I’ve debated doing some movie reviews here for a while, but I’m not sure I’m critical enough in the cinemas to be able to provide any kind of sensible opinion. I figure I’ve paid my $20, I’m going to sit here with my $7 post-mix softdrink and be entertained, and I set a pretty low bar for movies to clear in that regard. Hence, Easily Pleased.
Justice League is the perfect movie for Easily Pleased to start with. It’s a superhero movie, so it’s already in popcorn-blockbuster territory. It comes with premade characters, half of whom have had their own movies and another one of which has had a TV series (albeit with a different actor and slightly different continuity). And… well… it’s eminently forgettable and a huge disappointment after the actually-quite-good Wonder Woman.
Within itself there isn’t anything terribly wrong with Justice League. Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) are following up from their research in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice by recruiting Aquaman (Jason Momoa), the Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher). We get brief backgrounds for Aquaman and Cyborg, and then the movie is away, with new villain Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarán Hinds) preparing to unite the three magical Macguffins in order to turn the world grey or something.
If it seems like I’m racing through this, it’s because the movie races through it as well. The movie is listed on IMDb as having a two-hour run time but it barely makes it that far- when compared to the glacial pace of Dawn of Justice, Justice League seems like it’s over before it begins.
We get very little of Aquaman’s background, other than him briefly visiting Atlantis as one of the Macguffins gets stolen. Cyborg also gets very little backstory or explanation as to what he can do, and the movie assumes we know enough about Flash and don’t need too much introduction. Naturally DC has movies for all three in the works- the Cyborg and Flash movies have been announced for 2020 (according to IMDb), while Aquaman is scheduled for next year.
With our ensemble cast gathered together, off we go to fight our one-off, CGI villain, whose motivation is little more than “I’m evil, just take my word for it”. The film briefly namedrops another DC villain, in an attempt to link it to any future DC Cinematic Universe films, but the bigger fish doesn’t make an appearance. Justice League does, however, copy the Marvel trope of having a post-credits scene setting up the next movie, so hang around at the end. There are also, more subtle, hints of other characters that might make future appearances.
We see the newly-minted team fight amongst themselves over how to fight Steppenwolf. Will the team be able to unite in order to stop Steppenwolf from turning all of remote Russia into whatever? Don’t worry, the film doesn’t let you ponder these questions, moving very quickly to the film’s climax, a mostly-CGI fight with the whole League against Steppenwolf and his army of robot insect dudes.
And given that the Superman crest appears on the movie poster, it shouldn’t be too much of a spoiler that the Man of Steel makes an appearance. How he appears and what part he plays in the conflict is the question, and I won’t spoil that here.
The CGI is at least decent- nothing seems terribly ropey, but there are a few odd moments. Cyborg’s face looks cel-shaded, like it came straight out of the Teen Titans animated series, even though that wasn’t done by CGI and is Ray Fisher’s actual face- it’s his body that is added in post. Steppenwolf is entirely CGI and the lip-sync work on his dialogue is about “Playstation 4” standard rather than “$300 million budget” standard. And Henry Cavill’s face seems a bit odd; apparently he grew a moustache for another movie and couldn’t shave it off, and the CGI is to keep Superman clean-shaven.
Overall Justice League is fine, but it’s just… there. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, it doesn’t particularly challenge the viewer, it races through its premise and ticks all its boxes, and then leaves. It’s a popcorn movie, in that popcorn might immediately stop you feeling hungry, but it isn’t long before you’re wishing that perhaps you had chosen something with a bit more substance.