Movie Review: “Justice League” (PG-13)

Movie Review: "Justice League"It’s been a really solid year for superhero properties. “Logan,” “The Lego Batman Movie,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” “Wonder Woman,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” “Thor: Ragnarok,” etc. Leave it to “Justice League” to bring that streak to a crashing halt. Perhaps, that’s a little too harsh. The truth is, “Justice League” isn’t horrible. That said, it is bland and uneventful.

In “Justice League,” Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) sets out to assemble a team of reluctant superheroes in an attempt to overthrow super villain Steppenwolf, a baddie from another dimension out to destroy our planet as we know it. Wayne’s search begins with his own alter ego, Batman, and continues with amazonian warrior Wonder Woman (aka Diana Prince). Together, Wayne and Prince set out to recruit Aquaman (Arthur Curry), The Flash (Barry Allen), and Cyborg (aka Victor Stone) in the idealistic hope that through their aid the world can be saved, an ideology once shared by fallen hero and beacon of hope Superman (Henry Cavill).

Movie Review: "Justice League"As you’ve probably already heard, it’s been a rough road for “Justice League.” Not only have DC’s cinematic properties been held under a microscope and constantly compared to Marvel’s big-screen efforts but director Zack Snyder had little choice but to leave this project during post production due to an unforeseen family tragedy. “The Avengers” helmer Joss Whedon was brought in to complete “Justice League” by way of re-shoots and a limited post production schedule, and the end result is a movie in which Snyder’s and Whedon’s styles constantly seem to be at odds.

That said, “Justice League” benefits from being a lot less self-serious than its dour and rather joyless predecessor. Translation: There is fun to be had in this picture. It’s mercifully shorter, too. Furthermore, there’s a lot of terrific character work in “Justice League.” The Flash is a nice addition here, and while the effects techniques used to demonstrate his breakneck speed can’t hold a candle to the visuals that brought Quicksilver to life in the “X-Men” films, Ezra Miller does bring this popular character to life by way of charm and a cheeky sense of humor. The more dramatic scenes between him and his jailed father (played by Billy Crudup) are equally effective.

Likewise, Ray Fisher is a pleasant new addition as well. His brooding Cyborg has far fewer funny moments than The Flash, but he lends a little contrast to the proceedings. Jason Momoa by comparison is all machismo as “Aquaman” and while his bigger-than-life personality, physicality, and undeniable charisma would be welcome attributes in any film, his characterization in this picture is a bit much. Here’s hoping that director James Wan finds the right balance in the upcoming “Aquaman” movie.

It’s a shame that rumors continue to swirl that Affleck is about to hang up the bat cape, because he’s actually quite strong in the role. While the idea of a Matt Reeves-directed standalone “Batman” movie (with or without Affleck) sounds outstanding, I can’t help but feel a little bummed that an Affleck-directed “Batman” film will no longer come to fruition, because the “Good Will Hunting” co-star and co-writer has proven to be even stronger as a director than he is as an actor.

Gadot is perhaps the best casting choice DC has made in a post-Christopher Nolan “Dark Knight” world, and while this terrific actress gets shortchanged a bit among the “Justice League” ensemble, she still manages to bring that same stoic and heroic vibe she brought to “Wonder Woman” earlier this year. What’s more, her trusty lasso has a hand in this film’s single biggest laugh.

The filmmakers behind “Justice League” completely drop the ball with villain Steppenwolf. This CG creation (voiced by the great Ciaran Hinds) lacks any sort of defined personality and feels boring and uninspired. Your hero is only as strong as your villain, therefore Steppenwolf doesn’t do this movie any favors.

Ultimately, “Justice League” feels messy as a whole, and there were quite obviously too many hands in the cookie jar. Yes, it’s more entertaining than “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” but is that enough? In the end, that sort of feels like faint praise at best.

I hate to be another one of those guys who feels compelled to compare this movie to a recent Marvel property, but the truth is that for all the humor that has been thrown into the mix, “Justice League” is nowhere near as entertaining as “Thor: Ragnarok.” It isn’t half the movie “Wonder Woman” was, either. And that’s disappointing, because the character work and a rousing Danny Elfman score certainly led me to believe this movie would be better than it actually is. That said, we can all take solace in the realization that this is better than the Schumacher era of “Batman.”

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