Now, before anyone starts howling, “but what Wonder Woman?” WW is unquestionably wonderful both within the annals of comic films, as well as a film in general for both impact on popular culture and capturing the zeitgeist of the moment. However, here we’re talking Justice League as a part of a larger whole. Wonder Woman was as near to a standalone film as we’re going to get these days, with none of its relatively few call-outs the wider DCU being relevant to the main story. But this time we have a film that’s at the heart of the whole DC/Warner Bros. cinematic universe. Thus far, their attempts have varied from a good Man of Steel to a pair of dumpster fires that were both Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad.
I went into Justice League entirely expecting to hate it every bit as much as those prior two DC superhero team-up films. Much of the trailer footage has been lackluster and unremarkable, giving a rather disjointed feeling rather than the notion of finally seeing the pieces falling into place. Granted, that the bar I’d set for hoping that it would at least not suck was about as low as they ever come. That said, imagine my surprised reaction when the impression I had as the credits rolled (after two post-credits scenes) was that I’d just had a rather enjoyable two hours.
They’re not as badly crafted as the characters had been back in BvS, and the feel is much more of an actual one-off graphic novel. Crisis on Infinite Earths it’s not, but it’s worth the ticket of admission, and for DC fans it’s about time that they got a multi-hero film that they don’t have to make excuses for.
It’s not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, but we’ll get to its failings in short order. Right now, I want to focus on the good parts. It’s no Guardians of the Galaxy, and we still have to contend with one of the most ill-performed Batmen ever to have worn the suit (and yes, I remember Val Kilmer). The film picks up after the events in Batman v Superman with the Earth reeling from the death of Superman and the humans seem to be reeling from a “what do we do now” malaise.
That depression has caused some demons to start to appear that are attracted to fear. Batman encounters one and decides that it’s a harbinger of something big and bad, so he begins to seek out the various special-ability individuals that we’d seen vines of back in BvS: Jason Momoa‘s Aquaman, Ezra Miller‘s Flash, Ray Fisher‘s Cyborg, and Gal Gadot‘s Wonder Woman. They of course are at first not interested, but as things go from bad to worse, they realize that perhaps they will need to join forces.
The big bad does indeed turn out to be Steppenwolf (who we saw briefly in an earlier deleted scene from BvS), who is now hunting down three “mother boxes”. Once he has them, he can use them to turn the Earth into a hell-like lava planet.
The battles are fun, their banter is serviceable, and we get an extended sequence on Themyscira with the Amazons as they turn out to be guarding one of the boxes and Steppenwolf shows up to take it. Any time we get to spend with the Amazons is bitchin’ to the extreme, though some of their newly revamped (read: smaller) costumes do feel awkward. They were perfectly beautiful and amazing in Wonder Woman, and now one or more of Justice League‘s various male directors decided that they needed more skin. Another box is with the Atlantians, and while we only see their Queen, Mera (played by Amber Heard) briefly — it too sets up more anticipation for the upcoming Aquaman solo film.
Flash, AKA Barry Allen, is far more cut from the mold of an annoying millennial crossbred with Spider-Man: Homecoming‘s Peter Parker. He’s young, inexperienced, and given a script asking him to whine. A lot. Fans of the CW show will likely feel a bit strange at seeing another actor in a role that’s already happening on television on a weekly basis, but as Warner Bros. has been quick to point out, this is an alternate-Earth — so this Barry has his own personality and background, even though the basics of his story remain apparently intact.
In the end, this film shouldn’t get any awards for acting, effects, or score; however, it does give us something that fans have been clamoring for and deserving of for a long time. Its a fun movie that fans of the comics will generally enjoy. It’s still not the kind of film that a non-fan would likely buy a ticket to go see, so they’ve still got to work out that combination — otherwise, Wonder Woman will remain their cross-demographic exception.
Another point: there’s a few too many butt-level tracking shots every time they get the chance to start the camera behind Wonder Woman in costume. While the men are in baggy jeans, suits, or hoodies (and pretty much the same set of clothes throughout the film), Diana magically changes clothes from one ultra-fitting sexy set of clothes to another. There may well be no two scenes where she’s wearing the same set of clothes, and all of them the same approach. If she’d had one of those and stayed in it, at least then it would have been consistent with the men.
The storyline is anything but original — with
Saruman Steppenwolf hunting for the One Ring Mother Boxes in order to summon Sauron an energy force to rebuild the world so it will be like his hellish Mordor home world.
Yeah, it can be picked apart in a lot of ways. But the point of films like this is escapism and to have fun with the characters, and this time the writers and directors set up the scenarios and mostly get out of the way so we can enjoy it.
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