Ladies and gentlemen, the critics of Justice League have reached a verdict: The latest D.C. Comics action-gasm is declared guilty of not living up to the success of summer’s breakout smash Wonder Woman … yet the superhero mashup avoided many of felony-level creative crimes that critics leveled at its studio predecessors Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad.
While Rotten Tomatoes is refusing to release the film’s aggregate score until Thursday (and doesn’t even feature critics reviews for the film on its site at present time), rival site Metacritic isn’t so shy (and also isn’t partly owned by Justice League studio Warner Bros.): So far Justice League is scoring 51 out of 100 on the site, though many of the actual reviews read a bit harsher than that score might suggest. Critics particularly slammed Ben Affleck for another dour turn as Batman, a CGI mess of a villain in Steppenwolf, and the film feeling like a disjointed Marvel wannabe. Yet positive nods were given to Gal Gadot’s return as Wonder Woman, Jason Momoa’s introduction as Aquaman, and a handful of playful moments.
Here’s the rundown of reviews from top critics, the embargo for which was lifted early Wednesday morning:
Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly): “Justice League … marks a pretty steep comedown from the giddy highs of Wonder Woman … 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 … Affleck looks like the highest-paid captive in a hostage video. Fortunately, there are other actors who look like they actually want to be there … 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 Someday, 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.”
Robie Collin (The Telegraph): “Warner Bros.’ latest hapless attempt to jump-start their DC Comics blockbuster brand, which at this point looks less like a cinematic universe than a pop-cultural black hole, sucking up as much money and audience goodwill as the studio can shovel into it … It’s consistently embarrassing to watch, and features plot holes so yawningly vast they have a kind of Grand Canyon-like splendour: part of you wants to hang around to see what they look like at sunset … the end result is a broken film, swimming in bad CGI and forgettable mayhem, that you can’t imagine any number of rewrites or reshoots could have saved…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..”
Todd McCarthy (THR): “The increasingly turgid tales of Batman and Superman — joined, unfortunately for her, by Wonder Woman — trudge along to ever-diminishing returns in Justice League. Garishly unattractive to look at and lacking the spirit that made Wonder Woman, which came out five months ago, the most engaging of Warner Bros.’ DC Comics-derived extravaganzas to date, this hodgepodge throws a bunch of superheroes into a mix that neither congeals nor particularly makes you want to see more of them in future. Plainly put, it’s simply not fun … Snyder and Whedon guide it all with the usual heavy hand and with a visual style that’s both gloomy and garish. Many shots are elaborated upon with effects-powered pools of disco-era lighting, zig-zaggy electrical charges and visualized power currents that fill in the compositions in unattractive ways. One only has to recall for a moment the rich images that Christopher Nolan and Wally Pfister consistently created for the Dark Knight trilogy to realize how far these Superman films are from any kind of pictorial distinction.”
Owen Gleiberman (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 that kicks a certain series back into gear. Every moment feels like it’s been test-driven for our pleasure. As a piece of product, “Justice League” is “superior” to “Batman v Superman,” but it’s also about as close to generic as a sharp-witted high-octane comic-book movie can get. There’s hardly a trope in it you haven’t seen before.”
Eric Kohn (IndieWire): “….The resulting 119-minute pileup of showdowns and one-liners is an undeniably tighter, more engaging experience. It’s also a tired, conventional attempt to play by the rules, with “hold for laughs” moments shoehorned between rapid-fire action — a begrudging concession that the Marvel formula works, and a shameless attempt to replicate it … As “Justice League” plods on autopilot, the Marvel-movie parallels range from subtle to shameless. The group chemistry is strictly dimestore Avengers, while Batman takes on a paternal role with The Flash that weakly apes the Iron Man/Spider-Man dynamic of “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” The Flash makes oddball jokes about brunch and mutters about confidence issues, while Batman growls nuggets of advice as quickly as possible before the scene just… ends.”
Katie Walsh (Chicago Tribune): “Snyder brought a level of darkness and nihilism to this franchise, so it’s very, very strange that “Justice League” is as quippy as it is. No doubt this is due to the presence of Whedon, who takes a screenwriting credit, but it just does not fit with Snyder’s dour takes on the characters. Not to mention the dialogue is painful. Miller’s neurotic routine is initially quite charming, until his one-liners become incredibly cheesy and tired. Aquaman peppers his speech with many dude-brah phrases, while Cyborg, regrettably, utters “boo-yah” at one point …Gadot as Wonder Woman is a bright spot, a reminder of her wondrous stand-alone film from this summer. But the snippets of scenes with the Amazons won’t satisfy anyone looking for more Amazonian fun, and the way the camera lasciviously lingers on low-angle shots of Gadot’s body is a clear indication of the difference between the male and female gaze on film.”
Peter Travers (Rolling Stone): “For those who loathe Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and they are legion, Justice League will be just the corrective followup they’re looking for … 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.”
Kate Taylor (Daily Globe and Mail): “…. there’s no shortage of interesting characters with intriguing powers on display here, but there’s frustratingly little space to tell their individual stories and, biggest problem of all, they lack a worthy opponent …both the increasingly fleshy Ben Affleck and a desiccated Jeremy Irons are starting to feel as tired as their dry repartee. Batman’s romantic chemistry with Gal Gadot’s sharp Wonder Woman might liven things up, but there’s precious little time to pursue it. Similarly, the comic addition of Ezra Miller’s nerdy Flash, the machismo offered by Jason Momoa in the role of Aquaman or the repressed sorrow of Ray Fisher’s Cyborg as his body turns to metal all hold out dramatic potential, but there is never room to untangle their back stories or do anything more than hint at present predicaments.”
Brian Truitt (USA Today): “Justice League is as solid an outing as any superhero fan could hope, with a clear family vibe: Wonder Woman and Batman prove to be a dynamic mom-and-dad duo while the fastest kid around steals the show…Bad CGI villains also continue to plague the DC superhero lineup. Doomsday was a huge miss in BvS, Ares was atrocious in Wonder Woman, and Steppenwolf is another large fail. Cate Blanchett, currently vamping it up in Thor: Ragnarok, is a reminder that there’s something special about a tangible villain. But Justice League does more right than wrong. Instead of having its heroes punch each other a lot, most of the tension comes from philosophical differences on what it means to serve the greater good, and the movie also pays homage to what’s come before, with Danny Elfman’s phenomenal score successfully weaving and twisting Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman themes.”
Jim Vejvoda (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. … Some reshot sequences do stand out like proverbial sore thumbs due to obvious continuity differences. But at least emotionally and tonally, Justice League is fairly consistent throughout. It does not feel like a movie with an identity crisis as much as I’d feared.”
Matt Singer (ScreenCrush): “Elfman’s music still works perfectly in a modern context. His familiar notes gave me chills. The rest of Justice League gave me chills of a different kind; the kind you feel when you receive bad news about a sick relative, or after you quickly gulp down a big glass of milk and suddenly remember the carton expired two weeks ago. Or the kind you get when talented actors and skilled filmmakers completely botch a movie starring some of the most beloved fictional characters in history … Justice League is a collection of missed opportunities and flubbed ideas.”
Peter Bradshaw (The Guardian): “Momoa brings some punch and humour to this film, especially with Aquaman’s inadvertent confession of a certain tendresse for Wonder Woman, and Ezra Miller does his best with the Flash, whose job it is to provide the nerdy, incredulous, alienated humour. Ray Fisher, too, does his best with a figure half-hidden in hi-tech armour. But Ben Affleck is unrelaxed and ill-at-ease in the role of Batman/Bruce, unconvincing in both the bat armour and the three-piece suit of the wealthy plutocrat….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.”