Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action
Screenplay by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, story by Chris Terrio and Zack Snyder, based on characters and settings created by Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Gardner Fox, Bob Kane, Bill Finger, William Moulton Marston and Jack Kirby
Directed by Zack Snyder
Starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J.K. Simmons and more
Grade: Three stars
I didn’t realize just how badly I needed to see superheroes as friends until “Justice League.”
After the unnecessary angst and pointless, bitter infighting of the last two “Avengers” movies and “Captain America: Civil War” (which was an Avengers movie in everything but name), the sight of superheroes actually bonding and becoming friends was a refreshing joy. It’s that interaction that’s by far the best part of “Justice League,” since the villain feels abrupt and some of the CGI makes you want to put your head in your hands and weep for the state of computer animation, but it’s so much fun watching the superheroes interact with each other that I forgave them a lot by the end.
The movie starts with the introduction of creepy zombie bug men that we’ve never heard of before but that are apparently a Serious Threat (tm), and Batman has to call in the rolodex of potential superheroes he found in “Batman vs. Superman” in order to help him save the day. Because, as always seems to be the case with this sort of thing, a once-every-million-years apocalyptic-level villain is showing up this week to destroy all of mankind.
Despite the looming apocalypse, the real theme of the movie seems to be “superheroes need to learn how to make friends.” All of the heroes start out really isolated, sometimes painfully so, and the plot pours a whole lot of really delightful energy into making the characters slowly start to understand, trust and appreciate one another. Ezra Miller is a particular delight as Barry Allen, with more than half his lines getting a huge laugh from the audience.
Which is good, because the bad guy felt really jammed in there. The audience is dropped right into the middle of what’s apparently a huge problem that Batman’s been investigating for awhile, but we get told this far more than we get shown it. Supposedly there’s thousands of years of history where people have been watching and waiting for the return of this particular bad guy, but since there wasn’t even a throwaway line in any of the previous movies it was hard to see him as all that intimidating.
Still, the fight scenes are largely entertaining, and though my inner nerd wants to argue a bit about the comparative portrayals of some of the powers most people won’t notice or care. Snyder’s generally pretty good at letting everyone have a crack at whatever bad guys they’re facing at the moment, each f them solving different problems or attacking the matter from different angles, and with Cyborg in particular the movie offered an interesting perspective on some of his potential powers. Joss is… well, Joss, but he came in late so his sins are relatively minor.
The CGI, though, isn’t what it could be. Some early scenes made it feel like the characters were standing in a box with images being projected on the walls, leaving audiences with the disorienting feeling of having just wandered onto the set. The real CGI travesty, though, is Henry Cavill’s upper lip. The actor had a mustache for “Justice League” reshoots that he couldn’t shave because of a binding contract with another movie, so it was digitally removed in postproduction. The results, sadly, are kind of physically painful to look at.
Which is sad, because there’s a lot here to like. It may not have fully escaped the messiness that’s come to characterize DCU movies, but this is definitely a group of superheroes I’d like to see again.