Cyborg?! Really?! I still can’t get over this. You finally have a Justice League movie and all these heroes to choose from, and you pick Cyborg? Why? My vote would be for Green Lantern, but if one of the Corps wouldn’t work, then at least go for Martian Manhunter. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The world is a dark and hopeless place after the death of Superman (played by Henry Cavill) during the events of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. An alien military officer, Steppenwolf (played by Ciarán Hinds), and his army are in search of three Mother Boxes that combine to create a devastating weapon that will allow them to take over Earth and reshape it into a desolate wasteland. Steppenwolf attempted this thousands of years ago but failed, and the boxes were hidden away by the Amazonians, the Atlantians, and the humans. Billionaire Bruce Wayne, aka Batman (played by Ben Affleck), and Diana Prince, aka an immortal Amazonian warrior known as Wonder Woman (played by Gal Gadot), must form a team to save the planet. The two recruit the awkward but witty genius Barry Allen, aka The Flash (Ezra Miller), who can move at super fast speeds; the loner Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman (played by Jason Momoa) the heir to the throne of Atlantis; and Victor Stone, aka Cyborg, a former college athlete who had cybernetic parts crafted onto and merged with his organic body to save his life after an accident. The team struggles to get along and Batman is doubtful they can succeed without Superman, but they must if they hope to save the planet.
Justice League isn’t as messy and crammed as Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad, but it does suffer from having to introduce three members of the League: Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg. It weighs down the movie with an overly long first act that makes you impatient and restless for the actual story to get underway. To be fair, the film tries to introduce and explain the three heroes quickly and efficiently to avoid this issue. This approach works for The Flash and Cyborg, but establishing Aquaman and his entire undersea society in only a couple short scenes leaves you confused in places. Really the only reason anyone could tell who Amber Heard’s character was (she’s Mera, queen of Atlantis, by the way) is because they either A. Recognize the character from the comic, B. Noticed the character’s name on IMDB, or C. Read it in a news article months back. I fall into the B and C category, I read about it many, many months ago in the news but since forgot who she was and had to look her up online. I’m sure most will be baffled by her character, which the film acts like we should know, but we definitely don’t.
All this introducing of heroes, main and secondary characters, and the film’s villain and his evil plans takes way too long and renders the whole story very slight, because after the lengthy introductions the rest of the film doesn’t have room to develop much of anything. Steppenwolf particularly could’ve used more development. Here he’s such a run of the mill villain that I’m seriously having trouble remembering anything about him.
What we are given is fun, though. Wonder Woman kicks ass as always and Batman looks as cool as ever, and the look of Gotham just makes you yearn even harder for the troubled solo-Batman movie (Google it if you don’t know what I’m talking about). When it comes to the new heroes, well, Flash is adorable and his suit works so much better in the movie than I feared it would. He’s a highlight throughout the movie. The scenes in the beginning with Aquaman helping out a small seaside town has this interesting atmosphere that reminded me of Moby Dick. It was totally unexpected, and if the upcoming Aquaman has that same feel, I can’t wait to see it. It also helps that Aquaman is pretty awesome in the movie. More underwater action with him will be exciting. Finally, there’s Cyborg. I’m still slightly annoyed by him being in the movie over other heroes. You actually briefly glimpse some Green Lanterns in a flashback, and I was waaay more excited to see even a few seconds of them than I was during all of Cyborg’s scenes. That being said, Cyborg isn’t bad and added some cliched but nice pathos.
You may be wondering about Superman. Without giving too much away, this is the most like Superman Henry Cavill has been allowed to be since he starting playing the part in 2013. It’s such a damn shame, because Cavill is such a perfect choice to be Superman. Just watch him any interview he’s done, and you’ll see how optimistic, charismatic, and Supermany he is in real life. But up until now, the character he’s been given is far cry away from the bright, hopeful character of the comics. Fingers crossed that this characterization continues in future Superman appearances. (Cavill was filming Mission: Impossible 6 during Justice League reshoots. He has a mustache for the former film but not the latter, so they were forced to CGI out his mustache for Justice League. I can’t describe to you how weird this looks and how much it distracts, especially since all but two of his scenes appear to be reshoots.)
Justice League fixes a multitude of the problems with the lesser films in the DCEU. It’s lighter, more fun, the characters act more like they should, and its not as bogged down by ten zillion characters and plotlines. But as the live action, blockbuster film that’s been stuck in development hell for so long and that comic book fans have been waiting decades for, it’s underwhelming. As I left the theater, I felt like I had a good time, but a good time that didn’t add up to much and wouldn’t stay with me very long. Justice League is worth a look, but it’s never going to be counted up high in the hall of great comic book movies.
P.S. While I’m infinitely happy that Bill Finger is finally getting onscreen credit for co-creating Batman, can we please just drop the annoying “with” part? It implies that Finger helped Bob Kane with the creation but Kane did most of the work, which is totally not true and, if anything, is actually the opposite of what happened. Anyway, mini-rant over.
P.P.S. Seriously, Cyborg?!