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'Surprisingly Watchable' is meant to be complimentary for 'Justice Leage'

November 17, 2017

Often times when leaving the theater a movie studio rep will stop you and ask for your initial thoughts on the movie.

 

Because I need a little time to process things, I usually mumble something positive about the story or a certain character, and then elaborate later on. This scenario played itself out again after leaving an advance of “Justice League.”

 

This time, however, I blurted out the first thing that came to mind … “surprisingly watchable.” And given my feelings on most of the other recent DC offerings, I consider that to be rather high praise.

Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Ezra Miller as The Flash and Ray Fisher as Cyborg in Warner Bros. Pictures' action adventure “Justice League,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures/ TM & © DC Comics © 2017 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND RATPAC-DUNE ENTERTAINMENT LLC)

This time out Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) senses that with Superman (Henry Cavill) out of the picture, evil forces are preparing to attack Earth. Wonder Woman/Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) suspects the same.

 

When they catch wind that a powerful alien, Steppenwolf (voice of Ciarán Hinds), and his henchman are searching the globe for mysterious power sources that will allow him to bring civilization to its knees, the duo sets out to recruit others to join their cause of saving the world.

 

Some, like The Flash/Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), are easily recruited to the cause, while others – Aquaman/Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg/Victor Stone (Ray Fisher) – are less receptive to the idea of putting their life on the line.

 

The group of alphas must quickly figure out how to come together as a cohesive force in time to stop their evil nemesis.

J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Ben Affleck as Batman and Ezra Miller as The Flash in Warner Bros. Pictures' action adventure “Justice League,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Photo Credit: Clay Enos/ TM & © DC Comics © 2017 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND RATPAC-DUNE ENTERTAINMENT LLC)

First, some good things about the movie.

 

Tonally, “Justice League” is much better than most other DC films – “Wonder Woman” excluded. Generally, it's serious when it should be and silly when it should be. It's actually a pretty decent balance between the two.

 

In terms of length, some will likely complain that at 120 minutes it's not long enough. Personally, I thought it was about right – enough time to build a complete story, but not long enough for pointless filler.

 

Now for some “meh” moments – starting with the cast.

 

I'm still not sold on Batfleck, but when compared to his previous outings, he's far better this time out. This incarnation of Batman is an older, past-his-prime version, and despite not being old, Affleck does a pretty good job of conveying that.

 

I'm also not entirely sold on Miller as The Flash, although that's in part due to comparing him to Grant Gustin, who is excellent as the TV version of the character. Miller brings a different dynamic to the role, and it's actually not as bad as I expected. He's obviously meant to be the comedy relief, and he does deliver. But eventually the jokes become repetitive and wear thin.

Ezra Miller as The Flash in Warner Bros. Pictures' action adventure “Justice League,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures/ TM & © DC Comics © 2017 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND RATPAC-DUNE ENTERTAINMENT LLC) 

I've long been of the belief that Aquaman is the lamest of the “big” superheroes, and this time it's more of the same. Not even Khal Drogo can make a merman cool. On top of that is the ever-existent magical trident and a swimming method that apparently took its inspiration from “Swiss Army Man.”

 

Wonder Woman is nowhere near as interesting of a character as she was in her own movie, and I'm blaming that – at least in part – on the company she's keeping on screen. She'll hopefully be back in full force in the next solo outing. This time, though, she's just kind of there.

 

Speaking of just being there, Cyborg really serves no purpose – aside from his connection to the power source the baddies are after. Fisher wasn't particularly bad, but he wasn't given a whole lot to work with and you're not really given a whole lot in terms of his backstory.

 

What would've likely helped Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg is the much-beloved origin films. Obviously, we just got the “Wonder Woman” origin story, and Batman and Superman have ascended to the point of no longer needing one, but to have three secondary heroes thrown out with little to no explanation makes it a hard sell.

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in Warner Bros. Pictures' action adventure “Justice League,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures/ TM & © DC Comics © 2017 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND RATPAC-DUNE ENTERTAINMENT LLC)

 

Another major issue with “Justice League” and with the DC Universe in general is its lack of consistency.

 

Truth be told, the first act of this one is terrible – five minutes in, my friend turned to me and flashed me a silent “you're walking home from the theater look.” At its best it was plodding and disjointed. At its worst it was virtually unwatchable. Most often it didn't feel like a cohesive movie so much as short vignettes that were lazily tied together to establish who the league is, why they're needed and how they got on board.

 

But ever so slowly it built up momentum so that by the time the second act rolled around, there was plenty of action, the story was fun and engaging, and the characters started to come to life.

 

Then the third act hit and it spun back out of control. It wasn't as bad as the first act, but it wasn't good.

 

In the grand scheme of things, “Justice League” is nowhere near as good as “Wonder Woman,” but it's leaps and bounds better than “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad.” I'd probably put it on par with “Man of Steel.”

 

What it does do, however, is give the smallest glimmer of hope that DC might finally figure things out and give us the superheroes we've long wanted from them.

 

★★1/2 of ★★★★★