DARKNESS, TRUEST DARKNESS, IS NOT THE ABSENCE OF LIGHT, BUT THE CONVICTION THAT THE LIGHT WILL NEVER RETURN. – Lois Lane
Watching the movie Justice League is like that time you watched your favorite football team pull off a win you weren’t sure could happen. You know the game – the one that was a somewhat of a hot mess throughout, but also peppered with enough perfect moments that you end up on top, feeling victorious in the end (thank God). That’s Justice League. There’s always an MVP too, a constant, the one player you have no doubt will deliver… but more on that later.
Justice League left me with conflicted thoughts, mostly because the things that were done poorly stuck out like a sore thumb. On the other hand, what it did well, it did perfectly. I didn’t set out to be negative when I first sat down to watch the movie. I tried very hard to clear all sentiments left over from out of my head. In fact, I’d say I went in overcompensating. I was ready to give this a fresh look and an open mind. As Lois Lane says at one point in this film, “Hope is real,” and had given me hope for Justice League. I tried very hard to like it, and I did; I think. I enjoyed moments throughout, more than not, so to say “I liked it” would be an accurate assessment.
Since it appears I have kicked us off with basic, real-world analogies, here’s another: Justice League is like when you’re eating someone’s deliciously baked chocolate brownies, and a few bites in you get a walnut.
Let’s talk about the walnuts. There are only a few, but you can still taste them.
The whole dark side of things is somewhat of a cluster (or hive, or swarm, or whatever insect related thing makes you squirm). I mean that figuratively and literally. The has left the world off-balance. Mankind is exposed and vulnerable, and those who fight for the light are doing it solo. Batman sees this early on, as he begins to encounter “scouts” looking to infiltrate. They have been sent by Steppenwolf, whose goal is to take advantage of the despair over Superman, and seize upon the opportunity to take over the world. Steppenwolf had been defeated 5,000 years prior, but only because the gods and civilizations united and fought against him together. Now, so many years later, there is no longer a united front and Steppenwolf dares come out of exile. Of course, that much time can’t be kind to anyone, so he’s more a zombie creature of sorts, trying to connect three boxes full of power that can basically defibrillate him back to human form. Human form = full health = conquering the world (aka killing everyone and starting over from scratch his way). Meanwhile, Bruce and Diana go looking for others with talent to join their team, realizing that the only way to stop Steppenwolf will be to join forces once more. All of this is great in theory until you get to the actual CGI of it all. Steppenwolf himself looks like an orc from Lord of the Rings, He’s got a horned, beetle-style helmet and a serious need for ChapStick. At his beckon call are a swarm of demonic robot mosquitos that feed on fear and gush green when squished. Toward the latter part of the movie he starts embedding neon purple and black colored roots all throughout a poverty-stricken city in Russia. There’s an electrified orb hovering over his home base, and these roots are killing everything in their path as they spread. It was very War of the Worlds meets Stranger Things, and to be honest, I might have cheered out loud if Eleven had shown up and joined the league.
Since I’m on the subject of CGI, let’s talk about the closeups. If a blockbuster film such as this is going to spend so much money on elaborate CGI and special effects, why do the closeups looks so bad, particularly with Jason Momoa? It seemed like they cut corners, using CGI instead of filming the actual actor, and TRUST ME, I know when it’s the real Jason Momoa. There was hair tossing, slow motion strutting, shirtless and tattooed moments early on that allowed me to get fully acquainted with this fish whisperer. You’ll hear no complaints from me about that, but then again, I feel like this whole movie was made with the ladies in mind (more on that in a minute). The director has several closeup shots of Aquaman early on in the movie, and each looks like something off of one of my brother’s Xbox games. Could they not have used an underwater camera to capture the stunts and the man in real life, and perhaps saved the intense CGI for the wide shots? Clearly, I wasn’t on set, so I don’t know what they were thinking or why, but for me the transition was far from seamless and at times cartoon-like.
I had an epiphany tonight. Ben Affleck is the “dad bod” version of Batman. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m just not sure if it’s something a superhero wants to hear. His character Christian Wolff in The Accountant was more Batman than Batman was in this Justice League. Maybe if Ben had channeled both Christians a little more it would have been more believable. The redeeming thing about all this, is that the movie (and Ben) seem to know it. His mannerisms, his short one-liners and even his standard Ben Affleck go-to moves (stand there silently looking pensive; stand there silently looking goofy) are all somewhat of a tell: they get it. He gets it. As a viewer, when you realize this self-awareness in the actor and the character, he instantly becomes more likable. I think I like Ben as Batman like I like this movie.
Now that we’ve gotten a few of the walnuts out of the way, let’s get to the sweet stuff.