Review: Justice League

Left to right: J.K. Simmons, Gal Gardot, Ray Fisher, Ben Affleck, and Ezra Miller star in Justice League.

Superman is dead and the world needs saving, time for a new team of superheroes to save the day – the Justice League?

Well that’s the question Director Zach Snyder poses in this drab origin tale.  Can a bunch of myths and super powered misfits so to speak, come together and stop an ancient alien from destroying the earth … without Superman?

Taking place after Batman V Superman, the world is still mourning the loss of the ‘Man of Steel.’ Crime is high, hope is low, and Batman (Ben Affleck) is attempting to solve the mystery of the three boxes in Lex Luthor’s notes and their connection to strange winged creatures kidnapping citizens of Gotham and Metropolis. It takes Wonder Woman (Gal Gardot) to put the pieces of the puzzle together. An ancient alien named Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarán Hinds) is searching for three relics called “mother boxes” that when combined have the power to destroy an entire planet. Hidden by the Amazons, Atlanteans and ancient man, Steppenwolf has returned to complete his morbid destiny and it is up to Wonder Woman and Batman to build a team of heroes to stop him.

Written by Chris Terrio, Josh Whedon and Snyder, the film explores a world without heroes and shares brief glimpses into the origins of three superheroes in the making: Aquaman (Jason Momoa); The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher). While this seems feasible and not uncommon, this script puts forth very little effort to complete their origin arcs and instead expects the viewer to just piece it together.

The obvious focus is on Barry Allen, The Flash – the awkward and socially inept speedster. He is the youngest member and comic relief relegated to spouting geek references and juvenile but funny one-liners. Arthur Curry A.K.A. the Aquaman is told his origin when confronting   Atlantean Mera (Amber Heard). It’s a quick discussion of his birthright and responsibility to stop the coming apocalypse. I guess we’ll get more of his story when Aquaman hits theaters next year.  Very little is mentioned about Cyborg’s past aside from a few discussions between he and his father (played by Joe Morton). It is this lazy storytelling that leaves too many holes for the audience to figure out that makes the film rather disjointed. Whedon’s quippy average Joe style of dialog doesn’t always mesh with Snyder’s brooding, philosophical rants. Nothing helps you to care about any of the new heroes and even less about the broken and flawed veterans Wonder Woman and Batman have become.

To visually stitch Snyder’s Frankenstein-esque hero flick together, he stays (as always) in his comfort zone – creating tons of hyper action battle sequences to distract you from the growing pile of story gaps and head scratchers. The fights are epic, especially as the team slowly comes together, But some sequences, especially when actors are replaced with CGI, look amateurish and noticeably bad. When Steppenwolf and his horde of Parademons battle Amazons the scene is fast paced with lots of movement and energy, but the poor design of Steppenwolf and some noticeable CGI flaws constantly divert you from what’s going on in the scene.

With all its flaws, there are some enjoyable moments in the film. You can feel some chemistry between Affleck, Miller, Gardot and Momoa but very little from Fisher. He is good but doesn’t get the opportunity to interact and share personable moments with the team. There are other good moments like conversations with Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane) here and there but not enough to call memorable and certainly not lasting.

I have come to think of the D.C. Expanded Universe as the M. Night Shyamalan of superhero movies. After Man of Steel, Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad, it’s not hard to see why. They are The Happenings, After Earth, and The Last Airbender respectively of superhero movies in my opinion. Wonder Woman was the exception – my Unbreakable or Sixth Sense so to speak. It gave me a glimmer of hope (pronounced El in Krypton – #nerd)  that maybe … just maybe, they got their act together and will give Marvel a satisfying response to their run of critical and box office successes. But if Justice League, the flagship of their superhero franchise is any indication of what is in store, all they have created is a Legion of Doom.

Justice League – 2 out of 5 Stars
In theaters. Starring Ben Affleck, Gal Gardot, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher. Directed by Zach Snyder.

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