One of the more divisive superhero films in recent years, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was far from the all-encompassing movie that it needed to be. Fueled by Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel, it was far too gritty and dark, both in tone and visuals, for many audiences. As such, a significant amount of course correction was needed for this year's DC superhero project - Justice League.
Change in tone
And DC and director Zack Snyder (with help from Joss Whedon) appears to have done what was necessary. From the very first frame of the film, things are far brighter, with the dark colour grading from Dawn of Justice swapped for something far more palatable. While Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins had no actual influence on this film, it's clear that her use of brighter, more vivid colours served as a guideline for this one.
Much like Dorothy popping into technicolour when she enters the world of Oz, Justice League is a stark contrast to what we got for Dawn of Justice, and ultimately the film is better served for it. These are superheroes after all, and if DC wants to compete with Marvel, there's only so much gritty realism they can imbue their films with.
Along with the change in colour, the film adds far more humour to the mix. Yes, there is the impending world-ending threat of Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarán Hinds) to deal with, but on the whole there is still an optimistic outlook, even if the possibility of death is on the cards.
Much of the laughs come courtesy of The Flash/Barry Allen (Ezra Miller, The Perks of being a Wallflower), who understandably takes a fanboy approach to joining the Justice League. His slow-mo action while tapping into the speed force also proved quite funny at times, even tripping over his own feet, showcasing exactly how much of a newbie to this whole superhero thing he is.
As for the other new additions, Aquaman and Cyborg aren't quite as fleshed out as the DC holy trinity, but that will like happen during their respective solo films. For Justice League they more than serve their purpose, with Jason Momoa adding some much needed badass-ness to a character whose often made fun of for talking to fish.
In the trailer and movie, Bruce Wayne makes several hints at this, but Momoa's imposing presence more than compensates for any perceived shortcomings in Aquaman's superhero credentials. Added to this, Aquaman has some of the best lines in the film, and his "My man!" exchange with Cyborg is highly quotable.
As for Cyborg (Ray Fisher, mainly stage actor to date), we have a vague idea of how his character came into being, but for now he still has to come to grips with his new powers, given to him thanks to a chance encounter with a Motherbox.
The chemistry between Cyborg and The Flash is also one of the highlights of the newly formed Justice League, with both fairly new to their respective superhero gigs. As such, the pair comes across well on screen, which should bode well for 2020's slated Cyborg and Flashpoint films.
When you have a superhero movie on this scale, and commanding so many different characters on screen, things can quickly get out of hand. Dawn of Justice suffered from this problem to an extent, particularly as Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman tackled Doomsday. Interestingly, things feel far more balanced in Justice League.
Yes they're facing a massive threat, but the scope of the action never got out of hand, and you don’t leave the cinema exhausted from too intense visuals, as was the case for more recent Transformers films. Kudos must go to Snyder for ensuring each character got their time to shine during fights, while also giving them the chance to make an impact during dialogue-heavy scenes.
As for which Justice League member proved the most memorable, the hands down winner has to be Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), who continued from her strong showings in Dawn of Justice and her solo flick. Easily the best hand to hand combatant, she more than once takes up the challenge of fighting Steppenwolf head-on. Her dynamic with Batman (Ben Affleck) also made for good viewing, as the pair butted heads, consoled one another and turned to the other for help throughout the film.
There's still a lot about Justice League that we cannot mention at the risk of revealing spoilers. Unlike Dawn of Justice, which unveiled Doomsday ahead of the film's theatrical screening, Justice League leaves a few surprises for audiences, despite all the trailers and recent video clips.
All in all, Justice League serves as a far more enjoyable movie experience for canon obsessed fans and part-time comic fans alike. The change in tone is welcome, and should help transition the DC Extended Universe from the gritty confines of real-world action, seen in The Dark Knight, to a kaleidoscopic world where Atlantian princes talk to fish and grown men dress up like bats to fight crime.
SCORE: 7.5 out of 10