[Review] Justice League (2017): Charismatic Leads Defeat Another Dull Villain – by Doc Rotten

Vanessa invites Doc Rotten to reveal his thoughts on the latest film in the DC cinematic universe, Justice League (2017). The film is directed by Zack Snyder (with some reshoot help from Joss Whedon) with a script by Chris Terrio and Whedon. The story has Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) forming a team to defeat Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds, voice), providing Jack Kirby a “New Gods” credit. Sadly, the world is in a tailspin after the death of Superman (Henry Cavill) in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice leaving it vulnerable with only Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and The Flash (Ezra Miller) to lend a much-needed hand. The cast is up to the challenge providing the film with many character building sets of dialogue and exchanges. The “new kids” size up alongside Batman and Wonder Woman quite nicely. The film drags a bit when it returns to the foe with Steppenwolf proving that superhero films continue to have issues developing good villains. Still, he is still better than the villains in the past DC films. Full of entertainment and laughs, Justice League succeeds yet it still stops short of delivering much needed “wow!” moments.

Justice League (2017) (3.5 / 5)

 

V: Hey, everybody, this is Vanessa from Gruesome Magazine and I am here with my favorite person, Mr. Doc Rotten.
How are you doing, Doc?

D: Doing good. Let’s talk movies!

V: Yes, let’s, let’s…I’m very excited gonna hear a little bit about Justice League.
Tell me about it, Doc.

D: Yes, another horror classic here this week…Justice League.
It is the latest in the DC Cinematic Universe directly following Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. In between that movie and this one, we also got the Wonder Woman film, which did really well, and Suicide Squad – which, financially, did well: critically not so much.

V: Yeah, maybe not so much.

D: But, we have our heroes, Wonder Woman and Batman, and they realize there is a threat attacking the planet in the form of Steppenwolf and he has these three boxes that, if he puts them together, will basically recreate the world in his image. That’s the basic run of it.

But, what is happening here, the gather to form the Justice League. Batman and Wonder Woman have located a number of other heroes that we got a hint of in Batman v Superman. The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg! And they gather them up to defeat the villain – in this case, Steppenwolf. Of course, all this is in the world without Superman because Superman has died in the previous movie. And that has affected the world and is driving a good portion of the plot.

V:Right, we’re without Superman at this point. I’m curious to know, compared to the comics or maybe cartoons, how do these superheroes look all together on the big screen?

D: Well, they definitely make a very charismatic group. That’s what this film has going for it. Wonder Woman, of course, is already a big hit and she continues that stride here. She is yet again the best part of the film. Batfleck is a…I personally like Ben Affleck as Batman.

V: So do I! I mean I dig Ben Affleck a Batfleck.

D: Yeah, so with the other three, you’ve got Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Arthur Curry. You have Ezra Miller as The Flash and, as Cyborg, we have Ray Fisher. These are the unknown quantities, we’ve seen the rest of them. I will reveal they all do wonderfully well, each one actually shines in their role. Jason Momoa has that swagger that you need. He’s not the Aquaman that you see in the comics. His Aquaman is more like what he did on Game of Thrones–kind of throws that into the mix. Ezra Miller is a far different Barry Allen or The Flash. He’s much different than Barry Allen is on the TV show. And Cyborg is fairly new especially for a lot of moviegoers. He does great. He probably got the less face time in the trailers, they didn’t concentrate on him on as much because he had the most special effects. So that kind of makes sense in that respect. But he is pivotal to the plot and also works really well in the story.

On the other side of things, unfortunately, superhero films often suffer from “villainitis.” They have trouble giving us a good villain. Steppenwolf is a step in the right direction – no pun intended – but still has that same problem…almost has the “blue beam in the sky” syndrome. His motivation is questionable but I enjoyed him on the screen. He was a part of the battles. He wasn’t stuck in the background while all his minions fought, he was actually in there and they were actually fighting him. So, in that respect, it was well done in the fight choreography with what is basically a CGI giant worked well.

The movie has promise. It is definitely a step in the right direction for the DC Cinematic Universe and it doesn’t suck. But at the same time, it’s hard to say it’s a great film. I don’t even know if I’m eager to go out of my way to see it again. I’ll watch it again, for certain, but I don’t necessarily want to dive back into the theater like I do with many other films.

V: That’s pretty telling to say that and it’s unfortunate because DC seems to be… I thought they were going to do much better because I really enjoyed Wonder Woman. So I had a lot of hope for Justice League.

