The embargoes have lifted, and now the first reviews for DC's second team-up movie have started rolling in. Over the weekend we saw some first impressions that were a bit all over the place and, well, the reviews seem to be pretty similar. It probably won't be as divisive as Batman v Superman, but it's safe to say that this film is certainly no Avengers.
We don't have a review of our own yet (the Giz UK staff haven't been able to see it, and io9's isn't live yet), but we can give you a rundown of what everyone else is saying. Rotten Tomatoes doesn't have its aggregate score yet, because it seems to be holding it back for extra publicity, but Metacritic has no such delay. Currently the film is on a 51 per cent rating, with reviews from 25 critics.
Let's take a look at what they, and others, have to say:
Justice League’s most significant shortcoming is how forgettable it all is. There’s barely a moment that sticks, not a single sequence to rival the standout superhero set-pieces of recent years. Say what you will about Batman v Superman, but at least it had ambition and vision. Justice League is a superhero movie made to a familiar recipe. Competently assembled and largely coherent, sure, but it’s dispiriting to see DC so transparently chasing Marvel’s tail now. The universe is looking more precarious by the day.
The narrative of Justice League may have suffered from the director swap, sometimes feeling no need to explain certain elements or wrap up others. None of the elements are significant enough, however, to damage the fun viewing experience which does exactly what Justice League always needed to: leave fans wanting more of the best DC heroes.
Justice League is the real deal. It's an epic ensemble of super heroes. It's the most fun you'll have with Batman and his super friends, until their next adventure together, and marks the beginning of a brand new era of super heroes on the DC side of the spectrum.
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian (2/5):
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.
Dan Jolin, Empire (2/5):
“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. The movie, which gathers up half a dozen comic-book immortals and lets them butt heads on their way to kicking ass, is never messy or bombastic. It’s light and clean and simple (at times almost too simple), with razory repartee and combat duels that make a point of not going on for too long. The villain, far from being one of those hammy Method crackpots, is a sternly old-school CGI medieval warrior with devil-ram horns and an electro-bass Vader voice (provided by Ciarán Hinds) whose name is Steppenwolf. He made his first appearance in the comics in 1972 but could just as well have been dreamed up by a slumming video-game designer after a night of no sleep.
On the pages of DC Comics, the Justice League has seen countless permutations, from heroic to gritty to the self-aware and jokey. (The latter, exemplified by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis’ run from 1986-1992, might be my favorite version of the team, but I’ve enjoyed the print Justice League in a variety of flavors.) What the movie version of this cohort of superheroes will eventually become is anyone’s guess, but Snyder gives us far more set-up than payoff. And when he does finally get everyone together for the big battle, he once again drowns the proceedings in murk. Neither cinematographer Fabian Wagner (“Victor Frankenstein”) nor the army of digital post-production artists lets enough light into these proceedings.
Matt Singer, ScreenCrush (4/10):
I am sure I will get angry tweets and comments about this review. I will be told I hate comics, hate DC, hate this movie universe. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I love comics. I love DC. And I want to love the DCEU. I was lucky enough to be 16 and at the peak of my obsession with the medium right as Grant Morrison and Howard Porter took over JLA, transforming the book into a monthly showcase of the very best of superhero comics: Propulsive action, gorgeous artwork, complex characters, and crackling dialogue. Morrison and Porter’s run was so fun and exciting it made that style of epic superhero storytelling look easy. Justice League makes it look hard. Really, really hard.
Robbie Collin, The Telegraph (1/5):
For a scene that risible to end up in a $300 million blockbuster is no mean feat – but Justice League is a mess in ways cheaper productions could only dream about. A post-credits scene dutifully teases more to come, but the film’s heart just isn’t in it. After Justice League, there’s nowhere else any of this can go.
Jim Vejvoa, IGN (7/10):
Warner Bros. and DC Films had two major goals to achieve with Justice League. First, to cleanse the palette of those turned off by the relentlessly grim BvS; and second, to make viewers enjoy these superheroes enough to want to see further screen appearances by them. Justice League mostly succeeds in accomplishing those two key objectives, despite its sloppy execution. It’s messy and flawed but it still offers enough entertainment value (mostly thanks to its likable characters) to make it worthwhile.
Justice League winds up feeling so much like a straw poll for viewers, with a mishmash of everything they might want, all run together. Wonder Woman fans may show up for the kick-ass flashback to a world-scale Amazon battle (complete with some fan-service DC cameos) and an extended Themyscira sequence, but there are also a disconcerting number of Wonder Woman upskirt shots for the disrespectful horndogs in the audience. Fans of melancholy heroic angst have Cyborg fussing over his lost humanity; fans of mindless action have him blasting and beating whatever gets in his way, his previous concerns dropped, unaddressed and unacknowledged. It’s a Zack Snyder movie and a Joss Whedon movie, which may ultimately work better for audiences than a pure project from one or the other, given that both men have their fans and their detractors. It’s just a pity they couldn’t have consciously worked together to create a cohesive, coherent vision that merged their sensibilities thoroughly, instead of this back-and-forth tug of war that seems to be perpetually checking in with the audience: “Is this what you want? How about this instead?”
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, zig-zaggy 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.
Eric Kohn, Indiewire (C):
As “Justice League” plods on autopilot, the Marvel-movie parallels range from subtle to shameless. The group chemistry is strictly dimestore Avengers, while Batman takes on a paternal role with The Flash that weakly apes the Iron Man/Spider-Man dynamic of “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” The Flash makes oddball jokes about brunch and mutters about confidence issues, while Batman growls nuggets of advice as quickly as possible before the scene just… ends.
The mild revelation of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” was it did away with high stakes; “Justice League” attempts to fake them. Steppenwolf is a freaky villain, but he’s just another chortling lunatic rambling about the destruction of the planet.
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone (3.5/5)
The scenes of the League members together, bickering and bonding, spike the film with humor and genuine feeling, creating a rooting interest in the audience. Without it, the film would crumble. Let's face it, Steppenwolf is a CGI yawn, the action sequences are often a digital blur, the soundtrack defaults to loud whenever inspiration wanes and keeping it light becomes the first step to staying superficial. Justice League is a decent crowdpleaser, preferable in every way to the candy-assed cynicism of Suicide Squad. But sometimes shadows need to fall to show us what to be scared of. In the end, this all-star team-up is too afraid of the dark to work its way into our dreams.
Still, there are things to like in Justice League. 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.
Roger Moore, Movie Nation (3.5/5):
“Justice League” doesn’t have anyone with the witty way with a line Robert Downey Jr. brings to Ironman, or the swagger of Chris Hemsworth (Thor) to carry it. But Momoa’s bemused physicality has its own cockiness, Miller’s wide-eyed Flash innocence and Gadot’s commitment to earnest, brave and spoiling for a fight Diana put “The Avengers” on notice.
There’s a new team in town, and they don’t need government funding and a dude in an eye-patch to get a dirty job done.
Matt Goldberg, Collider (D+):
So Justice League leaves you hoping for next time. Did you like the brief trip to Atlantis? Wait until you see Aquaman. Did you like Wonder Woman taking on a leadership role? Wonder Woman 2 arrives November 2019. Did you laugh at all of Flash’s lines? Well there might be a Flashpoint movie down the road. Next time we’ll get it right. Next time we’ll be hopeful enough. Next time you’ll care about the villain. Next time you’ll get a Justice League that will really knock your socks off, but thanks acknowledging that at least this one isn’t as bad as Batman v Superman. The only thing that “saves” Justice League is a low bar and more promises.