Review: Snyder's 'Justice League' Has Few Bright Spots, Mostly Dim

November 15, 2017

Justice League Review

Director Zack Snyder's Superman reboot, Man of Steel, received mostly positive reviews when it released in 2013, but ultimately underperformed at the box office. The second entry in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), Snyder's sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, encountered an overwhelmingly negative response from critics and lukewarm audience sentiment, despite making $873 million. Similarly, the third film in the franchise, David Ayer's Suicide Squad, wound up with terrible reviews but still surpassed expectations. Everything changed this year, when Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman received widespread critical acclaim and overwhelming audience support, becoming one of the best-reviewed superhero movies of all time and the highest-grossing superhero origin movie in history. Now, Justice League hopes to ride Wonder Woman's coattails and deliver a fun, hopeful film that lives up to the legacy of the iconic superhero team that first assembled in DC Comics' 1960's The Brave and the Bold #28.

Directed by Snyder with a screenplay by Chris Terrio (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Argo) and Joss Whedon (The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron), Justice League picks up a few months after the events of Batman v Superman. After the death of Superman (Henry Cavill) at the hands of Doomsday, Earth is left vulnerable to attack. Inspired by the Son of Krypton's selfless act of sacrifice, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), to save the planet from annihilation at the hands of Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), an eight-foot-tall warrior from the nightmare world of Apokolips. With his army of insectoid shock troopers, the parademons, Steppenwolf has come to Earth in search of three Mother Boxes — sentient supercomputers that possess unlimited power; the DCEU's answer to Marvel's Infinity Stones. To stop this extraterrestrial invasion, Batman and Wonder Woman must work quickly to find and recruit a team of metahumans, including Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and The Flash (Ezra Miller).

Justice League Review

OK, so let's go ahead and get this out of the way: Justice League is not a good movie. While it's marginally better than Suicide Squad, Snyder's latest is just as uneven and incoherent as Batman v Superman — a huge step backward for the DCEU after finally getting on track with Wonder Woman. Terrio and Whedon's script depicts the members of the League as loners and misfits who need work together to save the world. And while the story is all about teamwork, the movie is yet another example of too many cooks in the kitchen. During post-production, Snyder and his wife, producer Deborah Snyder, stepped away from the project to deal with the sudden death of their daughter. Whedon, who Snyder brought on to rewrite some additional scenes, took over post-production duties, including two months of reshoots to lighten the film's tone. Both filmmakers have made good superhero movies on their own, but together their unique voices cancel each other out. Whedon's self-referential humor doesn't mesh with Synder's penchant for grim theatricality, and the result is a film where the fun is just as forced as the manufactured melodrama, creating a slight and silly patchwork that simply doesn't work.

Despite some genuinely atrocious Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones-level dialogue, the characters in Justice League more or less work. Ezra Miller's Barry Allen is an excessively energetic kid attending Central City College, working toward a criminal justice degree with the hope of one day freeing his incarcerated father (Billy Crudup). Flash is a fun, neurotic addition to the DCEU and you get the sense that a standalone movie with Miller could be really great if handled properly. Same goes for Momoa's tattooed surfer-bro, Aquaman. The offspring of a human father and a royal mother from the underwater realm of Atlantis, Arthur Curry doesn't feel at home on land or at sea. He’s the heir to the throne of Atlantis, but he’s not ready to be king. Momoa has more charisma than the entire cast combined, and I look forward to seeing what director James Wan (Insidious, The Conjuring) brings to his standalone adventure, currently slated for a December 2018 release.

Justice League Review

Surprisingly, Ray Fisher isn't shortchanged as Victor Stone, a college quarterback at Gotham City University who is resurrected by his father, scientist Silas Stone (Joe Morton), after a fatal car accident. Now half-man, half-machine, Cyborg acts as the team's RoboCop, using his cybernetic enhancements to protect the innocent. As for Wonder Woman, Gadot is saddled with some clunky, expository dialogue that hurts her performance. It's frustrating to see her soar in her own standalone, only to be misused in a movie that could benefit from Jenkins' approach. Still, the Amazonian demigoddess is easily the most heroic figure in the film, and the one or two coherent action set pieces in the film work because of her. Affleck's Bruce Wayne is serviceable, but the punched-up script forces him to crack dad jokes that aren't funny, nor are they believable coming from such a morose interpretation of the character. This is a guy who was branding criminals and murdering thugs with machine guns a few months ago, and now suddenly he's cracking wise? It's a tough pill to swallow.

