Dog’s Movie House: “Justice League” Sloppy, But A Lot Of Fun!
Howdy Folks! It’s The Kendog!
After the runaway success of “Wonder Woman” DC fans were optimistic about the state of their cinematic universe. Released to near universal acclaim and wonderful box office, and Amazonian superhero served as a shot in the arm for the divisive DC extended universe. Now director Zach Snyder is back (with an assist from “Avengers” helmer Joss Whedon) for his third go-round in the cinematic arena he created with “Man Of Steel.” This time we get “Justice League,” a team-up of superhero icons such as Superman, Batman, The Flash, and Wonder Woman. The bad news: the film is a narrative mess, with some dodgy effects and the fingerprints of studio interference all over it. The good news: there is enough Snyder, Whedon, and company get right the most of crap doesn’t matter, making “Justice League” a highly entertaining film.
“Justice League” picks up right after the events of “Batman Vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice” ends. Superman has sacrificed himself and his absence is being felt all over the world. Batman (Ben Affleck) feeling responsible, decides to put a team of “metahumans” together to take on a alien threat he’s been investigating ever since his Knightmare in “BvS.” With the help of Wonder Woman (the wonderful Gal Gadot), Batman recruits a team including The Flash (Ezra Miller), The Aquaman (Jason Mamoa), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher.)
Together the team finds itself against the threat of Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciaran Hinds), a powerful alien in search of three “motherboxes” that will allow him to terraform the Earth into another version of his hellish planet while eliminating all life in the process. It’s up to this newly formed team of heroes to take down Steppenwolf and his army of winged parademons before the world is destroyed and it’s people extinguished.
Okay, let’s start with the bad. First of all, the villain is really, really poor. Steppenwolf looks like a bad cut scene from a videogame. His mouth doesn’t move correctly when he speaks and the animation overall is subpar from a $300 million movie. He’s also dull from a personality standpoint despite the heroic efforts of the very talented Hinds. His dialogue is one-note and boring and his powers really aren’t all that interesting (he’s strong and swings a big axe around.). The don’t mention his connection to Darkseid, the big bad of the DC universe, more than once and even that is a throwaway line so there’s nothing for the audience to get invested in.
Secondly, the special effects for “Justice League” are frustratingly inconsistent. Some of the set pieces are spectacular, but you can’t adequately use CGI to convincingly erase Superman actor Henry Cavill’s mustache for the reshoots. C’mon people! The man looks like he has the mumps. This is a gazillion dollar tentpole and crap like that and the terrible rendering of Steppenwolf takes people out of the movie!
Finally, Warner Bros. still hasn’t learned their lesson about meddling with their superhero films. Director Patty Jenkins had autonomy on “Wonder Woman” and look how that turned out. Instead, the heads of WB wanted a two-hour cut of the film, leaving a lot of backstory and character development on the cutting room floor. Ad to the fact that Snyder suffered the terrible tragedy of the death of his daughter about three quarters of the way through filming and there was going to be some big hurdles to climb. Whedon’s a good director and writer, but his tone is in direct opposition to Snyder’s darker themes and it’s clear they didn’t have time to really collaborate for something in the middle. This causes some serious tonal shifts in the movie that don’t really coalesce into a cohesive narrative.
That said, “Justice League” gets a lot right in terms of bringing some of your favorite superheroes together and their interactions are some of the best in comic book movie history. Finally we get to see a Superman who’s, you know, Superman. Cavill gets to cut loose as the Big Blue Boy Scout we all know and love and he’s clearly having a ball in the roll for a change. The dour and (understandably, given his arc) moody Supes has been replaced by a confident and funny Man Of Steel.
Affleck’s Batman is less homicidal this time around and that’s a good thing. Affleck underplays Bruce Wayne a bit, but there is a sly humor underneath the world weariness and I actually enjoyed his performance quite a bit. Gal Gadot continues to impress as Wonder Woman and there are more than a handful of heroic moments as she takes leadership of the team. As for the newcomers, Ezra Miller is comic gold as Barry Allen/The Flash and his interactions, especially with Superman, are absolutely out of this world. Momoa shows a lot of charisma as the retooled Aquaman, but you can tell a lot of his backstory was left on the cutting room floor. Fortunately he has a solo film coming next year, so we should be able to see what Mamoa can really do with the role. As for Cyborg/Victor Stone, Fisher was a lot better than I thought he would be. His arc is arguably the most important to the story, and his Frankenstein’s Monster-like backstory actually make’s the most sense in the messy narrative.
Now it’s the worst kept secret in Hollywood that Superman comes back, so I don’t consider the above paragraph a spoiler. What’s fun about his return is how the other members of the League bring him back and how he interacts with them afterward. It’s the best scene in the movie, bar none, with some great action, legendary moments, and organic humor that beats the holy hell out of the somewhat rote finale involving Steppenwolf. If we get more stuff like that scene the DC is headed in the right direction. Also, stay for the end credits sequences. There are two of them and both are very, very good. Overall, a fun but flawed time with some legendary superheroes. 3 1/2 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer! So Sayeth The Kendog!