Justice League (Cert 12A)
US (2017) Dir. Zack Snyder
In early 2016 the DCU, in response to Marvel producing successful super-team films thought it had the crown in their hands when they paired off its two most iconic Superheroes Batman and Superman in one film. Sadly, the film was a misfire and soured the DCU output until a widdle girlie came along and saved it, causing a bit of a rethink in how to capitalise on this.
The answer was Justice League, DC’s equivalent of The Avengers which it hoped would compensate for the damage done by Batman vs. Superman. The good news is that it sort of does; the bad news is that it is still riddled with some of the same niggling flaws from before, but by being an hour shorter they are less noticeable.
With Superman (Henry Cavill) having died at the end of their previous adventure, Bruce Wayne aka Batman (Ben Affleck) has a renewed appreciation for life and upholding justice in honour of his fallen comrade-in-arms. But when strange insect-like beings attracted to fear called Parademons suddenly appear, Bruce believes this is a prelude to something far worse coming to threaten the world.
From Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) Bruce learns of a mythical god named Steppenwolf who has returned to earth having been driven away thousands of year ago and is seeking the three Mother Boxes which will grant him absolute power. Steppenwolf already has two so Bruce and Diana seek the help of Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to prevent Steppenwolf claiming the third Mother Box.
I don’t know what it is about Zack Snyder but he seems to indulge in taking a simple premise and tries too hard to make it more substantial by piling on too many layers that in the end, it no longer seems simple. In this instance, it largely manifests itself in the clunky exposition that Diana has to deliver which could have been handled in a swift prologue but instead we had to wait over fifteen minutes until after the obligatory action pieces to introduce the heroes to us.
Also, had the key elements of Steppenwolf’s backstory been revealed beforehand, it would have made more sense as to why Bruce sought Aquaman and Wonder Woman’s help, given that the first two Mother Boxes were in fact stolen from the Amazons of Themyscira and the undersea world of Atlantis! As for the third box, it is being held by S.T.A.R. Labs – for whom Victor’s scientist father Silas (Joe Morton) is an employee – which is why Steppenwolf has kidnapped him and other workers to find it.
Perhaps I am being picky but it was this kind of backwards plotting that hampered Suicide Squad and it feels like DC didn’t learn from that and are making the same mistake here. As for how The Flash fits in to this, his father is in jail for allegedly killing his mother and er…that’s it. He is the comic relief of the pack being a skinny teen but his investment in this really doesn’t extend beyond this being his coming out party.
Really, Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash probably needed an origin film of their own ahead of this outing since it is assumed the audience knows all about them – assuming the audience are also all hardcore comic book fans that is. I know nothing of Cyborg and many others might not either whilst it might be presumed that the TV shows will suffice for The Flash.
Also, Cyborg, who was still adjusting to his new robotic body, suddenly becomes fully fluent with his new abilities after a few moments in the presence of his new fighting friends. And you thought The Flash was the speedy one? To be honest, they brought more to the table than Aquaman and whilst he is not the blonde haired dude in the orange and green outfit but a hulking, hirsute brute, his personality is brusque and disagreeable, not to mention Momoa mumbles most of his dialogue which doesn’t help.
So far I guess I haven’t sold you on this film, so maybe it’s time to shift to the positives. The action sequences are very well done and so they should be with the amount of money spent on them. The CGI Steppenwolf is very convincing and the fantasy world setting is far more credible than it has any right to be. Batman still has his cool vehicles and weapons and the new cheerier Bruce Wayne is more preferable to the grumpy version from last time.
Maybe not a cavalcade of gags like Thor: Ragnarok but the humour quotient is increased hundred fold, largely through The Flash but everyone gets a good line here and there. But it seems someone had taken notice of the success of Wonder Woman’s standalone film hence her prominence role here, as peacemaker, part-leader and general glue that keeps the group together.
Whether this is a concession for Diana being the lone female in the group is open to interpretation but it is worth noting the Amazons put up a better fight for their Mother Box than the Atlantis people did! Gal Gadot certainly has a real feel for her character now yet interestingly, Amy Adams as Lois Lane gets third top billing over Gadot yet is barely in the film.
Taking a further cue from marvel, there are two post-credit sequences to stay in your seats for – the first is played for laughs, the second a teaser for a future edition in this franchise, which again requires some serious geek level knowledge of the DCU.
Justice League works hard to exorcise the demons of Batman vs. Superman and for the most part achieves this through a lighter mood, less angst and stronger characters. Some scripting issues still need addressing but this is a welcome step in the right direction to putting DC back in the competition again.
Rating – *** ½
Man In Black