- Warner Bros.
- The director Zack Snyder once again gets too dark and won’t give the audience a good ol’ superhero popcorn movie.
- A lot of Wonder Woman’s plot feels forced in.
- Ben Affleck looks to be over playing Batman. He gives a flat performance.
Warning: Minor spoilers ahead for “Justice League.”
Before watching “Justice League” (in theaters Friday), I had the same desire I have heading into every superhero movie: Just entertain me. But that never seems to be easy when it comes to the director Zack Snyder.
In a career that has showcased visually stunning works matched with loads of ambition (“300,” “Watchmen”), Snyder as the creative pillar of the DC Comics movies for Warner Bros. has achieved impressive box-office results but viewing experiences that leave critics and general audiences alike frustrated.
And “Justice League” is arguably Snyder’s most infuriating work yet.
A movie that has been decades in the making, we finally have some of the most iconic comic book heroes from DC united in one blockbuster: Superman (Henry Cavill), Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher). I’m no superfan, but I would expect us to witness these titans coming together to kick major butt. Well, we really only get about 20 to 25 minutes of that. Tops.
- Warner Bros.
Most of the movie has all of them brooding about lost loves (Wonder Woman), brooding about trying to understand their superpowers (Cyborg), and brooding about getting old (Batman). Yeah, there’s a lot of brooding – not to mention uncomfortably shoehorning as much Wonder Woman in as possible. Honestly, at times this movie feels like a bad sequel to this summer’s hit “Wonder Woman.”
The movie picks up with the aftermath of Superman’s death (remember, he “died” at the end of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”). Crime is rampant in Metropolis, and Parademons have suddenly shown up in the city, feeding on everyone’s fear.
Batman can sense a lot of evil is about to be unleashed, so he embarks – in his most brooding swagger – to track down others to help. He reconnects with Wonder Woman, has some fun banter with Aquaman, and has an even more entertaining encounter with The Flash (sadly, you saw most of it in the trailer). Wonder Woman, for her part, tries to enlist Cyborg.
Meanwhile, the movie’s villain, Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), is searching for the three boxes that when combined will destroy the world.
OK, so the team is starting to come together, and we know what the villain is after – so now we get to the good stuff, right?
Not really. After a brief battle with Steppenwolf, Batman convinces the gang that they have to dig up Clark Kent and use one of the boxes Steppenwolf is after to bring Superman back to life. Basically, the box can also be used as a defibrillator for superheroes?
This leads to more Batman speeches (while brooding) and more time wasted waiting for these guys to DO SOME ACTION!
- Warner Bros.
Finally, the Justice League is formed and ready to battle Steppenwolf, who now has all three boxes. It’s the highlight of the movie. Aquaman uses a Parademon as a board to air surf, The Flash helps civilians to safety, Batman broods all over the place, and Superman is basically the LeBron James of the group and dominates anything in his path.
Sadly, this action comes only after an hour and a half of mind-numbing exposition (and brooding).
The obvious addition of more Wonder Woman material is painful to sit through – from the mentions of Diana Prince’s lost love from “Wonder Woman,” Steve Trevor, to the battle on Amazonia. Look, I loved “Wonder Woman,” but don’t go using it as a crutch.
Another thing that was perfectly clear from the movie is Ben Affleck is trying whatever he can to get out of the Batman role. His performance is flat compared with his in “Batman v Superman,” and the character really lays it on thick that he’s old and can’t cut the superhero gig anymore. At one point he even tries to go on a loner suicide mission.
Joss Whedon’s contribution to the script – and later as director, after Snyder stepped away following the suicide of his daughter – is evident. There are definitely some Whedonesque scenes. But it is certainly a Snyder movie.
There are some glimmers of hope going forward.
Jason Momoa is fantastic as Aquaman, and it will be exciting to see him in a standalone movie. Ray Fisher looks to be a star in the making. And Ezra Miller is the standout in the movie. When things get their most unbearable, it’s a funny line or look from Miller that keeps you powering through.
But as a whole the movie fails because of Snyder. I liked “Batman v Superman,” but after watching “Justice League” I now really like that movie. At least that had some batsh– moments, like Jimmy Olsen getting killed and Batman’s Darkseid dream.
With most of Snyder’s work, he likes to get dark and complicated with character development. Honestly, we are past that now with the DC franchise. Having a few scenes where some realness gets laid down is one thing, but for more than an hour?
It’s time for Snyder to change up the playbook (and stop brooding).