At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Justice League “2017”


MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Action/ Stars: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J. K. Simmons, Ciarán Hinds, Joe Morton, Amber Heard, Billy Crudup, Marc McClure/ Runtime: 120 minutes

It was all the way back in the year 2012 that Marvel released a movie that had been 4 years in the works known as The Avengers, and upon doing so managed to thoroughly change the basic idea of what truly was possible in blockbuster filmmaking forever. Five years, and several missteps, later DC finally managed to bring their own iconic superhero team to life with a live-action film adaptation of the Justice League, and while the end result is a decent-enough romp, it still also could be leaps and bounds better than it actually is. However while this film is absolutely nowhere near as innovative or as rewatchable as its Marvel counterpart, and if I’m being honest a hot mess in a few fundamental ways, Justice League is nevertheless also kinda fun. This is because what we have gotten is a film that actually tries to nail these truly iconic DC heroes, and in the process give us a baby step that, while on the surface may seem insignificant, does in fact prove that there is still maybe just maybe a little bit of hope left in regards to what lies ahead in the future of the DCEU.

The plot is as follows: Superman (Henry Cavill) has perished, and the world is in peril. So it is during these dark times that, in part due to being haunted by visions of an apocalyptic future, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) has continued to investigate Earth’s meta humans. Unfortunately however, it isn’t long before Bruce’s visions start to become a frightening reality due to the arrival of an alien military officer known as Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) and his army of winged minions known as Parademons. They have been tasked with the glorious purpose of hunting down three hidden devices known as Mother Boxes and using their combined power in the hope of conquering and then reshaping our world as they see fit. As he so doesn’t like that alien agenda, Batman along with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) decides to recruits a speedster named Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), a water-powered half-man, half-mermaid hybrid named Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), and a cybernetically enhanced young man named Victor Stone a.k.a. Cyborg (Ray Fisher) in an effort to form an uneasy and ragtag alliance to not only stop Steppenwolf his plans, but also to usher in a new age of heroes in the process….

Now in what can clearly be seen from even a mile away as a response to the critical reaction to the franchise’s 2016 entries Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, the doom and gloom that the DCEU is mostly known for has been supplanted in Justice League by a palpable sense of fun and raw adventure. This is showcased more heavily in the facts that not only has Hans Zimmer’s usual moody melodies now been replaced by a significantly more booming and kinetic Danny Elfman score, but there are far, far, and away more quips to go around, particularly among the youthful newcomers, in this outing. Indeed while to be fair there are certain heavy-handed melodramatic moments that feel reminiscent of the previous films (particularly the opening credits sequence) there is still one thing that should become clear after seeing this film. This is the fact that DC wants their team-up movie, and subsequently future releases as well, to showcase for audiences a shift towards less grit, and more of the heart, humor, and heroism that their beloved icons are supposed to embody, and so I feel that because of that this film, much like Wonder Woman, represents a vital step forward for the DCEU. Indeed the best way I can describe it to you fellow movie lovers is that Justice League is like a misshapen screw in an IKEA furniture set. That is because while the movie is malformed and doesn’t exactly work as well as it ought to its nevertheless still functional and will actually hold things together for a while until you begin to replace it with screws that are actually correctly shaped and on point, and that you can use in the construction of something potentially greater. Indeed Justice League may make that occasional awkward stretch that serves only to get certain characters and potential story lines in place for the future, but at the same time by the time this film is over, you may have a clear idea of where DC wants to go. Even more importantly, once the credits start rolling you may in fact find yourself completely and totally sold on each and every planned solo movie that is in some form of development or another in this franchise (though don’t count on it).

Now for everything that Justice League does well when it comes to the revamped tone as well as the not-bad table setting for its characters, the film is also unfortunately forced to contend with what can best be described as an incredibly uneven central story. Indeed the film does a simply wonderful job of regularly grinding to a halt in order to give us some truly forced exposition dumps, and while to be fair this film is nowhere near as sloppy as Batman v Superman or even as aimless as Suicide Squad, it does still at the end of the day feel simply overly stuffed with quite a few insignificant subplots in an effort to push the razor-thin story forward in between the quippy dialogue and some truly decent action sequences. In fact these are so bad that I feel that even at a lean two hours (including credits), it really truly does feel like Justice League could’ve been even shorter had some tighter writing and editing taken place.