And then there's Henry Cavill's Superman. Cavill looks the part and given better material that actually grasps the character, could be a great Superman, but he's lost in the shuffle here. Like Batman, the Son of Krypton has been retconned as a kinder, gentler hero who doesn't snap necks and level entire cities to ash. Now he's just another person making jokes in a movie where everyone makes jokes. It's as if Warner Brothers' direction to lighten the tone was interpreted as "make light of everything." As a result, it's impossible to give Superman's return the emotional weight it demands. Nothing means anything in this movie; it's just one goofy thing after another, loosely held together by ugly, unaffecting special effects.

Speaking of effects, the computer-generated imagery in Justice League is some of the worst I've seen in a movie of this size. Apparently, the studio mandate to lighten things up also applied to the color balance, replacing the darker, muted tones of previous DCEU films with vibrant hues that are colorful in the way vomit is when it's laced with Skittles and Mountain Dew Code Red. Mostly, the effects just look unfinished, lacking the detail and texture necessary to suspend disbelief. The parademons are visually interesting, but big bad Steppenwolf is another generic CGI villain who offers little to the proceedings other than serving as a reminder of how far we've come with digital characters. While films like Ex Machina, The Jungle Book, and War for the Planet of the Apes are breaking new ground with their photo-realistic digital creations, here's a movie that harkens back to the days of Jar Jar Binks and The Scorpion King, when digital characters were shiny, smooth, and awkwardly animated.

Another weird thing about the film is its pacing. Considering it's the shortest DCEU film by far at 119 minutes, Justice League should move at hyper-speed, but it's just as plodding and protracted as Batman v Superman. The extensive rewrites and reshoots, along with the mandate to turn in a movie under two hours, have resulted in a disjointed film that feels less like one coherent story and more like a hastily assembled montage of scenes from five different movies.

Between the thin narrative, cringe-worthy dialogue, and lackluster effects, there isn't a whole lot to appreciate here. There are, however, enough good pieces in place that there's hope for future films like Aquaman, Flashpoint, and Matt Reeves' The Batman. Still, it's a shame that this is all Warner Bros could muster for what should have been the crown jewel of their superhero shared universe. The Justice League (and the DC Comics fandom) deserves better than this.

Adam's Rating: 2 out of 5
Follow Adam on Twitter - @AdamFrazier

Find more posts: DC Movies, Review



Not surprised. Damn shame.

THE_RAW_ on Nov 15, 2017


Not surprised but the spectacle is just too great to miss.

DAVIDPD on Nov 15, 2017


Only a crazy man acts the same way and expects a different result. They hired the same screenwriter who was behind the stupid "your mom 's name is Martha" and the dumb motivation of Lex Luthor, so the result can't improve by itself.

tarek on Nov 15, 2017


Steppenwolf talks about "Mother" a lot during the movie, was really hoping his mom's name was Martha too. Maybe they're saving that revelation for the sequel!

Adam Frazier on Nov 16, 2017


His Mother Box is named Martha.

capitandelespacio on Nov 16, 2017


In the sequel we'll find out that S.T.A.R. Labs has codenamed their mother box project M.A.R.T.H.A.

Adam Frazier on Nov 16, 2017


"Sequel". You are a very optimist person and I admire that.

capitandelespacio on Nov 17, 2017


Lol. ;D

tarek on Nov 16, 2017


Were you seriously expecting anything good from Warner Bros B-grade DC?

boball on Nov 15, 2017


I went in with the lowest expectations one could possibly have, given the DCEU's track record thus far, and still found myself disappointed.

