A year and a half after the bloodbath that was “Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice,” “Justice League” serves as an informal apology from Warner Bros., who finally delivers an enjoyable movie. An added bonus: The film isn’t chroma keyed to look like the “blackest night” the Lantern Corps speak of.
“Justice League” is a much-welcomed departure from past DC Extended Universe films (DCEU) — with the exception of last summer’s excellent “Wonder Woman” — and does its best to be as enjoyable as possible. The main strength of the movie lies in the chemistry between the cast members, and the plot is just there as a device to move the League from scene to scene. But this is a character-driven movie, so you probably won’t feel too weird about it. Just don’t expect any masterful storytelling on-par with something like “Marvel’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”
The film picks up a few months after the events of “Batman v Superman,” when the world is still reeling from the death of Superman. Crime, terrorism and acts of hate have all spiked, as people lose all hope. To top this all off, the armies of Apokolips are knocking on earth’s door in search of three MacGuffins known as Mother Boxes. Surprise, surprise, this is also caused by Superman’s absence, as Earth is unprotected and ripe for the taking. This brings us to our main antagonist, Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciaran Hinds). I’ll make this quick by saying Steppenwolf looks like a**, sounds like a** and is just complete a** in general. He has one cool scene where he plays “keep away” with the Amazons on Themyscira, but other than that, he’s a one-dimensional character who looks like a CGI “Ivan Ooze” from “Power Rangers.”
The strongest thing about this movie is the chemistry between the Leaguers, and nowhere else does this shine more than the scenes between Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). While this is an unusual pair to see together, I really enjoyed the most optimistic character (Wonder Woman) actively trying to comfort the pessimist of the group.
While I’m on the topic of Cyborg, Fisher makes his mark as everyone’s new favorite “token” black character and actually succeeds in making the character interesting on his own, instead of following the cliched route of “Am I a man or a machine?” The film focuses more on the fact he doesn’t know what the hell is happening to him or how to control it because he’s part alien now, and he has to question whether he’s a tool of the enemy.
We already saw Gadot as Wonder Woman back in June, so I won’t say much about her performance — she’s as great as expected, and she’s the most badass of the ensemble. However, I wasn’t too thrilled about the shots of her butt that appeared throughout the movie. None of them served any narrative purpose, and every time it happened it was jarring and took me out of the scene. I only counted three of them, but I don’t need to see Gadot’s butt cheeks while she’s fighting Steppenwolf.
In only two hours, actor Ezra Miller proves he’s a better Flash than Grant Gustin, the star of the current CW TV series, and serves as the primary source for comic relief. Still, The Flash doesn’t get to do much in the action sequences. He just runs away from everything, which is his superpower, but I’d have liked to see him throw a punch or two.
The Flash behaves pretty similarly to another hero who saw a revival this year, Spider-Man. Both are young heroes who’ve never used their powers to fight and are in awe of the heroes around them. I’m not pointing fingers since “Justice League” started production before Marvel’s “Spider-Man:Homecoming,” but I did notice it.
Aquaman is dope. Actor Jason Momoa is hilarious as the dude-bro Atlantean, but “Justice League” doesn’t even scratch the surface with his character. We get a tiny bit of backstory with him in Atlantis but nothing major. Production wrapped on the “Aquaman” solo movie a few months ago, but I probably won’t see it. I couldn’t stand those da-n “whooshing” sounds every time he moved underwater. It drove me nuts, and I don’t think I can sit through two hours of that.
Ben Affleck proves once again that the DCEU version of Batman is a massive jerk who disregards people’s emotions and is just now starting to learn that his actions have consequences. However, Batman doesn’t take up most of the film or outclass his teammates. He has trouble fighting regular Parademons, so he never even tries to take a crack at Steppenwolf. This is a fine showcase of Bruce Wayne’s humanity and a nice way to retcon the inferior “Batman v. Superman.” The cracks in the two films’ tonal consistency are most noticeable whenever Batman starts making quips or callbacks to previous movies, but the lighter tone is welcomed. While some of the callbacks made in the movie are enjoyable, I didn’t understand why certain references were made to DCEU films that didn’t do well. Why remind us of “Batman v Superman” when a good chunk of your fans disliked it, and then treat it in such a tongue-in-cheek manner? Being self celebratory about a movie you’re trying to erase from the collective conscience of the internet seems really counter-productive.
Spoiler Alert: If you’re going into “Justice League” completely blind, meaning that you aren’t a fan of the comics, haven’t seen any set photos or the cast list, I’d stop reading here. This is kinda spoiler territory — but only if you’ve literally been living under a rock for the past year, so last warning, turn back now.
It’s no secret that Superman was going to make his return in “Justice League.” It was public knowledge that “Superman” actor Henry Cavill would be in the film from the moment production began. What you probably didn’t know is that Cavill was also cast in the upcoming “M:I 6: Mission Impossible,” a role that required him to grow a mustache around the same time when co-director Joss Whedon scheduled re-shoots for “Justice League.” Due to this mishap in scheduling, Cavill wasn’t able to shave his beard, meaning that Warner Bros. spent a pretty penny digitally removing his mustache for the final product. I type all of this to say that Superman looked weird. His upper lip was uncanny valley levels of weird. It was unsettling to say the least. Luckily, Cavill’s upper lip has no impact on his performance, which is surprisingly light compared to the last few times that we’ve seen him. Superman actually smiles! The tonal shift of Supes’ character is welcomed, there are even more colors added to his costume, which looks way better than the muted blue he wore in “Man Of Steel.”
“Justice League” is a step in the right direction for the DCEU. While the plot is thin and only exists to show how useless everyone is without Superman, the chemistry between the actors makes up for it, adding a layer of believability to the characters. While this still can’t touch Marvel’s first “Avengers” film from 2012, it’s a fun movie that I will definitely see again and is worth experiencing in theaters. “Justice League” succeeds where its predecessors failed, and gives me hope for the future of the DCEU franchise.