Now in the face of Justice League’s narrative faults, I thankfully can confirm that the majority of the heroes in this film manage to pick up the slack and carry the film across the finish line. Indeed this because pretty much everyone in one way or another manages to get the job done to varying levels of success as we see another terrific turn from Gal Gadot who continues to bring a regalness and wisdom to Wonder Woman that’s impossible not to fall in love with. Ezra Miller and Jason Momoa also both bring their own unique and quite distinct fun energies to the ensemble as Flash and Aquaman, respectively in the forms of Miller bringing a comical yet full-on awkward and nerdy energy and Momoa bringing a cocky and boisterous energy respectively. In addition Ray Fisher also manages to turn in a good performance as Cyborg despite the fact that, by the very nature of his character, his constant state of evolution makes him somewhat less easy to really truly define. Then there’s Ben Affleck, and honestly guys don’t get me wrong: I love Ben Affleck and I enjoy a lot of the movies he has made (including Phantoms because let’s face it Phantoms is a kind of amazing all its own), but I feel that Ben Affleck in this really seems to be channeling more of a Batman that has been able to find his limitations and is ready to, after 20+ years of fighting crime in Gotham, move on with his life and stop fighting the criminal element. Indeed I really just feel that Affleck seems to be going through the motions more than anything else so if DC wants to give fans a more energetic Bruce Wayne/Batman then maybe it’s time DC started considering recasting the role.

Now when one moves beyond the core Justice League ensemble, we see that the film is also packed with a wide array of notable supporting characters, but luckily for us as audience members the film does a fair job of keeping things moving in such a way that this film’s decent-sized army of side characters never bog it down. Therefore, even though we bounce from Henry Allen (Billy Crudup) in prison to Mera (Amber Heard) in Atlantis and all the way to Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) on Themyscira, Justice League thankfully never slips into Spider-Man 3 territory to where it feels overwhelmed by its cast. Indeed while this is a film that is in possession of some truly horrible pacing problems these problems thankfully aren’t generated from its character usage, and instead manages to move quickly between locales, and also set the table in a way that, for the most part, feels relatively natural.

Unfortunately praise can’t, as much as we would like to, be handed out to every character in the film starting with the Big Blue Boy Scout himself. Indeed while not much can be said about Superman’s presence in the movie without delving too far into spoiler territory I do feel that it’s not a spoiler to let you know that when he finally does show up that Justice League really truly is the stiffest and least comfortable that Henry Cavill has looked in the role. Plus let’s face it: the time that Superman is on screen is definitely better spent trying to notice at what points the film conducts the atrocity of using absolutely horrible CGI to get rid of Cavill’s glorious Mission: Impossible: Fallout mustache. More significant however is the fact that our lead villain in this Mr. Steppenwolf has got to be, and I mean this with all sincerity, one of the worst villains that I have ever seen in a comic book movie ever. Indeed while to be fair he does get a few charming one-liners, and he is certainly a faithful depiction of the character he is also roughly as compelling as Enchantress from Suicide Squad (and for those of you who saw Suicide Squad you know that’s not saying much if anything), and as visually impressive as a really horribly animated character from a really horrible PlayStation 2 game.

Speaking of… I also feel that it needs to be said that the digital effects that were used to create Steppenwolf are worth taking a moment to point out. This is for no other reason than the fact that on the whole Justice League’s visual effects are absolutely and in every which way possible distractingly bad. Indeed be it the CGI used to create characters like Cyborg and the Parademons all the way to the obvious green screen backgrounds that are being used in sequences on Themyscira and Atlantis, this is a film that through and through just looks fake. Indeed while it is to an extent forgivable in some of the blockbuster’s more fun moments (of which there are several) it still goes without saying that a movie this important and massive has no right to have as many digital aesthetic flaws as this one does.

All in all Justice League is a rough, uneven, and downright ugly at times film. When you strip away those serious flaws however, what you are left with is, as was stated at the beginning of this review, a film that actually tries to nail these truly iconic DC heroes, and in the process give us a baby step that, while on the surface may seem insignificant, does in fact prove that there is still maybe just maybe a little bit of hope left in regards to what lies ahead in the future of the DCEU. On a scale of 1–5 I give Justice League a 3 out of 5.  #releasetheSnyderCut