Justice League (PG-13)
24/12/17 01:26 Filed in: 2017
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Starring: Ben Affleck
What follows is the full-length review based on comments that were originally tweeted in Real-time from the back row of a movie theater @BackRoweReviews. Though efforts were made to tease rather than ruin this movie’s memorable lines and moments, some spoilers may exist in the following evaluation. For concerns over objectionable content, please first refer to one of the many parental movie guide websites. Ratings are based on a four star system. Happy reading!
Though there are many comic book companies these days, the big two are DC and Marvel. In addition to producing comic books, both companies offer an array of entertainment on the small and big screens. Though achieving parity (in output and quality) has been a constant struggle for DC, the studio has, at long last, launched a cinematic version of its Justice League property—their answer to Marvel’s Avengers series. Aside from being five years behind their rival studio, DC also failed to properly establish all of its team members in solo movies as Marvel did for the Avengers (heck, they even stuck their neck out with Ant-Man, which turned out to be a crowd-pleasing success). JL members The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) all make their first appearance in the franchise here, sans a cinematic origin story. Rounding out the super group is: Ben Affleck as Batman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and…surprise, Henry Cavill as Superman. I made much of Superman’s absence from the JL poster in my review for Wonder Woman, which I now regret. I should’ve known that the indestructible Man of Steel would emerge just in the nick of time to mete out his particular brand of justice on the bad guys. It would’ve been senseless to exclude Superman from a JL movie since he’s the most recognizable superhero in the world. However, the way Superman is used in the movie is a whole other matter; his limited screen time and inconsequential involvement in the story is a super…uh, supreme disappointment. The story itself, written by Chris Terrio, Joss Whedon and director Zack Snyder, is one of the movie’s biggest drawbacks. The plot is a sprawling mess…it juggles multiple storylines and takes forever to get out of the starting gate. The action sequences are protracted and dizzying, yet are strangely absent of peril. Steppenwolf (the 70s called and want their rock band back) is a serviceable villain, but we already know he will be no match for Superman during their inevitable, climactic showdown. Steppenwolf’s (voiced by Ciaran Hinds) insectoid minions’ only function is to prevent the team from joining forces…because if that happened, the movie would be over in five minutes. The MacGuffins in this film are the three Mother Boxes (dumb name), which serve a similar function as Marvel’s Infinity Stones. Nothing new here. The movie makes an attempt at providing some personal background for each of the JL team members as well as some meaningful exchanges between the characters, like the lakeside chat between Bruce Wayne (Affleck) and Diana Prince (Gadot), but such efforts are still insufficient and perfunctory amid the rapid succession of action sequences. Other ancillary characters, like Commissioner Gordon (J.K. Simmons), are given ridiculously little to do in the film. Likewise, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is called upon to be a Superman whisperer when her buffo boyfriend goes off the rails. Cyborg’s father, Silas Stone (Joe Morton), also has a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it part. The film’s tone is its Kryptonite. Much of the color has been removed from the picture so that the overall aesthetic is dismal and seedy, like a Batman comic book, but certainly not like a colorful Superman book. The story perfectly mirrors the tone…everything is done in earnest with a level of seriousness that allows only the occasional joke to penetrate the movie’s hard-boiled, world-weary exterior. By way of comparison, JL is less like Wonder Woman and more like Batman v Superman. In that regard, the studio is moving in the wrong direction. Bottom line: JL is a bleak blunder. It’s case in point for why Marvel is winning the comic book war, at least on the big screen. Marvel’s movies have become more colorful and humorous, while DCs have become increasingly dire, drab and dreary. DC’s gloomy outlook may be an accurate reflection of the world we live in, but Marvel’s optimistic, fun-filled adventures perfectly portray the world we want to live in. Is there any question why Marvel’s films continue to be more financially, commercially and critically successful than DC’s? If DC doesn’t step up its game, it will continue to Marvel at the success of its competitor.