davidehrlich’s review published on Letterboxd:
JUSTICE LEAGUE came in 5th.
Throughout his entire feature directing career, Zack Snyder has never really had to compromise. Of course, there are surely countless incidents where he acquiesced to one small thing or another behind the scenes, none of which his viewing public would ever be able to discern for themselves, but — on a macro level — he’s always gotten his way. Alas, making the Superman movie he wanted to put him in a bit of a hole, and making the Batman versus Superman movie he wanted to made that hole considerably deeper. By the time “Justice League” rolled around, the DC Extended Universe was in peril of collapse, and a blockbuster intended to galvanize the franchise into something great became a rescue mission intended to redeem the franchise into something sustainable. Whatever Snyder wanted the film to be was suddenly less important than whatever Warner Bros needed the film to be. In other words, “Justice League” was compromised by its very existence, even before personal tragedy compelled Snyder to hand over the reins to Joss Whedon earlier this year.
The result is a movie that is purely functional in a way that Snyder’s work has never been; five years of world-building have culminated in the least ambitious film of his career. “Justice League” exists for no other reason than to gather the DCEU’s heroes together, allow the saga to regroup, and prove its potential to a world that would sooner watch 10 “Wonder Woman” sequels than suffer through so much as a gif of Ben Affleck’s Batman. Sure, there’s a little lip service given to the value of unity in a world that’s literally lost its hope, and it’s interesting to see Earth grieve Superman’s death, but Snyder’s usual interest in the Hero’s Journey is sidelined in favor of assembling a team and forcing you to love them.
However, in true superhero fashion, the film’s greatest weakness is also its greatest strength. The same functionality that limits “Justice League” from deepening the DCEU on a thematic level also gives it a purpose that has been missing from Snyder’s previous two installments in the series. This is a movie that knows what it has to do, and it does exactly that. The storytelling is scattershot, the villain is a straight up disaster, and Cyborg isn’t anywhere close to being able to support his own movie, but “Justice League” effectively proves — maybe for the first time — that the DCEU has a future. That future may be a watered-down version of Marvel’s present, but it’s a future all the same. If they can earn some buy-in from audiences, better movies will follow, and Wonder Woman won’t have to carry this whole thing on her shoulders. It now seems possible. There’s some hope for these heroes yet.