‘Justice League’ Review Round-Up: A Decidedly Mixed Critical Reception

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After this year’s brilliant Wonder Woman proved that DC could make films just as good, if not better than Marvel, it was up to Justice League to keep the momentum going. And with a stellar cast forming the League, Warner Bros. pinned their hopes on the superhero team-up feature injecting new life into the moribund corpse of DCEU. Now, with the review embargo finally having been lifted, we know what the critics think of the new superhero movie, and folks, it ain’t pretty.

While some critics generally found the movie unwatchable, others enjoyed it, although many felt that the reliance on CGI, put together with Ben Affleck’s poor performance and the clashing visions of dual directors Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon, brought the film down. Here’s what critics had to say about Justice League…

Variety: “Light, clean and simple.”

Calling the film “a tasty franchise delivery system,” Variety’s chief film critic Owen Gleiberman enjoyed Justice League, writing:

It’s not just a sequel — it’s an act of franchise penance. The movie, which gathers up half a dozen comic-book immortals and lets them butt heads on their way to kicking ass, is never messy or bombastic. It’s light and clean and simple (at times almost too simple), with razory repartee and combat duels that make a point of not going on for too long.

Vanity Fair: “Rote and perfunctory and bland.”

Richard Lawson, of Vanity Fair, hated every fiber of the new DC film, finding faults in, well, pretty much everything he could. In his review, he wrote:

Perhaps the Justice League franchise really has been rotten from the start, experiencing not evolution but entropy, with ‘Wonder Woman’ standing as an anomalous glimmer of false hope. I could be projecting, but boy does poor Gal Gadot look so sad in ‘Justice League’, watching this lumbering and witless movie lay waste to the nice thing she just got finished making. It really is a shame. What a dumb irony, to end this movie, of all movies, on a note of bitter injustice like that.

The Guardian: “The problems are still evident.”

The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw was no fan of the film (but he didn’t like Blade Runner 2049, so….) writing:

In the end, though, there is something ponderous and cumbersome about ‘Justice League’; the great revelation is very laborious and solemn and the tiresome post-credits sting is a microcosm of the film’s disappointment. Some rough justice is needed with the casting of this franchise.

Empire: “Supremely hokey stuff.”

Empire’s Dan Jolin gave the film two stars out of five, complimenting the film’s cast but feeling that the CGI-heavy movie just didn’t work.

It’s breezily fun at times – but, lumbered with a story that struggles to find resonance beyond its improbable plot devices, ‘Justice League’ isn’t about to steal ‘Avengers’ super-team crown.

IGN: “Sloppy, but entertaining.”

In a much more positive review, IGN’s Jim Vejvoda gave the film a solid seven out of ten. Although he enjoyed the chemistry between the cast he noted that the over-use of the CGI villain Steppenwolf was a sore spot in the film.

The film largely maintains a visual uniformity with Snyder’s darker, more operatic aesthetic established in the early trailers; to the ear, though, many scenes bear the distinct voice and humor of Whedon. In other words, ‘Justice League’ still looks like a Zack Snyder film, but it sounds and feels like a Joss Whedon movie.

The Verge: “Thrilling and rousing.”

Writing for The Verge, Tasha Robinson felt that the film was torn between the visions of the two directors. The critic also noted that the VFX effects were poor and that Justice League often felt like a litmus test, designed by the studio to see which elements fans would enjoy.

It’s a Zack Snyder movie and a Joss Whedon movie, which may ultimately work better for audiences than a pure project from one or the other, given that both men have their fans and their detractors. It’s just a pity they couldn’t have consciously worked together to create a cohesive, coherent vision that merged their sensibilities thoroughly, instead of this back-and-forth tug of war that seems to be perpetually checking in with the audience: “Is this what you want? How about this instead?”

Collider: “Beyond saving.”

Collider’s Matt Goldberg felt that the film was poorly made and that the studio had failed the DC #superheroes, by making a movie that’s as much a disservice to the comic book characters as it is to fans.

