Release Date: November 17th, 2017
It was only a few months ago that the Patty Jenkins-helmed Wonder Woman showed what filmmakers in the DC comic book universe were capable of. In that feature, the filmmakers embraced the title character and led her on a unique and captivating journey.
Justice League, which features the return of Wonder Woman and a crew of her fellow superheroes, lacks such a journey. And despite Gal Gadot’s presence, it lacks an appreciation for her character and some of the other members on the team.
Ben Affleck returns here as Batman, the vigilante hero who wants to bring a team together. Alongside Wonder Woman, he enlists the lightning-fast Flash (Ezra Miller), the amphibious Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and the mechanically-enhanced Cyborg (Ray Fisher).
With a running time of two hours, the film’s length feels like a step in the right direction (considering that Man of Steel clocked in at over two hours and twenty minutes and Batman v. Superman ran for over two and a half hours). However, this feature focuses less on the excitement of building this new team and more on a bare-bones storyline about fighting a forgettable villain.
As the leader of the organization, the character of Bruce Wayne is given little to do except gather the new group. Ben Affleck presents the vigilante as an unexcited and forgettable leader simply going through the motions. Even when he meets the Flash – whose excitement is palpable and distinct — Wayne can barely muster any enthusiasm. Just another day, it seems.
The only secondary storyline about Wayne’s personal life focuses on his age. “You can’t do this forever,” Wonder Woman tells him in a side plot that goes nowhere.
Gadot, who gave a terrific performance as Wonder Woman earlier this year, also isn’t given much to do here either.
These unique characters feel sidelined as the plot plods along.
Much of the plot focuses on the monstrous Steppenwolf. His presence is the reason why Batman feels such urgency in putting the league together. But Steppenwolf feels like a traditional and flat antagonist. His goal is to bring three unique boxes together in order to take over planet Earth. Voiced by Ciarán Hinds, this is a one-note villain whose personality is flat and whose goals are simplistic.
One would’ve thought that a strong villain would’ve been necessary to face off against the one and only justice league.
From its opening moments, the look of the film is drab and grim. Even when the characters are supposed to be bright and exciting (such as when the Flash races from place to place), the visuals are bland and uninspired. When the climax arises, there’s little grandeur or excitement in the fight (as opposed to some of the action sequences in Wonder Woman).
In terms of the DC universe (and the solo films that are to come), Aquaman has a few nice moments but the real standout is the Flash. Ezra Miller, who was memorable in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, really shines here as the comedic foil who brings much-needed lightness to a film cast in the shadows.
Memorable characters like the Flash (who is such of a vivid figure on the CW drama focused on the character), Wonder Woman (who was tremendous in her last onscreen appearance) and the beloved Batman deserved much material than they are given in Justice League.
Review by: John Hanlon