Considering all the flak Justice League had had hurled towards it my expectations were fairly low however while far from perfect this is an enjoyable enough big budget movie best seen in a cinema. It still seems far too soon for these avengers to assemble when only one of them has had their own film but given those limitations the results are better than expected with some interesting script ideas and well delivered action.
Spoilers past this point
We’re in a period after Superman’s death when a new threat emerges in the form of Steppenwolf (not the old 70s rock band) who is revived courtesy of a trio of `mother boxes` to threaten havoc across the world. He’s the apocalypse you see though not Apocalypse the similarly all powerful nemesis from the last X Men film. We’re on very familiar territory then and it has to be said that there seem to be rather a lot of all- powerful beings hanging around the movies nowadays. If you disregard the generic antagonist the core of the film is Batman bringing a team of wayward heroes together.
Again this is not new terrain and Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne is hardly the most inspirational speaker though this time is better written. Thankfully Wonder Woman comes to the rescue both fictionally and in terms of the cast. Gal Gadot remains this franchise’s best character by a long way and her presence almost as co-lead livens up what would otherwise be a dour tale of men hurling either insults or energy bolts at each other. The film’s other principal asset is Barry Allen aka the Flash who gets all the funny lines and lightens matters thanks to Ezra Miller’s channelling of fanboy vibes. Aquaman is chattier than you expect while Cyborg has an interesting though quickly sidelined back story; in both cases we could have done with their solo films first. Having to introduce all three of these characters means the storyline is initially jumpy trying to sum up lifetimes in a couple of scenes though sharp editing does smooth some of the edges.
There is a recurring theme of how these heroes should be seen to behave, whether they should be visible icons or more covert in their activities. The contrast between Wonder Woman’s disappearing act across decades- compared with Batman’s higher profile renown – is addressed and we also see Cyborg initially unwilling to venture from his apartment. Amusingly Barry Allen also declares that he hasn’t done any actual fighting “just pushing people and running away.” Even Aquaman remains an enigmatic figure whose main contact seems slightly oddly to be with a Norwegian fishing village. Of course you might say that all of them hide their true identity behind masks and costumes. I’d have liked these themes to have been explored a little more- the script rushes them from unsupervised novices unsure what to do with their powers to a fully working team in too short a time. Such haste is symptomatic of the way DC movies want to run before they walk. These scenes however do a good job of painting Bruce as an elder statesmen who has been through a lot -. “I’m already too old for this” he comments when someone suggests he might soon be.
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As just about everyone knew or guessed Superman is back two thirds of the way through and actually this works rather well giving Henry Cavill his best performance in the role so far though his initial hostility and confusion soon gives way to more conventional superheroing. He’s also part of the film’s best visual gag.
Steppenwolf played by Ciaran Hands is another one of those super powerful types who wants to bring general mayhem and destruction for no particular reason other than some ancient gubbins but the actor gives him some heft and the character certainly gives the league some problems. His army of Parademons are well realised and certainly pile on the jeopardy. The action sequences are well staged- one set inside a circular shaft is especially thrilling – and swift enough to maintain the momentum of the film though the denouement is a bit of a cop out. Thankfully there’s nothing as bad as the infamous Batman vs Superman slug out though!. Not sure quite how Aquaman can float in mid air though?
Justice League is fine as it goes but could have been better had we already known these characters. There is more of a sense of camaraderie and banter near the end and had that been the case throughout the results would be far more satisfying. Having got this far though- and with an Aquaman film in the can- the best option now would be to make another Justice League film as soon as possible because this cast does work well together and the series as a whole needs to break away from just copying the beats of its Marvel rivals.