By Brian Harris, Staff Writer
It’s not the cinematic train wreck that was Suicide Squad, or the 300-million-dollar insult Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Nor is it the triumphant success of Wonder Woman, a film that really understood its central character, and why she has endured as an icon for over 75 years.
No, Justice League is more akin to 2013’s Man of Steel, a mediocre film that buries likable performances under heaps of CGI fight scenes. But while that film was loaded with a self-importance that went way beyond pretentious, Justice League is content to blow things up for two hours and have a reasonably fun time doing it. And, as generic as that is, its not without its merits.
First of all, let’s run through what Justice League would call its plot. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a generically villainous being calling himself Steppenwolf (portrayed by a barely noticeable Ciarán Hinds) has appeared on earth in search of three magical cubes, which he plans to use to take over the world.
This prompts Batman (Ben Affleck, returning to the role after Batman v Superman), to travel the world in search of allies powerful enough to thwart Steppenwolf’s master plan.
I’d love to be able to tell you that this isn’t all there is to the narrative here, but the route they’ve taken with its plot is almost distractingly simple.
But what of the Justice League itself? The most important part of any good ensemble film (the Marvel crossovers included) is the chemistry and talent of the ensemble itself.
And its easily Justice League’s biggest strength as well. As with Batman v Superman and the 2017 Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot steals every shot as the iconic Amazonian. Despite having almost nothing to do, her screen presence alone snatches much of the spotlight.
Of the three new additions here, Ray Fisher is competent as the monotone Cyborg, and Ezra Miller is surprisingly charismatic as Barry Allen (The Flash, although they never call him as such in the film).
The only real dead weight here is Jason Momoa’s Aquaman, who sinks to the back of every scene he’s in, leaving him unable to leave any sort of a mark on the film.
Ben Affleck as The Dark Knight himself was one of the few passable things about Batman v Superman in my opinion, but he’s clearly out of it here.
If you want to see the definition of phoning it in, look no further than “Bat-Fleck” in Justice League. Bored, mumbling and confused, his Batman is a drag on the rest of the cast for most of the running time.
As for Henry Cavill’s Superman, I won’t say too much considering the ending of Batman v Superman, but I will say this.
This is easily his best performance in the role; where in the prior films Supes was a complete emo bore who barely resembled the legendary character, the Superman in Justice League feels like Superman, and gets the film’s two best scenes almost all to himself.
When you have the League together, each actor playing off the other with a real sense of friendship, the movie works. Unfortunately, the film seems more interested in pulling its likable cast through endless CGI fight scenes, battles that lack both the awe and spectacle of, say a film like Thor: Ragnarok or the heart of a movie like Logan.
On top of that, this is an unusually ugly film, with hideous CGI, flat cinematography, and some of the worst costuming I’ve seen in a superhero movie in a long time.
The mish mash of tones is another key issue with Justice League, it can’t really tell if it wants to be a sequel to Batman v Superman’s insultingly morbid feel, or an Avengers knock off, with catchphrases and comedy bits that feel straight out of Age of Ultron.
I wanted to love this film. I really did. I’ve dreamed for decades of seeing Superman and the League on the big screen.
And now that its finally here, all I can muster is a shrug. Its fine, even entertaining at times.
But I think all that I need to say is that the recent trailer for the third Avengers sequel made me feel more than seeing the Justice League (my favorite superheroes of all time) finally on the big screen. Hopefully next time DC attempts bringing these heroes together, they strive for more than just “ok”.