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Justice League Movie Review

Justice League (2017) movie poster Justice League

Theatrical Release: November 17, 2017 / Running Time: 119 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Zack Snyder / Writers: Chris Terrio (story & screenplay), Zack Snyder (story), Joss Whedon (screenplay); Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Joe Shuster, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, William Moulton Marston (characters)

Cast: Ben Affleck (Batman/Bruce Wayne), Henry Cavill (Superman/Clark Kent), Amy Adams (Lois Lane), Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman/Diana Prince), Ezra Miller (The Flash/Barry Allen), Jason Momoa (Aquaman/Arthur Curry), Ray Fisher (Cyborg/Victor Stone), Jeremy Irons (Alfred Pennyworth), Diane Lane (Martha Kent), Connie Nielsen (Queen Hippolyta), J.K. Simmons (Commissioner James Gordon), Ciarαn Hinds (Steppenwolf), Joe Morton (Silas Stone), Robin Wright (Antiope), Amber Heard (Mera), Billy Crudup (Henry Allen), Kiersey Clemons (Iris West), Joe Manganiello (Deathstroke/Slade Wilson), Jesse Eisenberg (Lex Luthor)


Decades ago, Hollywood embraced the blockbuster. Now, a number of the major studios dabble primarily or even exclusively in tentpoles, costly films expected to perform big. Marvel Studios figured out how to make an entire web of tentpoles with their "cinematic universe."
And others are looking to build comparable multi-billion dollar brands. It's not as easy as Marvel made it look. Two box office champions in, the revived Star Wars universe seems to be flourishing under Marvel's parent company. On the other hand, Universal's Dark Universe, launched with summer's underperforming The Mummy reboot, seems all but officially scrapped.

As the principal competitor to Marvel in every medium from comic books to television, DC's Extended Universe made sense and didn't even seem like much of a gamble. After all, Batman and Superman have reigned supreme at the box office in decades past and there are countless other characters at DC with as much history and familiarity to warrant film treatment. Four years and four movies in, DC finally gives us their answer to Marvel's behemothic 2012 team-up The Avengers in Justice League. With the three biggest heroes introduced or reintroduced in movies and others teased in the same, Justice League arrives to a mix of hope and fear. The first four releases in DC's Universe have all made bank at the box office. But most of them have been unusually front-loaded, a reflection of the nature of fanboy fare but also of negative word of mouth echoing the mixed to very negative reviews critics have given them.

Over the summer, Wonder Woman inspired hope. It broke box office records for an origin film (ignoring inflation), made waves for female representation, and finally earned the critical approval that has largely eluded DC since Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy ended. Wonder Woman is back in Justice League and appears to be the focal point of the marketing campaign. You know who else is back? Zack Snyder, whose Man of Steel wasn't so loved and whose Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice pretty much became an instant laughingstock. Sure, every movie has its vocal detractors on the Internet, but even with reactionary contrarianism to critical consensus, Batman v Superman sits with a lower IMDb user rating than every single film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Most place the blame on Snyder, who was the one selected to steer this universe following his work on 300 and Watchmen. If Snyder has heard the criticisms (and how could he not, if he's used the Internet in the past twenty months?), then he hasn't taken them to heart because Justice League is every bit as noisy and dumb as his previous outings. And though it's mercifully shorter, it's also more deeply flawed and underwhelming, lacking even the modest, ironic appeal of Lex Luthor with his Jolly Ranchers and pee jars or that humorous pivotal "Why did you say that name?" exchange.

Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Aquaman (Jason Momoa) form the Justice League in "Justice League."

While you might have thought Snyder would be gone after the reception given his first two outings, Warner and DC have stood by him. The biggest personnel change made is that David S. Goyer (a screenwriter on Nolan's Batman trilogy) is gone as writer. This time around, Oscar-winning Argo scribe Chris Terrio shares story credit with Snyder and screenplay credit with none other than Joss Whedon, the Avengers writer-director who has defected from Marvel and finished, sans credit, directing this film after family tragedy pulled Snyder away. You'd think things could only get better with Whedon, who cultivated passionate fanbases with shows like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Firefly", in the mix. But they don't. They get worse.

