Justice League (2017) (Blu-ray film review).

While I was watching ‘Justice League’, notebook at the ready, it tended to raise questions along the way, so forgive me if I combine them with the synopsis because it makes more sense to question along the way. If anything, there were too many quiet spots to allow such thinking and they could have tightened it by half an hour had they not been there.

The death of Superman (actor Henry Cavill) from the previous has left a gap that the god-like Steppenwolf (actor Ciarán Hinds) uses to his advantage to retrieve the three Mother Boxes hidden on Earth. Two are with the Amazons and the Atlanteans. As it’s still not a film I’ve seen, considering the importance of it to this film, I still think some sort of recap should have been incorporated into the film would have made sense to add some gravitas to the situation, if only to explain to Aquaman, who doesn’t look like the kind of person to sit around watching the TV or reading the newspaper.

It would certainly have strengthened the introduction of Bruce Wayne/Batman (actor Ben Affleck) as realises he can’t face an impending menace alone and seeks to recruit Arthur Curry/Aquaman (actor Jason Momoa) with little success. It would have also made a lot more sense had Wayne met Curry as Batman than as a bearded Wayne. It isn’t as though he hasn’t got the right transport to fly there and would have made more sense to introduce the Flying Fox earlier than towards the end of the film.

In the meantime, the Amazons lose a battle with the lone Steppenwolf to keep their Mother Box and fire an arrow to light a fire in Greece to alert Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (actress Gal Gadot) who sees it on TV. Another logic problem rears its head. The ‘Wonder Woman’ film indicates that Diana has been out of contact with her people since the 1940s, so they have no way of knowing if she’s alive or doing anything else come to that. Although her quick battle to stop some terrorists shows she hasn’t lost her touch.

Wonder Women seeks out the Batcave of her own volition and divides the recruitment drive. Batman seems to be rather too free with people knowing his true identity seems to go against type but, like all things Hollywood, the need to show unmasked super-heroes is to ensure the cast get some face-time. Wayne goes after a youthful but hyped Barry Allen/the Flash (actor Ezra Miller) and she initially fails to convince Victor Stone/Cyborg (actor Ray Fisher) of his responsibilities.

Aquaman becomes his own recruit when Steppenwolf steals the second Mother Box is stolen from Atlantis. This tended to raise some off questions. You would have thought that each of these combined forces could have done more to have kept the Mother Boxes safe considering they were the chosen places to conceal them. Granted there was some severe casualties amongst the Amazons but considering they taught Wonder Woman, why did they just play pass the Mother Box rather than have a proper plan in case of such an event. Being might warrior women is one thing but bows and arrows and swords against such as Steppenwolf reeks of under-achievers.

Anyway, the developing team of unnamed league decide they haven’t got enough firepower but as Cyborg has access to the third Mother Box, Batman decides that they should resurrect Superman using its power with a substance on-board his Kryptonian spaceship. No spoiler that this is successful but Superman is pretty pissed with all of them and on the attack. Only the arrival of Alfred (actor Jeremy Irons) with Lois Lane (actress Amy Adams) gets Superman to stop and they fly off. Hardly a successful recruitment and they don’t even seem to get upset over it but just carry on. I hate driving holes through plot holes but even Wonder Woman acts macho.

The team then takes the Flying Fox to take on Steppenwolf, even though there has been no indication that he’s decided to make Earth his new home. There comes another problem. With the exception of Batman, all the others can fly pretty fast. All right, so the Flash runs but he’s still much faster even if he would have to stop to eat a lot along the way. It goes back to the old problem of any team, that it is as fast as its slowest or weakest team member and the Batman is certainly that here, Although Wonder Woman in an earlier scene tells him that he brings leadership to the team, you would have thought that he’d handed out radio links and sent them ahead would have been the better idea.

Regardless, the League versus Steppenwolf and his Parademons and aren’t doing particularly well until the arrival of the Man of Steel. The rest is spoiler. A predictable spoiler but you can watch for yourself.

Although you can’t deny there are interesting pictures on the screen, its only when you have to likes of me thinking about the plot in those quiet periods and writing up the review that the plot holes are there. It isn’t as though it can be said that the story is aimed at kids as the occasional bad language would say no.

As with the comicbooks, the Justice League is lop-sided when it comes to power and, even then, individually they are still pretty powerful. Objectively, it would have made more sense had some of the other metahumans on Earth been considered, even had they been rejected for this first time out. More so as some, like Black Canary, would have had powers unlike the others. Mind you, seeing them all unmasked, it looks like one of the qualifications is to have dark hair.

