‘Justice League’ Is a ‘Chaotic, Baffling Mess’ and 8 Other Harsh Reviews

Critics blast “disjointed storytelling” and blurred action sequences

Last Updated: November 15, 2017 @ 9:48 AM

The review embargo for “Justice League” has finally lifted, just a few days before the film comes out this weekend, and the reviews are less than fierce.

While fans who have seen the film have largely reported that they like it, critics so far have a lot of problems with the all-star DC superhero action movie.

Some reviewers blasted the film’s “disjointed storytelling” and convoluted CGI resulting in blurred action sequences. One critic even called it a “chaotic, baffling mess.”

“And so, dear ‘Justice League,’ I must say that no, the lighting is not good,” wrote Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson. “The script is not interesting. The costumes are not fun. The film is, plainly stated, terrible, and I’m sorry that everyone wasted their time and money making it–and that people are being asked to waste their time and money seeing it. I hate to be so blunt, but it simply must be said this time,” he added.

“If you like your superhero battles in deep dark tunnels or under skies purple with alien soot, director Zack Snyder is back with yet another installment that looks the way Axe body spray smells,” TheWrap’s own critic Alonso Duralde wrote in his review.

Still, critics found some redeeming qualities in “Justice League.” Most reviewers seem to agree that the characters are the strong point of the new DC movie, and that the lighter tone and funny one-liners elevate it above predecessor “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

“But ‘Justice League’ does more right than wrong,” wrote USA Today’s Brian Truitt. “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,” he added.

“Justice League” stars Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher and Ezra Miller, and was directed by Zack Snyder before Joss Whedon took over when Snyder suffered a family tragedy.

See nine review excerpts below:

Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair

“Doing high school and college theater, I got used to a certain kind of pitying, deflecting, post-performance compliment–‘the lighting was so good;’ ‘what an interesting script;’ ‘what fun costumes.’ These little deceptive kindnesses told me all I needed to know, yet spared me from full exposure to the harshest truths. I’ve done the same routine myself dozens of times, because what else can we do as decent, compassionate people? Who needs mean, candid honesty when, deep down, we already know the value, or lack thereof, of what we’ve made? But once in awhile, there comes along something so egregiously bad that trying to find something good to say about it is its own kind of cruelty; such an obvious act of reaching only highlights the production’s garish dimensions, its abject failures. And, worse still, it can encourage more. In these instances, pure and unadorned honesty is really the only way to go, difficult as it may be to deliver. And so, dear ‘Justice League,’ I must say that no, the lighting is not good. The script is not interesting. The costumes are not fun. The film is, plainly stated, terrible, and I’m sorry that everyone wasted their time and money making it–and that people are being asked to waste their time and money seeing it. I hate to be so blunt, but it simply must be said this time.”

Germain Lussier, io9: 

“Everything the ‘Justice League does feels too easy. Some of that is certainly due to the film’s economical runtime, which is under two hours. This should be a good thing–way too many superhero blockbusters are too bloated nowadays–but ‘Justice League’ clearly cut out some connective tissue instead of just telling a tighter story. Among those are scenes about a random European family that feel hugely out of place for most of the film; when their purpose is finally revealed, the payoff is minimal. Wonder Woman’s first appearance is another such example. She’s fighting terrorists who have this huge political agenda but they simply disappear, leaving you scratching your head. The disjointed storytelling, coupled with a lack of tension, continually works against the film.”

Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly

“First, the good news. ‘Justice League’ is better than its joylessly somber dress rehearsal, ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.’ Now the ‘but’…you knew there was a ‘but’ coming, right? But it 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. Following the exit of Christian Bale in 2012, it was the first real glimmer of hope that maybe the studio was headed in the right direction. That the future was bright. ‘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.

Robbie Collin, The Telegraph

[…] Warner Bros’ latest hapless attempt to jump-start their DC Comics blockbuster brand, which at this point looks less like a cinematic universe than a pop-cultural black hole, sucking up as much money and audience goodwill as the studio can shovel into it…  it feels like a sheepish feature-length retraction of the franchise to date. It’s consistently embarrassing to watch, and features plot holes so yawningly vast they have a kind of Grand Canyon-like splendour: part of you wants to hang around to see what they look like at sunset.”

Eric Kohn, IndieWire:

“Whedon’s ‘Avengers’ was an endearing accumulation of characters whose stories assembled over the course of 10 years and several movies; ‘Justice League’ attempts to speed the process and blurs its appeal. Decades ago, before Spider-Man or Captain America took charge, Batman and Superman protected a war-torn America, forever changing popular culture. It was the D.C. universe that invented this game, so it stings to see it replicate the same old moves.”

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone:

“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-a–ed 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.”

Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

It’s been a long, hard road to ‘Justice League.’ Director Zack Snyder, who helmed the latest iterations of Batman and Superman in ‘Man of Steel’ and ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,’ stepped away for personal reasons during post-production. ‘The Avengers’ director Joss Whedon came in to finish the film, including reshoots, which were famously foiled by Superman Henry Cavill’s ‘Mission: Impossible’ mandated mustache. But after all of that, finally, DC’s superheroes are assembled on screen at last. It’s just a shame that the resulting film is a chaotic, baffling mess.”

Brian Truitt, USA Today

“‘Justice League’ is a lighter answer to the tonal issues of both ‘Man of Steel’ and ‘Batman v Superman,’ though it’s saddled with an uneven narrative and not as much character development as you’d want in trying to shoehorn ancient mythology and setup for future movies. But ‘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.”

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
“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.”