Adam Frazier on Nov 16, 2017


Wow. A 2 is generous. How much did Warner Bros pay you?

tyban81 on Nov 15, 2017


I gave Suicide Squad a 1.5, so I figure a 2 is fair for Justice League, and also what I would have given BVS, if my review for that included a star rating.

Adam Frazier on Nov 16, 2017


Your heart is bigger than mine. You are the true man of steel.

tyban81 on Nov 16, 2017


I'll see it. Lately critics have been outta touch with certain films, imho. Hell BvS was panned while Civil War was celebrated. I and enjoyed BvS more than Civil War.

Xerxexx on Nov 16, 2017


Well, you are on point. Civil War was celebrated for some reason. Both films were grim, long, dull and boring.

capitandelespacio on Nov 16, 2017


If I listen to critics - I'd have missed MANY movies which I absolutely loved. a so-called critics opinion is no more relevant than yours or mine.

dan on Nov 16, 2017


Reading the review it seems perhaps Wheadon wasn't the best choice...

Xerxexx on Nov 16, 2017


I'm pretty sure Whedon is the last of their problems atm. Anyhow, they will cash a lot of money and do WW 2, Suicide Squad 2, Joker origins and other brilliant ideas anyways...

capitandelespacio on Nov 16, 2017


I've been just reading about it, haven't seen any of the trailers (except for no. 1). The whole thing around this movie seems so convoluted and dull it makes me wonder if there's any possibility for the future films in this universe.

capitandelespacio on Nov 16, 2017


Given the past movies, the director and the trailers, why is any of this a surprise ?

Tester on Nov 16, 2017


I would see this for the novelty of it, with low expectations and enjoying it simply for what it is. If its truly bad its a great pity.

Lewis on Nov 16, 2017


Missed the free preview at Arclight Screening but gave passes to my son. He was as disappointed as you Adam. I have IMAX passes for this evening and I am going with very low expectations. I am hoping it is better than Suicide Squad but that's not saying much. How can you mess this up again and again Warner Bros.

deerosa on Nov 16, 2017


As a follow-up I enjoyed the movie.

deerosa on Nov 20, 2017


I think so - it seems to be their model: release a bad movie in theaters, then release a longer version on Blu-ray so people are tempted to double-dip.

Adam Frazier on Nov 16, 2017


What a shame. All I can say.

Brandon Cole on Nov 16, 2017


It's a real shame when a film as big as this requires the audience to go into it with as low as expectations as possible, so that they can leave the theatre with at least some crumb of encouragement or entertainment.

Payne by name on Nov 16, 2017


Wonder Woman wasn't awful like Batman vs. Superman. BvS had people laugh out loud at the Martha scene and question why BvS had so little fighting. Suicide Squad had people question why Joker was barely in it and why the film was so boring to watch. Wonder Woman wasn't amazing, but it didn't have absolutely dumb moments that people won't forget when thinking of the film. The Martha moment will be remembered forever like Batman and Robin is remembered for it's campiness.

Nethanel DeCarmo on Nov 16, 2017


Too much thinking about the film which is mostly about fun. Apparently, that's what people wanted on the end. Yeah, it's lighter than BvS, but it is also what it says it is. Of course, reshooting didn't help, but I am not sure if anyone knows what kind of film was desired. At one point, people don't like too dark and after that it is too shallow. Public, media and everybody else wanted something special, they don't know what. Although, just like children, they don't know what they don't like. Film is nothing special, but that's also true for the most films lately which this one makes an average in the midst of other average films ...

shiboleth on Nov 16, 2017



Adam Frazier on Nov 16, 2017


lol back

shiboleth on Nov 17, 2017


I know what I want shiboleth: An interesting story with interesting characters. It's that simple, and it's the base of storytelling.

tarek on Nov 17, 2017


Sure tarek, that's quite ok, I agree with you on that. But neither films or novels are just storytelling, they are also the form of it. And they have their social environment. Critics are very much the part of the process, as is the viewing or reading public, too. I'm saying, in this case, they have shaped the storytelling and they are all playing dumb about it. And for me, that's one storytelling easily dropped here ...

