PG-13 | 2h | Action, Adventure, Fantasy | 17 November 2017 (USA)
Director: Zack Snyder
Exec Producer: Ben Affleck
Writers: Chris Terrio, Joss Whedon
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons
Ray View Rating: 3
Justice League is the big DC comics-based movie that, like Thor: Ragnarok, has been much-anticipated by fans. And like the Thor movie, it doesn’t meet my expectations, but at least it takes itself seriously.
The premise is that the evil being, Steppenwolf (yes, like the old rock band), is hunting down three powerful artifacts hidden by humans, Amazons, and Atlanteans. He wants to use their power to turn the world into his idea of a fun place, which would be Hell-on-earth for humans. He is aided in his quest by an army of insect-like para-demons. Fortunately, earthlings have defenders in an alliance of superheroes who take on Steppenwolf.
This storyline is pretty standard fare for superhero movies—at least recent superhero movies. I think it is based on lore spun in DC comic books, but it strikes me as reminiscent of Lord of the Rings. That's not really a bad thing, but in this movie it’s more of a hack plot. As such, I never believed its purported urgency of the world’s impending doom. It felt like what it is—an excuse to bring together some superheroes to fight as a team.
Now, all that could be OK if it were well done, but it’s not. The plot is weak. The super-villain is weak. The movie’s saving grace is the performances put in by Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) and Jason Momoa (Aquaman). What acting is done among the superheroes is done best by them. They are also the most fun to watch in the action scenes, the best of which the one set on the Amazons’ island. It echoes the opening battle scene in Wonder Woman which was even better. The Atlantis scenes were also interesting and bode hopeful for a good Aquaman movie.
Batman is the driving force among the superheroes in this movie and is probably a plum role for Ben Affleck. For me, though, Affleck makes a better Bruce Wayne than Batman. His cowl has a funny nose and his jaws are too big, somehow. Still, he has all the appropriate gadgets and muscle-machines required of Batman. He has a flirtation with Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) that’s probably in keeping with Affleck’s character, but in the movie it’s more annoying than interesting.
I did like that the movie presented an aging Batman. That could be an interesting slant to the usual superhero characterizations, but it was not taken to any depth here. For a better consideration of aging superheroes, see the Logan movie.
Cyborg, performed by Ray Fisher, is an interesting introduction in this movie. He is high-tech savy but conflicted. He’s powerful, but is largely a machine that he doesn’t even have complete control of. This aspect isn’t developed enough, however, and so Cyborg becomes another piece of tech, like Batman’s vehicles.
The Flash is the movie’s comic relief and Ezra Miller does as well with that as the writers allow. He doesn’t have the charisma of the CW TV series character, but I guess this one movie doesn’t allow a lot of time for such development. I really didn’t like his costume. It was too piece-mill bulky and didn’t say, “speed.” The most interesting aspect of the Flash character is that he is not a fighter, like the other superheroes. He actually shows fear when facing his first fight with the para-demons, which is a nice contrast to the usual superhero bravado. Batman has to give him some last-minute coaching.
Now, the big pivotal role of this movie is Superman. He is brought into the plot via a “resurrection” slant that I’ve never cared for in storytelling. It is seldom done well and strikes me as dramatic cheating (too close to deus ex machina). On top of that, I not crazy about Henry Cavill as Superman. He looks more like an insurance salesman than the Man of Steel. Christopher Reeve had the better look, in my opinion. While Superman’s introduction may please fans, the Lois Lane (Amy Adams) subplot was too close to a “Martha” moment for me (re: Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice).
Overall, this movie disappoints me with its storytelling. The superhero characters have potential, but the ensemble format tends to squash that potential. There is a sense of camaraderie, but it’s not developed enough, or at least not well enough. I did like the friendly competition between Flash and Superman, but that’s a spark in the dark. This movie will probably be enjoyable by die-hard DC comics fans, but it just doesn’t reach the satisfying dramatic levels of the Wonder Woman movie or the CW Flash series.