Warner Bros.’ decision to embargo Justice League reviews until the eve of the film’s release may have left fans of the DC Extended Universe on pins and needles, but only if they didn’t read the flurry of spoiler-free tweets last week following critics screenings. Those initial reactions align pretty well with the reviews that began to roll in overnight: They’re definitely mixed, but point toward a messy but frequently fun film that’s better than Batman v Superman (for whatever that’s worth) but a few steps down from Wonder Woman.
If there’s a consensus that emerges, it may be that the seams of Justice League show, a reminder that it’s the product of two directors (Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon), and the primary antagonist Steppenwolf is boring, further hindered by CGI. On the plus side, there’s praise for the humor and for the performances of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Jason Momoa as Aquaman and Ezra Miller as The Flash.
CBR will publish its review a little later, but in the meantime, here’s a selection of what other outlets are saying about Justice League:
Owen Gleiberman, Variety: “Justice League, the latest link of Tinkertoy in the DC Comics universe, has been conceived, in each and every frame, to correct the sins of Batman v Superman. It’s not just a sequel — it’s an act of franchise penance. The movie, which gathers up half a dozen comic-book immortals and lets them butt heads on their way to kicking ass, is never messy or bombastic. 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.”
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: “The scenes of the League members together, bickering and bonding, spike the film with humor and genuine feeling, creating a rooting interest in the audience. Without it, the film would crumble. Let’s face it, Steppenwolf is a CGI yawn, the action sequences are often a digital blur, the soundtrack defaults to loud whenever inspiration wanes and keeping it light becomes the first step to staying superficial. Justice League is a decent crowdpleaser, preferable in every way to the candy-assed cynicism of Suicide Squad. But sometimes shadows need to fall to show us what to be scared of. In the end, this all-star team-up is too afraid of the dark to work its way into our dreams.”
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter: “Fatigue, repetition and a laborious approach to exposition are the keynotes of this affair, which is also notable for how Ben Affleck, donning the bat suit for the second time, looks like he’d rather be almost anywhere else but here; his eyes and body language make it clear that he’s just not into it.”
Mark Hughes, Forbes: “Fast paced and with its eye always on moving the story forward, Justice League balances frequent humor with equally frequent character exchanges and development to maintain dramatic tension and avoid worrying that segment of fandom who constantly fear ‘too much humor and fun.’ While obviously some story elements and subplots were left on the cutting room floor, the honest truth is the final product doesn’t suffer for it — and, like it or not, that means those deleted scenes didn’t serve the main narrative enough to make themselves mandatory for inclusion. The result is a streamlined approach to storytelling that trusts the audience to fill in some gaps for themselves so that the story can maintain momentum.”
Matt Goldberg, Collider: “It’s a movie that simply asks us to accept a Superman we never really saw in Man of Steel or Batman v Superman. That Superman was standoffish and unsure of his place in the world, but in Justice League, he’s been rewritten to stand as a beacon (although his statue is still rubble) and whose absence is so profound that it creates the scent of fear that feeds the parademons. Justice League is a movie that’s begging you to forget everything that didn’t’ work in the previous DCEU films as it vigorously smashes the reset button. And trying to hit that reset makes sense, but promising intentions don’t make Justice League a better movie.”
Tasha Robinson, 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. And if anyone’s tracking what individual viewers respond to — which moments they most call out on social media, which bits get the most attention in reviews — DC could potentially learn a lot about where to pivot next.”
Mike Ryan, Uproxx: “This Justice League in a post-Wonder Woman world is really a drag. Obviously, we all know the DC films will look radically different after Justice League as Warner Bros. takes these films in a new direction, but that doesn’t mean this movie isn’t a huge letdown.”
Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly: “Once united, the Super Six have to take on the villain behind all those flying insects, Steppenwolf. And during his first appearance it quickly becomes clear that Justice League has an Apocalypse problem. Like that big blue X-Men baddie, Steppenwolf is one of those patently phony CGI creations that gives the film a uncanny-valley shlockiness. He looks like a cross between a Viking and a billy goat. The best thing about him is that he booms threats in the menacing basso profundo of Ciaran Hinds. The worst thing is…pretty much everything else, including his world-destroying M.O. to find and unite three all-powerful, vibrating supernatural “mother boxes” that are only slightly less ridiculous than Infinity Stones. Is it really that hard to come up with a decent villain who wants something other than geometric maguffins?”
Ethan Sacks, New York Daily News: “Justice League manages to have moments of fun, perhaps buoyed by one of the best dialogue writers in the genre — Whedon, who took over reshoots and post-production after Snyder stepped down to deal with a family tragedy. Fans of Snyder’s patented slow-motion action sequences shouldn’t fret, there are plenty of those, too.”
Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair: “If this was the best DC could do in synthesizing all their lead characters together into one ensemble spectacular, after a half-decade of planning, that’s pretty damning. Justice League is such a misguided mes s— often feeling entirely unguided—that you want to intervene, softly saying, ‘Stop, stop, you don’t have to do this, stop.’ But you can’t talk to the movie screen, so I’ll say it here. There is no real vision; no idea what the tone of these movies should be; no compelling or even coherent narrative through-line; no feel, or regard, for characterization. I know there’s another comic-book company doing this across town, and it seems to be working out well for them, but if you have no clear sense of how to build one of these franchises in a functional, let alone interesting, way, maybe stop until you do!”
Kate Taylor, The Globe and Mail: “The movie lurches through various explosive encounters with the overbearing Steppenwolf before Snyder makes his largest mistake, a posthumous appearance from Superman in scenes featuring both Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and the hero’s mother (Diane Lane). Elsewhere the director manages to balance some genuinely funny superhero comradery with his darker, louder action sequences, but the apparently un-ironic scenes featuring Superman and Lois are the most painful of the film as Justice League unfairly attempts to wring a second dose of emotion from Superman’s death.”
Conner Schwerdtfeger, CinemaBlend: “The movie is a misshapen screw in an IKEA furniture set: it’s malformed and doesn’t exactly work as it should, but it’s still functional and will hold things together at the point its needed in the larger construction. It makes the occasional awkward stretch to get certain characters and potential storylines in place for the future, but by the time it’s over, you have a clear idea of where DC wants to go. More importantly, once the credits start rolling you’re sold on each planned solo movie that the franchise is developing.”
Steve Persall, Tampa Bay Times: “Ezra Miller’s hyper-fast Flash is another sort of amusing, his fanboy spirit speaking for the audience while the CGI lightning trailing him is one of the movie’s defining effects. The Flash’s expression upon realizing he isn’t the fastest person in the world is priceless, setting up the first of two end credits sequences. Less impressive is newcomer Cyborg/Victor Stone (Ray Fisher), whose origins take up the bulk of Justice League’s misused time. Cyborg seems destined to become the negligible Hawkeye of this superhero crew.”
Bilge Ebiri, The Village Voice: “[A]ction scenes start and stop and then start again, then go in different directions, and it was a few moments into The Big Climactic Face-Off before I realized we’d arrived at The Big Climactic Face-Off. But these off-kilter rhythms actually lend the film a pleasant unpredictability. As does the humor, which often sits uneasily next to the moodiness, but is somehow fast and witty enough to work. As the awkward novice, The Flash often winds up as the butt of jokes. Aquaman sits on Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth and winds up confessing all his insecurities. Batman is a little more self-aware than usual, and the film pokes fun at his self-serious demeanor. (Let’s not forget that Warner and DC have also given us The LEGO Batman Movie.) The actors actually look like they’re having fun, which somehow both undercuts and enriches the gloom.”
Opening Friday nationwide, Justice League stars Ben Affleck as Batman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Henry Cavill as Superman, Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Ezra Miller as The Flash, Ray Fisher as Cyborg, Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, Ciarán Hinds as Steppenwolf, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor and J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon.
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