Before I discuss Justice League, a quick recap of my thoughts on the DCEU so far (links go to full reviews):
- I was ambivalent about Man of Steel, and my main complaint had more to do with a fundamental failure to grasp the role of Jonathan Kent (and Jonathan Kent’s death) in the Superman mythology than with the whole “Superman killed people” thing most people complained about. It wasn’t unwatchable, just disappointing.
- Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice was just a turd of a movie.
- Suicide Squad was even worse.
- I was slightly less impressed with Wonder Woman that most people, but I thought it was a very good movie that gave me some hope that the DCEU wasn’t doomed to suck forever.
Needless to say, my expectations for Justice League were very, very low. Maybe because of the low expectations, I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be a completely watchable super-hero movie. After some “introducing the characters” scenes that were structurally reminiscent of the first 6 hours of Suicide Squad but considerably less tedious and awful, we meet the main bad guy, Steppenwolf, who’s one of the New Gods. He’s looking for adventure and whatever comes his way. Also, the three Mother Boxes that are on earth. Once he finds them, he plans to fire all of his Mother Boxes at once and explode into space. Or something. This would be bad, so Batman recruits the Justice League to fight him. It’s a paint-by-numbers plot and the villain is generic and relatively obscure, but since this is the “getting the team together” movie, that’s fine. The real goal of the Justice League movie is to introduce us to the new members of the Justice League, try to redeem the characters from awful earlier movies as much as possible, and generally make us feel like going to see more movies featuring these characters is a good idea and not a sick act of self-loathing.
So, let’s talk about the characters:
- Batman: Batfleck was one of the few things about Batman Vs. Superman that wasn’t a complete misfire, and it still works here as long as you remember that this is supposed to be an older, tireder Batman than we’re used to seeing in movies.
- Wonder Woman: Going into this movie, Wonder Woman was the best hope of turning the franchise around, and it’s obvious the writers realized this and tried to capitalize on it. While Bats is the one who puts the team together, Diana is clearly his partner when it comes to leading the team, not his second-in-command. Gal Godot brings everything we loved about Wonder Woman back in Justice League and it really classes up the joint.
- Aquaman: I wanted to see half a dozen more Jason Momoa Conan movies, so the casting may have biased me, but I liked Aquaman. Momoa’s sort of “Aquabro” take on the character was something I haven’t really seen before. It was also a lot of fun, which is a pleasant surprise in a franchise that up until now has taken itself way too seriously.
- Flash: For some reason they decided to turn Barry Allen into Richard Lewis with super-speed. This was a bad idea, but at least it’s not as jarring as basing Lex Luthor on Rowdy Roddy Piper. I didn’t hate The Flash, but the (obvious) attempt to turn him into the DCEU’s version of Homecoming Spider-Man fell very flat. #NotMyBarry
- Cyborg: My only real exposure to Cyborg before the movie was the New 52 reboot of Justice League, so I was ambivalent about him. After seeing the movie, I’d consider going to see a Cyborg movie. At the very least, it would have Joe Morton.
- Superman: Don’t pretend you didn’t know he was coming back. The change of tone in Superman is probably the best thing Justice League did for the world. After a brief bout of “Post Lazarus Pit Confusion Rage” cribbed from Arrow, he’s Superman. Not the gloomy, angsty, probably-listens-to-Morrissey-and-cuts-himself Superman from the first two movies, but like, traditional Superman. The one that smiles and fights for truth and justice and doesn’t murder or rape anyone. His costume even has distinct colors rather than just different shades of bluish gray. He’s a long way from the Morrissonesque Ideal of a Kryptonian we’re getting in Supergirl, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.
Overall, Justice League displays the minimum level of competence required for a super-hero movie and manages to do a few things moderately well. That’s glowing praise compared to what I was expecting.
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