We love feeling that someone is protecting us in every corner of the world. It doesn't matter whether that person is a lone man armed with sophisticated weaponry or a woman with extraordinary abilities and a fearless attitude. But the thought of an entire team to battle evil -- well, that sounds too good to be true. But it is true in Justice League, the newest addition to the DC Universe of films.
In my years as a film critic and fan, I've seen many superhero movies enter the pipeline. The thought of a new film including Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg is darned exciting. Still, I approached this film with a bit of trepidation after the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice endeavor that led us here. There was a bright spot in that film, though, and her name was Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). She brought a new and much needed strength to the screen and to superhero films in general. Could this new film reach the levels of Wonder Woman, or would it plunge to the depths of a Dawn of Justice retread?
With the world struggling to cope with the loss of one of their superheroes -- see the aforementioned Batman v Superman film to find out who is lost -- Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) realizes that he must build a team to fight the villainous Steppenwolf and his minions, who are intent on destruction. Wonder Woman is onboard, but Bruce (a.k.a. Batman) and Diana Prince (a.k.a. Wonder Woman) must travel the world to assemble their team.
On their journey, Bruce recruits a seafaring man who comes to assist a small town when times are tough. Diana tries to encourage a young man who is physically a machine but struggles to remain emotionally human. And Bruce touches base with an extremely fast young man who is taken by the stardom of Batman. These meetings produce Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and The Flash (Ezra Miller), and although Aquaman and Cyborg are not immediately onboard with the new league, they will be. Each and every one of them will be needed to fight Steppenwolf and prevent the destruction of the world as we know it.
I sat down and wanted to like this film. Wonder Woman set the tone for a turn of the corner in the DC Universe. I like Gadot in her role yet again; she is scene-stealing at every chance. I was also impressed with Momoa. He brings an edge to the film to make it hip, cool and fun. The music, courtesy of Danny Elfman, is electric and captures the raw emotions in the film. I enjoyed a good deal of the humor and loved that the film held on to its darker tone amidst the moments of levity.
But it's not all good news for Justice League. Affleck appeared disinterested at times, and Miller and Fisher seem lost in the wash as there isn't enough screen time to go around. But the performances of the heroes are not the major problem. Steppenwolf is the least memorable bad guy to come down the pike in quite some time. And then there are the effects. To say they look poorly executed would be overestimating their impact. They feature less than believable backdrops, and when you combine that with a story this disjointed, it creates a film that feels hastily thrown together.
In the end, I am mildly positive in my judgement of Justice League. It makes me want to see where we are headed in the franchise. Aquaman is due in 2018 -- I'm jazzed for that. A post-credits scene creates excitement for the future of the DC Universe as well.
Although this was an improvement from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, there is still a ways to go. In time, the DC Universe will get there, and we will get justice for these great characters. Until then, this is a film that is full of good intentions but uneven execution. Justice for some, but not all.
Paul's Grade: B-
Stars: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa
Director: Zack Snyder
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