Last week we started getting our first social media reactions to the big honking superhero team-up everyone’s been apprehensively waiting for: DC’s Justice League, directed by Zack Snyder (with a late-stage assist from Joss Whedon). And they were pretty good! Not, like, the orgasmic reaction that Thor: Ragnarok received, but it would be unfair to expect anything not directed by a dude in a pineapple romper to reach those staggering heights. Still, everything sounded mixed-but-positive, noting that the heroes (especially the newcomers) were fun even if the story was somewhat lacking.
Dammit, Twitter — you almost got me.
This morning, as the actual reviews started hitting the internet, I was surprised to see headlines calling it a “big, ugly mess” and “agonizing to watch.” How, though? Are we not still delighted by The Flash’s quips and Wonder Woman’s wonderfulness and Aquaman’s Momoa-acity? Does plot really matter THAT much? What the fuck is even happening? Stop playing with my emotions!
So in the interest of fairness and balance in our coverage, I decided I would share the worst of the actual reviews with you here. Read the Twitter reactions, then read these, and then make your own decision. We all know everyone is going to see the movie in spite of the reviews — these movies always make oodles of dough regardless of quality — but let’s at least pretend the spending of our hard-earned $12 isn’t a foregone conclusion.
Let’s start with Metacritic, who is currently clocking the score for Justice League at a cool 51 based on 31 critics — and that will fluctuate as more reviews are published. For comparison, BvS currently stands at 44, Man of Steel has a 55, Suicide Squad has a 40, and Wonder Woman has a score of 76. I’d share the Rotten Tomatoes score, but I can’t — they are withholding their “Tomatometer” rating until 12:01 a.m. Thursday to coincide with their new Facebook show “See It/Skip it.” On the surface, that makes sense — using the score of a big tentpole title to drive interest in your new random internet show is a solid play. Unless, of course, your parent company (Fandango) is partially owned by the movie studio releasing that tentpole (Warner Bros.). And then the whole thing might just seem a bit fishy.
But who cares about scores and meters and shit — let’s get to the biting commentary!
But once in awhile, there comes along something so egregiously bad that trying to find something good to say about it is its own kind of cruelty; such an obvious act of reaching only highlights the production’s garish dimensions, its abject failures. And, worse still, it can encourage more. In these instances, pure and unadorned honesty is really the only way to go, difficult as it may be to deliver. And so, dear Justice League, I must say that no, the lighting is not good. The script is not interesting. The costumes are not fun. The film is, plainly stated, terrible, and I’m sorry that everyone wasted their time and money making it—and that people are being asked to waste their time and money seeing it. I hate to be so blunt, but it simply must be said this time.
Most of the movie has all of them brooding about lost loves (Wonder Woman), brooding about trying to understand their super powers (Cyborg), and brooding about getting old (Batman). Yeah, there’s a lot of brooding — not to mention uncomfortably shoehorning as much “Wonder Woman” in as possible. Honestly, at times this movie feels like a bad “Wonder Woman” sequel.
If “Wonder Woman” provided a glimmer of hope that DC Comics movies might start looking, moving and sounding differently than before, “Justice League” plops us right back into “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” territory, albeit with a little more wit and humanity. But if you like your superhero battles in deep dark tunnels or under skies purple with alien soot, director Zack Snyder is back with yet another installment that looks the way Axe body spray smells.
As “Justice League” plods on autopilot, the Marvel-movie parallels range from subtle to shameless. The group chemistry is strictly dimestore Avengers, while Batman takes on a paternal role with The Flash that weakly apes the Iron Man/Spider-Man dynamic of “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” The Flash makes oddball jokes about brunch and mutters about confidence issues, while Batman growls nuggets of advice as quickly as possible before the scene just… ends.
Mr. Affleck, a generally appealing actor who can plumb the depths when pushed (“Gone Girl”), needs something more substantial (or just more jokes) if his Batman is ever going to work.
As it is, the little bit of bat brooding in “Justice League” feels unmotivated and unearned, and lacks the shading of the character in the “Dark Knight” or even in the Lego movies. That’s too bad, and would be dire if he played a more valuable role.
Garishly unattractive to look at and lacking the spirit that made Wonder Woman, which came out five months ago, the most engaging of Warner Bros.’ DC Comics-derived extravaganzas to date, this hodgepodge throws a bunch of superheroes into a mix that neither congeals nor particularly makes you want to see more of them in future. Plainly put, it’s simply not fun.
Once united, the Super Six have to take on the villain behind all those flying insects, Steppenwolf. And during his first appearance it quickly becomes clear that Justice League has an Apocalypse problem. Like that big blue X-Men baddie, Steppenwolf is one of those patently phony CGI creations that gives the film a uncanny-valley shlockiness. He looks like a cross between a Viking and a billy goat. The best thing about him is that he booms threats in the menacing basso profundo of Ciaran Hinds. The worst thing is…pretty much everything else, including his world-destroying M.O. to find and unite three all-powerful, vibrating supernatural “mother boxes” that are only slightly less ridiculous than Infinity Stones. Is it really that hard to come up with a decent villain who wants something other than geometric maguffins?
Look, the news isn’t ALL bad — there are some positive reviews being published as well. The top three reviews on Metacritic currently look like this:
But so far, Justice League sounds like a decidedly mixed bag. Keep your eyes peeled for Pajiba’s own take on the film after it opens on November 17th.