As I commented at the beginning, I came away thinking the film a little too long, with things only being shook up with the action battles. It isn’t like there aren’t some good examples, like ‘The Wild Bunch’, out there of how to do eve of battle effectively. Again, objectively, doing a super-hero team film creates its own problems. No matter how powerful the opposition, a super-powered team to take on one individual out can be compared to a team of bullies to beat them. In the extras, it’s pointed out that the drawing together of the first JLA that it was against Starro but they split into smaller teams to do battles.

With comicbooks, you can get past such problems and there are certainly bigger teams, like the Legion Of Super-Heroes, where you ignore the problem. Bringing things off the printed page into physicality means you would expect things to happen faster. At the end of the day, the Justice League wins by sheer raw power far more than any basic skills.

Who in their right mind is going to take on a team who beat a god-like Steppenwolf on their next outing. It would have made more sense to build up to such things than start off that way. Unfortunately, ‘Justice League’ is going to cast a bad shadow over any more of the DC Universe stories. If any of the team is in trouble on their own, they’ll just call their buddies in to give a hand.

I can understand why there’s been some criticism of the film. It’s certainly a step-up from the last live action version in 1997 but that one really lacked budget but had some characterisation. Here, though, you would probably have to be more familiar with the Grant Morrison model of the Justice League than I was as that was after my original run up to the 1990s to see how he dealt with this problem.

‘Justice League’ is watchable but I would be cautious with thinking too much about the events. As it has broken the ice in getting a DC Comics team film out. I suspect without having to deal with how the team was formed, that they can move on to how they all get on together and how to deal with combined foes who might use more than force.

On the blu-ray there are a lot of extras and I think they’re probably worth watching before then after the film because it puts a lot of things into context. Well apart from ‘The Return Of Superman’ runs for 2 minutes has 2 scenes not shown in the film, although I doubt if they’d have been that valuable in the overall content.

‘Road To Justice’ at 14 minutes has the comicbook creators discussing the team’s origins. There is some emphasis on the JLA recruiting but omits they only take on one new member at a time and Hawkgirl was refused entry with her husband, thus keeping the 1960s team to having only two women. The emphasis being that there has been a lot of Justice League teams.

12 minute ‘Heart Of Justice’ further investigates what the DC super-heroes mean with some emphasis on Batman’s place in the team. There is also a look at the triad of him, Superman and Wonder Woman. You also get to see what parts of the set was green screen.

‘The Technology Of The Justice League’ is shorter at 8 minutes but this is a more specialised subject. It goes without saying that the focus is on Batman who relies on technology to make his vigilantism work. I think I learnt more from this section. What does amaze me is that the Batman’s new Flying Fox freight aircraft has only had a Lego model merchandise, unlike the new Batmobile.

‘Justice League: The New Heroes’ at 12.5 minutes exploration of what they took from the comics for the film. With Cyborg, actor Ray Fisher explains the lights on his eye and chest are used to show the right shows for the CGI make-over although it looks like the only thing organic about him is his head. The ‘new’ is an emphasis on Cyborg, Aquaman and the Flash as being new to the film franchise and to purchasers who don’t know the comics, even if I was giving wry smiles as to which of the comics I owned as they flashed up on the screen,

‘Steppenwolf The Conqueror’ only gets 3 minutes. This is one character I don’t know from Apokolips. I’m still not sure even now because he just seems to be a powerful menace than anyone with a clear motivation for his actions.

‘Scene Studies’ is 15 minutes looking at set creation, especially on the Amazon island from the cast and crew. The Wonder Woman rescuing people from the terrorists scene and the real place duplicated for the action scene. The Heroes Park set remade from the previous film. Seeing the previsualisations computer graphics shows how much work was put on behind the scenes. Finally, ‘The Tunnel Battle’ was made in London and looks like all stuntpeople.

‘Suit Up: The Look Of The League’ is 10.5 minutes focus on costume design. Looks like no longer plaster-casting the actors for their costumes but scanning them now. Both Batman and Superman’s costumes were improved material-wise. Wonder Woman’s costume getting a lot more colour.

I have to confess I always take joy from learning from the behind the scenes material and if you want to go into watching this film with that in mind, watch these first to realise all the work that’s been done. My real criticism is with the plot and story elements that must have been green lit by the studio than thought as to what the comicbook fans would think was being done which is a shame as that is what will ultimate tar the film in the long run. It also made me wonder that with all this drive, why are these seven individuals just fighting crime and not making the world better.

GF Willmetts

April 2018

(region 0 blu-ray: pub: Warner Bros. 1 blu-ray disk 120 minute film with extras. Price: £ (UK). ASIN: 5000248579)

cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa and Ciarán Hinds

check out websites: www.warnerbros.co.uk and www.dcccomics.com


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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