JUSTICE LEAGUE (PG-13)
Released by Warner Brothers/DC
Review by Adam Mast
It’s been a really solid year for superhero properties. LOGAN, THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2, WONDER WOMAN, SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, THOR: RAGNAROK, etc. Leave it to JUSTICE LEAGUE to bring that streak to a crashing halt. Perhaps, that’s a little too harsh. The truth is, JUSTICE LEAGUE isn’t horrible. That said, it is bland and uneventful.
In JUSTICE LEAGUE, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) sets out to assemble a team of reluctant superheroes in an attempt to overthrow supervillain, Steppenwolf; A baddie from another dimension out to destroy our planet as we know it. Wayne’s search begins with his own alter ego, Batman, and continues with Amazonian warrior, Wonder Woman (aka Diana Prince). Together, Wayne and Prince set out to recruit Aquaman (Arthur Curry), The Flash (Barry Allen), and Cyborg (aka Victor Stone) in the idealistic hope that through their aid, the world can be saved. An ideology once shared by fallen hero and beacon of hope, Superman (Henry Cavill).
As you’ve probably already heard, it’s been a rough road for JUSTICE LEAGUE. Not only have DC’s cinematic properties been held under a microscope and constantly compared to Marvel’s big screen efforts, but director Zack Snyder had little choice but to leave this project during post-production due to an unforeseen family tragedy. THE AVENGERS helmer Joss Whedon was brought in to complete JUSTICE LEAGUE by way of re-shoots and a limited post-production schedule, and the end result is a movie in which Snyder’s and Whedon’s styles constantly seem to be at odds.
That said, JUSTICE LEAGUE benefits from being a lot less self-serious than its dour and rather joyless predecessor. Translation; There is fun to be had in this picture. It’s mercifully shorter, too. Furthermore, there’s a lot of terrific character work in JUSTICE LEAGUE. The Flash is a nice addition here and while the effects techniques used to demonstrate his breakneck speed can’t hold a candle to the visuals that brought Quicksilver to life in the X-MEN films, Ezra Miller does bring this popular character to life by way of charm and a cheeky sense of humor. The more dramatic scenes between he and his jailed father (played by Billy Crudup) are equally effective.
Likewise, Ray Fisher is a pleasant new addition as well. His brooding Cyborg has far fewer funny moments than the Flash, but he lends a little contrast to the proceedings. Jason Momoa, by comparison, is all machismo as “Aquaman” and while his bigger-than-life personality, physicality, and undeniable charisma would be welcome attributes in any film, his characterization in this picture is a bit much. Here’s hoping that director James Wan finds the right balance in the upcoming AQUAMAN movie.
It’s a shame that rumors continue to swirl that Affleck is about to hang up the bat cape because he’s actually quite strong in the role. While the idea of a Matt Reeves-directed standalone THE BATMAN movie (with or without Affleck) sounds outstanding, I can’t help but feel a little bummed that an Affleck-directed “Batman” film will no longer come to fruition because the GOOD WILL HUNTING co-star and co-writer has proven to be even stronger as a director than he is as an actor.
Gal Gadot is, perhaps, the best casting choice DC has made in a post-Nolan DARK KNIGHT world, and while this terrific actress gets shortchanged a bit amongst the JUSTICE LEAGUE ensemble, she still manages to bring that same stoic and heroic vibe she brought to WONDER WOMAN earlier this year. What’s more, her trusty lasso has a hand in this film’s single biggest laugh.
The filmmakers behind JUSTICE LEAGUE completely drop the ball with the villain, Steppenwolf. This CG creation (voiced by the great Ciarán Hinds) lacks any sort of defined personality and feels boring and uninspired. Your hero is only as strong as your villain, therefore Steppenwolf doesn’t do this movie any favors.
Ultimately, JUSTICE LEAGUE feels messy as a whole and quite obviously, there were too many hands in the cookie jar. Yes, it’s more entertaining than BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, but is that enough? In the end, that sort of feels like faint praise at best.
I hate to be another one of those guys who feels compelled to compare this movie to a recent Marvel property, but the truth is, for all the humor that has been thrown into the mix, JUSTICE LEAGUE is nowhere near as entertaining as THOR: RAGNAROK. It isn’t half the movie WONDER WOMAN was either. And that’s disappointing because the character work and a rousing Danny Elfman score certainly led me to believe this movie would be better than it actually is. That said, we can all take solace in the realization that this is better than the Schumacher era of “Batman.”