Is DC doing its heroes justice?

The latest offering in DC’s extended universe feels like a further lumbering misstep, as the Warner Brothers studio desperately tries to keep pace with Marvel.

Following the death of Superman, Earth is under threat from an army of aliens, and Batman (Ben Affleck) must form the Justice League, a team of superheroes that will save the planet by learning the value of teamwork. If this plot seems slightly generic, that’s because it most certainly is.

Gal Gadot provides the film’s best performance as Wonder Woman. Photograph: Google

The first section of our film is devoted to reminding us of the characters from previous films, Batman and Wonder Woman, (Gal Gadot) and quickly trying to introduce us to Aquaman, (Jason Momoa) The Flash, (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg, (Ray Fisher) to varying degrees of success. The establishment of these characters are equal parts forced and rushed, and this is where the issue of the film’s running time becomes apparent.

Reportedly around a third of the film was chopped off to bring it down to the 2 hour mark, and perhaps the director’s cut would account for what often feels like a film trying to include too much.

Speaking of directors, the film has two distinct creative voices, being helmed first by Zack Snyder (Watchmen, Batman v Superman), and then subject to re-shoots overseen by Joss Whedon (Avengers Assemble),  this jarring style difference is evident.

At times, a dour tone similar to the consistently miserable Batman vs Superman is present, while the one-liners and colour palette of Whedon’s Avengers films are noticeably tacked on in an attempt to create a lighter mood. However, it is unclear how much of the contrast is down to the director change, or instead a studio mandate to make the film less miserable.

There are some undoubted improvements on both Suicide Squad and Batman vs Superman. The streamlined plot is far more coherent, none of the acting performances by were noticeably poor, and the rare moments where comic relief and lighter moments feel natural add some much required levity.

When directly compared to Marvel offerings, Justice League feels like a poor relation, and when considered in its own right, a middling and confused production, but one that shines brightest when not taking itself too seriously.

Villain Steppenwolf, whose abilities include a personality vacuum. Photograph: Google

The closing battle sequence is an instance where this becomes most apparent, when our heroes face the generic CGI villain Steppenwolf. Himself plucked straight from a video game cutscene but with less character depth. Meanwhile, Aquaman inexplicably and hilariously speaks like a 70s radio DJ.

However, just seeing the characters humanised made this final act far more enjoyable, and hinted that had the film been entirely produced by Whedon, it would have been less laborious.

The Justice League is not an awful film, but one that feels confused tonally and visually, plus the gigantic production and promotion outlay will make a sizable profit difficult.

For the DCEU’s future prospects, it would be well worth attempting to foster some originality and personality into their upcoming fims.

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