The greatest feat of “Justice League” may be avoiding the disaster that it could have been.
This movie was never going to be a masterpiece. Not in the same light as “Wonder Woman” despite the fact that Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is in it. A director change (to Joss Whedon) in postproduction and a probable mandate from Warner Bros. that this movie be nothing like “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” despite initially having the same director of that movie (Zack Snyder), promised that the result wouldn’t be perfect.
The good news for Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment is that “Justice League” didn’t have to be perfect. “Wonder Woman,” a box office and cultural phenomenon with a perfect mix of action, romance and comedy, already saved DC films so “Justice League” didn’t have to.
If you go into “Justice League” with that in mind, realizing this film isn’t a look into the future of DC films but a superhero all-star gathering to enjoy in the here and now, you can have a lot of fun with a movie that at times is geekily enjoyable.
The highlight of “Justice League” is the formation of the “league” itself. DC’s most legendary icons come together quickly because this movie is only two hours long (surely another WB insistence). You already know what you’re getting with Ben Affleck and Gadot as Batman and Wonder Woman, both of whom are given solo heroic moments at the beginning. But they don’t overshadow new team members Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher).
Momoa’s solo Aquaman moment in Atlantis, the underwater throne that he seems to have no interest in, serves as one of the best scenes of the “Justice League” and a look into a world that could give WB/DC their next solo franchise hit. Miller’s Flash is in this movie 100 percent for laughs, which were there zero percent of the time during “B v S.” He’s the fastest guy around, but his best moments are during blasts of super-speed enhanced by Snyder’s trademark slow-motion action. The character is not only funny with his eyes when he’s realized the seriousness of what his speed has gotten himself into, but also with his blabbing (which he does a lot). Fisher’s Cyborg plays a key role in the story and makes the most of his time on screen with high tech heroics.
If there’s one thing WB/DC got right with “Justice League,” it’s that they didn’t give away the entire movie in the trailers, which is something they were guilty of with “B v S.” There are also some things that we saw in trailers that aren’t in the film, which means WB/DC was determined to not have another 2½-hour movie on their hands.
That short run time comes at the expense of a not very compelling villain. Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds), a being of immense power once he gets his hands on the three Mother Boxes (otherworldly cubes of world-altering power) on Earth, is the reason the Justice League must unite. He serves as the justification for the hope of Superman’s return (despite their strength, the Justice League can’t defeat him without the Last Son of Krypton), but gives only a glimpse of the dark world from which he comes (Apokolips) and seems to be here just to fall in the end, nothing more, which will be a let down for those hoping to see the classic DC super-bad Steppenwolf answers to, Darkseid. But hey, there are boom tubes at least.
At times “Justice League” seems to be moving too fast and tries to be too funny for its own good. There are enough winks to DC Comics fans — including some spectacular action scenes that we just can’t mention without majorly spoiling things — to keep them happy, built around a story tailor-made for the general public to consume. Also, be sure to stay for two very cool post-credit scenes.
Snyder’s gift for action is in a league of its own, and those scenes probably weren’t in need of repolishing. Whedon was likely brought in for his dialogue, leaving his mark in the moments where heroes and supporting cast members — such as Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Ma Kent (Diane Lane) — are pondering saving the world or bickering over leadership.
“Justice League” probably won’t receive the critic-friendly response “Wonder Woman” did. But especially considering all the drama behind the scenes, if you’re a true fan of the essence of DC Comics, you should walk away from this film and say to yourself, “That wasn’t bad at all.”