Instead of repeating Suicide Squad's clumsy yet fun opening of introducing characters at length, Justice League realizes you probably know these heroes already, even the ones teased in shameless cross-promotional scenes of Batman v Superman. So we basically begin with Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) assembling their team. Their eyes are set on three gifted individuals: the nerdy Flash (Ezra Miller), the water protector Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and the part-man/part-machine Cyborg (Ray Fisher). Flash is quick to join the team, while the other two need more convincing. But clearly, the world needs saving because a ludicrous villain named Steppenwolf (an unrecognizably motion captured Ciarαn Hinds) and his insect army are out to collect three powerful boxes.

I'm not being snarky in this synopsis either. Steppenwolf is really looking for boxes and has an insect army. This plot, which feels like something I might have come up with in the third grade, is so lacking in inspiration and yet an entire cinematic universe has been built around this film. Imagine if Marvel had somehow fumbled The Avengers instead of seeing it become their biggest hit ever? It's hard to imagine because how can you take characters that are already beloved and not come up with something entertaining and new just by gathering them all together? Yeah, Batman, Superman (Henry Cavill), and Wonder Woman already came together in the climax of Snyder's last film, so this isn't completely new terrain the way that Avengers was for Marvel. But the real issue is that Snyder doesn't know how to make a movie that is exciting and thought-provoking. And though you assume that these characters are beloved, especially Wonder Woman whose movie was celebrated by pretty much everyone, you feel absolutely nothing for any of them here.

Wonder Woman stands tall on the arm of...Justice.

You already knew that Superman wouldn't stay dead, even before that dirt started to rise in the closing scene amidst the tearjerkery of Batman v Superman's final act. But you couldn't possibly anticipate how inane his resurrection would be. That it consists of Flash and Cyborg digging up his coffin and then having everyone gather as he is revived with some fanfare and then woozily returns to form.

Lois Lane (Amy Adams) shows up, of course. So does Diane Lane, playing Superman's adopted mother. And Jeremy Irons as Alfred and Connie Nielsen as the Amazonians' Queen Hippolyta. J.K. Simmons,

Marvel's three-time J. Jonah Jameson, is now Commissioner Gordon. Billy Crudup is The Flash's incarcerated father. Joe Morton is Cyborg's scientist/savior father. Amber Heard plays Aquaman's fellow sea person. None of the Suicide Squad make appearances, though.

With a cast so huge, you might assume Justice League would be a mess. But it's not. It's just kind of a bore. The movie is stunningly devoid of joy. It's such a stark contrast from the colorful Thor: Ragnarok that Marvel put out just two weeks ago to rave reviews. Justice League earns a few chuckles, mostly from The Flash who is the film's primary comic relief. Between Flash's gay overtones, Cyborg being African American, and Momoa giving Aquaman multicultural flair, the movie ticks off diversity boxes and don't forget Wonder Woman got her own movie before Marvel let a female superhero have one.

Diversity is nice, but diversion is even nicer in terms of storytelling and in that regard, Justice League falls short. Its conflict is uninteresting. Its chemistry among heroes is non-existent. The action isn't quite as prolonged and interminable as it was in Snyder's last go, but it still feels like the director's interest in muscular men throwing one another around greatly exceeds your own. This isn't as bold or daring as Batman v Superman, and does anyone ever achieve greatness by playing things safe? This has been a banner year for superhero movies and the ones that have been most satisfying have been those that threw out the rulebooks of their predecessors: Logan giving us a dark, bitter, aging R-rated Wolverine, Ragnarok ditching Shakespearean brood to mine Thor and company for sheer exhilarating fun, The Lego Batman Movie applying the irreverent comedy treatment to Gotham City lore.

Justice League fails to do anything new or exciting. Make fun of Batman v Superman all you want, but at least Snyder and company tried to do something a little different. Many would argue they failed. But at least they tried, which Justice League does not.

Related Reviews:
DC Extended Universe: Wonder Woman • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice • Man of Steel • Suicide Squad
Now in Theaters: Thor: Ragnarok • Coco • Wonder • Professor Marston and the Wonder Women • Lady Bird • The Man Who Invented Christmas
Written by Joss Whedon: Avengers: Age of Ultron • The Cabin in the Woods | Written by Chris Terrio: Argo
2017 Superhero Movies: Logan • The Lego Batman Movie • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Ben Affleck: Gone Girl | Gal Gadot: Keeping Up with the Joneses | Henry Cavill: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Jason Momoa: The Red Road: The Complete First Season | Ezra Miller: Madame Bovary • City Island | Amy Adams: Arrival • Enchanted

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Reviewed November 15, 2017.

Text copyright 2017 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2017 Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures, DC Comics, Syncopy, Peters Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.