- Movie Rating -

Justice League (2017)

| November 16, 2017

How can I possibly resist a movie that employs a line like “Where . . . Is . . . My . . . Mother Box!!?”  I can assure you, this line of dialogue sounds just as ridiculous in context as it does out.

I wish I could say that the rest of Justice League were as frothy as that sentence, but its silliness comes not from a lightness of touch but from the ridiculousness of the whole enterprise.  Here is a movie about a mismatched band of superheroes, the mightiest in the universe, but they’re such a mixed bag that logistically they don’t really need each other.  There are moments when the plot is so contrived that it angles and circumvents logic and pacing in order to give each member something to do.

That’s a problem that lays heavy on their union.  Yes, each member – Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and Flash – can contribute superpowers to the cause, but you get the feeling that they’re just kind of getting in each other’s way.  Even still their fallibilities are laid on them like dew, quite unlike The Avengers who had several singular adventures to build our interest.  The Justice League have a weak foundation to overcome.

Justice League is a troubled movie, and not just for what appears on screen.  It comes packaged with a history that it wears around its ankles like a lead weight.  Over the past five years, the creative team  has so mishandled this DC property that they have not only broken faith with their audience but have created a blisteringly flaccid continuity that this movie is forced to work through.  Chief among them is what to do with Superman.  If you were one of the unlucky masses that saw Batman v Superman last year than you know that (for no actual reason) Superman died at the end.  That leaves this movie with the problem of having to figure out how to bring him back.  But the movie waits so long to do that (almost an hour) that the progressing story – about the search for three mystical cubes that the villain wants to use to cleanse the Earth with fire – has to stop dead in its tracks so the team can get The Man of Steel back on his feet.  What’s worse is that when he does start breathing again, we get the feeling that the team wasn’t really missing anything.

The form and function of this movie isn’t really to tell a story, but to get six legendary superheroes in the same room.  They eventually do, of course, connected by the presence of a 30 foot megaloid from another dimension named – I love this – Steppenwolf.  I swear, dear reader, if he had entered this movie riding a magic carpet, I would have awarded four stars just on general principle.

Sadly, Steppenwolf is not that interesting.  He’s your standard romping stomping CG God-complex wielding an ax and flanked by seemingly endless volley of flying minions.  When he speaks, he talks in proclamations of doom (“This world will fall, like all the others.”)  Although giving credit where credit is due, he’s the one responsible for the Mother Box line.  I’ll give him that.

Even with a boring villain, I can never say that Justice League is a bad movie.  There is some wisdom in the fact that the movie does away with the generally grim and mopey tone that were the downfall of both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman.  There’s a lighter touch here, especially in The Flash, played with goofy gusto by Ezra Miller.  And there is a nice running gag involving Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth.

The problem is that there’s no attempt to connect these characters by their personalities; only by their super-personas.  There are connected by the mission at hand, and for me, that’s not enough.  I like The Avengers because even though they have their differences, they feel like a family.  Here there’s a feeling that they’re being pushed together for a photo op.  Batman’s purpose is to gather the team, but he seems more like a conscientious outsider (he’s the only one without superpowers).  Wonder Woman seems so bright that you sense she could handle things on her own (we saw that this summer).  Cyborg is there to be your tech guy and to overcome his daddy issues.  Aquaman has a power that seems more or less useless given the circumstances.  Meanwhile, Flash functions as a conduit to whatever problem seems to stand in the team’s way.

And Superman?  Well, this is the third go-around for Henry Cavill and the third time that the world’s strongest do-gooder comes off as stiff as an ironing board.  One of the most charming things about Superman has always been his hardbound dedication to his credo of truth, justice and the American way.  He’s a big blue boy scout and his aw-shucks charm is part of why we love him.  But here, and in the previous films, the character is so muted that he seems to be hiding something.  Either this version of the character needs more charm or more edge.  There is a really good scene late in the film after his resurrection when he briefly poses a threat to the team – THAT should have been the movie!  What dynamics are brought about by this team when one of their own becomes an adversary?  How do they pull together to solve that crisis?

Alas, Justice League won’t go there.  It isn’t that ambitious.  It’s also a little ill-timed, arriving just thirteen days after Thor: Ragnarok.  That movie was a grand day out – a comedy wearing the guise of a socko superhero action movie.  It also wears proudly an aesthetic that we’ve become comfortably familiar with.  Disney and Marvel have established a sense of quality control that those responsible for the DCU have not.  That burden weighs heavy on Justice League which takes a lot of notes from The Avengers but often feels bulky and unwieldy.  Weighing all things together, I can say that there were portions of this film that worked, while the whole enterprise felt far too desperate to please.  I hate it when filmmakers are desperate to give me what they think I want.  I say, start with a good story and interesting characters.  Run with that.  I’ll catch up.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2017) View IMDB Filed in: Action