shiboleth on Nov 17, 2017


I do know what I want: my money back. Joke, I'm not going to watch it :p

capitandelespacio on Nov 17, 2017


Well, nobody is perfect. Joke, just have it your way. I guess, that's normal too ...

shiboleth on Nov 17, 2017


critics should get together and compare notes. this afternoon I read review that said the characters meshed perfectly. I then read another review who thought the characters didn't mesh at all. before coming here, I read a review that said the movie moved at too fast a pace - adam on this review says the movie is plodding. critics are hilarious. I'll give critics reviews a 1.5 out of 5....and that's very generous. i'll see it for myself and make my own conclusions.

dan on Nov 16, 2017


Well, it's quite obvious that critics were not exactly sure what to do with the first two films about Superman since the public has saw them differently than they did. They are aware of mistakes they did and now they are just anticipating what is best to do. Well, one of the choice is, the most frequent one, not to be a critic but a public defender of its own biases. As for the film, I saw it and although it's not perfect, it is acceptable as fun and anticipation of the next film ...

shiboleth on Nov 17, 2017



Adam Frazier on Nov 17, 2017


lol back

shiboleth on Nov 17, 2017


I have to admit, I enjoyed this film and it was entertaining. I am not agreeing with the mainstream critics this time around.

deerosa on Nov 17, 2017


Obviously, everybody should make a choice for themselves ...

shiboleth on Nov 17, 2017


Unlike Adam, I set my bar to -10 not zero before going into this movie and came out of the movie pretty happy. If you are a D.C. fanboy, like most of the crowd last night, you will woo and cheer. The average moviegoer might enjoy it as well. If you are a film critic you will destroy and pick apart this movie. There are a lot of fanboy moments in this movie. I liked Ben Aflecks Batman in this as well. I thought the into to batman was spot on and would have loved to seen this world for 2 hours :(. Cyborg was good and the flash , well you have seen the trailers. How many shots are we going to get with Wonder Woman's tight ass...come on Zach. Steppenwolf should have been played by an actor period. Stay for the after credits as well. Also the underwater effects were disastrous, cannot pay to see something like that for aquaman at all.

deerosa on Nov 17, 2017


You mean there were too many WW ass shots or not enough? ;D

tarek on Nov 17, 2017


Not enough 🙂

deerosa on Nov 20, 2017


First :when the critics say wonder woman was a damn good movie, they have an other opinion than the people i talked to who have seen it. For me it sucked big time and was boring as hell. A Zack Snyder movies means:loud noise, bombastic CGI and no balance in the script while the characters are like cardbox. So it's no surprise this movie will suck too! And let's agree on something :everyone is getting tired of mayhem and destruction on a immense scale. The better movies nowadays are the small ones, where creativity roams free, due a shortage of money...

ari smulders on Nov 17, 2017


Well said.

tarek on Nov 17, 2017


WW was overrated as hell. But I understand why, though. I'm starting to feel that people feel bad for giving DC a bad review. The feeling around is like "critics" are bullying on WB/DC big time. In the other hand you have that WB/DC is really releasing garbage and there's nothing, not the audience, not the critics, can do anything about it. Is not our problem. We just want good movies and that's it.

capitandelespacio on Nov 17, 2017


Yup, good and well balanced movies...

ari smulders on Nov 18, 2017


I seen it but was falling in x out of my sleep in the 3rd act so I don't quite know how the villain was defeated lol. BUT! The movie is more tolerable than BVS yet falls really short under the bar WW set for the DCEU. Really the film is just the introduction to the new characters x worlds in this universe which is a lot thrown at us that I felt the story itself was running in circles before deciding to move forward in plot. My biggest issue would be the pacing of the story from the 2nd Act to the 3rd Act which created a real dull tone throughout; you can really see Joss trying to make his own movie x Zack doing the same. The true highlight from this movie is what we'll get to see these characters do in their respective solo films, x hopefully next time they come together their chemistry is much tighter! I'll end with that we're ready for the DCEU but I think the DCEU isn't ready itself yet.

