JUSTICE LEAGUE Review: 6 out of 10 (Super Friendly but Forgettable)
JUSTICE LEAGUE is the latest superhero film from the DC franchise and is directed by Zack Snyder and features an ensemble cast that includes Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, and Ray Fisher. The film comes directly after the events of MAN OF STEEL and BATMAN v. SUPERMAN. Although those previous films have their detractors, count me as one reviewer who really liked them. Although they have their issues, the villains were memorable, the characters were drawn with depth, and the films offered emotional stakes. Though the MCU films (by comparison) are the more popular films by the masses, they also work with a certain template that can feel slight and, at times, manufactured. Warner Bros. and DC seem to be jumping on the bandwagon of the more generic MCU type of film here with Joss Whedon's work with re-shoots on the film and some revisions in the script that, at times, stand out like a sore quip. Suffice to say, if you are someone who really dug the previous DC films, this movie is likely a downgrade for you. However, for those who like the lighter fare of MCU with cutesy banter and forgettable villains, this film is a major upgrade and likely will gain some fans for the future of the franchise.
After the death of Superman, Bruce Wayne and his new found ally Diana Prince work together to assemble a team of heroes and outcasts consisting of Barry Allen, Arthur Curry, and Victor Stone to face the incoming threat of Steppenwolf. That isn't the 70s band but a guy from elsewhere who for unexplained reasons wants to turn Earth into his Hellmouth playground. Steppenwolf is a forgettable baddie with a deep voice, gray scarred face, and horns--looking like he was built in the DC "Create a Villain" lab. He leads an army of Parademons (remember the dream sequence with flying moth guys in BvS) and together they are searching for the three ancient Mother Boxes(?) scattered across Earth. Steppenwolf comes and goes in a giant tornado from "elsewhere" out of convenience or contrivance (I am still deciding). To sum up, the ugly bad guy is here to destroy Earth because *reasons* but inconveniently needs these three mystery boxes to do so. Conveniently he can come and go as he wishes, however. Once he has them...then...he wins? Or the boxes give him power? Or...he will be the next Bachelor. It is really unclear. The narrative is so confused and forgettable that as soon as the villain is off screen, you forget about him entirely. There doesn't even seem to be much urgency to defeat him either.
For the record, I think the 70s band Steppenwolf would be a much better idea as a supervillain team. They could fly around on their Magic Carpet Ride, kidnapping current pop stars and holding them for ransom. After all, they were Born to be Wild.
The far better parts of the film here are the recruiting of the Super Friends. Ezra Miller is a breakout here as the socially awkward Flash, whose other superpower seems to be "chatty." There is the hunky macho Aquaman and the broody reluctant Cyborg. Gal Gadot continues to shine here as the strong heroine that begins to embrace her leadership. Affleck isn't the best Batman ever, but his position here is serviceable. Superman is dead but they deal with that too, eventually. The movie clearly moves around three distinct acts--each with its own action sequence set piece. It is this part of the film--recruiting the team, quippy banter, and film structure that feels very familiar to the more popular MCU franchise. But it is hard to argue with it since it is the most fun to be had here. Unfortunately, that is the best part. The visuals and CGI here are clunky in some places and flat-out awful in others. Here is hoping the future of this franchise will move past the ugly color palettes and embrace more practical effects moving forward. For this reviewer, the real hope comes in the credits, and for those who choose to stay until the end, may find some gasps and giddiness as the movie points ahead.
JUSTICE LEAGUE has some fun moments, despite them being in a movie that is fairly broken. Though DC seems to have made some compromises to the franchise, they lost their identity too. But the future looks brighter, no doubt.