While it is basically a 2-hour teaser, “Justice League” is a little better than expected. Although there are several glaring flaws due to its problematic storytelling, it is thankfully not as ponderous and joyless as that bloated mess called “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016), and it actually has enough entertaining elements to engage us while showing considerable potential for whatever will come after this.
As many of you know, “Justice League” is a part of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), which started with “Man of Steel” (2013) and has been continued with “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”, “Suicide Squad” (2016), and “Wonder Woman” (2017). While it is drenched in a gray moody tone not so far from that of “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”, “Justice League” attempts to bring some humor and personality to its story and character, and the attempt is mostly successful. Sure, it spends more than an hour in establishing its superhero characters as occasionally feeling overstuffed and overlong, but it eventually manages to find a right way to juggle them well after several narrative hiccups, and it remains effective even when it tumbles into your average overblown CGI climax sequence.
The story starts not long after what happened in that mindlessly overblown climax of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”. After Clark Kent/Superman (Henry Cavill) nobly sacrificed himself for saving the Earth and the humanity, the global community has been in a long mourning period, and, as blatantly shown in the opening sequence accompanied with Leonard Cohen’s song “Everybody Knows”, the world becomes gloomier than before with more violence and injustice. Along with Superman, hope symbolized by him seems to be gone forever, and that makes the humanity quite vulnerable to an approaching unknown menace implied at the end of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”.
While feeling guilty about Superman’s death, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) comes to decide that he must do something for not only saving the humanity but also honoring Superman’s ideal. He is going to assemble a team of superheroes, so he approaches to Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) first, who has been his colleague since their fateful encounter in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”. As already shown from that film and “Wonder Woman”, Gadot is captivating as effortlessly exuding her character’s glorious sexiness, admirable compassion, and, above all, strong sense of unadulterated justice, and we are treated with an awesome sequence when she swiftly overpowers a bunch of fanatic terrorists, who threaten London with a big bomb equipped with, surprise, a timer with red digital readout.
Based on the pieces of secret information he previous obtained in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”, Wayne tracks down three other superheroes: Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller), Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa). Although not all of them are eager to join the team at first, it soon becomes apparent to everyone that there is indeed a big menace on the horizon, so Wayne, Prince, and their new colleagues come to band together while, of course, trying to get along well with each other like those superheroes of “The Avengers” (2012) did.
The screenplay by director Zach Snyder and his co-writers Chris Terrio, and Joss Weadon, who took care of the production after Snyder understandably stepped down due to his recent personal tragedy, frequently fumbles during its first half, but it does not lose its sense of fun at least while maintaining its serious attitude as required, and the main performers have a good group chemistry among them as holding each own place well. While Gal Gadot remains the best part of the movie, Ben Affleck is adequate as functioning as the neutral ground for his co-performers, and Ezra Miller is constantly delightful in his nerdy performance. In case of Ray Fisher and Jason Momoa, their characters are relatively less developed, they are effective in their respective roles nonetheless, and Momoa has a small humorous scene when his gruff character happens to be a little more frank than usual.
Compared to our righteous superheroes, the villain of the movie, who is played by Ciarán Hinds via motion capture performance, is far less colorful, and he is indubitably the weakest part of the movie. Like many numerous villains of recent superhero movies, he is a humorless dude merely driven to cause death and destruction in massive scale, and his big plan for that is not especially interesting either. Fortunately, our superheroes are engaging enough to make us care about what is at stake during the typically massive CGI action sequence in the third act, and I found myself willingly enjoying its expected deux ex machina moment.
In case of the other notable supporting performers in the film, they fill their respective small spaces as required. While Amy Adams and Diane Lane bring considerable sensitivity to their certain crucial scene later in the movie, Jeremy Irons looks like enjoying his unflappable role a bit more than before, and J.K. Simmons, Connie Nielsen, Billy Crudup, Amber Heard, and Joe Morton do as much as they can do with their rather thankless roles.
Compared to the refreshing drama of “Logan” (2017) and “Wonder Woman” or the jolly entertainment of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2” (2017) and “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017), “Justice League” is one or two steps below them, but it shows that the DCEU franchise is on a sort of recovery as trying to balance itself between fun and seriousness, so I guess I can recommend it to you with some reservation. This is not a total success at all, but it made me have little expectation on next Justice League movie, and I hope I and others will be more entertained in the future.