Sound Off! Justice League

Welcome back to Sound Off!, a semi-regular column where members of Speculative Chic gather together to chat about the latest BIG THING in entertainment. This time, recruit the most powerful people you know and discuss Justice League, which premiered in the United States on Friday, November 17, 2017.

Sound Off! is meant to be a reaction, but not necessarily a review. After all, while we are all individuals, even mutual love of something (or hate) can come from different places: you may find everything from critique to fangirling to maybe even hate-watching.

Now, join J.L. Gribble, Michael May, R.J. Joseph, and Nancy O’Toole Meservier as they talk about Justice League. [Note: Hints of plot elements that should be super-obvious from the film’s marketing, but otherwise spoiler-free!]

J.L.: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

An epic superhero movie that takes a disparate group of heroes and forces them to fight together to save the world. Generic creatures are pouring from the sky, led by a guy who looks kind of like a demon. One of the heroes wears a metal suit with a glowing circle in the center of his chest. One has a ton of money and thinks he’s the smartest person in the room. One is the token female who actually is the smartest person in the room. There’s a glowing cube that is a source of phenomenal power involved.

See where I’m going with this?

That might be a little unfair, because DC’s Justice League was more than just a poor rip-off of Marvel’s The Avengers. I had fun, it lived up to the hype as a special-effects laden blockbuster, and Jason Momoa is sexy as hell. But I have absolutely no urge to rush out and see it again. All it did was get me a little excited for next year’s Aquaman (but mostly because of Jason Momoa). Even the stinger at the end of the credits just made me shrug and say, “Meh.”

There were some good moments. Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and Victor Stone/Cyborg each had a solid character arc. Arthur Curry/Aquaman’s character arc was not as fulfilling, but obviously leads toward his solo film. I find my eyes glazing over when certain other superheroes are on screen, so I’m honestly not there for their character arcs anyway. And ultimately, Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen/The Flash stole the show for me, highlighting Joss Whedon’s ability to write sharp, quippy dialogue. I even got over my bitterness that they did not cast the television version of The Flash, played by Grant Gustin, because these were two very different characters. The television version is a character supported by a team, whereas Justice League’s Barry has become a loner. The latter character worked for me just as much as the former, and I’d pre-order tickets in a heartbeat if DC announced a Flash movie.

And finally, my thought on the Amazonian costume changes: If it hadn’t been for all the outrage online, I’m honestly not sure I would have noticed (not every Amazonian wore the bikini-style armor). But then again, I’m not the male gaze the costume choice, and the entire film, was made for.

Michael: I was skeptical about Justice League. After Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (BvS) failed to understand not just Superman, but the very concept of heroism, I had pretty much written off the DC movies. Wonder Woman had a lot riding on it, but near the top of my list was whether or not it would be able to course-correct the tone of the entire series. And of course, it did. Not perfectly, but it made a good start.

The correction wasn’t just in the tone of the films, but in the very philosophy that they’re built on. You can’t do that without seams, and there were some visible ones in Wonder Woman. Particularly in its need to retcon Wonder Woman’s history as originally presented in BvS.

My hope for Justice League was that it would continue this trajectory, but doing so was always going to be harder for this film than for a stand-alone prequel like Wonder Woman. Justice League is a direct sequel to BvS, started by the same director and dealing with the characters and baggage introduced there. I expected it to be messy, not just from a continuity standpoint, but also in that it’s the first real introduction of Aquaman, Flash, and Cyborg. There’s a lot to balance, and I had no confidence that it was going to work out.

My biggest hope for the film was that it a) present likeable versions of Wonder Woman and Aquaman (two of my favorite DC comics heroes) and b) have a story that kind of makes sense. If it could do those things, I could live with not caring about Batman, the Flash, Cyborg, or Superman.

As it turns out, the story does make sense and — to my surprise — I actually like every member of the Justice League. Batman’s more thoughtful than he was in BvS, Ezra Miller is adorable as the Flash, Ray Fisher’s Cyborg grows out of his initial mopiness, and Superman is finally able to be heroic without all the cynical baggage he carried in the previous films. Aquaman is indeed awesome and Wonder Woman even more so. All of the teammates have some kind of character arc that they grow through in order to accept the need for the group and their places in it. It’s a movie not just about saving the world, but the value of community and the importance of working together.

Steppenwolf isn’t a super-exciting villain, but he’s a credible threat and he works as the catalyst for what the film is actually about. His goals are clear and understandable and he’s crazy hard to beat. Like everything else in the film, there’s room for improvement, but I’m glad that the series seems finally to be on the right track.

R.J.: I had been eagerly awaiting this latest installment in the DC superhero universe since Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice. I mean, Superman couldn’t really be dead forever, ever, right? The release of Wonder Woman stoked the fires of anticipation. Surely Diana realizes she has to step up to her goddess responsibilities? When the date finally arrived, the opening scene with a raspy-voiced Batman took me back to my childhood with Saturday mornings filled with beloved superheroes.

