“Justice League” might be another clunky, dark comic book adaptation from the DC Universe, but its seriousness is part of its appeal versus “Thor: Ragnarok,” which feels more like junk food. If Cate Blanchett’s Hela was too much of a softy, Ciaran Hinds Steppenwolf (he looks even more ridiculous than the name) wields the power and destruction we need in a Marvel movie. The new actors help an otherwise redundant franchise feel somewhat appealing. Ezra Miller (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”) is especially memorable. For a film that costs millions upon millions of dollars however, the CGI upper lip of Henry Cavill is the most distracting and absurd thing I have ever seen in one of these films. People always ask me if these films are good after the screening, but that’s the wrong question. You should be asking, “Is it different from what we have seen in the past,” and that answer would be “no.”
“I’m building an alliance,” Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) says, as he goes on a recruiting spree. The legendary Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) who can manipulate water, the incredibly fast and charismatic Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) and the recently deceased Victor Stone (Ray Fisher) who is now a machine. They will join Batman and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) to save the planet from an alien conqueror who has made Earth his next target. Martha Kent (Diane Lane) and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) still mourn for Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) as the world feels vulnerable with Superman dead. Wayne still blames himself for the death of the kryptonite hero, but wishes the outcome had been reserved. “We are asking people we don’t know to risk their lives,” Diana says. The age of heroes is about to begin.
Affleck’s Batman suits have increasingly gotten more ridiculous the more he appears in the franchise. He looks and walks like a transformer here. His performance has begun to match the rumor mill that the Oscar winner no longer wants to be involved in the franchise and who could blame him now that Batman is the least interesting character. The moment between Oscar nominee’s Lane and Adams is one of the movie’s highlights. I would have preferred an action-less drama about the two women dealing with grief, but alas that doesn’t sell action figures and Halloween costumes. Wonder Woman fans will thoroughly enjoy the extended moments in Themyscira, featuring the return of Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen). Also unlike “Thor: Ragnarok,” “Justice League” does have the characters interacting with nearly the entire cast and not completely segregated in their own storylines.
There are some nice little throwback treasures for long-standing Batman fans, Alfred (Jeremy Irons) mentioning “exploding penguins.” Yet it’s that deformed upper lip of Superman that causes more damage and distraction than the bad guy himself. As “Justice League” was plagued by the death of director Zack Snyder’s son, forcing former Marvel director Joss Whedon to finish the film, it’s anything but a smooth ride. However, I did appreciate the subtle vintage score Whedon applies to both Batman/Superman moments. DC films are more interesting, because the characters seem more relatable and grounded, but behind the scenes, it’s continual chaos as Warner Bros. desperately tries to keep up Marvel’s assembly line. After the film and credit sequence is over, I found my mind going right back to award season films like “Three Billboards” or “Call Me By Your Name” which will have a far reaching and longer impact on cinema than this latest franchise fodder.
Final thought — Ezra Miller and other new cast members breathe life into the DC movie world but it’s still nothing groundbreaking in the superhero world.