review by dara mcwade
I should probably open this review with an admission of slight bias - I love Superman. The rest of the Justice League - they're pretty cool, but Superman, played here by Henry Cavill, has always had a special place in my heart. An alien god-like being who thinks that the mundanity of everyday human existence is so great that he decides to spend his whole civilian life telling stories about it as a journalist - it's a hopeful idea. So, with every DC film that comes around, I go in with that stupid hope - that there will be something to like there. I've become a Man of Steel apologist, and I can even find some small elements of quality in the maligned Batman V Superman - and yet, even with my defence of those films, there has always been something slightly off with the characterisation of my heroes, one I've always put down to Zach Snyder's deconstructive take on the concept of the superhero (as witnessed in Watchmen). So, it was with that mix of hope and fear that I settled down to watch DC's latest offering.
And it is with great pleasure that I can finally announce with George W. Bush aplomb "mission accomplished". Following on from the tonal shift of this Summer's Wonder Woman, Justice League announces it's new intentions from the very first scene - a scene that does more for it's Superman character than the entire two films preceding it. We go from black to a vertically held phonesceen, as a group of kids talk to Superman. They ask ol' bluetights what his favourite thing about Earth is. He looks to the side, takes a few seconds to think, and turns back to the child, smiling, before we cut away, not hearing the answer. The world of DC is finally worth saving.
Of course, Superman is far from the only hero is this film, and, by merit of his death at the end of Batman V Superman, has the least screen time of all the league. Thankfully, the impeccably cast superhero ensemble has enough charm to make up for it. Gal Gadot shines once again as Wonder Woman, Ben Affleck intrigues with his older, more tired take on Batman. But the three new heroes, the tortured Cyborg, a geeky, socially-inept Flash and a reworked, hot-headed version of Aquaman played with angry brusque by Game of Throne's Jason Momoa, bring a different, spikier energy to play off DC's holy trinity. Ezra Millar's Flash and Aquaman are the clear scene stealers; the Flash with his relentless, jittery enthusiasm that plays over to his action scenes - his speed powers are far more awkward, and thus more interesting, than any of the recent big screen speedsters - and Aquaman with his sheer physicality.
The film is far from perfect, of course - it's loud and brash, and it's aesthetics, the saving grace of previous failures Batman vs Superman and Suicide Squad, feels incredibly inconsistent, with some designs noticeably uglier than some of the more elegant constructions and the CGI villain voiced by Ciarán Hines more resembles scenery than a character. The film wears it's heart on it's sleeve - but at least the film shows that it has one. There's a lot of messiness here, perhaps a product of the film's difficult production. And yet, the mess didn't matter to me. The characters charmed, and I felt like a child at the newsstand reading the comics my parents wouldn't buy me. There's a line in the opening scene, where Superman tells a small child something that his father once told him - "Hope is like your car keys - you can lose it, but if you look for it, it's always there." There's hope for these films yet.