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“Justice League” has lots of promise, but falls short on delivery

For years Warner Bros. had been sitting on a potential gold mine when they were the only player in town regarding superhero films. Starting with Superman starring Christopher Reeve, and then with Tim Burton’s Batman, it seemed like Warner Bros. might be able to do no wrong. Then those movies faded away, several Marvel properties came and went and were met with decent success, then Marvel did what no one else did, and that was introduce a series of characters who could eventually be brought together in Avengers. Since that time Warner Bros. has been trying to play catch up, but have not faired very well. Starting with Man Of Steel, only to be followed by Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, writer/director Zack Snyder was on this tear of deconstructing our superheroes, only he took it to unhealthy directions and not only gave us superheroes who were far from being heroic, but also painted our own society in such a terrible way that almost made me ashamed to be called human. Then along came Wonder Woman and director Patty Jenkins gave us a character that was all about hope, and the world responded! Wonder Woman was not only the movie that saved the superhero franchise for Warner Bros., but that movie went on to become one of the biggest, if not THE biggest, superhero film ever. So naturally, when it came time to bring our heroes together in Justice League, the question becomes, which direction does the movie take? Will it continue the path of deconstruction and cynicism, or will it take the optimistic approach and give us a movie that speaks to our better natures, as well as being fun? Sadly, the answer is both.

Written and initially directed by Snyder, the film was to continue along that dark path regarding our not so-called heroes all the while an alien invasion of unthinkable destruction would strive to re-create Earth after their own home. Terrible things would continue to be visited on our heroes, and here is where we would see them for who they really are, warts and all. Sadly for Snyder, he had to contend with the worst tragedy anyone should ever have to face, so he left the project, which in turn brought Joss Whedon over from the world of Marvel, and it here that we now have the movie that is in theaters.

Batman discovers an alien invasion is imminent, and feeling a sense of guilt over having misjudged Superman from BvS, he tries to put together a team to combat this menace, including Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and The Flash (Ezra Miller). Together they must not only deal with this external threat, but also their with own sense of inadequacy. While the theme of a newly formed team contending with such internal challenges is not a new idea, this felt more like Snyder cynicism in how he handled these reigns, but then Whedon came along and with him came a newer approach that helped to integrate Snyder’s finished scenes with Whedon’s sense of humor and stronger sense of optimism. While the characters all have a greater sense of nobility that wasn’t there before (except perhaps for Wonder Woman), it’s not enough to save the entire film. However, it does create just enough fun moments that prevent this film from sinking into despair, and each character has plenty of moments that help to give it that lift. Whether it was Snyder or Whedon, the Bruce Wayne we see here is a tad bit more optimistic. I might even say a sense of “hopefulness.” No fears readers, he’s still every much the Batman that we’ve all come to know and love, but this time he recognizes the terrible sacrifice that Superman made for the whole world and that is what drives him in this movie. Mind you, Ben Affleck did a magnificent job in BvS, and he still does a good job here. Gal Gadot as Diana Prince continues on with her part, and she continues to be fun to watch, whether it’s an action sequence or her just as Diana. Gadot is always wonderful. Ray Fisher’s Cyborg is absolutely spot on from the comic book. There was very little deconstructing that needed to be done with Cyborg/Victor Stone because his character is terribly flawed when we first meet him, but through his associations with other superheroes, and finding positive and constructive ways to use his new “gifts,” does he start to turn in to that hero. Fisher plays the part well and ends up being probably the only superhero that has an actual story arc with some true character development. Then there is Jason Momoa as Aquaman, but he’s a true departure from most depictions of the underwater king. If anything there are a lot of similarities between this Aquaman and Batman, except there is every indication that he would prefer to spend his time in some pub drinking himself into a new incarnation than saving the world. If so, then Momoa is your guy! Lastly, there is Ezra Miller as our Barry Allen, except he’s another bit of a change from what we’ve seen on the CW. Miller’s Barry is a tad bit over the top, but it’s clear that he’s being written for the comic relief, and Miller appears to be rather good at it. His quips and expressions make him the funniest character in the movie. Without giving away any spoilers, there was a facial reaction that Miller gives during one specific action sequence that had everyone in the theater just screaming with laughter.

All of these positive elements are indeed very good, and they do help to make the movie far more enjoyable than what might have happened had Snyder been allowed to make the movie he had set out to do in the beginning. Unfortunately what this does give us is a sense of inconsistency. The natural flow of energy and story doesn’t work very well here, which might explain why Whedon reportedly scrapped the original ending and added more footage to help create a better through storyline. There is also a reinventing of comic book canon that might cause some fans some concern, but after a fashion that factor was forgotten by most people watching this film. It just became an established fact within the storyline.

Ultimately I did enjoy watching this film. It didn’t have the same boring gravitas as BvS, nor did it have the same sense of nobility and goodness that Wonder Woman created. It’s a film that’s simply “just there.” Again, this is not a bad movie at all. I did find myself enjoying it, but it wasn’t the earth-shattering high quality movie that not only gave us plenty of fun and action, nor did it advance any of our main characters (except for the aforementioned Cyborg) storylines. It’s a film that was simply there. For being fun and uneven, I give Justice League 3 out of 5 Motherboxes.

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