At around the ninety minute mark of Justice League, I took my phone out of my pocket and started texting with friends.
I want to be clear about something here. People who use their phones during movies, like people who talk loudly during movies, are garbage people and should be wiped from the face of the earth in a cleansing flood, so that the rest of us onboard the ark of proper movie watchers can enjoy movies in goddamn peace. This is how I feel about using a phone during a movie.
And yet, I was so bored during Justice League. I was seated in the back row of the auditorium, and no one was around, so I was relatively confident that I wouldn’t disturb anyone. And so, I broke my cardinal rule of going to the movies.
I did not like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but I enjoyed watching it. There were moments within it that delighted me, and things about it that I found laughably bad. There is nothing particularly delightful in Justice League, and it was not bad enough to be laughable. In fact, I wouldn’t even say that it’s a bad movie. It’s just boring. It’s a limp noodle without any sauce. Would you ever eat cooked, dry pasta? Why would you?
There were things that I liked in Justice League. A few jokes that landed pretty well for me. There’s a Teen Titans Go! reference that made me laugh and that I think I was the only person in the theater to notice. Wonder Woman’s initial action sequence is fantastic. And it was really nice to hear Elfman’s classic Batman theme in a new context. Towards the end of the movie I found myself just listening for that amidst the crowded action sequences.
Those few things that I enjoyed are surrounded by...I’m struggling to come up with a descriptor because honestly it’s all so non-descript. What should have been a thrill - to see my favorite heroes plus Aquaman and Cyborg all together on a big screen - ended up being entirely underwhelming.
I wish I could put my finger on what it was that didn’t excite me about the movie. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it. I’ve seen a lot of people point to the villain. There’s really nothing compelling at all about Steppenwolf. Like Zod in Man of Steel, Steppenwolf is (I think) trying to remake Earth to be more like his homeworld. Unlike Zod, his motives for trying to do this are pretty unclear beyond ‘it’s just what he does’. But the movie spends so little time with Steppenwolf that it’s hard to pin everything on him.
There were other little things that bugged me. Not surprisingly, I had nits to pick about The Flash. The speed effects for The Flash clearly cost more than those on the Flash TV series, but they were also a lot harder to follow, a mess of blue lightning and blurs. A super-speed slowdown scene for the scarlet speedster was reminiscent of similar Quicksilver sequences in the last two X-Men movies, but without the whimsy of its predecessors. And then there’s the hastily-executed resurrection of Superman, the notion for which came seemingly out of the blue and which resulted in a really unpleasant sequence of Kal-El beating the hell out of the Justice League while a stepped-down, grimdark version of the John Williams Superman theme played. There’s something I never needed to hear in my life.
I think, ultimately, the thing that most disappoints me is that I could see the potential for a good movie there. The story hinges on Steppenwolf finding three Mother Boxes that have been hidden on Earth for thousands of years. The thing is, everyone knows exactly where the three boxes are from the moment Steppenwolf arrives. He actually arrives in the location where one of them is being kept (on Themyscira). We also know, based on an exposition dump from Diana, that the Atlanteans have one of the boxes. And anyone who saw BvS knows that the third box is what helped Silas Stone turn his son, Victor, into Cyborg. But how great would it have been for even one of those facts to be a surprise? This movie needed a sense of urgency to propel it forward, and the League and Steppenwolf racing to find and/or protect the Mother Boxes could easily have been the thing to give it one.
I’ve seen a lot of people praising the movie who’ve tweeted or said some variation of, “I never thought when I was a kid that I would see a JLA movie.” I agree with them on that - I never thought it would happen, either. I just wish it had done these rich, wonderful characters justice.