I confess, I’m bored of DC movies and bored of writing about them. Patty Jenkins’ fun but frivolous outlier, Wonder Woman, aside, what’s left to say? Zack Snyder’s made a series of self-important and empty blockbusters. And now a movie he started but was forced to abandon has been worked over in an attempt to divest it of the very elements that amount to his signature style. The result is weak tea, a plain omelette, forced laughter. It’s two wasted hours.
Watching Justice League go through its inconsequential paces, you register the mercenary preoccupations of the people that made it, and absorb some of their indifference. The sense is that it was a chore, an obligation, onerous to reshoot and reedit, and that consequently reluctant cast members, like Ben Affleck, could no longer hide their weariness.
Affleck looks every bit as desolate and dejected as reports suggest. His world weary Bruce Wayne, barely emoting, alludes to the grind, his character’s redundancy; incomprehension at the world he’s come to inhabit. It’s appropriate he’s the front man for this Zack Snyder/Joss Whedon hotchpotch because he personifies it. This is a movie lacking energy, pace, urgency, emotion, dynamism, depth, sense or purpose. It plays like a series of superhero fan film shorts cut together. The finished product is less than the sum of its parts, lacking either the gloss of a pure Snyder or the disposable fun of a Whedon original.
Though much of the movie – its truncated running time, broad humour (the Whedon inserts) can be seen as a self-conscious reaction to Snyder’s previous DC output, it’s odd, if not necessarily surprising, that the most significant faults remain. We get overblown stylisation at the expense of good character work, a boilerplate superhero plot involving a planet threatening maguffin sought by a one dimensional CG villain, an anonymous score (Danny Elfman revives a few bars of his Batman score but mystifyingly neglects his Flash theme), and incident instead of story. If the aim wasn’t to improve on The Avengers, perhaps rethink what could drive and add depth to a superhero team up movie, why do it?
When a movie flaunts its cash grab credentials so brazenly, one’s reminded of Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin – a franchise killer that wore contempt for its audience like a neon codpiece. Justice League plays like the ruins of a better movie rather than the antithesis of one, but it too, like the reanimated Superman, doesn’t know what it is. It has no soul. Beneath the synthetic sheen, bland musical cues and stock patter, there is nothing.
Gal Gadot has proven her on screen credentials in a standalone movie and no doubt will again, while Erza Miller and Jason Momoa show promise as likable characters for self-contained single movies, but here they’re just scenery. It doesn’t have to be this way; once Warner Bros. made DC movies with weight, scale and personality. Maybe one day they will again.