Justice League has not been a hit with the critics. But the critics are wrong–it’s excellent.
Rather than do a more formal review, here are a few reflections I had on the movie (broken into two broad categories for convenience):
The Nerd Reflections
(These might out as a more of a nerd than I’m really comfortable with…)
- For some reason, it’s hard to make a good live-action Green Lantern movie–making a terrible one is apparently very easy. So I’m just happy we got even a brief nod in Justice League. Hopefully one of these days they’ll get around to doing Green Lantern justice, even if they have to use Jack Black. Fortunately, until then there are some very fine animated movies, as well as the comics.
- Did this have a Lord of the Rings feel, or was that just me? I’m not familiar enough with the Darkseid storyline to know if the ‘boxes’ are part of the canon and were really buried all over the planet, but that whole backstory had a ‘we beat Sauron once but didn’t do a good enough job’ feeling to it. Maybe it was just the costumes they gave the humans in the historical narration scenes…
- I suspect that one of the reasons the critics are underwhelmed by Justice League is that they’re comparing the one movie to the whole Marvel canon. Obviously that’s not completely inappropriate–Avengers and its sequels/spin-offs are all obviously dealing with the same end-of-the-world plot and theme that Justice League is engaging. Still, you can’t really compare a franchise with 15+ films to one with just five.
- Aquaman still isn’t interesting. Which isn’t to say Jason Momoa didn’t do a good job–he did. In fact, I think he did probably about as much as possible to make Aquaman interesting (largely by simply being his Stargate: Atlantis character).
- For that matter, all of the acting was well done. If there was a weak link here, it was Victor–but he’s the character that’s going to be the least familiar to all but die-hard fans anyway.
- Yes, I do want to see a race between the Flash and Superman. And no, I don’t want to know who would win.
- Marvel movies in general have been better than DC movies (and if you disagree, I’ll throw Superman IV: The Quest For Peace in your face faster than you can say Spider-man 3), but the DC comics have been better in general than Marvel. In animation, they’re equal.
- Obviously, the resurrection of Superman (who died to save the world) is about as clear a Christ figure as you can imagine. That’s a common theme going all the way back to the original Superman movie–wherein Jor-El sends his ‘only son‘ to Earth… In Justice League, this parallel continues. Which does NOT mean it’s a good idea to base your sermons off this or any other movie.
- I wouldn’t want to read too much into the ‘unity of the three’ business. Obviously [spoiler alert] a key plot point is the bringing together of the three boxes–each individually massively powerful–to form a source of life (or anti-life, depending on who is using it) that will transform the world. Another key plot point is the opposition of this unity-of-three by another unity-of-three, in the past an alliance between men, Amazons, and Atlanteans. I suspect many not-so-good sermon illustrations will try to draw on this to illustrate the Trinity. This is not a good idea–particularly since the ‘new unity’ of the Justice League isn’t really a unity of three. I mean, it is, given that the focus is clearly on Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. But there’s also the other three in this movie and (undoubtedly) those who will be introduced as more films are released.
- Likewise I wouldn’t want to delve too much into questions of leadership, as much as the movie clearly wants us to. The occasional conversations between Batman and Wonder Woman over what it takes to lead and why leaders do the things they do are heavy-handed and not necessarily accurate. Besides, just ‘confidently telling someone what to do’ is a kind of leadership, but not necessarily an admirable one.
All that said, the movie is a lot of fun–so go see it!
Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast and an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO.