Justice League has been out for a little while now, and the consensus among many critics and audiences has been… not particularly kind. From fans trying to figure out which scenes to blame on Snyder and which ones were Whedon’s, to critics complaining about Ben Affleck’s performance and lackluster CGI, Justice League’s faults are well documented. But what about the film’s merits — isn’t there anything good about this latest superhero team-up? The answer is yes, quite a bit actually, and since no one else seems to be talking about it, here are ten things that Justice League got right (WARNING spoilers ahead):
Anytime someone makes the MCU/DCEU comparison, the big thing they always bring up is tone. Marvel is fun and full of jokes; DC is grim and full of scowls. Justice League acts like a course correction for the entire DCEU — the tone is lighter the colors are brighter and…it’s actually funny. Whether it’s Aquaman calling Gotham a s***hole, or Batman awkwardly telling Superman “I don’t not like you,” Justice League brings the jokes, and that’s not even including the Flash. When it comes to funny one-liners, Barry Allen could give Peter Parker a run for his money. Justice League might not technically be a comedy, but it’s definitely funnier than any of the DC movies that came before it.
Justice League marks Danny Elfman’s return to DC after slumming it with Marvel properties for the last 15 years, and the film is all the better for it. No offense to Hans Zimmer but he’s no Danny Elfman, and when it comes to memorable superhero themes, the one from Batman: The Animated Series beats whatever was going on in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice any day of the week. Elfman himself has stated that “Batman only has one theme,” and he made sure to include a variation of it in Justice League, along with hints of John Williams’ (another composer that sadly, Hans Zimmer is not) Superman score. However, Elfman doesn’t scrap everything from BVS. Wonder Woman‘s kick-ass battle riff makes a welcome return, although in a slightly different form, and sees Elfman ditch the Amazonian’s signature electric guitar in favor of a more orchestral approach that, while giving the piece less immediate punch, ultimately helps to bring it more in line with the rest of the film’s music.
Elfman’s Justice League score is a return to the days when superhero movies were filled with whimsical melodies instead of overwhelming percussion and pulsing techno — melodies that helped to highlight the fantastical elements inherent in a genre where grown men and women run around in Halloween costumes, punching villains in equally ridiculous attire. Speaking of which…
Capes and Tights are Silly, and That’s Okay
After almost a decade of Christopher Nolan’s hyper-realistic Batman universe, where words like “Batarang” and “Catwoman” are never spoken, while Batman dresses like a BMX enthusiast, it’s refreshing to have a film like Justice League that celebrates all the absurdity inherent in a genre where a man dresses up as a bat to fight crime. When Batman talks about his car in Justice League, he doesn’t call it the tumbler. He calls it the Batmobile, as he should. If viewers don’t mind that the hero wears a mask with little pointy ears attached to it, then they aren’t going to put up a fuss when he gives his car a nickname. Justice League does not make any attempt to explain away the gods in the DCEU as aliens, or the magic as super advanced science; the Atlanteans are Atlanteans, the Amazonians are Amazonians, and that’s that. Rather, than being ashamed of its comic book roots, Justice League embraces them, and should be applauded for doing so.
In a world where every comic book movie wants to be a three-hour epic, Justice League manages to clock in at a breezy 121 minutes. Superhero movies usually spend their first act on the hero’s origin story, but by taking it on faith that moviegoers are already familiar with the new editions to the team (not an unreasonable assumption given that two of them have been around since the 1940s), Justice League can forgo a lot of backstory in favor of quicker pacing and better action. The filmmakers still reveal a bit about our new heroes — Flash was hit by lightning, Cyborg was in a car crash, and Aquaman’s mom dropped him off on his dad’s doorstep and never came back — but it’s done through dialogue that never threatens to bog down the story or mess up the flow of the narrative. And somehow despite the film’s relatively short run-time, the filmmakers still made time for…
With Justice League, DC finally caved and decided to add some after-credits scenes, and boy are they doozies! The mid-credit Flash/Superman race is a dream come true for any geek who has ever debated such a match-up with their friends, but it’s the second after-credits scene, the one that features Deathstroke and teases the Injustice League, that will have fans talking for a long time.
The Dark Knight Rises To The Occasion
It’s always hard to justify having a regular human on super teams full of godlike beings (looking in your direction Hawkeye), but Justice League does a good job of making sure that Batman never appears useless. Whether it’s getting the team together, giving pep talks to Flash and Wonder Woman, or distracting the cannon fodder so the others can take on Steppenwolf, Batman always has an important role to play. The Dark Knight may not be as strong or as fast as his other teammates, but he’s no slouch either. Despite having no superpowers, Batman still manages to take down several parademons on his own, and at one point even reacts fast enough catch the Flash with a grappling hook. What Batman lacks in “powers” he more than makes up for with brains, skill, and sheer will. Now if only Marvel could find a way to make Hawkeye useful.
Superman returning from the grave shouldn’t surprise anyone — after all, Henry Cavill was photographed on the Justice League set several times. What is surprising is how much fun Justice League has with Superman. Gone is the broody, moody Kal-el of Man of Steel and BVS, replaced instead by a Superman who smiles, jokes around, and even agrees to the Flash’s request for a race. Sure, there’s one scene where Superman attacks his other teammates, but even that leads to one of the best scenes in the whole movie when Flash’s pants almost go from red to brown as he realizes that Superman is fast enough to keep up with him. Of course, the very best moment in Justice League occurs just prior to Superman’s resurrection…
Justice League features a scene where Flash and Cyborg become literal grave robbers, and it’s kind of the best thing ever. Tasked with obtaining Superman’s body for Batman, the two youngest Justice Leaguers reluctantly dig up a corpse while making awkward jokes and discussing the accidental nature of their superpowers. Make no mistake — Justice League would still be good without the late night body-snatching hijinks, but it wouldn’t be great.
Crime Fighters Who Actually Fight Crime
When’s the last time you saw Iron Man stop a mugger? What about Captain America or Thor? Except for Spider-Man, most Marvel heroes are too busy fighting aliens, robots, or each other to worry about petty theft. The word “superhero” used to be synonymous with fighting crime, but these days it’s all about preventing doomsday scenarios and keeping swarms of space bugs from invading the Earth. Mind you, Justice League has its own doomsday scenario, complete with hordes of interstellar insects for the heroes to swat, but it also has a scene where Wonder Woman saves a bunch of hostages from a terrorist organization. It may only be one scene, but it’s an important one. By showing Wonder Woman stopping an attack that threatens a dozen school children rather than the whole world, Justice League establishes that these heroes don’t just sit around twiddling their thumbs in between alien invasions.
The King of Atlantis
Justice League’s single greatest achievement is showing the rest of the world what hardcore comic nerds have known for a long time: Aquaman is a bad ass!
For decades the character of Aquaman has been seen as nothing more than a joke, a guy who’s only talent is the ability to converse with carp. That all changed when Jason Momoa took over. Momoa’s Aquaman is Khal Drogo with a trident, an absolute beast who chugs whiskey and can take a punch from Superman and still get up. Unfortunately, the movie’s relatively short run time — coupled with a plethora of other characters vying for screen time — means that a lot of Aquaman’s backstory goes untold. What little there is, however, like Aquaman’s deep-seated mommy issues and his lack of affection for his fellow Atlanteans, is more than enough to spark interest in an Aquaman standalone movie. Hopefully Justice League will perform well enough to warrant one.
Bottom line: despite having two different directors and a butt load of studio interference Justice League came out better than it had any right to. It may not be a perfect movie, but it’s far from the trainwreck some people make it out to be.
Except for Superman’s weird CGI lip. That thing is just horrible.