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Review – Justice League

Despite having read all the online hate, I still wasn’t prepared for this. It was a Saturday morning matinee, and there was only one other person in the theater. Seriously, just one guy, and he was about the same age as me. No kids. None of the usual Saturday afternoon Crescent City theater crowd of young families taking advantage of the cheap tickets. Nobody. My own kid didn’t even want to come see it with me, so I saw it alone.

I’m not complaining. I kind of like seeing movies alone. Gives this old hermit a bit of breathing room.

Normally, when everyone hates a movie, I enjoy it. I think I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, I’m pretty easy to please. When it comes to superhero movies, I’m like a Labrador Retriever. Toss me a tennis ball and I’m good to go.

This movie tossed out a lot of tennis balls. It has flaws, to be sure, but overall, I left feeling I got my seven bucks worth.

So, let’s hit the good stuff first. No time was wasted on extended origin story sequences. The movie gives the audience the benefit of the doubt, assumes we’ve at least done our homework and gives the backstories as hints during character development scenes rather than bludgeoning us with flashbacks and slowing down the story. We come away with enough understanding of the DC cinematic universe’s versions of Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg that they feel sufficiently fleshed out. That’s a good move.

The only real bit of exposition is to give us what’s required to explain the backstory of the motherboxes. There are some cool scenes in which we see the Amazonians and vikings (because vikings are cool, I guess) battling Darkseid’s forces in the first invasion alongside the Greek gods and the Green Lantern corps. I found it enjoyable and just long enough to get the point across. For those familiar with the machinations of Darkseid, it may not be necessary, but for most people it’s stuff they need to know.

The combat scenes, from the opening where Batman fights his first parademon, to the final showdown, all worked for me. Mostly, they do a good job of showing what these heroes can do. Everyone gets plenty of screen time, and I found them satisfying.

The actors, to my mind, did a fine job. Newcomers Jason Mamoa and Ezra Miller steal the show whenever they’re in a scene, and Gal Godot is as amazing as she was in her two previous appearances. As much as I want to hate on Ben Affleck, I really can’t. He’s playing an older version of Batman with 20 years of vigilantism under his belt. Some say he looked like he didn’t want to be there, but I think that’s what the story wants him to communicate. He’s literally getting too old for this nonsense, and he’s up against a guy who’s light years out of his league. Ray Fisher, as Cyborg, did alright, but he lacks the youthful exuberance we expect from that character. The two downbeats in the casting is Henry Clavill as Superman, who I just don’t like, and Amy Adams as Lois Lane. Clavill is flat, and I have problems with Superman that I’ll get into later. Adams isn’t given much to do other than to be sad when Supes is dead and happy when he’s not.

That said, let’s take a look at the bad stuff.

I’m not wild about the choice of villain. To take it a step further, I haven’t been wild with most of the antagonists the franchise has used in the reboot of the DCCU. Zod wasn’t a terrible choice for the superman reboot, but what’s the point of being the Last Son of Krypton when you immediately throw that out the window in the second act by introducing a bunch of Kryptonians? It got worse from there. Batman vs. Superman could have been a fantastic story without ever dragging Doomsday (another Kryptonian) into the picture. The Doomsday story requires Superman’s death, and that locks the franchise into finding a way to bring the big guy back. While Ares was a great foil for Wonder Woman’s debut, they choose Steppenwolf for Justice League, which I see as a terrible choice. And Enchantress for Suicide Squad? Let’s agree not to speak of that…

“I really need a better name. Henceforth, I shall be known as Captain Monochrome!”

While I’m a big fan of Jack Kirby, his creations are really about the brash, over-the-top acid trips of his artwork. I have a tough time with the Inhumans, The Fourth World or the New Gods. I love the visuals, but can’t find anything to sink my teeth into. The Inhumans just aren’t relatable, Darkseid is evil without purpose and the supporting cast from Apokalypse is mostly silly. A lot of the criticism of Steppenwolf is about his CGI, but I find that to be the least of his problems. The truth is, he’s just not a compelling character. He wants to conquer because…I don’t know. They never give us a real reason for his actions. He’s got a stupid name, so maybe he’s compensating for that.

Who dares to tell this story without Darkseid?

I think the current iteration of the DC universe’s canon still has the Justice League forming as a response to Darkseid’s invasion, so the choice was probably forced on them. I’ll be generous and guess they chose Steppenwolf as the villain to save Darkseid for later, but that’s a mistake. As Satchel Paige once said, “Never save a pitcher for tomorrow. Tomorrow it might rain.” They had one chance to launch the JL and they should have just used Darkseid if they wanted to stick to the official storyline.

But, that choice comes back to haunt them because of they wrote themselves into a corner with BvS. When they added in Doomsday, Superman had to die. Since pretty much anything coming through a boomtube takes a Kryptonian to handle, now they have to bring him back. Once he’s back, the rest of the Justice League is superfluous. In the final battle, the team is really just fighting a delaying action, waiting for Superman to come in and save the day.

Swap in Jason Mamoa, leave Supes in the grave, and this would be my dream lineup.

While the composition of the League itself is alright, I really missed Green Lantern. I suppose there’s gotta be some contractual reasons for that decision, but this would have been a great chance to reboot that character with very little risk. Surely they could have found room for Guy Gardner or John Stewart if the rights to Hal Jordan were unavailable. Oh well, swapping in Mamoa worked well, and you can only fit so many heroes.

There’s a lot of CGI in this movie, and it’s not done at the industry standard. Steppenwolf and Cyborg both feel underdone. The parademons actually looked pretty darn good, certainly better than the big name characters. While this didn’t affect my enjoyment all that much, as a showcase that could make or break the franchise, I’d have put more effort into it.

Finally, I just hate Superman. There, I said it. He’s a hammer in a universe full of nails.

Anyhow, I enjoyed the movie, and give it four out of a possible five batarangs. Well worth the watch. There are two cookies, both of which make it worth your time to stick around through the credits.

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