Justice League Review: Happy Heroes, Vapid Villain

DC Comics and Warner Bros.’ latest partnership has a bit of a problem. But, before you DC fans sigh, we are proud to report that it is one that can be mostly looked past if we are looking out for the greater good here. The greater good? Let’s just say we are among the chorus out there hoping for the best for the future possibilities of the DC Comics Extended Universe.

For the first time in years, a DC-WB film that does not have “Wonder” or “Woman” in the title has a good time. The weak link is, sadly, the Justice League antagonist.

Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck, donning the suit for the third time) is feeling a tad bit guilty and unsettled in terms of how things ended at the conclusion of Batman v Superman. It has taken a little time, but this old dog appears to have learned a few new tricks. That comes in the form of playing well with others. He wishes that had happened before his cohort in the hero department, aka the Man of Steel, perished at the conclusion of the previous installment that featured these two caped pillars of the DC world.

The timing for the absence of Superman could not be worse. Steppenwolf is dropping hints all over the world that he intends to use his alien powers to invade our planet. If he can manage to get all of the Mother Boxes collected, well then, it could pretty much be over for all of us eager to continue calling this spinning ball our home.

Steppenwolf is pretty powerful and only gains in strength as he assembles these boxes and mobilizes his alien army,

Batman knows his passion for building a Justice League team has never been more essential.

That means he must cross the globe and find Cyborg (Ray Fisher), Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Flash (Ezra Miller). Already by his side is his compatriot, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot, playing the superheroine for the second time this year). Together, Batman hopes, they can embody the spirit of Superman and send evil back from where it came from.

Before exploring the awesomeness of this team and why it is so stellar, there are two aspects of Justice League that bring its grade down a notch or two. First, there is a weak villain. Sure, Steppenwolf is powerful, otherworldly and menacing beyond belief. But, his reasons or motivation for doing what he is doing is severely lacking from the buildup to battle. Therefore the cost of losing to this horned hell on earth seems emotionally minimal. Ciarán Hinds does his best with what he’s given, but even with his supreme talents, it is impossible to make something from nothing here.

The other drawback is that many are complaining about the mediocre CG in certain parts. Why it is distracting is because of helmer Joss Whedon taking over for his friend Zack Snyder in the director’s chair. Whedon oversaw a slew of reshoots and instead of a seamless thread, Justice League’s tone is all over the place. It is painfully clear who directed which sequences and even worse, which effects shots were involved in a reshoot because they are noticeably shoddy.

Many of us who have adored this superhero collective have been waiting for a Justice League movie since enjoying those Saturday morning animated adventures of the Superfriends. What charms the most is what Snyder has delivered us (with that assist from Whedon). It is the same thing that enthralled and endeared us to those decades-ago cartoons — this group of superheroes, who puts saving the day above everything else. They have charmed us immensely.

The casting of Affleck for this incarnation of Batman is pitch perfect. Gadot is sublime as the Amazonian warrior. But, both of those realities we already knew. Home runs were hit with the employing of Momoa as Aquaman and Miller diving into the lightning-fast world of Flash. Both bring so much to the film that it would be practically unwatchable if not saved by the magic that this Fab Five brings to the movie. Miller is hilarious and his sense of humor rubs off on all involved — would you believe even Affleck’s Batman gets in few humorous moments! Momoa is the embodiment of Aquaman in ways that are both physical and metaphysical. Let’s just say that anticipation for his upcoming solo movie could not be higher now that we’ve seen Momoa in action.

When it comes to another piece of casting that was heralded upon its reveal, it is too early to report how solid J.K. Simmons is as Commissioner Gordon. The Oscar winner is one of the best character actors working today. His turn, in the few moments we get him in Justice League, are solid — we just need a little more. Future Batman movies and Justice League flicks need to note: Give Simmons more to do!

Was it worth the wait to finally get to see this quintet of do-gooders leap across the silver screen after a quartet of decades? In that pure sense, the answer is an absolute yes. When a certain someone joins the band, expect the joyous needle to leap into the red.

The bottom line when it comes to getting the most out of Justice League is to bask in the glory of our heroes. Don’t let the limp villain get in the way of a good time. If you can do that… enjoyment will be had by all.

Grade: B-