DC's Justice League hits theaters this weekend, but are critics as pleased by the film as they were Wonder Woman?
Well, much like Batman and Superman's frenemy relationship: it's complicated.
The biggest consensus amongst reviewers is that Justice League is bogged down by its unevenness. So while there's a lot to dislike about Zack Snyder's signature dark style, everyone appreciates the touches that clearly came from Avengers director Joss Whedon, who signed on mid-movie. Similarly, critics seemingly loathe Ben Affleck's Batman, but are keen on Ezra Miller's Flash and Jason Momoa's Aquaman.
In her review for The Verge, Tasha Robinson repeatedly hit the nail on the head about the tonal mismatch in Justice League, but notes that the film is an upgrade from Batman's last joyless-ride.
"And taken as a whole, Justice League is often thrilling and rousing, with few of the outright infuriating twists that have made past DCEU movies so frustrating: the 'Your mom’s name is Martha too?' miscalculations or 'Superman destroys the city he’s trying to save' tone-deaf shenanigans."
"On a moment-to-moment basis, though, Justice League often feels fractured. Whedon’s reshoots are sometimes painfully obvious, as when Flash and Cyborg share a brief personal moment in a graveyard that looks as cheap as a first-season Buffy the Vampire Slayer set."
"The problem is that these moments just don’t jibe, visually or conceptually, with the bulk of the film, which focuses on the usual massive CGI throwdowns between living irresistible forces and immovable objects."
The New York Times
Manohla Dargis' review for the New York Times levels so many direct blows to Justice League — on Ben Affleck's performance in particular — that she should be asked to help keep future DC scripts polished and punchier.
"Justice League settles into a groove once it finds its gang. As Bat-Bruce moodily pushes and prods and Wonder-Diana smiles and smirks, the newbies jockey for position. The Flash gets most of the best jokes, and Mr. Miller makes most of them work, largely in the role of in-house fanboy with a touch of the Cowardly Lion. It’s golly-gee stuff, but it’s also human and Mr. Miller keeps you hooked, as does Mr. Momoa (Game of Thrones), who supplely shifts between gravitas and comedy."
"Mr. Affleck, a generally appealing actor who can plumb the depths when pushed (“Gone Girl”), needs something more substantial (or just more jokes) if his Batman is ever going to work. As it is, the little bit of bat brooding in “Justice League” feels unmotivated and unearned, and lacks the shading of the character in the “Dark Knight” or even in the Lego movies."
"Mr. Snyder remains regrettably committed to a dark, desaturated palette that borders on the murky, and this movie’s chaotic, unimaginative action scenes can drag on forever. "
Over on Polygon, Julia Alexander's review highlights how well actors Ezra Miller and Jason Momoa improve the emotional tone of the film, though she too found the film wildly uneven.
"Miller’s awkward and adorable Flash steals every scene with his charismatic performance, whereas Momoa’s brooding machismo plays as an unpredictable bit of charming comedy. Both are welcome additions to a bland universe that benefits from bouts of spicier characters."
"Justice League is at its best when everyone forgets they’re supposed to be saving the world, and instead spends time learning about one another. Living a life of super heroism means drowning in isolation, but Justice League gives a few do-gooders the chance to find people who accept them for who they are."
"The problem is that Justice League zips back and forth between extremes, trying to encompass two different movies. It happens so frequently, and without prompt, that the dizzying pace is impossible to follow. Add in mediocre acting from Ben Affleck and Steppenwolf — the most boring supervillain to grace the big screen since Victor Von Doom in Fox’s 2015 Fantastic Four … and Justice League is proof the franchise still suffers from the same problems it did with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad."
Entertainment Weekly's Chris Nashawaty is more positive about Justice League, though he couches that in jabs at previous DC films.
"Justice League is better than its joylessly somber dress rehearsal, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice."
"The pace of Justice League, which clocks in under two hours, feels like a blessing after so much bloat in previous superhero films."
"Snyder’s gorgeously slick visual style is as easy on the eyes as ever. He seems to dream in comic book panels."
"When Affleck’s Bruce Wayne heads off to convince Jason Momoa’s Aquaman to enlist, he wisecracks, “I hear you talk to fish…” with a cocky, condescending grin on his mug. At that moment, Affleck looks like the highest-paid captive in a hostage video."
"But after a while a little of [The Flash's] shtick goes a long way, and you’d gladly trade in half of his motormouth one-liners for a blurringly fast action sequence half as clever as Quicksilver’s in X-Men: Days of Future Past."
USA Today's Brian Truitt didn't find the film's mix of tones to be an issue — more of a positive, actually — but he did point out that Justice League's weakest link is its villain.
"It’s also a product of two rather different filmmakers that, for the most part, ends up decently coherent. Director Zack Snyder again views his main characters through a way-dark palette and stylized lens, credited co-writer Joss Whedon adds his signature clever wit, and the result is an enjoyable romp with underlying emotion."
"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."
"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."
"Justice League is a lighter answer to the tonal issues of both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, though it's saddled with an uneven narrative and not as much character development as you'd want in trying to shoehorn ancient mythology and setup for future movies."