REVIEW: ‘Justice League’ Never Rises Above Average

If “Justice League” had come out roughly 10 to 15 years ago, it may be considered a better super hero film.

However, with the existence of the Marvel series, the Nolan “Batman” films and even attempts such as what FOX has done with “Logan” and “Deadpool,” “Justice League” largely pales in comparison.

For a bit of a refresher, “Justice League” comes after the events of “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Superman is now dead and as a result, Batman (Ben Affleck) begins noticing an uptick in strange creatures causing havoc. It’s soon discovered that these creatures are appearing because of Steppenwolf, an ancient alien with conquest on his mind.

Steppenwolf, who notices the absence of Superman, decides now is the perfect time to conquer Earth. Because of the threat, Batman, along with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), choose to recruit others with special abilities to defend the world. Their team includes the Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher).

It’s impossible to do this review without the obvious comparison so let’s get that out of the way upfront. The movie is a lot like “The Avengers” but not nearly as good and yes, part of the reason for this is that Marvel’s team up picture actually had all their characters previously introduced with individual films. That, of course, wasn’t the case in “Justice League.”

So, on top of having to tell the team up story of bringing these characters together, it also has to try and provide background on each of the newcomers. Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman all have reasons for why they fight and some of their past is mentioned or lightly shown, but it’s just the surface. The same can be said for Steppenwolf, a complete blank slate of a villain with nothing more to offer than “I want to rule the world.”

Like him or hate him in the role, at the very least Jesse Eisenberg brought some type of personality to Lex Luthor in “Batman V Superman,” as well as giving him a reason to hate the protagonists.

The lack of investment in the backgrounds of numerous characters results in a rather shallow picture. It’s also noticeable that aside from some banter, the camaraderie isn’t  all that great.

Speaking of characters, there’s a segment that takes place in the second act focusing on one of them that’s supposed to be hyped up as grandiose, but the film executes it in such a rushed manner that it feels largely forgettable. Additionally, this second act segment negates much of the emotions built by the end of “Batman V Superman” and the opening of this film.

There was also a major lack of suspense in the movie, especially during the third act. Because of criticism toward how “Man of Steel” had a battle in the middle of a city with collateral damage, the people behind DC movies have seemed to shy away from battles in metro areas. This is a big detriment to “League,” though, as the final climactic clash takes place in the middle of nowhere, with only one random family ever in danger. The stakes just don’t seem too high so the “race against time” hook they’re pushing falls flat.

When it comes to the acting, it’s hit or miss. Gadot is great as Wonder Woman, Affleck makes for a solid brooding Batman, Jeremy Irons is probably my favorite Alfred and Miller has fun being the Flash.

However, Momoa and Fisher don’t offer much. Fisher is too stoic the whole time and Momoa is one note with his wild man, surfer schtick.

Even as an action picture, “Justice League” comes up mostly average. Many team up movies have action scenes where the characters both fight on their own with their unique abilities and do combos. This has been noticeable in both “Avengers,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” some of the “X-Men” pictures and even non superhero movies like the first “Expendables.”

While all of the Justice League do battle here, though, none of it is overly entertaining. Aquaman, for example, hardly ever does anything with water, Batman doesn’t use many gadgets besides shooting the guns on the Batmobile and the Flash doesn’t do any eye-catching things. Along with a lack of fun choreography, the CGI didn’t look particularly good and it was also easy to tell that the movie had gone through its fair share of reshoots and other tweaking.

Across the board, “Justice League” is really ‘meh.’ Many of the characters feel shallow and there’s not much camaraderie shown between them besides a nice moment with Batman and Wonder Woman at the end of the second act. It’s basically the same case with the rushed story and the frustrating segment inserted in the second act dealing with a key character.

Simply put, there’s not much to offer here, and that’s a sad fact because “Justice League” deserves better. Is the movie entertaining? Sure, in some parts, but for the most part it’s bland. 2.8 out of 5.

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