Not even six months ago it seemed the folks over at the DC Films had finally righted their ship. After the varying-levels-of-disappointing Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad, they finally gave us Wonder Woman, and just like that, hopes were high for Justice League. The super-expensive ($300 million) all-in flick from DC unites Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman in a battle against a comic book baddie named Steppenwolf.
Try as they might, however (and there’s plenty of evidence that they didn’t really try that hard), DC is right back where they were pre-Wonder Woman—giving us little reason to believe that anyone at the studio knows how the heck to make a superhero movie. Even if there weren’t Marvel’s two brilliantly constructed Avengers films to compare it to, Justice League would still be a disappointment. Though it’s not nearly the level of dreck that Suicide Squad was, it’s still a bloated, low-rent mess. It tries so hard to bottle the magic concoction of humor and action (which Marvel has seemingly patented) that it comes off as little more than the annoying little brother who is convinced he knows how to skateboard better than you, only to fall flat on his ass and break his ankle.
Picking up after the death of the Man of Steel in Batman v. Superman, Justice League begins with a pointless cell-phone video prologue before giving us another pointless bit with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) defeating an inconsequential gang of terrorists in a London bank. Eventually, though, Justice League gets to the point: three Mother Boxes (think Marvel’s Tesseract/Infinity Stones) were hidden throughout the world (one in Atlantis, one in Russia, and one in Themyscira) to prevent Steppenwolf from getting his hands on them, combining them, and using the power to destroy the planet.
Batman (Ben Affleck) goes off to recruit Aquaman (Jason Momoa) to join the fight, while Wonder Woman works on Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher). Once the gang all comes together, all that’s left is to resurrect Superman (Henry Cavill), and Earth can be saved.
Pretty standard stuff, to be sure. Since there’s never any doubt about the mission’s success, we’re relying on screenwriter Chris Terrio and director Zack Snyder, who teamed up for the god-awful Batman v Superman, to bring it all together and make the journey worthwhile. But apparently the honchos at DC Studios aren’t familiar with the ol’ adage that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
While not the abject failure Batman v Superman was, Justice League can hardly be counted as a win. Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarán Hinds) is perhaps the most disappointing villain to come down the superhero highway, looking more like an unfortunate Pixar rendering mistake than anything worth rallying the troops against. The rest of the film’s effects don’t look much better either, particularly when taking the enormous budget into account. Did the bulk of that $300 million go toward supplying the craft services table?
Gadot, Miller, and the underused Man of Steel duo Amy Adams and Diane Lane are the bright spots of the film, effectively offsetting the brooding growl of Affleck’s Caped Crusader and Momoa’s silly surfer-dude vibe. In fact, if the folks at DC have any hope of bailing out their sinking ship, they should give Gadot the keys to kingdom posthaste.
As for the script, it’s clear Terrio was trying hard to inject a little humor, but it’s safe to say no one told him it takes more than a series of clunky throw-away one-liners to do it. What few bright spots there are—including the film’s best scene, as Aquaman discovers the power of Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth—surely came courtesy of The Avengers’ writer/director Joss Whedon, who was brought in late to retool the script.
Even when it’s over, Justice League can’t leave well-enough alone, tacking on a goofy post-credits scene that will elicit far more eye-rolls than high-fives; all that’s missing is an appearance from Dramatic Chipmunk.
Worth the 3D glasses?
I will give the DC folks credit for one thing–they don’t scrimp on the 3D goodness. There’s plenty to go around, and if you decide to dig in your pockets for the cash to buy a ticket, you may as well go all out and spring for the glasses, too.