Movie review: ‘Justice League’ comes across as too disjointed
As a former comic book reader and a fan of most entries in the endless line of superhero movies that have come from those comics, it does not make me happy to report that “Justice League” is a disappointment.
That’s not due to the characters or the way the actors portray them. Of the ones we’ve seen in previous films, Ben Affleck’s approach to Batman works just fine, and Gal Gadot is spectacular as Wonder Woman. Of the new additions this time out, Ray Fisher presents Cyborg as a complex fellow who’s working through some emotional issues, Jason Momoa’s Aquaman is one cool dude, and Ezra Miller’s Flash provides the film with some sorely need humor that’s always been missing from the DC comics movies.
Superman? Did someone mention Superman? Wasn’t Superman taken out of the equation last year in “Batman v Superman?” The question among fanboys has been lingering: Will Superman somehow be brought back to become the sixth member of the Justice League? Now, this is no place to insert a spoiler about that, but anyone watching the opening credits of “Justice League” will see splashed across the screen with all of the above names, the name Henry Cavill. Henry Cavill has already played Superman twice before. There are no major flashback sequences in “Justice League.” So, the odds are pretty good that the quintet of superheroes will eventually become a sextet. Let’s leave it there.
But that has nothing to do with why this film did not ring true for me. It’s because of the writing and the plot and the structure. A newspaper at the bottom of a pigeon coop in the opening frames reveals that Superman is dead. Brief peeks into the lives of everyone in the cast are offered: Wonder Woman is busy fighting crime, Batman is brooding, Aquaman keeps coming ashore in Iceland to drink with some locals, Cyborg is mad as hell at his scientist father who saved his life but turned him into a mechanical man, and the Flash regularly and dutifully visits his probably innocent dad (Billy Crudup) in prison. Somewhere in the background Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is still grieving over the events of the previous film, and suddenly there’s an appearance by the large, angry, horned Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), a being from another world who’s searching for three Mother Boxes.
Herein lies the beginnings of the film’s problems: What exactly are the Mother Boxes? Oh, they’re explained, but not very well. They come from someplace else. They’re the source of unlimited energy, even more so when the three separate ones, that are hidden in safe places around our planet, are joined together as one. If Steppenwolf gets his hands on them, we’re, you know, doomed. End of the world kind of stuff. Batman feels that trouble is in the air, that, as he puts it, “There’s an attack coming from far away; I need warriors.”
That’s clear-cut and simple. With Superman no longer around (for the time being), Batman wants to put together a team of superheroes to fight off whatever danger may be in our future, and he goes about doing so.
But that’s where the script shifts into a state of incomprehensibility. Everyone’s separate stories keep being told, even as they make an attempt to work as a unit. But they’re all either flying around or jumping around or, in the case of the Flash, running around (I wish there was more of Aquaman swimming around, but he’s mostly a landlubber here). There’s too much time spent on the razzle dazzle of visual effects — most of them superb, a few of them surprisingly low budget. And there’s very little time spent between massive battles pitting our heroes against Steppenwolf and his minions of pointy-toothed flying creatures.
The movie is loud and fiery and, thank goodness, has a nice supply of youthful exuberance courtesy of Ezra Miller’s Flash. But nothing coalesces in a satisfactory manner. There are moments when it feels like a “Transformers” movie, where everything is happening, but nothing makes sense. Worse, many viewers are going to feel like they’re watching it, but they’re just not involved in it. I know I wasn’t.
Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon; directed by Zack Snyder
With Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa, Henry Cavill