Justice League: Movie Review

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Justice League is patched together with different elements. You have got your super-powerful magic geegaw – Motherboxes instead of the Tesseract. You’ve got your evil dude from another dimension bringing an alien army to invade earth — Steppenwolf instead of Loki, Parademons instead of the Chitauri. Of course you have your team of heroes who overcome their personal issues and mutual dislikes and come together and save the day. (Yeah, sounds so fresh and new?)

From one random abandoned warehouse to another where our superheroes lob heavy objects at our newest power hungry villain, Steppenwolf, who is a horned demon aiming to assemble some mysterious magic boxes so he can take over the world. Yawnnn... Since Earth’s beloved defender and saviour Superman (Henry Cavill) is dead, Bruce is rounding up other super power endowed heroes that he has been stalking through his high-tech gadgets. Yawn again. The introduction of these new superheroes is done with no regard for exposition or transition and feels random.

Pity the film falls flat on expectations for viewers and the actors who signed on thinking this would be a lark like The Avengers. Jason Momoa could have been fab at reinventing the silliest of all superheroes, Aquaman, as a strutting Neptunian wildman. Here he is reduced to yelling “Wahoo!” as he car-surfs on the Batmobile. Fisher’s Cyborg, an angsty teen titan is the sole black character in the all-white team, first appears with his face obscured by a hoodie and his screen time consists almost entirely of droning on about his ability to sync up with computers. He mourns the loss of his human body and is frightened by how the alien technology that allowed his brain and most of his face to survive an explosion. Affleck who looks like ready to retire, is deeply bored and boring while Gadot is mostly grinning in tight leather pants. Although one has to say, she looks a perfect balance of authority and compassion, same as Christopher Reeve had. Other female characters seem like afterthoughts: Amy Adams’ Lois Lane, Diane Lane as Superman’s mom and Amber Heard as sea-princess. The Amazons in Wonder Woman’s hometown, Themyscira, make the most hasty and undetailed of appearances.

There is always an exception, and in this film it has to be Ezra Miller as Flash who brings up some mischievous good cheer in the dull predictable set up. A scientifically-minded, excitable kid learning the ropes of superheroing from a rich older mentor (Ben Affleck), he looks more human imploring us to have a little fun when the other wax statue looking characters go about the tasks with a bored look.

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Oh, and there is also the movie's CGI villain, Steppenwolf, voiced by the fine Irish actor Ciarán Hinds (the wildling leader from GoT), and he's one of the many characters artist Jack Kirby created for DC after he defected from Marvel Comics in the early '70s. It surprised many fans to find a new villain when they were expecting only Darkseid to be worthy of taking over the newly formed Justice League.

With the exception of one enjoyably hokey mid-movie melee wherein the five heroes on the poster get reacquainted with each other in the customary manner of comic-book team-ups, the strongest material is the several two-hander scenes wherein various pairings of heroes talk heroism. The one battle that feels like anything is at stake comes when our heroes must pacify a violently confused ally. (no spoilers here!) The others remain super-smackdowns and as numbingly tension-free as ever, relying on digital animation. Bringing on Avengers director Joss Whedon late in the process to script-doctor the already filmed movie and then take over as director of the reshoots after director Zack Snyder stepped back from the production amid personal tragedy, you can feel the two men’s sensibilities gnawing at the other throughout the film. The first half is almost entirely set up as a tangle of vignettes and backstory involving an imminent threat, new heroes with varying degrees of interest in joining the fray and a plot which involves mysterious doomsday cubes and an ancient battle between gods, Amazons, Atlanteans, and men. These strands emerge rapidly yet elliptically, shrouding what is actually a very simple story: Steppenwolf wants to turn the Earth into a hellacious tribute to his fellow cosmic deities but he needs the three “mother boxes” to do it. It is here that the team of superheroes finally come together and set out to save the Earth.

There are brief moments in the film that are kind of fun. One finds Snyder’s signature action style, involving debris-flecked set pieces and lots of time ramping (speed up and slow down shots especially the actions scenes) that makes it better for us to witness the carnage. But you need a lot more than zippy repartee to make a superhero film feel heartfelt and thematically resonant and this one is mostly a senses-assaulting mess. The plot holes are only the most obvious signs of the movie’s troubled origins and they are rather small compared with the abyss that separates the movie’s divergent tones. Justice League is a quarter measure an attempt to square grimness with goofiness.

 

★★

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