‘I’ ON CULTURE
The new Justice League movie has plenty of flaws but, overall, it provides a pretty good time for its audience. Many critics didn’t like it; however, audiences have a different take.
The main problem for the critics may be the high quality of this year’s superhero films: Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Thor: Ragnarok, Spider-Man: Homecoming and, most particularly, Wonder Woman. This movie is not nearly as good, but the audience in the theater I watched it in seemed to have a good time.
The movie begins where Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice ends. Superman is dead, and the world seems more dangerous. Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) is concerned about what he calls “parademons,” vicious, flying something-or-others, attacking the Earth, and starts tracking down Earth’s metahumans to increase protection.
Then a monster, Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds, doing voice and CGI), appears in Themyscira, home of the Amazons, to grab a mysterious power box. That alerts Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), who joins Batman. They recruit superfast Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher), who has been modified with so many electronic/manual parts that he is part of the cybernet. After a second power box is taken from under the sea, Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa) joins the group.
The rest of the film is a typical superheroes vs. cardboard cutout supervillain trek with a lot of special effects. Watching the new group learn teamwork is quite enjoyable.
Much of the cast is excellent. Gadot is still marvelous as Wonder Woman. When she is front and center, she dominates the screen. At times, she seems like the den mother to a group of raucous Cub Scouts, but she is both warm and tough. Fisher, in an underwritten role, does well as Cyborg, still trying to figure out his place within humanity and the film.
Momoa is enjoyable as a wild card/tough guy who seems to enjoy fighting just for the sake of fighting. He has a lovely monologue near the end where he openly talks about his dislike of being an outsider and his pleasure at being part of the team. Suddenly, he stiffens and pulls out Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth, which he had been sitting on.
The real find, however, is Ezra Miller, who provides much of the humor. He is the “everyman” part, the person most like the audience, and one often not seen in this genre. At one point, terrified just before his first fight, he asks Batman what he is expected to do. “Save one person,” he is advised, “and then you’ll know what to do.” And he does.
The real problem is Affleck. There always is a central character in these large-cast buddy films. In the Marvel Universe’s far better Avengers series, it is Ironman (Robert Downey Jr.) who wields an enormous amount of charm. Here, Affleck is like a black hole, solid as a rock and about as much fun.
Add to that the need for real introductions to the major players, and the first hour of the film drags. In The Avengers, we already knew the major players: Captain America, The Hulk, etc., so it took almost no time for all the introductions. Here, most of the team needed to be introduced. Add in many cameos, and there was not all that much time left for a real plot. The film is a bit disjointed. It was first directed by Zack Snyder (The 300, Watchmen), but he dropped out when his daughter died and Joss Whedon (The Avengers) took over. Whedon is known for snappy dialogue, and that certainly improved the film.
Is it worth seeing? I enjoyed it and found most of the characters quite winning. Young Ezra Miller is a great find. His humor seemed absolutely perfect. And, of course, Gal Gadot is wonderful. The human relationship part of the film was the best, and a lot was provided.
The problem is that Superman and Batman are just not warm, fuzzy guys, and that is what has held back the DC Universe films. I would be far happier to see the other characters take the lead in upcoming films. I mean, even Thor has more charm… sometimes even The Hulk.
This is not the best superhero film of the year. Quite a few have been better, but it is OK. Unfortunately, the Marvel movies are far better. But if you’ve already seen the new Thor and don’t want to wait for the new Star Wars, go ahead and see it.