But these aren’t the superheroes of my childhood. This may be a good thing.

Wonder Woman is fierce and strong, but truly cares for mankind. Flash is a genius who wants to belong but whose eager innocence keeps him outside of much human interaction, yet leaves him craving it all the same. Aquaman is a smart-mouthed, hard-drinking rough rider who first shuns his future teammates but who always helps his human buddies out. Batman still has more money than he knows what to do with, but admits that his riches are his strongest superpower. Cyborg believes he has lost the ties to his humanity and yet can not resist helping those who are still mired in their humanness. And Superman is the beacon of hope that holds the entire world together.

So many beautiful beings in one place. So very many butt shots of Diana. Not enough shots, of any kind, of Arthur.

I am struck by the efforts to make these larger than life beings more human-like, even as their abilities are highlighted. I feel sympathy for Cyborg and wonder if he feels like the zombie he technically is, made up of human parts that previously died. I wink at his name, Victor, as an ode to Victor Frankenstein, a doctor as brilliantly mad as Cyborg’s father. I have no sympathy for Bruce Wayne, who moves ineffectually from hard-edged, self-funded superhero to guilt-ridden “murderer” who wants to give the world back its savior in Superman.

The underlying theme of resurrection works well in some parts of this film; not so well in others. I am glad only the essence of the Justice League members was resurrected and given new life. The possibilities are endless.

Nancy: Seeing a DC movie is a lot like playing roulette. You may hit the jack pot (Wonder Woman), but you’re more likely to come out of it feeling robbed. Going into Justice League, I couldn’t help but take a look all the negative press and feel as if I was signing up for another let-down. I hadn’t exactly been pleased with director Zack Snyder’s previous two offerings (Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice), and while I like the work of director Joss Whedon (who was brought in to handle a massive amount of re-shoots when Snyder had to step down), bringing in a creator whose work is so tonally different from Snyder’s didn’t seem like the best way to make a coherent film.

Now that I’ve seen it, I can admit that my fears were justified — it’s not a coherent film. But weirdly enough, it still works.

Oh, it has its problems, and while many are quick to point fingers at Snyder, Whedon, or Warner Brothers, I think everyone can take a piece of the blame. It’s clear that a lot ended up on the cutting room floor — and probably for good reason. Early scenes feel like abridgments, and there are some action sequences that are kinda hard to follow. There’s too much obvious CGI, the villain is underdeveloped (a flaw not exactly unique to DC films), and Whedon’s quippy dialogue doesn’t always work in Snyder’s universe.

Fortunately, where the movie really needs to succeed, it does. Justice League handles the team element really well. The moments where members of the League are working together, or against each other are just friggin’ great. I came out of the movie with a strong idea of who everyone was, and I’m eager to see more of them in future films. Every major role here is wonderfully cast. Wonder Woman remains a pillar of strength and integrity. The Flash made me laugh over and over again. I truly felt for Cyborg’s struggle, and I can’t wait to see Jason Momoa destroy some shit in the Aquaman movie. Even Ben Affleck, who I haven’t been the fondest of as Batman, has some good character moments.

Justice League isn’t a great film, but as a comic book reader, I’ve made peace with the fact that sometimes in order to spend time with characters that you love, you need to sit through some not-so-great stories. I hope that going forward, DC can keep what worked so well in this film, and craft story lines more worthy of these great characters.


  • Shara White November 21, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    I’ve heard that the added “butt shots” of Wonder Woman are apparently courtesy of Whedon. Has anyone heard the same? If so, can Joss not double-down on being a freaking creep and maybe LEARN from the Wonder Woman film on how to actually do this? And if it was Snyder, he could use a lesson too.

  • Merrin November 21, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    I wanted to see this just so I could yell about it on Sound Off but honestly I didn’t want to spend the money. I’ve read some things about Wonder Woman’s story arc that I’m just not impressed with though.

  • Sherry Peters November 21, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    I think Patty Jenkins spoiled us with her “Wonder Woman”. It was so good that I am now in doubt about the quality of anything Wonder Woman in the hands of anyone else. I worry that she will once again be reduced to a cliche, the sexy ass-kicker fighting for the love of a man. So I haven’t seen Justice League, don’t know that I will. I’m not even sure I want to see anything else with Wonder Woman for fear it wil ruin the beauty that was. Am I wrong?

    • Merrin November 22, 2017 at 12:41 am

      I don’t think you’re wrong. That’s basically exactly my problem.

  • Nicole Taft November 21, 2017 at 7:54 pm

    Omg. Everyone had a positive-ish experience of this movie. Maybe I will make the effort to go see it. (Although my man Jason Momoa – ah, Ronon… – was always a strong pull as well).


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: