Brow Beat

Here’s What Critics Are Saying About Justice League

Pictured: Everything wrong, and right, with  Justice League.

Warner Bros.

The first batch of Justice League reviews is out, but Rotten Tomatoes, the famous review aggregation site, has decided to delay revealing the latest DC Comics movie’s score until Thursday morning. The site is postponing the score’s release to promote its Facebook Watch series, but the move also serves as a reminder of the bad blood that’s existed between DC and Rotten Tomatoes in the past—remember when fans wanted to shut the site down over Suicide Squad’s terrible rating?

Those fans probably won’t be thrilled with Justice League’s Tomatometer score when it’s announced either, as early reviews are mostly mixed to negative. Justice League brings back Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, and Gal Gadot as Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, respectively, and they’re joined by Ezra Miller as The Flash, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, and Ray Fisher as Cyborg to round out the superteam.

The film was directed by Zack Snyder with an assist from Joss Whedon, who took over toward the end of filming. (Reviewers struggled to explain Snyder’s departure appropriately, with explanations that ranged from the vague “family reasons” to “a death in the family” to the overexplained “understandably grieving over the suicide of his 20-year-old daughter.”) While critics compared the film favorably to the slog that was Batman v. Superman, many of them still had Wonder Woman on the brain from earlier this year, and Justice League just couldn’t top it.

Here’s what the reviews had to say:

The movie works hard to avoid becoming another Batman v. Superman

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone:

For those who loathe Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and they are legion, Justice League will be just the corrective followup they’re looking for. […] Instead of the Freudian gloom and doom of the Caped Crusader (Ben Affleck) and the Man of Steel (Henry Cavill) hating on each other, this coming together of DC’s heavy hitters takes so many happy pills it almost overdoses on them. No one sings “the sun’ll come out tomorrow” in this movie. But the attitude is so bright and optimistic that you might mistake it for a fun ride on the Marvel express.

Owen Gleiberman, Variety:

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.

Eric Kohn, IndieWire:

Zack Snyder’s painfully titled Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice had all the worst attributes of modern-day superhero storytelling: unearned gravitas, a bloated running time, and interchangeable CGI-stuffed battles. Justice League offers a tepid mea culpa, attempting to liven the material (with a third-act assist from Joss Whedon, who finished the movie when Snyder stepped away for tragic personal reasons).

… but it still doesn’t live up to Wonder Woman.

Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly:

[I]t 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. […] Justice League won’t extinguish that hope. Not by a long shot. But it also doesn’t quite translate into a winning streak either. It’s a placeholder in a franchise that’s already had too many placeholders.

Speaking of Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot lassoes reviewers’ hearts once again.

Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter:

Of the main performers, only Gadot pops from the screen at all. For now, her Wonder Woman looks to be the savior of Batman and Superman, though you may end up wondering why she’s wasting her time.

Eric Kohn, IndieWire:

Now in her third round as Wonder Woman, she elevates the movie whenever she’s onscreen, twirling her lasso of truth and staring down each threat as if her symbolism of feminist rage was immune to lackluster product.

Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune:

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.

Some of the other superheroes get their share of praise, too.

Manohla Dargis, New York Times:

The Flash gets most of the best jokes, and [Ezra] Miller makes most of them work, largely in the role of in-house fanboy with a touch of the Cowardly Lion. It’s golly-gee stuff, but it’s also human and Mr. Miller keeps you hooked, as does Mr. Momoa (“Game of Thrones”), who supplely shifts between gravitas and comedy.

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone:

Best of all is Jason Momoa as Aquaman/Arthur Curry […] In one of the film’s most beguiling moments, Aquaman mistakenly sits on Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth and starts spouting about his feelings, telling WW she’s “gorgeous.”

Not Batfleck, though, who once again fails to charm critics.

Peter Bradshaw, the Guardian:

Really, Affleck spreads a pall of dullness over the film. He doesn’t have the implacable, steely ferocity and conviction that Christian Bale had; he seems to have a faint sheen of sweat, as if the Batcave thermostat is up too high, and his attempts at droll humour and older-generation wisdom make his Batman look stately and marginal. Maybe we should get George Clooney back for the role.

Manohla Dargis, New York Times:

The pumped-up Mr. Affleck again fills out the bat suit from ripped stem to stern, but his costume remains grievously larger than Batman’s (or Bruce’s) personality […] Mr. Affleck, a generally appealing actor who can plumb the depths when pushed (Gone Girl), needs something more substantial (or just more jokes) if his Batman is ever going to work.

Critics have had enough of excessive CGI.

Owen Gleiberman, Variety:

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.

Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune:

… 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.

What is this, Avengers 2.0?

Brian Truitt, USA Today:

… credited co-writer Joss Whedon (Avengers)—brought in to finish after Snyder stepped back due to a death in the family—adds his signature clever wit, and the result is an enjoyable romp with underlying emotion.

Owen Gleiberman, Variety:

… the film’s flavor tilts more toward Whedon than Snyder, whose pop grandiosity is radically played down. Every moment feels like it’s been test-driven for our pleasure. 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.

Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune:

Snyder brought a level of darkness and nihilism to this franchise, so it’s very, very strange that Justice League is as quippy as it is. No doubt this is due to the presence of Whedon, who takes a screenwriting credit, but it just does not fit with Snyder’s dour takes on the characters.