Holy Batman, JUSTICE LEAGUE is a keeper
After a series of missteps and letdowns for comic book fans, including Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad, DC follows up on this year’s critically acclaimed Wonder Woman with the entertaining Justice League. And heck, all it took was the defection of one of Marvel’s marvels, the incomporable Joss Whedon (The Avengers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
Officially directed by Zack Snyder, who stepped aside due to the unfortunate passing of his daughter, Whedon’s fingerprints appear throughout the final film. Given the film was in post-production and an edict by Snyder to not push the release date back, Whedon appears to have done as much as humanly possible to rescue a film that otherwise received negative reactions during early screenings. Reportedly, 15-20% of the film was re-shot under the eye of Whedon and it is readily apparent as to what he touched based on his past success of mixing action and humor; the messy plot and poor choice of a villain reek of Snyder. With only one critically acclaimed directing effort to his credit (300) and mediocre returns on investment, it is time for DC to part ways with Snyder.
Taking place shortly after the death of Superman in Dawn of Justice (not a spoiler and you’re welcome as I just saved you 183 minutes of your life), the world’s crime is increasing and hope wanes due to the loss of everyone’s favorite superhero. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) blames himself for Supe’s death, Lois Lane has given up her key role at the newspaper, Clark Kent’s mother Martha (Diane Lane) has lost her house to foreclosure, and Wonder Woman remains hidden from public eye.
When mysterious images of boxes (later determined to be Mother Boxes that contain powerful energy) begin popping up around town, Wayne realizes that he is going to need to form an alliance in order to determine the significance of the boxes and to defeat any evil the boxes may bring along with them. And that evil? The relatively unknown and perhaps the least entertaining villain, Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarán Hinds). Steppenwolf knows that when the three Mother Boxes are united, he has the the potential to destroy the planet and resurrect himself.
Justice League spends much of the first half of the film introducing its newest superheroes. Aqua Man (Jason Momoa) is a man who prefers to be left alone, but soon realizes that only a team can beat Steppenwolf; Cyborg (Ray Fisher), a creation of his father, is coming to grips with being pulled back from the brink of death and now must live half man/half machine; and The Flash (Ezra Miller) is the excited yet neurotic Central City kid who volunteers without fully knowing the mission. Miller, playing the role of comic relief, benefits most from the Whedon re-writes and steals the film from his new (and original) teammates.
Despite its ability to shine light after many films that lived in darkness, Justice League is not without its faults.
DC continues to rely heavily on CGI. For the third time in as many movies, DC has chosen to have its big bad be fully CGI. Enough fighting computers. Add to that characters that can be seen clearly standing in front of a green screen and location and action shots that reek of computerized images.
Additionally, a certain superhero continues to be the weakest link in the DC franchise with little likability and having never lived up to the expectations of who the character is and should be. Outside of his super-physique, Ben Affleck’s portrayal of the superhero feels lifeless. All may not be lost, however, as the character appears to benefit from Whedon’s re-writes and finally (hopefully) gets out from under Snyder’s darker vision. A scene during the credits showcases the potential.
What happens next will be interesting due to DC choosing to take a Justice League sequel off the calendar to focus on its individual characters. At under two hours and the infusion of comedy, DC finally shows evidence it is learning from past mistakes. Their films still have a ways to go until they reach Marvel quality, but the DC brass is listening. Now if they could just get rid of Snyder…