Movie Review: Justice League
When the first “Justice League” trailer came out, it had the look and feel of the gloom and doom of “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” mixed with CGI mashup and overpowering score. To be honest, it was worrisome. Justice League has been a long time coming and it should be epic. It’s not impossible, after all, “The Avengers” was grandly satisfying. Nothing beats the feeling of seeing all the superheroes together for the first time, however. So the Avengers had that advantage five years ago.
Thankfully, “Justice League” is able to stand tall in the course-correcting DC Universe. The plot is straightforward MacGuffin and it has a generic, computer-generated villain with a perfunctory exposition about his existence. The battles are often awash in a haze of FX. But the characters are compelling enough. The character-driven dialogue and team chemistry save the movie.
The movie opens with a somber tone, a world without hope. That hope is gone with the death of Superman (Clark Kent; Henry Cavill, “Man of Steel” “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.“) at the end of BvS, where he sacrificed his life for the world. The first sign of trouble is shown when Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck, “Gone Girl,” “Argo“) stages a scene to smoke out a parademon, a flying, fanged insect-like demon that can smell fear from afar.
That is not a lone parademon; it’s part of an army led by prehistoric Steppenwolf, a horned demon. He’s after three mother boxes of mythical powers. United, these boxes can transform Earth into a hellish planet suitable for him and his army. The boxes are now separated in three different places and safeguarded by the Amazonians, Atlanteans and men. Among all battles in this action-packed movie, the Themyscira sequence is a real spectacle.
Wonder Woman/Diana Prince recognizes the sign of invasion and comes to Bruce. It’s worth mentioning that her opening scene of rapid bullet-dodging and bomb-deflecting is nothing short of badass. The two of them have their own issues. Bruce feels a sense of guilt by his role in the events of BvS. He recognizes how human Superman was. He’s also a mere mortal and a couple decades of crime-fighting is taking a toll. Diana, a demigod, could technically lead the team, but as she notes, being a leader is different, as the lives of others become your responsibility.
Bruce and Diana have the work cut out for them to form a team. The rest of the superpowered beings live in hiding and they have to seek them out; Aquaman/Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), Flash/Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg/Victor Stone (Ray Fisher). They have their own personalities and predicaments.
The King of the Sea plays by his own rules and could care less about joining a team, let alone following someone’s lead. Momoa has the imposing physicality and plays him coolly. He ends up learning the amusing way what Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth does.
The Fastest Man Alive is a goofball with a nerdy energy that is off the chart. He uses his power mostly on petty stuff, although his focus is to clear his dad’s name from a false conviction and gets him out of prison. Miller will have you in stitches from his very first scene. If you’re used to Grant Gustin’s pitch-perfect portrayal as the small screen counterpart on CW, Miller offers a different kind of performance that is just right for this universe. He’s naturally on point on so many laughter-inducing lines and he does this continually.
Machine-Man, on the other hand, is a tormented soul who feels burdensome by his altered form as a result of a freak accident. He’s more of an angsty kid than a brooding man though. Little did he know that he would be an all-around pivotal player.
The super team is eventually comes together. The dynamics surprisingly work well. The team’s chemistry lends itself to hilarious bickering and bonding. Superman’s fate is decided soon enough. The world needs Superman by whatever means necessary.
“Justice League” is a Zack Snyder movie with Joss Whedon’s touches. It carries a more optimistic tone than other DCEU movies, “Wonder Woman” aside. It’s infinitely lighter and funnier.
It’s not seamless. They are moments that feel out-of-character (in particular, one iconic superhero) or clunky, but for the most part, the two directors managed to blend their diverging styles into an entertaining finished product, leading to promising sequels and standalone stories (“Aquaman,” “Flashpoint,” “Cyborg”). The movie has two scenes post-credit; a really fun mid-credit and then what’s to come in the next installment, previewing a certain villain.
Even superheroes are greater together. A league of its own, “Justice League” is a blast to watch.
Copyright (c) 2017. Nathalia Aryani.
Nathalia Aryani is a film columnist and has a movie blog, The MovieMaven (sdmoviemaven.blogspot.com). Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.