Justice League Review Round-Up: A “Big, Beautiful Mess”

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Because Rotten Tomatoes is holding fire on Justice League‘s final review score – expect it to be posted online come midnight ET – we’ve gone ahead and sampled a collection of reviews only to discover that JL is neither the high-flying success story of Wonder Woman, nor the irredeemable mess that was Suicide Squad.

Instead, it seems the Zack Snyder-directed epic finds itself somewhere in the middle, with critics heaping praise on the likable cast of characters –  namely Bats, Superman, Diana, Aquaman, the Flash, and Cyborg – along with the bright and breezy tone. It’s a far cry from the “relentlessly grim” Batman V Superman, that’s for sure.

Still, the overriding consensus appears to be that for all its ambition, Justice League is still a sloppy, poorly-executed mess that’s hamstrung by woeful CGI and tonal inconsistencies. The rendering of Steppenwolf, in particular, has drawn a lot of criticism, with Empire arguing that Ciarán Hinds’ otherworldly foe stoops into the Uncanny Valley. And we’re merely scratching the surface…

Empire: 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.

The Telegraph: Justice League is a mess in ways cheaper productions could only dream about. A post-credits scene dutifully teases more to come, but the film’s heart just isn’t in it. After Justice League, there’s nowhere else any of this can go.

IGN: Warner Bros. and DC Films had two major goals to achieve with Justice League. First, to cleanse the palette of those turned off by the relentlessly grim BvS; and second, to make viewers enjoy these superheroes enough to want to see further screen appearances by them. Justice League mostly succeeds in accomplishing those two key objectives, despite its sloppy execution. It’s messy and flawed but it still offers enough entertainment value (mostly thanks to its likable characters) to make it worthwhile.

The Los Angeles Times: Justice League is a seriously satisfying superhero movie, one that […] actually feels like the earnest comic books of our squandered youth […] 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.

The review round-up continues below, and, well, it doesn’t get any better for the Zack Snyder epic, with some critics labeling Justice League to be an “embarrassment.” Ouch.

The Guardian: 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.

Vanity Fair: Justice League sweatily wants to be both an epic and a romp, but hasn’t the patience to truly be either. It’s rote and perfunctory and bland, as if burped out by some tired algorithm. How could this be the movie that got made in the end, after all that lead-up?

Polygon: Justice League is almost salvageable. There are good, cute and funny moments that the editing team should be applauded for, but there aren’t enough to distract from the beautiful, chaotic mess that Justice League ends up being. It’s difficult to try and explain whether Justice League fails or succeeds as a movie because the film feels like it’s still trying to figure out what it wants to be.

Variety: The film is the definition of an adequate high-spirited studio lark: no more, no less. If fans get excited about it, that may mostly be because they’re excited about getting excited. Yet the movie is no cheat. It’s a tasty franchise delivery system […] 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.

Lastly, EW, The Verge and The Independent also posted their verdicts, but those hoping for a competent, well-rounded story in the vein of Wonder Woman needn’t get their hopes up.

EW: It’s obvious to anyone watching Justice League next to the other DC films that the studio brass handed down a mandate to lighten the mood and make things funnier and more Marvel-y. And, to an extent, Justice League accomplishes that. But 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.

The Verge: “Because the film goes in so many tonal and narrative directions, it feels like a grab bag anyone can reach into and fish around in for something to their personal tastes, from dramatic themes to offhand banter, from mindless pummel-fests to thoughtful conversations about heroic responsibility. Justice League isn’t an entirely coherent film, but it’s certainly an egalitarian one.”

The Independent: This is surely the most infantile of recent superhero yarns – a film that squanders the talents of an impressive ensemble cast and eschews any meaningful characterization in favor of ever more overblown special effects. It’s a grievous disappointment.

Justice League is due to light up theaters this Friday, November 17th, so it’ll be fascinating to discover if these damning reviews have much of a bearing on the film’s box office projections.

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