James M. Macleod’s review published on Letterboxd:
Kind of like that episode of Seinfeld when George just comes back into work like nothing happened after quitting in a flurry of insults; except that George also comes in with a weird floaty cg lip. Justice League acts like Batman v Superman happened, but not the way you remember it. Sometimes in direct ways, like seemingly retconning the Cyborg timeline, but mainly in more emotional and thematic ways. Similarly to how Batman v Superman opens acting like the destruction in Man of Steel was purposefully setting up this critique (critique that completely misses the problems with Man of Steel's destruction), this film acts like everyone wasn't a dumb jerk in the last one and actually forged some kind of connection. That there was light in this world before the premature death of Superman brought on the dark. Rather than there always been a murky smokey dark since moment one, only interrupted for the odd Jesus analogue or whatever.
Justice League starts somewhat strong in that it does a lot of different stuff. Unlike BvS: Ultimate Edition which reiterates the same points over and over, this kind of sprinkles plot everywhere to varying degrees of intensity. Like a brief dip into Atlantis that basically adds nothing and merely makes the prospect of watching a whole film that looks like that, ie dull and murky (I think there's a pattern here), not totally inviting. Cyborg gets a lot of focus, so much so that it seems like he may even have an arc. Alas 'twas not to be as his dad disappears right around when an arc could close off and instead he does stuff like make a plane fly faster and crack the occasional dry joke.
Jokes by the way, this film has got them. If BvS had a jarring pinch of them this has a scattershot load of them all over the joint. Some kind-of land, but many are not so lucky. They've that joke-adjacent quality of something said in the tenor of a gag that doesn't actually make you laugh. Quips often come at the expense of the integrity of a scene. As in, they'll be going for drama then someone tosses in a quarter-joke that essentially plays as "hey, it's a movie". Things that go unrecognised by those around. Little baubles being jingled every so often to make sure we're awake. What did make me laugh though is an uncredited star who's likely to be the talk of the town. Henry Cavill's mo-cap upper lip.
The producers of Mission Impossible 6 really dunked on Warner Bros by not allowing Cavill to shave, costing them millions of dollars to make most of Superman's scenes a trip to the uncanny valley. Rather than say, giving him a beard like when Superman returned in the comics (one throwaway line about Kryptonian death being more of a slow fade or something coulda clinched that), they covered his luscious 'tache in mo-cap bobbles and went to town on that baby. So many things are waved away with one line, so why not just go all the way. But no, they had to stay true to the clean cut character who's barely been characterised over the past 5 hours he's had on camera. May not have been the best choice.
So it's jumbled, got a dull-ass villain, and is marred by very conflicting approaches to this half-baked world. Yet, it's not all bad. BvS is a proper slog, and this is comparatively decent. It's a pivot so hard your head will spin, but it's at least in a better direction. Ben Affleck seems to have given up a bit, so he's lucky his co-stars generally pick up the slack. Except for those who completely flop. Material and direction can fail the best of them. See Amy Adams and Diane Lane in a bizarrely staged scene have a bout of "Sad-face/off". One thing that's good, there's action that doesn't take place in dark, smokey, blowing-up brown places. Yes, plenty action scenes still take place in such locations, but not all of them! That's a step up. Now if they could go a whole film without an action scene in some anonymous brown/grey smokey concrete wasteland then we'd be getting somewhere.
One too many scenes are the ol' mid shot of people standing and talking. Now if they could set those scenes in interesting locations or have what people are talking about be interesting; baby, we might have a movie!
Beyond the lip, this film is weird in plenty other ways. Moments of abject stupidity, tonal strangeness, or simply strange choices garnish this salad of compromise. Such as: The grave importance of three powerful objects (mother boxes) are established. Bad boy Steppenwoof has two so he is searching and fighting his way towards this last piece of the doomsday puzzle. Luckily our heroes hold the third box. Until they leave it unguarded in a car park. They have a man on their team who can move near light-speed (and if he's at comics levels- even faster), but nah he doesn't go nab it. Instead the villain gets it, since it's just sitting in a car park. They also heard peoples complaints about stakes. That watching super powerful people bash each other isn't all that invigorating as the sole source of tension. Now of course the action could be inventive enough that you could overlook such a thing but come now, baby steps. So to solve this we randomly check in with an anonymous Russian family so that, ostensibly, we will care about them once the destruction hits. We don't.
As a big fan of comics, and some of these characters, I'm happy to see the DCEU acknowledge its abominable failures. In turn it presents a strange little ball of cliches, failures, and occasional dashes of light. Compared to Bateman vs Souplad it's a sweet treat, and compared to Suicide Squad it's a dang diamond. Do I have a lot of complaints? Yes. Did I feel like I lost a day to a piece of trash I only hate, which seems to hate me, and I refuse to watch again? No. Progress.
I want to believe a man can fly. Currently I can only buy that one could jump pretty high. Who knows; maybe we're getting there.
this review brought to you by Mercedes