“Justice League” is great fun.
Directed by Zack Snyder (with an uncredited assist from Joss Whedon) from a screenplay by Chris Torres (with a credited assist from Joss Whedon), the film pleasantly and effectively blends fast-paced action sequences, frequent doses of comedy, and enough engaging drama to cover the exposition needed to launch the next several movies in the DC Universe.
The plot kicks off when Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck), still feeling guilty about the death of Superman (Henry Cavill), battles a mysterious winged creature that seems to feed on fear. At the same time, after handily thwarting a terrorist attack, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) receives a warning of imminent danger from her fellow Amazons.
The pair meet up and decide to bring together an eclectic band of powerful misfits to fight Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarán Hinds), a nasty intergalactic villain who wants to conquer the world. His storyline, quite frankly, is rather confusing and not very interesting, but that really doesn’t matter. Snyder and Torres (and Whedon) wisely focus their energy on the emergence of the Justice League and the emotional journeys of the characters.
As seen in last year’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” the other members of the League are Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller), Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa).
The acting, for the most part, is strong and interesting. Gal Gadot is a cinematic treasure. She looks great in the action sequences; she’s fierce and vulnerable with plenty of charm, a warm sense of humor and a deep concern for her fellow superheroes and for all of humanity.
Miller, who recently came out as bisexual, brings a nice blend of comedy and social anxiety to the role, growing in confidence as he explores his powers. Fisher is fascinating as an anguished young man whose human parts are being slowly replaced by machinery. Despite the poorly designed costume and an underwritten role, Momoa is fine as Aquaman, ready to take his place in the cinematic kingdom.
The only real weak spot is Ben Affleck who seems tired. Batman is the lynchpin of the plot, but both the character and his performance seem underdeveloped. He has only his guilt and his gadgets; as he admits, his only superpower is that he’s rich. Maybe it’s time for Batman to recharge while he appears as a supporting character, or maybe it’s time for a reboot.
The supporting cast is amazing—seasoned veterans who provide serious support to the main cast and who bring a depth of pathos, gravity, humor and wisdom to the story. There’s Diane Lane as the grieving Martha Kent and Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Jeremy Irons as Alfred, Joe Morton as Dr. Stone, Billy Crudup as Henry Allen, Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta and J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon. Without them, the movie would be much less interesting.
The movie generally looks lovely, with beautiful establishing shots defining each new location. There’s plenty of light so you can see the actors’ faces and follow the action clearly. The fight scenes are well choreographed with a clear narrative flow and fine flashes of humor. Snyder and his crew (and Whedon) enjoy playing with the timing of the action sequences; the other characters slow down when viewed by the Flash. Some of the special effects fall flat (the streaks of light that follow The Flash need some rethinking), but for the most part, things work well.
Fans will want to watch the film for a second time on streaming or DVD to make sure they catch all of the inside jokes, Easter eggs and evolving origin stories, but everyone should see the film in theaters first to enjoy the spectacle. The film should please both fans and neophytes.
“Justice League” is a strong action film with a warm heart and a pleasant sense of humor. The characters bravely face Steppenwolf, but even more importantly, they face down their own fears and foibles and help their comrades do the same. And that, after all, is what being a superhero is really all about.