Director: Zach Snyder
Starring: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Amy Adams, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J.K. Simmons, Ciarán Hinds, Joe Morton
DC Comics continues to crank out movies in their superhero universe in hopes of veering the franchise in the right direction. Earlier this year we saw the release of Wonder Woman, which came as a sigh of relief for many fans and was the first big success for DC’s Extended Universe. Like the old saying goes, one step forward and two steps back for DC with Justice League. That’s not to say it’s terrible. I won’t spew hatred onto it like many other critics, but there are glaring issues that continue to haunt over DC’s movies.
Justice League picks up in the aftermath of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The world is still mourning over the death of Superman (Cavill). Flags and memorials are in place to honor the fallen hero. Bruce Wayne/Batman (Affleck) feels partially responsible for his fate and fears that more danger looms over the horizon with an even greater evil looking to destroy the planet. He doesn’t know who or what but doesn’t want to waste any time in order to prepare. He needs to bring back that beacon of hope that Superman once stood for. The Amazonian women on Wonder Woman’s home island of Themyscira are the first to witness the wrath of Steppenwolf, the film’s token villain. He’s a lumbering alien officer surrounded by a swarm of winged galactic creatures. They represent the end of worlds, as he’s looking to find his three hidden mother boxes which form together into one large energy force. It’s a pretty silly concept, but I’ll have more on that later. It takes some convincing but Batman is able to form the Justice League with Wonder Woman (Gadot), The Flash (Miller), Aquaman (Momoa), and Cyborg (Fisher) in hopes of stopping Steppenwolf before he can find his mother boxes.
We were all introduced to the new members of the Justice League as a tease in Batman v Superman. This is DC Comics’ approach to Marvel’s Avengers movies where they take their known superheroes and assemble them together to take down an evil force threatening to destroy the world. Screenwriters Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon (Marvel’s The Avengers) have found a way to balance their introductions without spending too much screen time veering off the main, albeit skimpy, plot. Each member of the Justice League gets to have their moment to shine making them standout over Batman. Victor Stone/Cyborg must grapple with his changing body from human to machine thanks to lab experiments at the hands of his father (Scandal’s Joe Morton). As The Flash, Ezra Miller is fast-talking and pure static energy with his powers and personality. He’s like a kid in a candy store when he’s introduced to the Batcave. Some may find his character grating, but he didn’t bother me. Wonder Woman is another highlight as her opening sequence with her taking down bank robbers gets the movie off to a great start. She gets to be the logical and grounded one of the group. Last, but certainly not least, brings the brutish but funny Aquaman at the hands of Game of Throne’s Jason Momoa.
It’s exciting to have supporting characters we can latch onto with any comic book movie. That enthusiasm can only pull a movie far enough when the lead and villain are as lackluster as they are in Justice League. Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne/Batman is the core of the film, yet he has never been able to bring any personality or joy to his version of the character. This is supposed to be an aged and disgruntled take on the character, but Affleck has a moody one-noted take on him. Don’t get me started on the impractical steroid looking Batsuit he’s given to wear. He can barely put his arms down. DC continues to show that it has antagonist problems, much like we saw with Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad. The film’s villain, Steppenwolf, is completely forgettable. He’s a completely CGI creature lacking any sort of personality giving nothing to actor Ciarán Hinds to work with to make him stand out. The DCEU has yet to find a character and actor to carry on the torch like we saw with Jack Nicholson (Batman), Michelle Pfeiffer (Batman Returns), or Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight).
Justice League attempts to resurrect a dying franchise much like we see with its treatment of Cyborg and Superman. It’s not really a spoiler that he comes back from the dead as Henry Cavill has been all over the promotional materials. It improves on many of the flaws of Batman v Superman. It was widely publicized that Whedon came in for rewrites and took over post-production reshoots after Zach Snyder left for family obligations. You can hear the Whedon influence in the snappy dialogue. This may have also been to adhere to the humor found in Wonder Woman. Also gone is the overabundance of pointless side plots and random action sequences, which are now kept fairly short and easy to follow. It’s a pleasant change from the bloated ones Snyder had in his previous outings. I applaud the pairing down of unnecessary bulk, but as result, screenwriter Chris Terrio forgets that character development still needs to occur. Superman’s return is the only real sense of growth throughout this movie.
Your enjoyment of Justice League may just depend on your feelings towards the other DCEU movies. I’m in that camp of thinking that Zach Snyder, with big help from Joss Whedon, made a worthy improvement over Batman v Superman. Wonder Woman is still the clear favorite. It’s nice to have Danny Elfman back scoring Batman’s universe. If you listen clearly you can hear his old themes from the 1988 Batman score as well as John William’s classic Superman score from the Christopher Reeve days. I suppose the end result for Snyder and the rest of DC is to get us excited about future projects. There they have succeeded, as their next film Aquaman should be a kick-ass ride.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Only if you go in with lowered expectations
RATING: 3 out of 5 TICKET STUBS