review round-up

Critics on Justice League: At Least It’s Not Batman v Superman

Justice League. Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc./Courtesy of Warner Bros. Enterta

The embargo on Justice League reviews was lifted this morning and the hot takes have begun to roll in. Though Rotten Tomatoes won’t be releasing their score until Thursday, the critical response to Justice League has been thoroughly mediocre. At best, it is portrayed as a fun, easy throwaway, and at worst, an incoherent and weak attempt to match Marvel’s Avengers. As Mashable wrote in a headline, “Justice League is like a chocolate chip cookie with cockroach chunks.” If most critics agree on anything, though, it’s that while Justice League has nothing on Wonder Woman, at least it’s not as bad as Batman v Superman. Take a look at our roundup of reviews below:

“The studio has obviously called for the elimination of the bloat that disfigured Man of Steel and especially Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but now (I hesitate to write this) the new superheroes’ backstories go by too quickly. The uninitiated won’t know what’s going on and the initiated will find the introductions of Aquaman, Cyborg, and the Flash all too perfunctory. You need one of the lineage charts you get in books about the tsars or English kings.” —David Edelstein, Vulture

“It’s a grievous disappointment by comparison with this summer’s impressive Wonder Woman and is very far removed from the Gothic brilliance of Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies. As in so many superhero films with more than one main protagonist, the filmmakers jump around in frantic fashion, trying to make sure everybody gets more or less the same amount of screen time.” —Geoffrey Macnab, The Independent

Justice League, the latest link of Tinkertoy in the DC Comics universe, has been conceived, in each and every frame, to correct the sins of Batman v Superman. It’s not just a sequel — it’s an act of franchise penance.” —Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“Once upon a time, superheroes spoke to the gee-whiz optimism of science and futuristic fantasy. These days, they glower along with the rest of us and dream of better days. But in a movie like Batman v. Superman, such indulgences overwhelmed the story and threatened to bring the whole enterprise down. Wonder Woman, meanwhile, managed to get the mix just right, blending joy and sincerity without totally skimping on the mythic overtones. Justice League can’t quite match that.” —Bilge Ebiri, Village Voice

Justice League is better than its joylessly somber dress rehearsal, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Now the “but”…you knew there was a “but” coming, right? But it also marks a pretty steep comedown from the giddy highs of Wonder Woman. When Gal Gadot’s proto-feminist Amazonian avenger got her solo showcase earlier this year, there were a lot of DC partisans who finally had a reason to feel bullish about the state of their union.” —Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly

“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.” —Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

Justice League awkwardly tries to move away from much of the forbidding tone of Man of Steel or B v S, a perhaps studio-mandated attempt to lighten things up, to add some effervescence like the kind Tony Stark and friends enjoy together. After suffering a family tragedy, director Zack Snyder took a step back from the film, and Joss Whedon—borrowed from The Avengers—was brought in to bring it over the finish line. He has a co-writing credit, and his syncopated, geeky-snark stamp is peppered throughout the film. But Whedon’s humor is grafted on in too-obvious ways; it sticks out incongruously amid all the stilted mechanics of this alarmingly basic movie. All these Whedonisms have the opposite of the intended effect. They give off a strenuous hum, the desperate sound of a turd polished in vain.” —Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair

“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. For once, the heroes have a relatively black-and-white battle ahead of them, without existential questions about whether humanity deserves saving, or whether they deserve to save humanity. And that lets the characters cut loose in a triumphant barrage of over-the-top carnage that shows them each to their best heroic potential. A somewhat inevitable mid-film twist changes the dynamic considerably, and officially overpacks the story, but it at least enables one thrilling combat that’s slightly more varied than the others.” — Tasha Robinson, the Verge

“Fatigue, repetition and a laborious approach to exposition are the keynotes of this affair, which is also notable for how Ben Affleck, donning the bat suit for the second time, looks like he’d rather be almost anywhere else but here; his eyes and body language make it clear that he’s just not into it. For his part, Henry Cavill’s Superman, left for dead and buried in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (we see the grave of Clark Joseph Kent more than once), isn’t resurrected until the second half, and it takes considerably more time for him to snap into action.” —Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

“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. But the touches of humor in “Justice League” lighten the whole thing tonally and are a relief after the dirgelike “Batman v Superman,” which he ran into the ground with a two-and-a-half-hour running time. (“Justice League” clocks in at a not-exactly fleet two hours.) Written by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, the new movie shows a series that’s still finding its footing as well as characters who, though perhaps not yet as ostensibly multidimensional as Marvel’s, may be more enduring (and golden). It has justice, and it has banter. And while it could have used more hanging out, more breeziness, it is a start.” —Manohla Dargis, New York Times

Critics on Justice League: It’s Not Batman v Superman