Dearest Blog: I have spent the better part of the last two days in three Justice League screenings at Marquee Cinemas, and I am now prepared to talk to you about it. This will probably get long, so grab a coffee and dive on in!
Spoiler level here will be moderate; if I talk about anything not explicitly revealed by the trailers, it will be something obvious from a quick check of the IMDB credits, or enough discussed (pre-release) to assume it was a not-actually-secret secret. Still, if you prefer to know nothing until you've seen the movie, read no further until you do.
When Superman's passing leaves the world lawless and without hope, Batman and Wonder Woman assemble a team of heroes to fill the super-sized gap.
Dear reader(s), as I so often mention, I approach every movie--whatever my predisposition towards it--with an open enough mind to be surprised to the good or to the bad. In the interest of full and fair disclosure, and to exactly no one's surprise, please note that the opinions hereafter shared are honest, but coming from a place of great affection. This movie would have had to work very hard to make me dislike it.
So let's begin at the beginning, shall we? More than a decade removed from that benchmark of superhero movie perfection, The Dark Knight, DC is trying to find its footing again. That is not my personal opinion--I love the way DC does things, and they have yet to produce a movie I didn't like--but, if the DC Universe officially rebooted following Christopher Nolan's directorial swan song, this movie represents at least an informal CTRL-ALT-DELETE, adopting an entirely different tone from the one to which we're accustomed. Even Wonder Woman, redeemer of heroic cinema and hope of all DC fans, didn't seem as much of a departure to me.
Though the future of the whole world is at stake, the tone here is light and cartoonish. It's not the choice I'd have made, but it is enjoyable and nearly all of the humor is spot on. Outside of a few missteps with Aquaman (more on that later), the funny bits are well-timed and often quite clever. (Look out for an exchange between Lois Lane and Martha Kent in the Daily Planet breakroom!) The film's overall appearance is very comic-bookish, and continues to overuse that super-slo-mo that annoyed me so much in Wonder Woman. The effects are mostly solid, but there is some oddly-dodgy CGI, most notably in scenes where the porn-stache Henry Cavill was wearing for another project was digitally removed in post production. Yes, you may utter those never-before-spoken words: "Henry Cavill's face looks bad!" and that will be why. A final note on the look of the film: for the first time in recent memory, I could actually see everything that was going on; nothing was overly dark, despite my not bothering with the 3D.
I was prepared to open this review by stating that Justice League could use more Batman. Truth be told, I got a LOT more Batman than I anticipated with such a large ensemble...though pretty much any movie could always use more Batman. (Lookin' at YOU, La La Land!) The lighter overall tone makes Ben Affleck's Bruce Wayne seem somewhat less world weary, but his perpetually bemused expression and self-imposed outsider status still make him a perfect Batman, in my opinion, the best ever. As expected, Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman is front and center throughout, and she is an absolute delight. Henry Cavill remains an ideal Superman, handsome, strong, and vanilla. Jason Momoa's Aquaman is a little too "bro" for my liking, but claims credit for some of the movie's funniest moments. Strictly for science purposes, here I shall inform you, dear and faithful reader(s), that there's a fair bit of gratuitous, but not unwelcome, shirtlessness on the parts of Messrs. Cavill and Momoa. Bring the galoshes! While all those big names are pretty terrific, the movie's highlights are Ezra Miller and Ray Fisher as The Flash and Cyborg. Miller brings a real sense of wonder and spot-on comedy skills to Barry Allen, an isolated kid who is as excited as he is overwhelmed to be asked to join such a super team. Fisher is extraordinary, turning in a natural performance that easily makes Victor Stone the most sympathetic and likable character in the film. Unsurprisingly, awards darlings Diane Lane, Jeremy Irons, and Amy Adams provide small bright spots in limited screen time. Oh, and there's Not-Gary-Oldman as the new Jim Gordon. I guess he's okay too.
Plot wise, Justice League seems a little scattered, especially at the start. Much like the whole of Suicide Squad, the early parts of JL are more like a bunch of small stories than one cohesive larger one. Ultimately the pieces start fitting together, but it's a feeling the movie never quite shakes. My personal taste leans strongly towards the grittier, more real Nolan-verse, but I think Justice League works well as an attempt to reinvent the DC Universe as more fun and less grim. Missteps in the humor are rare, and there's nothing that feels shoehorned in, as I so often complain of Marvel movies in general and Tony Stark's one-liners in particular. A well-defined message makes it easy to excuse a few ridiculously hokey lines. (Hokey lines, are, after all, a Super-staple!) There's a peripheral hint at possible romance between Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince, and--if I don't especially need romance in my superhero fare--I don't mind this pairing either. Justice League is more than accessible enough for a casual fan to enjoy, but there are plenty of fanboy moments too. Though the climactic battle scene bogs down just a hair, Justice League also succeeds in one way that no other costumed hero picture has in recent memory: It runs shy of the two-hour mark. This is a smart decision and a trend I hope both DC and Marvel will continue. There are two post credits scenes--one (far as I could tell) merely amusing and the other functional and thrilling. I enthusiastically encourage you to stay for both.
A few random thoughts that I couldn't weave in anywhere else:
Why is Wonder Woman always grunting like she's constipated? None of the men do that.
Momoa's Arthur Curry always sounds like a guy who's about to drop a Limp Bizkit track at karaoke.
Weird that Alfred spent this movie dressed like a member of the Newsies ensemble...??
Justice League runs 119 minutes and is rated PG13 for "sequences of sci-fi (??) violence and action."
By now, you've probably seen a bunch of professional critics complaining about Justice League, but my Facebook feed is full of people saying they loved it and can't wait to see it again. I've seen it three times, and am proud to throw in my lot with the "can't wait to see it again" crowd. It may not be perfect, but it's pretty great. Of a possible nine Weasleys, Justice League gets eight and a half.
Fangirl points: Batman! (DUH!) Billy Crudup! Holt McCallany!
Until next time...