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Thoughts on Justice League

Justice League should have been a complete mess. It is the event movie of a shared universe that has been a complete mess up to this point, with only one really good movie to its credit so far (that movie being Wonder Woman). It was made by two different directors with two very different styles. It had a lot of characters that hadn't been properly introduced in the movies yet. And it was pretty well panned by the critics, sitting at 39% on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing.

But, somehow, this movie came out the other end being fun and entertaining. It didn't shy away from the movies that came before, but did rewrite a bit of that history even while giving callbacks to other bits. It even used some musical cues to hearken back to better loved versions of Superman and Batman, a bold move that I think actually worked in the movie's favor. Let's take a look at some of the complaints that have been leveled against the movie.

Weak Villain

There are a lot of complaints about the villain not being fleshed out. This is a common problem with comic book movies, and action movies in general. I would contend that you don't always need a complex back story for a villain, especially a world destroyer from another planet. How likely is it that the heroes would learn his complete history and motivation in the course of a few days. I think the little bit given was sufficient for the purposes of the movie. And he was credible as a threat, taking on all the members of the League. He was able to go toe to toe with a significantly powered up Wonder Woman.

It's true that they don't go much into the New Gods, or the Boom Tubes, but I think that would have bogged the movie down and wasn't necessary for what the movie was doing. I was pretty happy with the running time of the movie, and I'm glad they didn't drag it out by over-explaining things that most people can either figure out or already know. The audience isn't stupid, we don't need to know what a Boom Tube is called or exactly how it works to understand it's function in the movie. That can come later if necessary.

No Character Arcs

The complaint that I am seeing most often is there are no character arcs, and that we have major characters that we don't know. Everyone repeats the mantra that we should have had solo movies for all the players before the team-up. Personally, I am not in a big hurry to see a Cyborg movie. (Of course, I think it's dumb that Cyborg is in the movie, instead of Martian Manhunter who should be there instead.) And they often cite the Avengers as being the movie that did it right.

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Now, I will admit to being a huge Marvel fanboy, and I loved the Avengers. In fact, I will cede that The Avengers is a better movie than The Justice League. However, I think the criticisms of the latter are a little unfair. Go back and re-watch The Avengers. There were no character arcs. And while Cap, the Hulk, Thor and Iron Man did have their own movies, Black Widow and Hawkeye had only had cameos up to that point. The villain came directly from Thor, so that is how we all knew him and his motivations. If you watch Avengers without first watching Thor, Loki seems just as weak and one dimensional as Steppenwolf. The fact of the matter is with a movie with this many main characters, you don't have much time for big character arcs. These are action movies at their most primal. And sometimes that's okay.

I also feel that the characters don't need as much introduction. After all, we've had three movies now with Superman, though this has been the first time that he's been recognizable to long time fans. We've been so inundated with Batman over the years that I'm pretty sure everyone pretty much knows what he's about. The Flash has had his own television series for a few years now. I feel they also did a pretty good job of giving us the basic framework of these characters in a small amount of time. Again, I feel they made the right choice in keeping the movie going along at a good pace, instead of screeching to a halt to give a full back story to everyone who walked on the screen. Admittedly, this may not have bothered me as much as the average audience member as I have read the comics these characters come from, and so I am already familiar with them and pretty much knew what to expect.

Still Too Dark And Grim

This movie may not have had the bright colors of a Marvel movie, but it was not the so dark you can't see what's happening affair that Batman V Superman was. They also made a huge course correction on Supes. This movie showed him as the confident, easy going character we know and love. He even smiles and makes a couple of jokes. Batman is not even as dark and gritty, which I love but I'm sure some fanboys will take umbrage with. I have felt that after the Schumacher debacles that writers have gone too far in the other direction, taking away his humor and empathy until Batman felt as psychotic as his rogues gallery. It was nice to see a more human version of Batman, without turning him back to the camp version of Adam West or even George Clooney.

The one place I thought the humor could have been dialed back a bit was with the Flash. After seeing the movie version, I imagined this conversation happening at Warner Bros. "Well, we have a t.v. version of the Flash, so we need to differentiate our movie version somehow. We need to find a couple of defining traits of the t.v. version and make Ezra the exact opposite. Well, t.v. Flash is charming and likable. So let's make our Flash awkward and grating." He honestly annoyed me a lot in the movie, except for that final scene with Superman, which was pretty great. I also don't like his helmet. It looks like they took a Green Goblin helmet from Sam Raimi's first Spider-Man movie and spray painted it red.

In Conclusion

I could have lived without some of the squabbling, which seemed unnecessary. But it did lead to the great scene of Aquaman sitting on the Lasso of Truth and spilling his guts to the team. As a huge Superman fan I was thrilled to see the Man of Steel that I had been hoping for in the previous two movies. And even for those few minutes when he was "bad" Superman, it was really cool to see the Flash's reaction when Supes was fast enough to follow his movements when he tried to circle behind him. I thought that people were unfair in comparing the Flash to the X-Men version of Quicksilver, stating that he didn't do anything as impressive as that. But if they had played that up, they would be screaming about the blatant rip off that the Flash was. The Superman resurrection was a little clunky too, but I honestly can't think of a better way to have handled it other than to just do it off screen and chalk it up to mysterious Kryptonian technology.

I feel like this was a fun movie, the only one in the DCEU so far other than Wonder Woman which is probably still my favorite comic book movie of the year. (I say probably because a second viewing of Thor Ragnarok may well give it the edge, because I really enjoyed that movie as well. Oh yeah, and Spider-Man was pretty great. Man, it's been a pretty good year for comic book movies.) I think it's bad reviews are due to two things. First, I think that people went in ready to trash it, expecting more of the same of what we saw in Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad, both of which were really bad and deserved to get trashed. Second, I think it was getting unfair comparisons to stand alone movies in the Marvel Universe, and even when it was compared to the Avengers was not judged by the same standards. Go see it, decide for yourself, and let me know what you thought.

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