Brandon Cole on Nov 17, 2017


Thor 1, Iron Man 3, and even Age of Ultron was far better told than this movie ha. No one is hating on the DCEU, if that was the case WW would've got panned. The issue is that we're getting amateur work on 1st class superheroes from high profile directors, writers, producers, etc. These movies aren't even mildly entertaining.

Brandon Cole on Nov 17, 2017


DC is trying to copy Marvel lol. Honestly Justice League felt like a cheapened Avengers.

Brandon Cole on Nov 17, 2017


;D A poorly written one. Nolan's Batman trilogy was a great superhero movies. Screenwriters have almost forget that what make an interesting character is first and above all his HUMANITY and FRAILTY. When a superhero becomes too SUPER he becomes a cardboard character.

tarek on Nov 17, 2017


I understand Bo. But Nolan's take make it more a realistic Vigilante movie than a Superhero movie. Everything makes sense in the universe he depicted, from the batsuit to his fighting abilities. Even the villain motivation makes sense from the delusional point of view of a crank (and we had many in our human history).

tarek on Nov 17, 2017


How can I Dislike your review Adam?

Nemesis on Nov 17, 2017


Well I just saw it and maybe it's because of my low expectations but I really enjoyed it. not a great movie by any means but I wanted more. It was just a blast to watch. They did a damn good job of making it work with only a 2 hour run time.

Jon Odishaw on Nov 18, 2017


I agree with you. it's a comic book movie and it was fun.

Jon Odishaw on Nov 18, 2017


Wow, I went in with very low expectations but this really was shockingly bad. Everything from blatant exposition from random characters at the beginning, through to ridiculous poster style shots whenever they get the chance - it was just bad. The CGI on Steppenwolf was cringe worthy and genuinely felt like he wasn't there, the opening action scenes to re-establish the characters were ridiculous, the script had no mojo in it and everyone (including the director and writer) just seemed to be sleep walking through the whole production. Their lazy arrogance that having a number of characters on the screen is all that you need is just amazing. Have these people learnt nothing from MoS, BvS or SS? I wasn't expecting great things but I thought it might have some good set pieces but I was genuinely stumbling around trying to see or hear something that was genuinely cool or entertaining. Cavill still can't act for shit - apart from the one scene as Superman where he was asked what he likes about Earth. Unfortunately you never find out in what was probably the most memorable scene of the film. And really, the mother boxes. What kind of dumb ass name is that? And as for the Lois Lane monologue at end, I couldn't stop laughing at how overly dramatic and self important it was. You really do have to laugh at DC and Warner, their execs seem like the most moronic fools around. They make an okay film in WW and don't study that to try to understand what was right with it. No, just barrel on with pretty pictures and literally nothing else. Their contempt for their audience and their lack of effort or creativity is staggering. I'm astonished to say that I think this is even worse than BvS. What a real stinker.

Payne by name on Nov 18, 2017


I ended up simplifying mines lol; it would’ve been just like yours ha. It’s sad people accept this for these heroes, they deserve way better!

Brandon Cole on Nov 18, 2017


Hell Batman & Robin was more entertaining than this movie if I’m being honest.

Brandon Cole on Nov 18, 2017


In my opinion,out of all of the movies I have watched, I would have to say, the Greatest Movie Ever. I am a Big Fan of Hollywood Mystery Movies. My favorite Mystery movie is"Restitution Road" and now is Justice League

janet lewise lewise on Nov 20, 2017


Justice League is boring. The story is so lame. I hate how weak the Flash is, don't like his casting, I hate also why there is no Green Lantern, no Hawkman. Batman doesn't fight impressively and always rely on his heavy arsenals.

Sy Neil on Dec 7, 2017


I clicked this to wrote that I watched it using boxxy software and this movie seems pretty interesting. It’s cool to have access to all movies and all serials and all of these for free.

Andre Alonso on Aug 1, 2018


This movie has too many amazing actors and I’m gonna watch it using boxxy software. I love when I can find every movie I wanted to watch just using for free boxxy software

chan zhao on Aug 4, 2018

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