Setting up a story is perhaps one of the most difficult parts of writing anything, be it a novel, an article and particularly a movie. Not only does the audience need to be “hooked,” they also need to be told what is about to happen in the movie. This is called “exposition.” Zack Snyder is not very good at it, the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) is not very good at it, and “Justice League” is definitely not very good at it.
Snyder has helped write every single DCEU movie, and with the exception of “Wonder Woman,” he has directed all of them as well. Every movie, with the exception of “Wonder Woman,” has had terrible exposition, to the point where it’s possible to point to one single character at the beginning of the film that asks obvious questions to set up obvious answers.
In “Suicide Squad,” which is the best (or worst) example of this, a suited-up government agent peppers questions to Viola Davis’s character about this super-villain team she’s putting together.
In “Justice League,” the character is an unnamed thug that Batman hangs off the side of the building to attract a monster, who then inexplicably does not run away after he is released and proceeds to ask Batman questions to set up the rest of the movie, questions like, “what was that thing?” and “what is it doing here?”
Maybe this feels really bad because the only other similar film might be Marvel’s “Avengers” from 2012. “Justice League” was by no means a bad movie. I laughed, I was interested, but I did not feel the same hype that “Avengers” brought 5 years ago.
This difference is in part due to exposition. By the time “Avengers” was released, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) had 5 movies for main characters and deliberately built up both the “Avengers,” the team and the villain Loki.
In contrast, “Justice League” had 4 movies leading up to it, and only one, “Batman V Superman” even helped set up “Justice League” at all, and two others helped set up two other characters. “Suicide Squad” added nothing.
“Justice League” then had to set up both the villain and the other team members. Cyborg, Aquaman and the Flash had only been teased in “Batman V Superman” but entire backstories and origin stories had to be glossed over at the beginning of “Justice League.”
This is still a good movie, it just isn’t a great movie, and because Marvel has set the bar so high for superhero films, I expected a lot for “Justice League.” It’s not as good as “Wonder Woman,” but it is definitely sets the DCEU down a better path than “Suicide Squad.”
My final verdict is a solid 6.5/10, 7/10 if you are a fan of superhero films regardless. It was a good movie, and despite problems with setting up their universe and over-powered heroes, the DCEU is on its way to being something good.
If “Wonder” doesn’t catch your eye, go see “Justice League.” It’s not something you’ll regret, but if you are hoping to catch that same feeling of “hell yeah” that “Avengers” did in 2012, I’d hold off until “Infinity War Part 1” comes out next year.
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment