WASHINGTON - "Justice League" succeeds in its most important mission: assembling the Justice League and having them kick some major a**-- but there are some issues. Here's Kevin McCarthy's full review:
1. The film has TWO ending credits sequences. Make sure you sit in your seat until the theatre lights come up at the end. The first is in the middle of the credits and the second is at the very end. By the way, both are amazing.
2. The film was primarily shot on film. If you can find a theatre showing it on film instead of digital, that would be awesome.
My DCEU rankings:
1. "Man of Steel"
2. "Wonder Woman" and "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" (Ultimate Edition. R-Rated)
3. "Justice League"
4. "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" (Theatrical Edition. PG-13 Rated)
5. I'm not even going to rank "Suicide Squad" here. I enjoyed the first act of that film and many of the performances but it was overall a major disappointment.
I want to start this review off by saying that I am a fan of Zack Snyder's films. Snyder has such a unique way of combining soundtrack, score, cinematography and action where altogether they brilliantly suspend my disbelief. I was re-watching "Man of Steel" the other day and just studying the brilliance of his documentary-style cinematography.
For a film about aliens trying to destroy earth, Snyder finds a way to shoot the film in a such a grounded, emotional and immersive away. That combined with the brilliant use of Hans Zimmer's brilliant score brings the cinematic experience to a different level. The Zimmer "Man of Steel" score is one of my favorite scores of all time.
Snyder first blew me away with his remake of Romero's "Dawn of The Dead." I know this is a statement that will upset many people but I actually prefer Snyder's film. Romero was an absolute genius and gets all the credit for the massive nature of that genre. I just felt Snyder's film found a way to tell the story with more entertainment and better pacing while keeping the important themes of consumerism displayed in Romero's film.
Moving on to Snyder's "Watchmen," I was beyond floored the first time I saw that film. The opening credits perfectly married to that masterful Bob Dylan track was unlike anything I've ever seen. Having not read the "Watchmen" graphic novel, this was my first experience with the story. The visuals, music and storytelling were beyond me.
I remember buying the Blu-Ray and loving the special feature where Snyder walks out and talks to you with two screens behind him. The ending of "Watchmen," while very controversial, is still with me today. I loved that film.
Let's skip ahead to "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice." The 70mm IMAX experience of that film was one of my favorite cinematic experiences ever; the best being Christopher Nolan's DUNKIRK. There's nothing more immersive than seeing a film jump to that full blown 70mm IMAX film shot. With "Batman v Superman," Snyder had so many incredible scenes in full IMAX like the opening with young Bruce Wayne and the epic Batman/Superman fight scene.
Like "The Dark Knight," Snyder's film jumped back and forth between the 35mm and IMAX film shots. And yes, I had issues with certain aspects of "Batman v Superman" that were thankfully fixed for me in the R-Rated Ultimate Edition. With the theatrical edition, I found Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor character to be poorly performed along with Lois Lane's bullet storyline.
Though, with the R-Rated Ultimate Edition, I found an understanding for both of those problems. Eisenberg's performance opened up so much more and the Lois Lane bullet story was much better explained. I wish that 3-hour cut was the theatrical edition. Though, I'm also someone who wishes "Kill Bill" was ONE movie. I would have gladly sat in the theatre for almost four hours to watch Tarantino's masterful story.
Ben Affleck is my favorite actor to play Batman since Michael Keaton. While I think Christian Bale was a phenomenal Bruce Wayne, Affleck commands the character of Batman much better. For starters, Affleck's Batman voice sounds amazing. I just love his facial expressions in the suit and you will see a lot more of that in "Justice League."
Now on to "Justice League." I will keep this review spoiler-free and refer to any spoiler issues very vaguely. Like "Batman v Superman" (Theatrical edition), I loved "Justice League" overall, but the film does have some glaring issues which I will lay out below.
Let's start with the positives. First, as Zack Snyder always does, "Justice League" was shot on celluloid and it looks glorious in the first two acts. Nothing will ever match the beautiful grain of film. That being said, considering the film is very CGI-heavy, some of that magic is lost in the ending with all of the computer-generated effects.
The action scenes are worth the entire price of admission. The film is very simple, fun and to the point. The plot is basic in the sense that the villain, Steppenwolf, is trying to take over the world and a team of superheroes needs to band together to save everyone. While I didn't love the villain, he served the simple purpose of creating a world-ending story to bring the Justice League together.
As the team fully assembles and start to fight, the film just beautifully takes you and doesn't let go. There are at least four scenes in this film that will have you geeking out beyond belief. There were specific scenes and lines of dialogue that had crying nerd tears in my seat. Therefore, I do want to apologize to the person next to me because I was jumping around during some of these action scenes.
The film succeeds in its most important mission; assembling the Justice League and having them kick some major a**. There's a specific scene involving Batman's Nightcrawler, that absolutely blew my mind. You get glimpses of this sequence in the trailer where you see that epic slow-motion sequence when Wonder Woman is falling in slow-motion while Flash is running around the sides of walls to help push her sword back in her hand. To me, that entire sequence is worth the entire price of admission.
