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:Movie Review: Justice League (2017)

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Justice League
Release Date:  November 17, 2017 (USA)
Studio:  Warner Bros. Pictures
Starring:  Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, and J.K. Simmons
Music:  Danny Elfman
Director:  Zack Snyder
Rated PG-13

Review by William Nesbitt
Professor of English, Beacon College

The history behind the making of Justice League could be its own movie, a movie more interesting than a lot of Justice League, which reflect the disjointed process of its creation.  Warner Bros. first decided to make the film in early 2007.  Several directors either turned the film down or ended up leaving.  A variety of the actors and actresses initially cast for the film did not make it to the filming stage.  The original costume designer died.  The first script by Michele and Kieran Mulroney was scrapped, rewritten by Will Beall, scrapped again, rewritten by David S. Goyer, scrapped yet again, and rewritten once again by Chris Terrio.  Further research locates rumors that Geoff Johns, Ben Affleck, and Joss Whedon all played a part in the process of developing and rewriting the final script.  Production was moved from Australia to Canada.  Hans Zimmer who co-composed the soundtrack for Man of Steel and Batman v Superman:  Dawn of Justice said he was done with superhero movies.  Junkie XL was announced as his replacement, but he was replaced by Danny Elfman.  Snyder stepped down during post-production during the death of his daughter and Whedon finished up for him.  Reshoots took two months and totaled $25 million dollars. 

One wonders if these difficulties influenced the aesthetic and plot of Justice League since so much of it is about Batman’s efforts and setbacks assembling the actual Justice League and trying to get them to operate as a functional unit.  Their goal is to prevent main villain Steppenwolf from assembling three magical artifacts and taking over the world.  Thus, the movie revolves around one of the most stock plots:  a bunch of heroes must band together to stop a two-dimensional villain from activating something that will allow him, her, or it to either take over the world or destroy it.  Yawn.  The Justice League defeats him which should be absolutely no surprise to anyone over the age of eight. 

However, the movie has its good points.  The Flash doesn’t get as many laughs as he is obviously supposed to, but he’s funny.  There are moments that hint at ideas the movie could have explored.  For example, the Flash, referred to as “the fastest man alive” often seems stuck in place by indecisiveness and lack of confidence, unable to move.  Also, Bruce Wayne reflects that although he is an earthling and Superman is an alien, Superman got married, worked a job, and was more human in some very significant ways than he, Wayne, ever was as an isolated, aloof millionaire.  Even in a group of heroes, Batman still doesn’t fit in due to his age and lack of inherent superpowers; he is still an orphan, an outsider.  Plus, he predicts that he won’t be able to keep up much longer.

This skims over the surface of what could have been one of the film’s central themes—hybridity and mixed states of being.  Reflecting our current anxieties about technology, Cyborg is both man and machine and fears being—and at times is—overwhelmed by technology.  Aquaman confesses that he feels torn between the land and the sea.  Superman is an alien among earthlings and has come back from the dead to the land of the living.  Wonder Woman comes from an ancient island of women, but lives around modern day men.

In Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman is a sexual being but she is not sexualized, not objectified.  In Justice League, the opposite is true:  there is no love interest and romantic interlude but there are shots of her underwear, lingering shots from behind of her in leather pants, and camera angles slanted up her skirt (she also looks thinner than in Wonder Woman, thin perhaps to the point of being unhealthy).  My lady came with me to the movie and she said she noticed all of this as well.  However, Justice League objectifies both men and women.  Superman returns from the dead but apparently his shirt cannot be resurrected for quite some time.  Apparently, Aquaman must shed his shirt to swim; there’s plenty of beef if you need a side with your fish.  Batman keeps it all on, though the bat package appears a bit stuffed.  Ben Affleck was reportedly out of shape for the role—holy hidden corsets Batman?     

Still, the visuals are pretty good (with special effects that sometimes move unnaturally and why does the bit we see of Atlantis look so dumpy?), the film moves briskly, the narrative makes more sense than not, and it’s a fairly fun movie.  The best I can say is that it’s better than the worst DC films.  

(After the film was over, we decided to see the kid-targeted, Pixar-produced, computer-animated Coco, and minus the twenty-one minute Olaf’s Frozen Adventure nonsense (it’s telling when the best character is a silent Moose named Sven) placed before it—even the children were restless and asked, where’s Coco?—Coco is the superior film with a tighter narrative and far greater depth.)

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