The gang's all here, but so are some serious tonal issues and a villain so generic you wish he'd conquer the world and be done with it.
Want a sneak peek at the critic quotes coming soon for “Justice League?”
- It’s not the disaster you fear!
- Erase all memories of “The Avengers” and you’ll have a blast!
- It’s better than “Suicide Squad!”
- If this were 1998 you’d have a great time!
That latter faux quote really stings.
We’ve come to expect excellence from our superhero adventures. A-list actors engaged by stories that soar beyond the confines of a comic book page. Or, as with this year’s “Wonder Woman,” pure razzle dazzle entertainment.
“Justice League” dabbles in the latter. Otherwise, it’s meandering tone and superfluous villain make it a guilty pleasure you’ll enjoy once … but have little impulse to watch again.
Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne is on the prowl for more super friends. There’s something sinister coming, and he knows his Bat suit won’t be nearly enough to stop it. How does he know this? Shhhh! Don’t bother the movie with specifics.
He’s already aligned himself with Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman (as excellent as she was in her solo adventure). Now, it’s time to recruit three new metahumans: Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher).
It won’t be easy.
Humanity is in a very dark place, and cooperation isn’t on everyone’s mind. Things just haven’t been the same since Superman (Henry Cavill) left this mortal coil at the end of “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.”
That makes it easier for the personification of evil, a foe dubbed Steppenwolf, to plot our world’s demise.
“Justice League” rushes through nearly every aspect of its story. We get glimpses of the supporting players’ lives. The most satisfying? Fisher’s brief origin yarn, fleshed out in compelling fashion by his pappy (Joe Morton).
Other elements feel so truncated you can practically smell that 3-hour director’s cut coming soon to home video.
The project’s back story explains some of that chaos. Director Zack Snyder left the film partially finished after the tragic death of his daughter. So Warner Bros. brought in Joss Whedon of “The Avengers” fame to complete the film.
Smart move. On paper, at least.
FAST FACT: Jason Momoa (Aquaman) began modeling after being “discovered” by fashion designer Takeo, later earning Hawaii’s Model of the Year honors in 1999.
Yet having two wildly different talents tackle “Justice League” gave the film its split personality. Is it the world-saving lark epitomized by the wise-cracking Flash? Or the gritty saga captured best by Affleck’s super stoic persona?
Yes … and yes.
The pieces never quite come together, to paraphrase the film’s marketing campaign. The special effects somehow make it worse.
At a time when FX gurus can make almost anything a reality, “Justice League” often looks cheap. And if you read the hundreds of names decorating the closing credits that’s all the more baffling.
Yet for all its miscues the movie moves briskly and showcases some real movie star charm. Gadot is the standout, again. Fisher digs into his character’s tragic back story better than most might. Affleck is dutifully stiff as Bruce Wayne and the other guy. He brings a welcome sense of reality to the film when he peels off the Bat suit to reveal some ugly bruises.
He’s no metahuman, remember.
And the return of Superman lifts the third act on Cavill’s impressive shoulders. Did you think he’d sit out this film entirely?
What’s left is an engaging, paint-by-numbers adventure with a few solid quips and a dozen lousy ones. And it’ll make a mint, convincing the studio that there’s little need to improve on the formula for future outings.
Call it Steppenwolf’s revenge.
HiT or Miss: “Justice League” checks off all the basic requirements of a superhero adventure. Expect anything more, and you’re bound to be disappointed.