An uninspired corrective for the DC Universe that doesn’t correct nearly enough. Justice League has more laughs but it takes less risks, bogged down by a generic doomsday plot. Fans may have fun, but they won’t be leaving eager for more. 2.5 out of 5.
Picking up where Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice left off, Justice League begins with Batman and Wonder Woman now down a superhero following the death of Superman. There are, however, new and emerging meta-humans – The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg – that Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince seek to round up, all to halt an impending apocalypse. That threat is posed by Steppenwolf, an ancient alien god dubbed “the destroyer of worlds.” He is summoned by a signal from three mysterious cubes, all scattered and hidden. United, Steppenwolf can use them to destroy and reform an entire planet. Earth’s next on the docket.
The superheroes, mostly, along with the humor. One of the more frustrating aspects of the struggling DCEU is that its characters are loaded with possibilities, not only as cultural icons but even in these specific incarnations. There’s so much to explore with a Dark Knight that has twenty years under his batbelt. The solo Batman scenes are the film’s best, making you wish the entire movie was his own. The inevitable Batman standalone reboot should stay true this interpretation of The Caped Crusader, even if Ben Affleck doesn’t return for it (as reported). Gal Gadot‘s Wonder Woman remains a beacon of courage, faith, and hope, and The Flash is the newcomer highlight. Ezra Miller turns him into a bundle of fun geeky energy, and his character seems to hold the most potential for a future solo movie, including an emotionally effective Father/Son relationship elevated by Billy Crudup, who shines in a cameo role. Aquaman and his fellow Atlanteans remain a bit of a mystery, but Jason Momoa gives him a rock-and-roll attitude with swagger. Ray Fisher serves the role of Cyborg well enough, but nobody’s going to be begging for his own franchise anytime soon.
Superman? It’s not a spoiler to report that he does indeed return, and his character is among the facets that benefit most from this attempted course-correct. As a bonus, composer Danny Elfman slips in familiar cues like the original Superman theme by John Williams as well as his own iconic Batman music from the Michael Keaton films.
The story, mostly, along with the visual effects. It’s not a mess; the script is actually cohesive. Smartly-structured, it juggles a ginormous ensemble surprisingly well. The problem is that the narrative is a dull, boilerplate series of comic book plot machinations and mythos. There are some nicely conceived sequences here and there, but few ratchet tension or drama. As with most movies in which the fate of the entire world is at stake, this one has an air of safe inevitability that undercuts every threat, crisis, and explosion. What’s left is the thrill of the spectacle, but one that gets increasingly obnoxious in a muddled onslaught of CGI digital effects, action, stunts and landscapes.
Christian Worldview Elements / Spiritual Themes
No overt Christian themes are explored. Its basic ideals reflect universal virtues of courage and sacrifice, but none are explored more deeply on a spiritual level. There is talk of gods within the story’s extra-terrestrial mythology, but it’s all limited to flat and absurd caricatures. The only faith tested here will be in Hollywood blockbusters, not Christianity.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for scenes of sci-fi violence and action, and some language
Language/Profanity: A few scattered throughout. Three A-words. Two S-words. One D-word. Some f-words and other profanities are bleeped out during one brief news report. Two uses of the Lord’s name taken in vain.
Sexuality/Nudity: None really to speak of. A brief romantic kiss. Amazonian female warriors have exposed midriffs, but they are warriors, not sexualized.
Violence/Frightening/Intense: There is intense action violence throughout, with several battles resulting in large scale destruction, though not particularly gory or graphic. The main villain wipes out entire peoples and planets with explosive apocalyptic force. He has a legion of zombie-like flying creatures that could be scary to some viewers. These creatures attack with surprise and fear. Some scenes with these creatures may have a horror vibe to them for more sensitive people. Some gun violence, including a scene in which a criminal opens fire with an uzi on a room full of innocent people (no one is harmed, thanks to Wonder Woman). A family is endangered during the finale sequence. Aquaman uses his triton spear to stab the supernatural bad guys.
Drugs/Alcohol: Aquaman drinks whiskey from a bottle in one scene. Rural locals drink at a tavern.
The Bottom Line
RECOMMENDED FOR: Diehard fans of the DC characters, and anyone who’s not demanding more than a disposable big budget entertainment.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Those who didn’t like Batman v Superman, or who don’t care for the generally darker tone of the DC films, preferring instead the lighter Marvel adventures.
Justice League, directed by Zack Snyder, opens in theaters November 17, 2017. It runs 120 minutes and stars Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Connie Nielsen, Diane Lane, Joe Morton, Billy Crudup and J.K. Simmons. Watch the trailer for Justice League here.
Jeff Huston is a writer/director/editor for Steelehouse Productions, a film & video production company in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He also publishes a movie blog that can be found at icantunseethatmovie.com, and is a member of the Oklahoma Film Critics Circle. In 2015, his short film Pink Shorts was a finalist in HBO’s Project Greenlight competition, and was one of six winners in that show’s online “Greenie Awards.”
Publication date: November 15, 2017
Image courtesy: ©WarnerBros.