ready to help save the DC cinematic universe.
Picking off pretty close to right where Batman v Superman ended (with the world mourning the death of Superman), Justice League carries us through the adventures of Bruce, concerned about Lex Luthor's prediction before he sent the man to Arkham, and Diana, who is just trying to save people and be in the shadows. Clearly, Steve Trevor still haunts her, and Batman makes a point to rub salt into that particular wound at one point, as the veteran Dark Knight and the immortal Amazon try to recruit super-powered individuals to combat a threat that no one is equipped for, what with Superman being dead and all.
Of course, nothing ever works perfectly in this world, though Barry is the exception, and the two have more trouble than they can afford to try to get the team together. But when the aforementioned evil, Steppenwolf, comes to light to reclaim three Mother Boxes to transform Earth into Apokolips, even the most reluctant must come together after having their backsides handed to them by the obnoxiously tall person who commands an army of bugs with guns.
The film's characters come together beautifully when they do, even when their beef is with each other than the greater problem, but unfortunately, the film fails to address the long-running problem of the underwhelming villain who exists only to be punched into oblivion. Steppenwolf may have a towering physique, but his presence is scantly felt; the Parademons feel like a much bigger threat than himself, even though he is able to kill Green Lanterns and fight the Old Gods head-on with little worry.
The plot is definitely one of the film's stronger points, despite the lacklustre bad guy. From the way the film handled a world without Superman to the flashback of Steppenwolf's first invasion to the final act (well, for once, Hollywood chose an area that isn't China or the US for the endgame), everything comes together in a cohesive way, a far cry from Batman v Superman, perhaps because the film is more focused about where to go, while BvS felt like it was too busy setting up multiple branches in case something went wrong going forward to focus on the core story. The reshoots definitely seem to have helped in some cases, though cutting away most of Aquaman and Cyborg's backstories doesn't help the film a lot.
However, the soundtrack is definitely not something that can be praised. Danny Elfman's Batman theme from 1989 and Rupert Gregson-Williams's excellent tribal theme of Wonder Woman aside, there is hardly anything that stands out. The film's credits surprised me more because it mentioned John William's classic Superman theme from the Christopher Reeves era, but I fail to recall any moment where I heard it in the film.
Overall, the film achieved what it set out to do: Create the Justice League, give us just that little tease of the real big bad (solid confession: I geeked out good when Steppenwolf said "For Darkseid"), hinting at potential allies for the fully-formed team, and most of all, showing a Superman who is finally true to the comics, in both appearance and character. For this film, I would recommend staying until the credits end.
What works: The League, the plot
What's meh: The villain
What doesn't work: The soundtrack