Fresh off the universally loved Wonder Woman the WB quickly shifts gears to focus on the other superheroes of the DC Comics universe. Justice League, the much-teased (and somewhat highly-anticipated) mash-up of some of the world’s best known superheroes, is finally up to bat. Warners’ DCEU hasn’t set the world on fire, though, so a lot is riding on this. Directed by Zack Snyder and written by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, one has to wonder if the proper corrections have been made considering Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad are uniformly maligned. There are evident changes, especially after Whedon took over as director after Snyder left to deal with his daughter’s terrible suicide. In short, Justice League dropped much of the gloom that weighed down the franchise and picked things up with more fun. But there are still issues if one looks to compare this to anything Marvel.

Starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Ezra Miller, Ciarán Hinds, Diane Lane, J.K. Simmons, Connie Nielsen, Amber Heard and Joe Morton, Justice League is another save-the-world scenario in which the villain is too powerful for just one hero to handle. Snyder and Whedon display a grieving planet that's lost after Superman’s death - a perfect opportunity for a global takeover. With this in mind the New God Steppenwolf (voiced by Hinds) appears to claim his place as ruler. In order for him to complete this task he must locate and unite the Mother Boxes, three objects of immense energy separately hidden on Earth. Once linked, unspeakable power will come to Steppenwolf and he can rule with complete impunity. In the meantime, Bruce Wayne (Affleck) and Diana Prince (Gadot) recruit others with special abilities to help defeat Steppenwolf. Among those on their wish list – Arthur Curry (Momoa), best known as Aquaman; Victor Stone (Fisher), who is Cyborg; and Barry Allen (Miller), the Flash. It’s a makeshift group of individuals, and it serves as a reminder for how mashed together Justice League feels.

An obvious issue with this fifth entry in the DCEU is the CGI looks cheap (even terrible) - unacceptable for a $300 million production. Steppenwolf looks like a video game character – he’s choppy and the pixilation is nearly visible. On top of that, he’s a terribly-written character – generic, forgettable and boring.

The JL production made some headlines when Henry Cavill shot scenes sporting a moustache, and because he couldn’t shave it off (he had to keep it for a separate film role), it was digitally removed. As a result, his upper lip jumps (glitches) at times. Speaking of glitches, the same thing occurs when Cyborg has to turn his head.

Honestly, poor CGI shouldn’t take viewers out of JL completely (although I personally know individuals who couldn’t get past it). There are bigger problems and it stems from shoehorning storylines and characters.

The aforementioned alludes to the fact that the DCEU has made nearly zero effort in affording its audience opportunities to know and understand their heroes. Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg were given cameos in Batman v Superman. All that viewers know of them is they exist and they could help when something really bad happens. Because of that I personally didn’t care about them, although Ezra Miller was memorable (but, in backtracking to the poor CGI, his slo-mo scenes aren’t nearly as impressive as Quicksilver’s in X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse). Warners has plans to produce separate films for Aquaman and Flash, but after watching Justice League I’m not remotely interested in their stories (oddly, I think deep down Warners foresaw lacking interest, hence it made sense to have them first appear alongside well-known entities like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman). Besides, a poor job was done in getting fans interested in Affleck’s Batman and Cavill’s Superman, and they're characters viewers already know plenty about. That also explains the lack of development in JL’s villain and it’ll prove to be a steeper climb for these secondary heroes when the spotlight is finally on them.

With Whedon taking over, he conducted plenty of reshoots – it’s rumored about 15-20% of the finished film is his. He made a conscious effort to position Wonder Woman at its center, knowing how well-received she was last summer. In addition, he tried valiantly to inject humor, but the results are a mixed bag (the funniest scene takes place before the final act with the newly-formed team traveling together). With JL featuring directors with distinctly different styles, one can spot the tonal shifts and understand the source of this film’s unevenness.

Also evident is how Wonder Woman was shot – do we really need near-upskirt views of Gadot? I know she’s the only female member of the Justice League (and she’s obvuously beautiful) but these efforts are crass and uncalled for. With Hollywood under fire for its poor treatment of women, the last thing audiences need to see are shots exploiting the sexuality of Diana Prince.

One thing I can applaud (though it took nearly 5 films) - they got Superman right. He went from mopey outsider unsure of his place in the world to confident and friendly alien with a better grasp of what it means to be a decent human being than most of the world’s population. In short, he is the ideal human, ironic since he isn’t human. You can see a tinge of the Christopher Reeves Supes, and that’s a welcome return for the greatest superhero of all time. It’s sad it took his death and resurrection (sorry, although it’s not a spoiler) to get there but better late than never. Superman is back to being Superman.

This production had plenty of obstacles to overcome – considering, the final product is better than expected. It clearly improves upon past DCEU failures but doesn’t take full advantage of Wonder Woman’s good karma. It’s getting there, but one has to wonder how much longer will audiences stay with a franchise that clearly trails Disney-Marvel. As I mentioned earlier, better late than never - but will later (or even now) be too late?

3 stars out of 5


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