In a cultural landscape where a royal wedding has the power of persuading tens of thousands of people that there is nothing newsworthy at all, it is no wonder Hollywood’s eyes have glazed over at the billions of dollar signs swimming round their heads like slot machines roll through the countless copycat cash-ins of the superhero fantasy market, spearheaded by the elite Marvel Cinematic Universe. The suspension of disbelief, it appears, is once again at its pinnacle. Once a term coined by WCW’s Eric Bischoff in the wrestling organisation’s success at winning the Monday night rating wars between themselves and WWE, it is now the bread and butter of the cultural industries, particularly that of the film industry, where the days of reflective and realistic storylines are long gone, transferred out for the biopics of the unknown and unrealistic, of the tales of beings beyond ourselves, of the worlds we can only dream of.
Since Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark taught us that billion-dollar CEO’s live public eye-heavy double-lives as suited-and-booted pro-tech mech-warriors with serious daddy issues in Iron Man, Marvel have taken the market by storm, stealing imaginations and hearts, and running as far as they can. It’s only fair then that DC have their turn at the wheel, for they too have had some incredible comic characters come out over the years. Whilst their universe got off to a rocky start with the haphazard casting of Ben Affleck as Gotham’s caped wander Batman, who, in almost everyone’s mind, would always be Christian Bale after his show-stopping jaw-dropping performance as the one and only bat in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, they’ve since evened themselves out with the release of Wonder Woman, which surpassed even some of Marvel’s most recent releases. Still though, with only a handful of movies, the project of suspending our disbelief so much so to believe that a Justice League movie, at this stage, was even possible, was but a pipe dream, and yet here we are, with a ninety-minute pun-heavy semi action-packed extravaganza that features Ben Affleck brooding, Jason Momoa looking badass, and Ciaran Hinds constantly complexed and compelled by his own mistakes, all about the one and only Justice League. You know, DC’s answer to the Avengers.
As far as suspending disbelief goes, Justice League doesn’t half follow the book on this one, it’s plot plodding along the beaten path painted out in Marvel’s original Avengers movie: Banished God-like being sets sights on Earth as its next conquest; inordinately unlikely allies with perplexing issues and egotistical megalomaniac personalities coming together to save the earth; ridiculously lengthy build-up of side-stories to strengthen an underwhelming climax where the enemy supposedly built like a brick shit house is defeated in one swift move like a game of Chess with a child genius; Earth rejoices in the safety of their new-found super-group. Justice League dials this up big-time, focusing on creating far too many sub-plots to keep up with – obviously setting themselves up for their expanded universe, including movies for Aquaman, Flash, and Cyborg (who’ll most likely reappear in a Teen Titans-tinged adventure) as well as new adventures for Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman – and eventually builds itself up and up and up for their world-ending boss to be beaten by pretty much nothing. It’s not a spoiler, it’s simply a poorly written end to what is otherwise quite a well-written adventure, despite its formulaic nature.
The suspension of my own disbelief was perhaps easier done than others, considering I experienced the epic in a semi-hungover state, fuelled by Greggs and a bottle of extremely overpriced water, however it’s become increasingly alarming that I’m so split on Justice League. I enjoyed it. I really enjoyed it. In fact, I thought it was the best Superhero movie I’ve seen in sometime, and this is coming from the kid who thought Benedict Cumberbatch should’ve won an award for his Doctor Strange portrayal. And yet, here, as I write, I find faults in it – perhaps I am nit-picking for the sake of nit-picking, or perhaps I am scratching at something deeper here.
Superhero movies are the bread and butter of the industry, and everyone wants to be in them, which is why you get Samuel L Jackson cast as Nick Fury, which is still one of the most mind-numbingly baffling puzzles I’ve ever had to work out, and there is always the fear that they are simply there to make money by playing on our own limited realities, fuelling our imaginations, and of course, suspending our disbelief.
Justice League works because they scale up our dreams to such a size it seems silly we ever thought they could be real, and yet at the same time we relate entirely to all of the characters complexities: Cyborg’s fear of his own power and responsibility, Flash’s Spiderman like humour in response to a terrifyingly realistic reflection of millennial-driven social anxiety, Batman’s painful realisation that even he, the dark knight, is vulnerable to human emotion, and Wonder Woman and Aqauman’s constant need to perform under the pressure of their historic pasts, which really, for all of us, is simply the pressure and weight of expectation placed upon us by our loved ones. Unlike some of Marvel’s characters, Justice League opens up the floodgates a little more than usual, allowing us to truly believe that we could be any one of these characters; that we, as regular everyday civilians, could truly be in the Justice League.
Justice League unwinds its clever character development through its stop-start bump-and-jump pace that often prioritises the wrong storyline at the wrong time, and attempts to cram far too much backstory into ninety minutes than is humanly possible. There were parts of the movie where the suspension of disbelief began to wear off when you began to realise that some of it just didn’t make sense: like seriously, bringing Superman back from the dead and him recovering from a lifetimes worth of PTSD after an hour spent hugging Amy Adams in a field of wheat (our Theresa would be proud) – you’re really expecting us to believe that one? Even more so, you’re expecting us to believe that Steppenwolf, the banished God whose livelihood is to conquer worlds and eat them for breakfast, can be defeated in mere moments, despite having spent the entirety of the movie projecting his volatile nature and unbeatable mannerisms. It’s these little loopholes that simply don’t make sense, and they’re the big ones – trust me, look close enough and you shall find plenty of tiny black holes waiting to suck you in. A plus, however, is Justice League’s ability to adapt its source material in a way which doesn’t entirely shit all over it like a Pigeon on an unsuspecting passer-by, which is something Marvel often or not commit on an all-too-regular basis. The movie, as a whole, follows through on the comics that came before it, and that’s testament to the direction of DC cinematic universe, and more reason to why our disbelief can be suspended, it’s consistent despite its inherent inconsistency – yes, that does make sense, we promise.
Justice League, whether you’re a seasoned pro or a fresh-faced rookie in the superhero sweepstakes, is an enjoyable burst of the suspension of your disbelief, allowing you to escape to a world not too dissimilar to your own, with heroes not that unlike to you, fighting complexities a little like your own, whilst battling to protect the entire planet, which is something you probably can’t relate to, unless, you know, Justice League is some sort of twisted true story. Screw the Royal Wedding, give us another DC movie and we’ll put the doom and gloom of the 21st Century behind us.