So I finally got around to watching Justice League: War, and I have to say that it’s not as good as I thought it would be. I don’t think it’s bad, either—it’s actually really good—but I had set my expectations for this film much higher than I realized. Of course, most of my complaints are things that I should have seen coming.
Justice League: War opens with Batman and Green Lantern fighting a Parademon, a winged monster, that’s been abducting people. Tracking the Parademon underground into the sewers, they discover it fiddling around with some kind of device, before the monster self-destructs itself in an attempt to kill both our heroes. Due to a nifty shield created by Green Lantern, both of them survive the blast and are now in possession of the strange device. Whatever it is or does, they have no idea. Knowing that it’s alien, though, they head off to Superman, since he’s an alien too.
After a misunderstanding that results in a brief fight, Superman tells Batman and Green Lantern that “alien” is relative and that it’s a big universe out there. This is pretty much Superman calling Batman and Green Lantern racist for assuming that Superman would know what the strange alien device does simply because he’s also an alien. I approve.
As the movie progresses, we learn that there have been sightings of Parademons elsewhere, and that there have been abductions going on all over the globe. Batman theorizes that they are facing what is potentially a full-scale invasion, and he’s right. The device they found and numerous other devices the Parademons have planted all over the world open up into portals, allowing thousands of Parademons entrance to the Earth.
We learn that the Parademons are under the rule of Darkseid, one of the most powerful villains in the DC Universe and one with whom I am sadly not as familiar as I should be. What I do know about Darkseid is that he was originally modeled after Adolf Hitler—and let’s face it, that’s true for a lot of villains—but I think Justice League: War did an amazing job showing how evil he is and building him into be someone feared. First of all, Darkseid is ridiculously powerful, and naturally it takes all our heroes—Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Shazam (who is more commonly known as Captain Marvel in other incarnations), and Cyborg—working together to defeat him. However, that is typical of a big comic-book villain, and I wouldn’t expect anything less in a movie about the early days of the Justice League. The real reason I find Darkseid so terrifying is because of what he does to the people he has the Parademons abduct.
He has his minion Desaad put the abductees through what I can only describe as some form of biological engineering. The procedure he puts these poor people through actually turns them into Parademons themselves. They then go out and kidnap more humans to be biologically altered, thus repeating the process. This brings me to my first complaint about the film, but this is more of aesthetics than bad writing. Justice League: War is bloody, and that wouldn’t bother me if it didn’t have an obsession with eyes. When the humans are being altered, we actually see the machines pull their skin away from their eyes and shove science-goop into them. It was so disgusting that I actually had to turn away from my TV screen. Additionally, when Desaad tries to alter Superman into a Parademon, we see the same thing happen to Superman’s eyes.
And this is a running theme throughout the movie. Before our heroes manage to defeat Darkseid, they first weaken him by gouging out his eyes. Wonder Woman takes a sword to the one, and the Flash stabs his other one out with a crowbar. To be fair, I think that’s how they win against Darkseid in the comics, so I can give the movie that, but it was still quite gross.
For the most part, I did think that this movie did a very good job with all its characters. I really like Cyborg—a character that I didn’t really care about when the movie started—but Justice League: War did a fantastic job of setting him up and giving him a lot of depth. In some ways, I feel the movie had to, since Cyborg isn’t as famous a character as someone like the Flash, or Green Lantern—who do not get origin stories this movie—and I was fully invested in Cyborg’s issues and arc throughout the film. Cyborg’s real name is Victor Stone. He’s a pretty big shot in football, and his main drama comes from his strained relationship with his father. His father, a prominent scientist, isn’t proud of his son’s life choices, since being a football player is not going to be a big deal in a world of meta-humans and superheroes. As such, his father never has time for him, refuses to go see his games, and is genuinely a pretty terrible parent.
However, during the invasion, Victor almost dies from an explosion created from one of the alien devices. Due to a mixture between the alien hardware and his father’s medical expertise, he becomes Cyborg. Victor’s life is turned upside down because of this transformation, and he doesn’t know who he is anymore. Working with the other superheroes to defeat Darkseid and developing a friendship with Shazam, he does eventually come to accept his new life, and at the end of the movie, when he and our other heroes are being publicly thanked, his father is finally proud of him.
That said, though I was very happy with Cyborg’s character, I was less happy with Wonder Woman’s. I think Wonder Woman did a great job, and I loved her character as well. I just didn’t really like how the movie treated her. I suppose it doesn’t bother me she and Superman ended up being a little bit into each other, but it got annoying really quickly watching the other male heroes objectify her or try to show off in an attempt to impress her during the battle with Darkseid. None of these antics endear her fellow teammates to her, for which I’m grateful. But that, combined with the potential romance with Superman, ended up being too much for me.
However, probably the worst is her introductory scene. At the beginning of the movie, people don’t like our superheroes. The battles they fight cause millions of dollars’ worth of property damages, and people in general don’t feel safe. While during a protest against her, one of her main protesters yells that one of the reasons he doesn’t like her is because she’s dressed like a whore. Again, Wonder Woman doesn’t really give a shit what he thinks of her outfit, and wanting to know the real reason he hates her, she uses her magic lasso on him. He confesses then that on his spare time he cross-dresses as Wonder Woman, because wearing her outfit makes him feel powerful. Wonder Woman agrees with him that it makes her feel powerful as well, and she doesn’t judge him for it. My problem here is that in some ways, I felt that the movie itself wanted the audience to judge the protester in question negatively because he wears women’s clothing. It’s nice that Wonder Woman offsets this with her acceptance, but the scene could still be borderline offensive.
My other big issue is the sound. I mentioned that I was worried about this in my review of the trailer, and my worries were well founded. This is a minor point, but there are times when the background music is up really high and the characters’ voices are really low, making it a little hard to hear. Thankfully, this problem is nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be and as half the movie is epic battles without much dialogue anyway, it doesn’t really matter.
When we do get dialogue, it is really good, and the film sets up all the characters’ personalities very well through it. I really enjoyed watching all our heroes meet and interact with each other, and it did make for some interesting conversation.
If you haven’t seen this movie yet, I entirely recommend that you give it a shot, since, despite some of the issues that I just mentioned, it is a really engaging movie. It also ends with a cliffhanger scene after the credits, so I assume that means a sequel is in our near future.