Justice League review Gal Gadot Ray Fisher Jason Momoa Ezra Miller Ben AffleckYear: 2017
Director(s): Zack Snyder
Writer(s): Chris Terrio, Joss Whedon
Region of Origin: US

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Rating: PG-13
35mm, Digital, Color, 120 mins

Synopsis: Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy. (Source)

It’s impossible to watch Justice League and not take into account the backstage drama, unfortunate tragedy and even the obvious reshoots that plagued its production. The film is undoubtedly a product of all these things, disparate elements mashed together in what feels like a course correction of Batman v Superman’s boring, bleak slog. Going in with low expectations, however, the film is surprisingly fun! The plot and villain are absolutely throwaway-level bad, but Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon have found a way to let the film play to its strengths. For the first time, we like these characters, the cast is genuinely having fun and beneath all of the mind-numbing CGI, are characters we want to believe in and admire. At the film’s best, it feels like an epic crossover event ripped right from the comics, and though the story is deeply flawed, its cast makes the experience worth it.

In the shadow of Superman’s death and sacrifice, the world mourns. But Superman’s (Henry Cavill) absence has larger consequences than anyone could’ve imagined, and a new cosmic threat is slowly taking hold. In Gotham, Batman (Ben Affleck) is tracking down a new enemy, a race of beings not of this world, who are after 3 mysterious artifacts of potentially world-crippling power. Determined to protect the Earth, Batman joins forces with ally, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), tracking down people with special abilities in order to stave off the impending threat. Uniting Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), a kid who can move at lightning-fast speed, Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), the Aquaman who can command the sea and Victor Stone (Ray Fisher), an ex-jock who was rebuilt into an inextricable mix of man and machine, Batman and Wonder Woman form an team to uphold the ideals that Superman stood for, protecting a world in need of hope.

Justice League review Ben Affleck Gal GadotWhile the film nowhere near has a story worthy of its characters or cast, the League’s chemistry is good enough to float above a forgettable, by-the-numbers plot (and CGI villain not even worth mentioning). The film really thrives by making us care about its ragtag heroes, assembling to fill the hole that Superman left. Objectively, the entire thing is just a succession of escalating action sequences, but things move by at a quick pace, elevating the story’s lack of depth by giving each League member a moment to shine individually and together. Unlike BvS’ disjointed action sequences, every battle is built off of teamwork, fully utilizing each member’s diverse skillset in ways that are pretty satisfying. There’s also a fair amount of humor (that self-effacing Whedon touch), which goes a long way in terms of keeping things emotionally grounded, and giving the entire film an upbeat feel. So yeah, the plot is an about face from BvS’ overly serious bore, with momentum and vibrancy feeding superhero brawls that never lose focus of the League’s heroism.

The most obvious flaw, is that the story is built on a muddy foundation, attempting to paint Superman in an uncompromisingly bright light after his wasted sacrifice in BvS. Though the story can’t really live up to the weight of that misguided and wholly unearned plot point, it does its best to move forward in a way that corrects what BvS and even Man of Steel couldn’t do. Yes, this film made me like Superman again. I’d had written off this cinematic version of him after the one-two punch of Snyder’s previous sins, but this film really fixes him, much to my disbelief. They did it.

Justice League review Gal Gadot Ray Fisher Jason Momoa Ezra MillerIt goes without saying, that the reason the story’s character beats work, are because of a cast that’s genuinely having fun. Affleck feels more in line with Bruce Wayne, no longer cynical or carrying out brash vendetta. It’s honestly a bummer that Affleck supposedly wants to jump ship so soon, he’s filling out the role pretty well, especially with the right material. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is still amazing. Gadot finds herself in a less-refined film than her stellar solo outing, but her sense of honor and duty are two traits the film couldn’t live without. Miller’s Flash is pretty much the show stealer. He’s the comic relief, no doubt, but as one of the newb non-deity on the team, really helps to sell the film’s absurdity. Ray Fisher has a natural charm that seeps through his character’s quest for purpose. It’s worth noting that Fisher has the only thing closest to a real arc here, and he provides a pinch of poignancy. Momoa’s bro-biker-dude-Atlantean makes sense in context, and I’m totally okay with him. Lastly, seeing Cavill in a new light (even though horrible CGI-mustache removal makes most of his scenes laughable), shows that there is a lot of good to be salvaged here. Just like what Marvel’s been able to do with the Avengers, this film finally gives us heroes that are great together, and who seem like they’d be amazing to hang out with.

There’s no way around it, Justice League is a mess, but strangely, not an altogether infuriating one. Snyder and Whedon are obviously bending to studio brass mandates, but their combined vision (even if forced) works regardless, if only in terms of pure entertainment value. The genre has already surpassed what this film attempts to accomplish, and the film’s universe-ending threat is too much too soon, but it’s still a necessary step in the right direction. Even despite its deep flaws, the film captures the essence of hope that makes up the backbone of these iconic characters. If this film is any indication, DC is genuinely trying and has a good thing on their hands, they just gotta step back and put a bit more care into things moving forward.

SG