Justice League, Zack Snyder’s 2017 adaptation of the widely-known comic book superhero team, and the fifth film in the contentious “DC Extended Universe”, is that daunting midterm essay from college you want to wash your hands of the second it’s complete. You know the one: the paper you pulled an all-nighter on at the eleventh hour at the realization that what you had been writing prior might be an utter train wreck, so you ended up frantically rewriting the damn thing to make the deadline and because you just wanted to get that shit done. Something like that.
This is a travesty of a movie. I’m not even sure Justice League qualifies as a “movie”, what with its shoddy visual effects, green-screen-laden cinematography, and a narrative suggesting more than a few puzzle pieces were missing. Hell, “video game cutscene” would be more appropriate, prominently in regards villain Steppenwolf, a CG abomination who looks like he teleported straight from a PS3 game, and portrayed through motion capture by Ciarán Hinds, who tries but can do nothing with a thoroughly generic character. Though Hinds can at least take solace in getting paid-after all, something good had to come out of Justice League, a film which wears it’s troubled production on its sleeve. This isn’t a Rogue One situation, where that film’s reshoots blended seamlessly with the already shot footage. No, Justice League (finished in post-production by Joss Whedon) is Fantastic Four-level bad, both films sharing an actor (Kate Mara there, Ben Affleck here) sporting a jarringly different hairstyle in certain scenes contrary to their consistent ones. And even Fantastic Four didn’t have the temerity to include two separate hairstyle shots in the same scene. I will cease to further discuss the reshoots, except to maybe add that bloated Ben Affleck clearly wishes he were anywhere else. You will feel the same way.
As if the reshoots and visuals weren’t awful enough, Justice League has the privilege of being saddled with possibly the most generic plot for its genre: an alien invasion. You see, the aforementioned Steppenwolf, for reasons rather vague and undefined, not like the audience would have any investment anyway, decides now is the opportune moment for chaos and conquering, so he arrives on Earth with the help of three “Mother Boxes” (energy-pulsing cubes that will induce recollections of Whedon’s Avengers and it's own MacGuffin cube) and his flying monkeys-sorry, I forgot they’re called “Parademons”, that’s how derivative Justice League is. Naturally, the only thing that can stop Steppenwolf is a motley crew of superpowered individuals, led by non-superpowered Bruce “Batman” Wayne (Affleck, considerably better-served in Batman V Superman, where he wasn’t forced to spout groan-worthy one-liners). The team, consisting of Amazonian Diana “Wonder Woman” Prince (Gal Gadot, given a substantially less interesting character arc here than in last summer’s wonderful Wonder Woman), speedster Barry “The Flash” Allen (Ezra Miller, delivering the brunt of the script’s banal attempts at humor), half-man/half-Atlantean Arthur “Aquaman” Curry (Jason Momoa, very much relying on “surfer bro” charisma and contributing very little), and half-man/half-machine Victor “Cyborg” Stone (Ray Fisher, giving easily the most interesting performance in a role requiring him to predominantly interact with technology), feels less like a Justice League and more like...well, anything but that. Five essentially “human” members does not a Justice League make (bit of comic book trivia: the original League consisted of seven members with diverse backgrounds), and the film literally stops dead in its tracks to emphasize how incompetent they really are.
At this point, a reader with even the most rudimentary knowledge of the Justice League is probably why the hell Superman hasn’t even been mentioned yet, him being the face of the team and all...in the comics. Here he’s lying in a coffin. The controversial handling of Clark “Superman” Kent (Henry Cavill and some horrendous CGI) in the DCEU may not have originated with Justice League, but it certainly taints it. Superman’s sacrifice at the end of Batman V Superman was a decision that all but ensured that the first cinematic incarnation of the Justice League would not only feel incomplete, but not even a “true” Justice League film at all-more the finale of a Superman trilogy (Man of Steel being the first) in which the Big Blue Boy Scout comes back to life (obviously) and just makes the team feel so redundant in a way that screams, especially in the last frame of the movie, “Yeah! That’s what it’s really about!!!”. As opposed to, y’know, a whole group of individuals each utilizing their skills in equal capacity and serving a purpose. Like a real Justice League. Reality is, what should have been a glorious event equivalent to the reception of The Avengers back in 2012 is nothing more than dust in the wind. Justice League is a mess from top to bottom, and everyone involved should be embarrassed in even having it on their résumé. There’s a line towards the end of the film in which a certain character clumsily affirms that he believes in truth, and is also a big fan of justice. If there were any justice in the world, Justice League would have been aborted in its crib.