Let's talk about the character introductions. Again, keeping this spoiler-free, I'll focus only on the three new characters of Aquaman, Barry Allen (Flash) and Cyborg. Ezra Miller's Barry Allen character appeared briefly in "Batman v Superman" after that insanely EPIC KNIGHTMARE sequence. Also, the trailers for "Justice League" gave us a glimpse of Bruce Wayne recruiting Barry Allen in that awesome Batarang slow-motion sequence. Miller is FANTASTIC as Barry Allen. What I love about the character is that he's a fan and so excited to be there. He's essentially the audience watching the movie. All of his action scenes were incredible.
I love the special effects used for his speed force sequences and that plays so well with the action in the film. Without giving anything away I want to say that one of my favorite moments in the film involves Ezra Miller. The only hint I will give is the word "eyes." I was geeking out! I almost want to go see the film a bunch of times over the weekend just to watch people react to that scene.
My only issue with Miller's performance are some of his lines of dialogue. He had a few lines that were going for a comedic tone and just fell a bit flat. Miller's Barry Allen is just naturally energetic and fun which means they didn't need to force some of his dialogue.
Speaking of dialogue falling flat, I thought Jason Momoa's Aquaman character had a few bad one-liners as well. Momoa is freakin' awesome as Aquaman and I absolutely loved him in the movie. Aside from a few bad one-liners, he actually has my favorite dialogue scene in the film. When the team finally assembles, Momoa delivers in an epic way.
Ray Fisher does an awesome job as Cyborg. I thought his story brought a solid emotional depth to the film and he has some incredible hero-moments. I'm very interested in seeing more of his character and story in the upcoming films.
Snyder does an amazing job of making sure all the characters have their amazing hero moment. I was wondering which particular character would shine more but there was such a great balance. Every character has their moment. I do want to specifically point out Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman introduction sequence. That scene is incredible and will be a massive crowd pleaser. To me, that was the moment the movie really kicked in to gear and luckily it's very early on in the film's two-hour running time. That was the moment I geeked out in my seat for the first time and then the action scenes just kept getting better and better.
All that being said, the film does have problems. I mentioned some of the dialogue spoken by Ezra Miller's Barry Allen and Jason Momoa's Aquaman characters. On top of that, I found the very opening scene of the film to be pointless and featured some very bad CGI. I can't speak on the exact scene as it is a spoiler but you'll know it when you see it. The actual opening of the film should have been the very next scene.
Also, I'm a huge fan of Zack Snyder's opening credits. He always has great music and it just sets the tone of the film. The opening credits in "Justice League" did not grab me. The song and shot choices weren't interesting to me. It felt like a very generic opening credits for a film this huge and important.
I do want to speak a little on the film's use of CGI. As with "Wonder Woman" and "Batman v Superman," the ending is entirely too CGI-heavy. There is just way too much going on and the story/action gets lost in the dark mush of the CGI. While "Man of Steel" featured a ton of CGI, there was a grounded nature to the action. A lot of that had to do with Michael Shannon's amazing performance as General Zod. There was just an epic element to the way Snyder shot their fight sequences where it felt "realistic" in the sense of what it would be like to see two massively powerful aliens fighting in a city on earth.
When it comes to Danny Elfman's score, I feel he did a solid job but I'm having a hard time remembering his specific themes for the film. When looking at the scores for "Man of Steel" and "Batman v Superman," they are just so much more emotional, meaningful and memorable. I did love that Elfman weaved in some of his classic "Batman" score from Tim Burton's film. Elfman also includes some of John Williams' classic "Superman" score and you'll get some hints of Zimmer's DCEU scores as well.
I know that a lot of people are aware of what went on behind-the-scenes of "Justice League." In the chance you're in the dark, let me shed some light. Because of a family issue, Snyder had to leave "Justice League" at a very late point in the production. Joss Whedon stepped in to finish the film which also led to re-shoots.
The big question is whether or not you can tell where Snyder stepped out and where Whedon stepped in. Personally, I had a very hard time noticing when a Whedon scene occurred which I think is a major reason why Snyder still gets full directing credit; and rightfully so.
The re-shoots led to their own drama considering Henry Cavill was filming Christopher McQuarrie's MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: 6. Cavill grew an epic mustache for McQuarrie's film which he was reportedly not allowed to shave for his "Justice League" re-shoots. This meant that Cavill had to re-shoot his Superman sequences with a full on mustache that later had to be digitally removed.
This meant that while filming, Cavill's mustache had to be waxed above his lip so they could put dots on his face to help remove it in the editing room. Unfortunately, it's very noticeable. Fortunately, these scenes amount to a very small percentage of the film.
All that being said, "Justice League" is awesome action film. I enjoyed the heck out of it and I can't wait to see it again. The action scenes and Justice League team sequences are going to geek people out.
While the film has some glaring issues, none of those problems ruined my overall experience with the film. I give "Justice League" a 4/5.