Thursday, November 30, 2017

Justice League

JUSTICE LEAGUE (Zack Snyder, 2017)

Superman (Henry Cavill) is dead, and a villain too strong for any other superhero to stop threatens to destroy the planet in JUSTICE LEAGUE. Thousands of years ago a coalition of gods, superheroes, and humans defeated Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds). Different parts of the alliance were responsible for hiding and protecting three cubes, but the Mother Boxes are no longer dormant. Their awakening draws Steppenwolf’s return to Earth so he can find and unify the Mother Boxes in his quest for immense power.

Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) know that they need assistance in stopping the pending apocalypse. Bruce Wayne’s search for other superheroes to join the team leads him to Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), a university student known as The Flash for his superhuman speed, and Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), whose Atlantean heritage and abilities pertaining to water cause him to go by Aquaman. Diana Prince works on bringing into the fold Victor Stone (Ray Fisher), a former athletic star referred to as Cyborg because of his post-accident cybernetic reconstruction.

JUSTICE LEAGUE is the DC Extended Universe’s equivalent of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s THE AVENGERS. While online fandoms engage in heated battles regarding which is superior, such distinctions seem increasingly silly when the two AVENGERS films and JUSTICE LEAGUE share Joss Whedon as a creative force behind both. As viewers it’s impossible to know how much influence Whedon wielded on the final theatrical version of JUSTICE LEAGUE, as he was brought in for reshoots and post-production while director Zack Snyder took time off to deal with family tragedy. Nevertheless, the comedic sensibility and overall lighter feel, especially in comparison to the brooding verging on nihilistic DC films, seem attributable to Whedon, who gets a co-screenwriter credit with Chris Terrio. It’s a solid comic book-like joke when The Flash pushes a few people in a truck to safety and then looks to see that Superman has relocated an entire building.

Although JUSTICE LEAGUE isn’t as oppressive in tone or visual palette--this film looks notably brighter and more colorful than BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE--it has the personality of an instruction manual. This is a schematic assembly more than a story, and the lengthy build-up culminates in a third act battle that, like many of its superhero film predecessors, can seem interminable and less consequential because it’s simply a stepping stone to the next three years of sequels. JUSTICE LEAGUE can stand as a self-contained film, but it plays as an enormously expensive TV episode.

Gadot remains the best thing about the current DC films. While her character is an immortal, she brings the humanity lacking amid the noise and darkness. Miller’s Flash provides winning comic relief. Still, with so many superheroes to devote time to, not to mention their primary task, JUSTICE LEAGUE doesn’t accrue a lot of valuable character moments so much as it teases what you can get when each returns to their individual showcases.

Grade: C

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