D: Wonder Woman is still the superior film. Jason Momoa has the funniest scene in the film and I’ll go ahead and say that’s my favorite scene. There is…I can’t even give it away…but there is a very funny scene that involves him and, yeah, that’s my favorite moment. I can’t say more…

V: Alright, alright, I can understand that I don’t like to give too much away either. So, Doc, if you had to give it a rating 1 to 5 what would you give Justice League?

D: I am going to put it right at three and a half. It’s on the upper scale of DC films. What do you like is the Justice League, the chemistry between the Justice Leaguers is well worth the price of admission alone. I will also add, as we end here, much like the films do, both stingers…there are two stingers at least I got at the press screening…that are very steeped in comic fandom but are also very much fan-pleasing even if you don’t know the background on them. Really good stuff.

V: Okay, okay, so things to look forward to still. Hopeful. Hopeful review, I’ll put it that way. Alright, Doc, well thanks for telling us about Justice League. Let’s say “goodnight.”

D: “Goodnight”

 

Doc Rotten
Editor-In-Chief / Founder / Podcast Producer at Horror News Radio

Doc Rotten is the founder of Gruesome Magazine. He is also a film critic for Gruesome Magazine and the podcast host & producer for Horror News Radio, Monster Movie Podcast, Decades of Horror: 1970s, The American Horror Story Fan Podcast and Hannibal Fan Podcast. He is also co-host of the Dracula podcast on TV TALK and is a contributing reviewer for HorrorNews.Net and Widescreen Warrior.


Doc a lifelong fan of horror films, sci-fi flicks and monster movies first discovering Universal Monsters and Planet of the Apes as a young child in the 1970’s searching out every issue of Famous Monster of Filmland (and, later, Fangoria). Favorite films include Jaws, The Car, The Birds, The Tingler, Vampire Circus and The Exorcist. Still a huge fan of horror films from the 70s, Doc continues consuming horror films to this day for the site, for the podcasts and for the fun of it all.


  • Todd Sheets

    You captured my feeling almost exactly. Steppenwolf is a newer villain and just not my idea of a good one. Especially when he is 100% CGI. Both Marvel and DC keep making this same mistake over and over, and I guess the next Avengers movies are going to be more of the same. What made movies 15 years ago exciting? Even when we knew they were stunt performers, at least there was REAL danger and some real artisians involved other than CGI artists. Half the films today are shot greenscreen. To me it’s lazy. And so many practical creature shops could do this stuff ON SET for real and it would look better. Advances in practical effects are amazing. Even movies like “Hitman’s Bodyguard” use CGI for simple things like a conversation in a moving car. On my last film, we needed car scenes and conversations, so we rented a huge flatbed, put a car on it, set up lighting and filmed it. If a low budget film can do it, big budget sure as hell can. It’s simply lazy. Gone are the days of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and even “Dark Knight.” Now things are all CGI and nothing is thrilling. You simply cannot invest any fear of danger for a character that is in a cartoon. Great review!

    • Thank you, Todd. While practical effects would provide the film with some tangible presence, it isn’t necessarily everything, I don’t think. Look at this year’s War for the Planet of the Apes; CGI effects can be very effective. It is the fact that they rely almost solely on those effects and forget to pay attention to the character itself. The best villains are those that fully believe in what they are doing and that what they are doing is 100% right. (in some cases, you could switch the film and its perspective around and the villain is the hero of his own story) Steppenwolf had some weak ass motivation: flat, plot-driven nonsense only. Only the barest of clues of what made him tick, what drove him to want to conquer Earth. Marvel, Sony, and Fox all share this problem with WB only rarely getting it right – thus, the “super villain problem”.

      It will be interesting (in a sad way) if Thanos in next summer’s Avengers movie will also fall into this trap as well. The character has some things going for him. A strong actor behind the character, both in mo-cap and in voice. If they go for a hint of the background found in the comics, some motivation, even if twisted. Potential with some character moments with Gamora and Nebula. But, man, that’s going to be one crowded film. It will either be epic or an epic failure. Marvel’s track record suggests the former.

      But thinking back from Spider-man (Sony) and X-Men (Fox) forward (or in DC, from Superman (Donner) forward), what villains worked closer to 100% than to 50%? Magneto, Loki, Joker (both Nicholson & Ledger), but who else?