In place of disaster, ‘Justice League’ is a largely bland, forgettable affair that has nice moments scattered throughout and the promise of a better tomorrow, but outside of ‘Wonder Woman’, that’s all the DCEU ever really offers: the promise that the next movie will be better. And sure, ‘Justice League’ is better than ‘Batman v Superman’, but that doesn’t make it good.

Forbes: “Everyone will have enough reason to be happy.”

Forbes writer Mark Hughes loved the film. He deemed it a respectable follow-up to Wonder Woman and apart from spotty CGI work, felt that the film was pretty great.

‘Justice League’ is like a two-hour live-action superhero cartoon made for kids as well as adults. It’s a reminder that we all fell in love with these characters when we were kids, thrilled by their comic book exploits and their cartoon incarnations, eager to see them come fully to life some day on the big screen. That day has finally come, and ‘Justice League’ is sending a message loud and clear that DC is happy to welcome all fans aboard.

The Hollywood Reporter: “A chore to sit through.”

The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy felt that the film was a victim of fatigue and repetition. He felt that apart from Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, no-one really stood out.

Garishly unattractive to look at and lacking the spirit that made Wonder Woman, which came out five months ago, the most engaging of Warner Bros.’ DC Comics-derived extravaganzas to date, this hodgepodge throws a bunch of superheroes into a mix that neither congeals nor particularly makes you want to see more of them in future. Plainly put, it’s simply not fun.

'Justice League' [Credit: Warner Bros.]
‘Justice League’ [Credit: Warner Bros.]

The LA Times: “A seriously satisfying superhero movie.”

LA Times critic Kenneth Turan was a fan of the film. He felt that the choice to devote a large amount of time on character setting and building worked well for the film.

Though Snyder’s somber template is very much in place (he and Terrio share story credit), Whedon has loosened and humanized the story’s tone to allow for engaging moments of humor and fun, especially from Ezra Miller’s the Flash. And in a film where introduction and delineation of characters satisfyingly take up as much time and space as slam-bang action, Whedon’s touch inevitably helps make the members of the League as distinctive and involving as they need to be.

Entertainment Weekly: “Not bad as Batman v Superman.”

Despite acknowledging that the film was much better than Suicide Squad and Batman v. Superman, EW critic Chris Nashawatay felt that the movie was still far away from the brilliance of Wonder Woman. He enjoyed the lighter tone of the film but didn’t love the movie overall.

It also feels like so much attention was paid to the smaller, fizzier character moments that the bigger picture of the film’s overarching plot was a second or third priority. Some day, hopefully soon, DC will get the recipe right again and duplicate ‘Wonder Woman’s storytelling magic. But today isn’t that day, and ‘Justice League’ unfortunately isn’t that film.

Rolling Stone: “The corrective followup they’re looking for.”

Peter Travers, from Rolling Stone, felt that the film was a big improvement to the other DCEU films (sans Wonder Woman), and gave it two and a half stars out of five. In his review he wrote:

The scenes of the League members together, bickering and bonding, spike the film with humor and genuine feeling, creating a rooting interest in the audience. Without it, the film would crumble. Let’s face it, Steppenwolf is a CGI yawn, the action sequences are often a digital blur, the soundtrack defaults to loud whenever inspiration wanes and keeping it light becomes the first step to staying superficial.

So folks, it looks like that Justice League isn’t quite the critical hit Warner Bros or #DC fans wanted. But with several critics lauding aspects of the film and other’s finding the film quite agreeable, the fate of this DC film isn’t as bad as it could have been. Of course only time will tell, just how well Justice League performs at the box office. But based on these reviews it certainly seems likely that we’ll be getting to see more of the League in the future, so it’s best not to miss how the most iconic comic book superhero team got together for the first time on the big screen.

Will you be checking out Justice League? Make sure to comment below.

(Sources: Variety, Vanity Fair, Guardian, Empire, IGN, The Verge, Collider, Forbes, The Hollywood Reporter, Los Angeles Times, EW, Rolling Stone

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