Finally, the culmination of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) that began with Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel” and led up to Patty Jenkins's smash-hit “Wonder Woman” has come to its ultimate goal: the birth of the Justice League.
Fortunately, “Justice League” doesn’t disappoint. Unfortunately, it isn’t anything special.
In Snyder’s recent iteration of the superhero franchise, with help from Joss Whedon after Snyder stepped down due to family tragedy, Bruce Wayne, aka Batman (Ben Affleck), enlists the help of Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), when an extraterrestrial menace threatens the safety of the entire world. With his faith in humanity restored after Superman’s sacrifice in the heavily flawed “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” Wayne hopes building a team of the world’s finest heroes can fill the void Superman left behind.
Loaded with stunning action sequences, characters and plenty of heart, “Justice League” finally captures what the franchise was missing all along: hope. Which is ironic, considering Superman’s whole deal is being hope's face.
For those who may not know, the Justice League in DC comics is a team of the world’s greatest superheroes including Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, the Flash, Aquaman and in modern comics, Cyborg. Each icons in their own right, it was important that the League’s first blockbuster highlight each character appropriately. Thankfully, it does so for the most part.
Apart from incredibly brief cameo appearances made in “Batman v Superman,” this movie marks the big screen debut of Jason Mamoa’s Aquaman, Ezra Miller’s Flash and Ray Fisher’s Cyborg. That’s a lot of plot development to do in an hour and 50 minutes, but the only character who feels a bit shallow is Aquaman.
Considering Aquaman is a half-human, half-Atlantian with identity/loyalty issues, I expected more heart and growth from him, but throughout the course of the movie, his motives seem surface level at best. Again, this is ironic because he is master of the deep seas.
Cyborg and Flash, on the other hand, are done surprisingly well. Both geniuses with troubled pasts, each have unique ways of appreciating their “accidental” gifts. While Miller’s Flash acts out with childlike innocence and humor, Fisher’s Cyborg is his opposite, constantly consumed with self-loathing and regret. As the youngest members of the team, Wayne and Prince mentor them throughout the movie serving as teachable moments for the audience and providing some of the movie's most human moments.
Speaking of Wayne and Prince, the chemistry between the two is palpable. Putting them together as the mother and father of this team is probably the film’s wisest choice. Wonder Woman is still the moral compass of this universe and counteracts Batman’s cold, calculating nature expertly. The two often trade points-of-view, but ultimately, Prince is the character audience’s will be watching.
After “Wonder Woman’s” record-breaking success this year, it’s no surprise that she steals the show in “Justice League.” Nearly all of my favorite action scenes featured the female icon in all her bada**ness and most of my other favorites were when she was being a role model to Cyborg or keeping Batman in line. In fact, there isn’t a single scene where I wasn’t as enthralled with Gadot’s Wonder Woman as I was in her earlier 2017 release. Yet again, Gadot shines as the world’s first female superhero and the best superhero characterization since Robert Downey Jr.’s Ironman.
The only truly disappointing character in this film is the villain Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), who is as surface level as they come. A line of dialogue even says, “He is a conqueror of worlds,” as if this is enough explanation for why he would be so hell-bent on conquering the universe in the first place. He also has a weird obsession with three ultra-powerful “mother boxes” he always refers to.
I can already see one of the official “Justice League” drinking game rules reading: "Sip every time Steppenwolf says mother."
On the topic of disappointing elements in the movie, the last act is a mess. A rushed anti-climatic battle, poor furthering of character development and a sudden instant camaraderie between the league members feels off. There is no sense of urgency to the fighting that indicates our heroes might lose.
Plus, while the humor is a welcome element to this franchise, how likely is someone really going to be spouting off consistent one-liners while trying to save people from certain death? Maybe once saved, sure! But during the heat of battle? I’m skeptical.
“Justice League” at its core, is all about the team coming together. Through hardships, differing opinions and an array of unique abilities, each brings something fresh to the film and seeing them all together on screen for the first time is magic. What it lacks is a sense of urgency, a feeling of uniformity and a powerful conclusion. Plenty of blockbuster fun is to be had in this film, just don’t go in with expectations of genre defying majesty. In essence, the film is a good first step.
Important note: Stay through the whole credits as there are two deeply satisfying scenes to feast your eyes on.
Overall score: 3.5/5
“Justice League” is rated PG-13 and opens in theaters this Friday.