DC finally delivered a post – “Dark Knight” winner earlier this year with “Wonder Woman”. But not even the presence of Gal Gadot’s Diana, along with the Caped Crusader and a few new and old friends, make “Justice League” worth getting excited about. This is a superhero film where nothing is super – and no one is exceptionally heroic.
Batman and Wonder Woman reunite to battle the evil Steppenwolf – a completely CGI (and quite dull) villain, who, if allowed to capture three powerful boxes and combine them together, can destroy the world. Three newbies recruited to join the good side are Aquaman, played by Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher’s Cyborg and The Flash, played by Jimmy Fallon look-alike Ezra Miller. These five form the Justice League.
But wait – what about Superman? Well, at the start of “Justice League”, the Man of Steel is dead, thanks to the events at the end of last year’s “Batman v. Superman”. It’s difficult to hide the fact that he makes a triumphant return here, considering Henry Cavill has been part of the film’s marketing from the start. In fact, Cavill receives 2nd billing. Logically, there was no way a Justice League movie could be made without the Man of Steel.
Oh, and there were also all those stories about Warner Bros. spending millions on last minute re-shoots (which reportedly make-up 15-20% of the movie). Cavill was in the midst of shooting next summer’s “Mission: Impossible 6” – with a full mustache – at the time. Paramount execs wouldn’t allow him to shave it. The “Justice League” digital team did their best to try to hide the stache, but a dark shadow is clearly visible just above Cavill’s upper lip in most of his scenes.
But that’s the least of the movie’s problems. This is director Zack Snyder’s third DC Extended Universe installment, and it’s his liveliest, though also the most off-kilter in tone. That may be because Joss Whedon had to step in for those re-shoots when Snyder left the production following the death of his daughter. You can tell the film wanted to go down a couple different paths, but instead plays it straight and bland. From the opening scene to the uninspired climax, nothing happens that you don’t expect.
J.K. Simmons’ Commissioner Gordon could be an interesting character, but he gets practically no screen time. Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons and Diane Lane all return, but they also aren’t allowed to contribute in any meaningful way.
But the biggest injustice with “Justice League” are the visual effects. The green screen usage is heavy and obvious. All of the action scenes look corny and, frankly, cheap – especially in comparison to those of arch-rival Marvel. I was experiencing flashbacks to 2011’s “Green Lantern”, maybe the cheesiest-looking superhero movie of all-time. It’s THAT bad.
But even with their terrible batting average, DC keeps swinging: We’ll get an Aquaman solo movie next year (Momoa provides plenty of attitude here) and a highly-anticipated “Wonder Woman” sequel in 2019. Cyborg is set to get his own film in 2020, and “Shazam” and, yes, “Green Lantern Corps.” are also in development.
Affleck’s future as Batman is currently up-in-the-air. Wonder Women tells him at one point, “You can’t keep doing this forever.” And she’s right. The once iconic character seems out of his element in this setting.
Outside of a few, rare moments, “Justice League” doesn’t feel like a very important movie. It just kinda “is” – serving more as a necessary way to move along DC’s plans for future films than as legit, stand-alone entertainment.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Justice League” gets a D+.
Running Time: 120 min.