The world is in mourning over the death of Superman (Henry Cavill) but evil never rests. Now a new threat has arrived on planet Earth in Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) who Batman, aka Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), knows can only be defeated if the world’s greatest superheroes unite to fight him. He sets about recruiting Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Barry Allen aka The Flash (Ezra Miller), Arthur Curry aka Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Victor Stone aka Cyborg (Ray Fisher) into his team - but maybe there's room for one more..?
Justice League has been in the works for a number of years now but as well as being stunted by the usual production delays, its post-production was additionally stalled when director Zach Snyder’s daughter sadly passed away. Joss Whedon took the helm in his stead and in the final product, one does get a feel of two distinct styles. Meanwhile, the decision to cut the film down to 2 hours works more to its advantage than disadvantage as it gives the movie direction and succinctness.
Justice League opens up very broody and sad in tone as all bemoan how dark the world has become. Our heroes are dying (a newspaper portrays Superman alongside Prince and David Bowie), the environment is being destroyed, and xenophobia is rampant as a shop owned by a Muslim family is attacked. It’s the Snyder style we saw in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and its presence is not welcome here. If there’s anything the success of superhero movies like Thor Ragnarok, Lego Batman and GOTG 2 taught us this year, it’s that there’s a pining for light, humorous takes on this genre, with Warner Bros/ DC attempts at doing something dark not engaging with audiences at the same level.
The first half of the film here certainly suffers from a lifelessness and sombreness but on the bright side, the movie improves significantly both in tone and pacing once the team are actually brought together. The actors share good on-screen chemistry and are all excellently cast. Momoa and Stone are note-perfect while Miller brings a nice bit of comic relief as the excitable, eager Barry Allen. One bemoans the fact that Gadot’s Diana feels slightly watered down compared to the version of her character in her solo movie (down of course to them underestimating the success of that predecessor) but she still holds her own against the boys. Affleck meanwhile definitely has leading man strength but can seem a little bored.
For fear of spoilers – the bane of movie reviews – one can’t go into too much plot detail but suffice to say its flaws also include some feckless jokes and the pointless inclusion of Chief Gordon (they use J.K. Simmons in one scene, one – where’s the justice in THAT I ask!). Still, it’s held together by the cast, who go all-out with their characters and have a natural likeability working for them. Plus seeing them work both when they're together and on their own gives you hope for future DCEU instalments. Overall, Justice League should satisfy most fans of those caped crusaders but unlike the competition that came before it this year, there’s not much for non-fans here.