Joss Whedon Steppenwolf tweet

As lackluster as our heroes may be here, they don’t even come close to approaching the blandness of the film’s villain Steppenwolf. Why, exactly, the makers of Justice League thought this character should be the main bad guy when DC has a great rogue’s gallery to choose from is a mystery. Ciarán Hinds does the best he can with his voice-over work, but Steppenwolf is probably the most boring villain ever captured on screen. He has no arc; no real mission. He just wants to gather up the Mother Boxes and then…what? Destroy the world? Rule the world? It doesn’t matter. He’s boring, and everyone deserves a slap on the wrist for thinking he should be the big bad for what’s supposed to be the ultimate DC team-up film. Worse than that, he’s a bland CGI creation that never even looks close to real. 

Beyond these failings, the script also shoe-horns in fan-service moments that just don’t work. We get a muddled sequence where Aquaman returns to Atlantis and chats with Amber Heard’s Mera, who then proceeds to dump a bunch of exposition on him. It’s an achingly dull scene, and Heard seems completely out of sync with the film itself. There’s also a scene or two involving J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon that serves no purpose whatsoever. It exists solely to introduce Commissioner Gordon into the narrative, and then quickly forgets all about him. In a film that already seems rushed and undercooked, keeping moments like this are a mistake.

I suppose I’m contractually obligated to mention the weird CGI used to remove Henry Cavill’s mustache. Cavill grow his ‘stache for the next Mission: Impossible film, and rather than have him shave it off for reshoots, WB decided to digitally erase it. A lot of people have pointed out how bad this looks in the final film. Here’s the thing: it didn’t really bother me that much. The shitty script bothered me more.

justice league dceu

The Future of The DCEU

Where does the DCEU go from here? More stand-alone stories would be a good idea. The power of Wonder Woman was in how unconcerned it was connecting itself to the rest of the DCEU. Focus on smaller, more emotionally-driven narratives over big, dumb spectacle. That could be the secret to building a better superhero universe.  Justice League should’ve been an event. It should’ve been something that shakes the very ground itself. Instead, it’s just another entry in an ever-growing list of superhero films. There’s nothing special about this moment; nothing awe-inspiring. It’s just another brick in the wall.

At the very least, we can thank Justice League for giving us a heroic Superman again. Cavill might have a chance now to do the character justice in a stand-alone Superman sequel; one void of the angst and woe that prevailed in Man of Steel and Batman v SupermanZack Snyder is likely done with this franchise, and that’s likely for the best. The filmmaker has had his chance to bring his vision to this series; now it’s time to give someone else a chance. The fact that WB and DC haven’t backed a dump-truck full of cash up to Patty Jenkins’ door and asked her to take over the DCEU is a mystery at this point; what are they thinking, exactly? 

Justice League will likely have its defenders. There are fans of these characters who will be so happy to see them all together on the screen that they’ll likely overlook the mountain of flaws. That’s fine. But for the rest of us who want more; who want to see these heroes embark on better adventures, there has to be a world beyond Justice League. In some respects, Justice League should be thought of as the punk phase of a rebellious teenager. They’ve got it out of their system, and now it’s time to grow up a little.

Is there fun to be had here? Sure. There are occasional moments in Justice League that have the semblance of fun, like when Barry uses his Flash speed to lightly tap the tip of Wonder Woman’s sword as it flies through the air so she can catch it. But the fun is few and far between, occupying a bigger picture that lacks coherence and grace. Such criticisms tend to get a person like me labeled as a “hater,” but it shouldn’t be a crime to want more from these movies. Wonder Woman proved you can make a popcorn flick that has heart and soul. That’s all I’m asking for here. I don’t need Justice League to be an overly-intelligent work of high art. I do need it to elicit an emotion in me other than dull exhaustion. Is that really so much to ask for?

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About the Author

Chris Evangelista is a writer who frowns a lot. He's contributed to CutPrintFilm, /Film, Mashable, and more. You can follow him on Twitter @cevangelista413