So is Justice League any good? Like most things DCEU-related, it's not exactly an easy question to answer. Warner Bros. only has five films in its shared cinematic universe (as opposed to Marvel's 17) and yet the studio can't catch a lucky break with its super hero movies.
You'd think it would be statistically more probable that Marvel would put out a flop over the last 10 years, whereas DC has only been operating in the same vein for a mere four. But alas, out of the company's five offerings, one was thought to be alright, two were really hated, one was very loved, and the latest one looks to be decent-to-good, despite positive early buzz.
That'd be Justice League, the culmination of Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman, and, to a much lesser degree, Suicide Squad. Essentially DC's version of The Avengers (although the JLA came three years before in terms of the comics), the cinematic team consists of Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Mamoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Superman (Henry Cavill) as they face off against the world-ending alien Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds).
Even before its release, many already expected the movie to be a hybrid of two different directors: Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon. The former shot most of the movie while the latter was brought on for reshoots when Snyder took time to grieve his daughter's suicide last winter. He'd definitely bring the style, but Whedon would bring the geeky fun. At least that's the basic logic of fans who have seen the comic book offerings from both directors, but enough about us.
Here's what critics are saying now that the review embargo has lifted. Of course, obligatory minor spoiler warning:
"The movie is no cheat. It’s a tasty franchise delivery system that kicks a certain series back into gear ... As a piece of product, Justice League is “superior” to Batman v Superman, but it’s also about as close to generic as a sharp-witted high-octane comic-book movie can get. There’s hardly a trope in it you haven’t seen before." -Owen Gleiberman, Variety
"Snyder and Whedon guide it all with the usual heavy hand and with a visual style that's both gloomy and garish. Many shots are elaborated upon with effects-powered pools of disco-era lighting, zigzaggy electrical charges and visualized power currents that fill in the compositions in unattractive ways. One only has to recall for a moment the rich images that Christopher Nolan and Wally Pfister consistently created for the Dark Knight trilogy to realize how far these Superman films are from any kind of pictorial distinction." -Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
"The chemistry between the old and new castmembers being the main one, thanks to Whedon and co-writer Chris Terrio. And the handful of call-back cameos from Amy Adams’ Lois Lane, Diane Lane’s Martha Kent, and Connie Nielsen’s Queen Hippolyta are all welcome without overstaying that welcome (the same goes for newcomers like J.K. Simmons’ Commissioner Gordon). It’s obvious to anyone watching Justice League next to the other DC films that the studio brass handed down a mandate to lighten the mood and make things funnier and more Marvel-y. And, to an extent, Justice League accomplishes that. But it also feels like so much attention was paid to the smaller, fizzier character moments that the bigger picture of the film’s overarching plot was a second or third priority. Some day, hopefully soon, DC will get the recipe right again and duplicate Wonder Woman’s storytelling magic. But today isn’t that day, and Justice League unfortunately isn’t that film." -Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly
"I'm happy to say, fans on both sides of the DCEU debate will get plenty of what they hope for, while mainstream audiences are definitely going to be perhaps the most all-around pleased and enthusiastic about Justice League. It retains enough of the DNA of the previous films to be recognizable as their successor, while carving out a new space closer to the tone and style of action-adventure superheroism found in Wonder Woman. And it offers average movie-goers the sort of chest-swelling sense of heroism and pure joyful entertainment they love and reward with their hard-earned dollars at the box office." -Mark Hughes, Forbes.
"You can also feel the consequences of Warner Bros. not putting in the time and effort to give these characters their own movies so we would be on board with them as individuals and have a baseline understanding of their differing viewpoints when they bounce off each other. Aquaman, Flash, and Cyborg all function like Wonder Woman did in Batman v Superman—characters who do enough to get our attention, but the task of making us care about them will come in a different movie. Batman v Superman, for all its faults, kind of gets away with it because Wonder Woman isn’t a large part of the movie, but Aquaman, Flash, and Cyborg are center stage in Justice League and there’s no hiding how little we know or understand them." -Matt Goldberg, IGN.
"In the end, though, there is something ponderous and cumbersome about Justice League; the great revelation is very laborious and solemn and the tiresome post-credits sting is a microcosm of the film’s disappointment. Some rough justice is needed with the casting of this franchise." -Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
"If this was the best DC could do in synthesizing all their lead characters together into one ensemble spectacular, after a half-decade of planning, that’s pretty damning. Justice League is such a misguided mess—often feeling entirely unguided—that you want to intervene, softly saying, “Stop, stop, you don’t have to do this, stop.” But you can’t talk to the movie screen, so I’ll say it here. There is no real vision; no idea what the tone of these movies should be; no compelling or even coherent narrative through-line; no feel, or regard, for characterization. I know there’s another comic-book company doing this across town, and it seems to be working out well for them, but if you have no clear sense of how to build one of these franchises in a functional, let alone interesting, way, maybe stop until you do!" -Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair
Bad CGI villains also continue to plague the DC superhero lineup. Doomsday was a huge miss in BvS, Ares was atrocious in Wonder Woman, and Steppenwolf is another large fail. Cate Blanchett, currently vamping it up in Thor: Ragnarok, is a reminder that there’s something special about a tangible villain ... Justice League does more right than wrong. Instead of having its heroes punch each other a lot, most of the tension comes from philosophical differences on what it means to serve the greater good, and the movie also pays homage to what’s come before, with Danny Elfman’s phenomenal score successfully weaving and twisting Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman themes." -Brian Truitt, USA Today
"The problem is that Justice League zips back and forth between extremes, trying to encompass two different movies. It happens so frequently, and without prompt, that the dizzying pace is impossible to follow. Add in mediocre acting from Ben Affleck, Steppenwolf — the most boring supervillain to grace the big screen since Victor Von Doom in Fox’s 2015 Fantastic Four — and one character’s unfortunate arc, and Justice League is proof the franchise still suffers from the same problems it did with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad." -Julia Alexander, Polygon
"It's not the quips that truly offend, but the blur of horrible CGI that starts from minute one and never lets up — including Cavill's bewildering upper lip. The action is insane and impossible to follow, geographically. After a while you just give up trying to understand anything as the Justice League batters away at the alien warriors." -Katie Walsh, The Chicago Tribune