ReelBob: ‘Justice League’ ★½
By Bob Bloom
Superheroes, either individually or as a team, can vanquish most foes — terrestrial or extra — but the one enemy immune to their super powers is the studio boss.
This is most evident in “Justice League,” DC’s continuing bumbling efforts to create a cinematic universe for their costumed heroes that will equal or surpass their counterpart, the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
“Justice League” began under the direction of Zack Snyder, who also helmed “Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice.” After the movie was nearly completed, Joss Whedon (“The Avengers”) took over, scrapped some of Snyder’s footage, rewrote the script and shot new scenes.
This messy mesh is quite evident on screen because “Justice League” lacks a consistent tone and a hurried — and harried — storyline that lacks character development and any sense of camaraderie among its characters.
The film opens in a world without Superman. The death of the last son of Krypton awakens an ancient alien threat, Steppenwolf, a being bent on turning Earth into a desolate wasteland void of humanity.
Bruce Wayne, inspired by the death of Superman, decides, with the help of his new ally, Diana Prince, to create a team to battle this threat — which already has reached the planet.
Together, they recruit a trio of metahumans — Victor Stone, aka Cyborg, Barry Allen, aka The Flash and Arthur Curry aka Aquaman.
The filmmakers were under orders by Warner bosses to keep “Justice League” at 120 minutes, which included closing credits. As a result, the story itself runs about 110 minutes, which doesn’t leave much time for character or plot development.
And that definitely shows as Wayne’s Batman and Prince’s Wonder Woman quickly recruit their teammates and get on with fighting Steppenwolf and his minions.
The restrictions placed on the filmmakers fails to give the audience any chance of really getting to know each of these new characters. We mostly learn about their powers — period.
That is the least of the film’s problems. The others center on the resurrection of an iconic hero — which is handled in a perfunctory manner without any buildup and messy CGI work during action sequences that make it difficult to follow who is fighting who (or what).
Everything in “Justice League” is one-two-three. It’s as if The Flash was behind the camera instead of in front of it.
The performances, for the most part, reflect this hasty mish-mash.
Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne-Batman acts as if he is half asleep and mentally counting down to his exit from the franchise; Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen-Flash is an annoying, wide-eyed nerd who maintains his one-note posture throughout; Ray Fisher’s Victor Stone-Cyborg is given little to do; while Jason Momoa’s Arthur Curry-Aquaman is rather hip and street smart for a guy who lives mostly underwater.
Only Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince-Wonder Woman displays the adult gravitas necessitated for her character.
Gadot seems to be the go-to savior for any DC project as her appearances — whether in her solo efforts or her turns in “Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice” and “Justice League” are the most memorable moments in the DC universe.
As for the villainous Steppenwolf, he’s just a routine CGI bad guy that — as per the norm in these movies — seems unstoppable at first, but is vanquished in the final reel.
“Justice League,” thanks to Whedon’s contributions,” does offer some witty repartee, but it’s not enough to elevate the movie beyond pedestrian.
For whatever reason, the creative minds at Warner Bros. and DC seem to hit a wall of kryptonite when it comes to translating their comic-book heroes to the big screen.
Maybe it’s time to take a step back and rethink how to better present their characters on the screen.
But, no matter other critics and I say, that will not happen. The cash registers will continue ringing, and these elephantine projects will persist in lumbering off the assembly line.
I am a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. My reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). I also review Blu-rays and DVDs. I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Links to my reviews can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.
1½ stars out of 4
(PG-13), science fiction violence and action