Written by: Liam Watts
“A pop-cultural black hole, sucking up as much money and audience goodwill as the studio can shovel into it.” “Embarrassing to watch.” “A big ugly mess.” “Agonizing to watch.” Or, how about, “like watching your favorite Olympic figure skater with plenty of star potential flub one triple axle after another.” If you thought I was describing the latest season of The Bachelor you would technically be correct, but these quotes were actually used by critics reporting on last year’s Justice League.
Growing up, I cultivated a love of reading amongst the pages of Batman and Superman comics, and without their influence, I would be a completely different person. As such, these characters and their stories are near and dear to my heart. When the first DC movies began to drop, I eagerly rushed to theaters to see them, and I can honestly say I have loved them all. So, when reviews started appearing for Justice League proclaiming it an ugly and embarrassing mess, I was rightfully saddened. After seeing the movie myself, however, I couldn’t believe how wrong the critics were! Justice League was nothing like how they had painted it. It was fun, action-packed, and with characters who were full of heart. When I tried to tell my friends how great the movie was they would just say things like “trash,” “garbage,” and even “unwatchable.”
As I continued to talk to people about their opinions on this movie, though, I realized that many of the people claiming that it was so bad, including my friends, were people who actually had never seen it. The general consensus surrounding Justice League had become an echo chamber reverberating the negative opinions of a handful of people. Now, I’m not saying that the opinions of critics are worthless, especially when I am being a critic right now, but with Justice League finally coming out on DVD and rental, I want to take the opportunity to revisit this awesome movie and maybe just convince you to give it a chance.
So, for all of you who haven’t seen it, Justice League is the continuation and culmination of the first wave of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), bringing all the current DCEU heroes, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, and Cyborg onto the screen together for the first time. Now, even though Justice League continues the story of previous DCEU movies Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman, Suicide Squad, and Wonder Woman, you can still enjoy it without having seen any of the others. In fact, Justice League is a great place to start.
Following the death of Superman, Earth is now left without a defender, and cosmic forces have taken note. Steppenwolf, an immortal warrior from the alien planet Apokolips, decides to take this opportunity to finish what he started long ago, destroying Earth. Unwilling to just sit back and watch the razing of their world, Batman and Wonder Woman gather together a league of superheroes to fight back. Before this newly formed “Justice League” can dish out any justice, however, they have to help one another discover what drives them to be heroes.
As fun and exciting as the action in Justice League is, it’s these introspective moments and characterizations that make this movie so great. I don’t relate to superheroes because they can leap over buildings, shoot lasers from their eyes, or run faster than light; I relate to superheroes because they’re people: people who overcome the same weaknesses, insecurities, and struggles that I face to become something bigger than themselves. And that’s exactly what makes the characters in Justice League so relatable; in the end they’re just people who have their own internal battles to overcome. Wonder Woman struggles with finding purpose following death and lost love, Aquaman wants to find acceptance, Flash is lonely, Batman is wrestling with the weight of past mistakes, and Cyborg faces an identity crisis after an injury takes away his career in football. All of us can relate to some aspect of these things.
Now, Justice League isn’t a perfect movie, but I believe too much of the criticism that it has received is unfair and unwarranted. I’ll be the first to admit that it has some issues, however. In fact, my biggest complaint against Justice League is that it tries to accomplish too much in its two-hour run time. With so many characters that need to be introduced and built up, not everyone gets the spotlight that they deserve; Steppenwolf and Cyborg being the biggest losers because of this. Additionally, it can also feel at points like the story is moving at a breakneck pace trying to get through everything in time. In a few scenes, you can tell that the characters involved would have had more to say if they had just had some room to breathe, but unfortunately, there simply isn’t enough time.
Despite its flaws, however, Justice League manages still to be a fun superhero movie that wears its heart on its sleeve. It’s not the perfect movie, but that’s part of what makes it great. DC has done a fantastic job bringing all of these larger-than-life superheroes down to earth where we can emote with and relate to them. Whether you’ve never seen it before, or simply didn’t like it the first time, I would encourage you to give this movie a chance. Justice League is a good movie that deserves your time.