After Superman’s (Henry Cavill) death in Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Batman (Ben Affleck) recruits Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot, an Israeli Jew who has also been a featured player in the Fast and Furious series), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Flash (Jewish actor Ezra Miller, Patrick from The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to battle an alien menace. But Justice League is not about plot. It is about the novelty of seeing all those heroes onscreen together for the first time. Accepted as exactly that, it is a decently fun time.
Two things keep Justice League watchable. One is that, at just under two hours, it never overstays its welcome. Normally, I complain when a film does not fully develop its plot or characters. In this case, some of the characters were introduced in previous films and others show up partially developed. Of course, the film is cheating by assuming viewers already know who Flash or Aquaman are. But just because that approach is lazy does not mean it is incorrect. Some insight into the characters would have been appreciated, but the DC Film Universe will probably get around to character development eventually.
As far as the plot goes, it is something about boxes that will allow the evil warrior Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarán Hinds) and his army of flying goblin creatures to conquer the world. People far more versed in DC than I am could explain the story, but the film never came close to making me care enough to understand it better. It never seemed like our heroes were in danger, so the movie lacked suspense and drama. Thankfully, it does not spend much time on its weak story or villain. The strength of Justice League is the interplay of its heroes and it largely sticks to that.
Most of the entertainment comes from likable performances from Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa and Ezra Miller. The cast is huge, so no individual gets showcased. However, whether through their own skills or the material, these three are consistently more enjoyable than everyone else.
Gadot established herself as Diana in this summer’s Wonder Woman. She brings the same strength, intelligence and charisma she displayed there. She has so much poise and excellent presence, so she never gets lost in the ensemble. She always stands out, even during group scenes.
Momoa brings an amusing cockiness to the loner Aquaman. We learn very little about him, but some of his digs at his teammates are funny. It seems like an attempt at replicating the chemistry between Marvel’s Avengers; however, it mostly works. He is fun and I am interested in seeing him get to play the character for real in next year’s Aquaman.
Miller, as the speedy Flash, is the comic relief. Sometimes it feels forced, but he delivers laughs for the most part. Miller has an amiable screen persona and is well-cast as the genuinely likable Barry Allen. He is insecure, friendly and just excited to be a superhero. It is a funny performance even though, like everybody else, I wish he was more than just the sum of his quirks.
Justice League is not the disaster its trailers seemed to portend. The film feels like a rushed attempt to keep up with Marvel, so the characters and stories are nowhere near as fleshed out as in the Avengers films. That being said, I laughed a few times, smiled some more and generally had an okay time. DC’s films are hanging on thanks to fortunate casting. For now, that is just barely enough.
3 out of 5
By Ben Pivoz
Ben’s Movie Reviews