Starring: Ben Affleck, Gal Godot, Ezra Miller, Jason Mamoa, Ray Fisher and Henry Cavill with Amy Adams and Jeremy Irons
Directed by Zack Snyder (Based on characters appearing in stories from DC Comics)
My Rating: ****½:5
The latest film in the DC Extended Universe has arrived with “Justice League.” While the film may not totally reach the ambitions it has, it still proves to be a relatively satisfying film for DC’s landmark superhero team and an overall fun experience.
Much time has passed since the events of “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.” In that time, the world has seen a rise in crime and dark forces in the absence of Superman (Henry Cavill). As a supernatural being known as Steppenwolf (voice of Ciarån Hines) seeks to use a trio of ancient artifacts to destroy civilization and rebuild it in his image, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and Diana Prince (Gal Godot) seek to help combat this threat. With the help of Victor Stone, AKA “Cyborg” (Ray Fisher), the “Aquaman” Arthur Curry (Jason Mamoa) and “the Flash” Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), they join forces with Batman and Wonder Woman to save the world and honor Superman’s ideals.
Even though the film may not be on the same level as “The Dark Knight Saga” or the Marvel Studios films it tries to emulate, it still proves to be a solid film in its own right. The special effects and action scenes are impressive, and the cast blends surprisingly well together as a team. The actors play off one another nicely, with the “deadly serious” portrayal of Batman contrasting the more absurd heroes in the film perfectly. Each character on the marquee gets their time to shine. Big names like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman share the spotlight perfectly with characters who haven’t had much presence on film such as The Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman.
That said, the film is definitely not perfect by any means. The film underwent significant reshoots and re-editing after Zack Snyder suffered a family tragedy. Joss Whedon then took over as a co-writer alongside Snyder and Chris Terrio as well as an uncredited second unit director. This results in a film that has shifts in tone depending on the scene. One moment will show a child’s viral video of Superman, another will show Batman fighting off parademons on the rooftops of Gotham.
Still, the fact that the film has finally been made and released after years of development is a testament to the appeal of the characters. There is a good blend of old and new elements in the film. Danny Elfman’s score incorporates snippets of his music from the 1989 “Batman” film and the 1978 “Superman” theme by John Williams. Ray Fisher based his performance of Cyborg on the vocal performance of Khary Payton in the hit Cartoon Network version of “Teen Titans” from the early-to-mid-2000s. Ezra Miller’s performance as the Flash shows off a gleeful blend of intelligence and eccentricity (his first meeting with Bruce is in a room full of monitors showing weird screensavers and episodes of “Rick and Morty”). Jason Mamoa’s performance as Aquaman has significantly broken away from decades of jokes about the infamous “Superfriends” incarnation of the character with a hard-drinking; muscle-bound Atlantean demigod in human form. Mamoa previously had a background in mixed martial arts before he became an actor, and he acts less like he wants to talk to fish and more like he wants to gut his enemies like a fish.
While the future of the DC Extended Universe could go in any direction from here, for now; “Justice League” makes an entertaining superhero film overall even if it’s not on the same order of magnitude as “The Dark Knight” or the Marvel films it tries to emulate. Even in an age where these movies are more prolific than ever, it has a simple; but effective message in its tagline: “you can’t save the world alone.”
Review by Steven Pryor