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Justice League
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Waiting For Superman (And Go To Hell, Spoiler Babies)"
2 stars

While I cannot say that I am an especially huge fan of the superhero sub-genre that has been flooding multiplexes in recent years, I have to say that 2017 has actually been a pretty good year, quality-wise, for such films. “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol.2” built on the cheerfully goofy tone of the original without merely rehashing what had come before. “Wonder Woman” came about as close to hitting the top tier for such films as any of them in recent years, missing the mark only by the lack of a truly impressive villain. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” managed to find a fresh approach to what was Sony’s third separate take on the character in about 15 years. Hell, even “Thor: Raganork” managed to take one of the dullest of all the comic book heroes and finally give him an entertaining vehicle by presenting him with a welcome sense of humor and offering up Jeff Goldblum in a hilarious out-of-left-field supporting turn. This run had to end sometime, I suppose, and with the arrival of “Justice League,” DC Comics’ attempt to replicate the success of Marvel’s multi-hero “Avengers” films, it has come to a screeching halt. To be fair, the film is not nearly as bad as the advance word (which included word of massive reshoots and the departure of original director Zack Snyder following a family tragedy) might have suggest and indeed, it is better than such disasters as its immediate predecessor, “Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and the monstrous “Suicide Squad.” On the other hand, that isn’t exactly saying much and it doesn’t change the fact that the film is a leaden, lugubrious mess that has a few engaging moments and performances that are often overwhelmed by noisy setpieces, a screenplay that only flirts with coherence and one of the least interesting villains ever seen in a film of this sort.

The film opens in the wake of “Batman vs. Superman” with the world still reeling from the death of Superman (Henry Cavill), an act for which one-time foe Batman, a.k.a. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) still holds himself personally responsible. To help protect the world following the loss of such a defender, Bruce has elected to recruit an all-star team of so-called metahumans with extraordinary powers of their own. First on board is Wonder Woman herself, Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), though she expresses some misgivings about approaching total strangers and asking them to potentially risk their own lives. Barry Allen/ The Flash (Ezra Miller) is a largely aimless kid who is determined to prove the innocence of his imprisoned father (Billy Cruduo) and who received the power of super-speed after being struck by lightning. Victor Stone (Ray Fisher) is a one-time college sports hero who was rebuilt by his scientist father (Joe Morton) following a horrible accident and is now a human/machine cyborg known as Cyborg. Last, but certain least, is Aquaman (Jason Mom), the two-fisted, hard drinking and generally bare-chested heir to the kingdom of Atlantis whose powers apparently include controlling the waters or talking to the fish or something along those lines—imagine The Incredible Mr. Limpet on steroids and you have Aquaman.

Bruce’s timing in assembling this group is excellent as the death of Superman and the subsequent mourning throughout the world has awoken Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds), an otherworldly evil whose previous attempt to destroy the planet was thwarted centuries before when all the races on Earth joined together as one to repel the attackers. To ensure that nothing like this could happen again, Steppenwolf’s power source, a collection of three mysterious containers of unlimited and unknowable powers known as the Mother Boxes, are split up and hidden in different locales. Steppenwolf and his horde of Parademons, vampire-like creatures who feed exclusively on fear, set off to reclaim them in order to finally destroy everything. While trips to Themyscria and Atlantis cough up the first two boxes easily enough for Steppenwolf, the third ends up in the hands of our heroes and Bruce hits upon what seems to be a genius idea—why not use the box’s unimaginable power to reanimated Superman’s corpse and enlist him in the fight? Granted, there is no real explanation as to why this might work and the others are openly worried about what might happen if he was somehow revived and not overjoyed about coming back but hey, if you have a mysterious box and a dead superhero, you are almost obligated to take the shot.

It is too bad that the title “Waiting for Superman” is already taken because it would serve as a perfect title/description of “Justice League.” I wouldn’t dream of revealing whether or not Superman is successfully revived or not—that said, the fact that Cavill gets second billing in the opening credits should be a bit of a tip-off. The problem is that we all know that since Superman is all-powerful, except in the face of kryptonite or the Cannon Films logo, the movie will be all but over the moment that he successfully wakes up and takes matters into his own hands. In order to delay that moment for as long as possible, the film eventually becomes a string of overblown action beats strung together with scenes that feature a lot of actors making contractually obligated cameos and more padding than George Reeves sported during the old “Superman” TV show. There is no real flow to the screenplay cobbled together by Chris Terri and Joss Whedon, which tries to blend together the dark and oppressive vision found in the recent DC films with the irreverent attitude of the Marvel movies. And while it is well known that Whedon stepped in to do extensive reshoots after Snyder had to leave the project (though still retaining sole directorial credit), there is no real split in approach to be had in the final product—the whole thing has the ugly and vaguely depressing touch that has marked Snyder’s superhero joints. (If I had to guess, however, I suspect that Snyder directed the sequence set on Wonder Woman’s Amazonian homeland, if only because the outfits of the inhabitants are noticeably skimpier than they were in “Wonder Woman.”) The best thing that you can say about it is that the end result doesn’t hurt quite as much as Snyder’s “Man of Steel” or “Batman vs. Superman,” if only because it is so innocuous that it slips from the memory from practically the moment that the house lights fire back up in the theater when it is all over. It is never close to being good but it is largely too dumb to get particularly worked up over when all is said and done.

Of the returning faces, Gal Gadot comes off the best as Wonder Woman but having seen her thoroughly dominate the proceedings in her own movie only a few months ago, it is a little dispiriting to see her reduced in status here to just another part of the gang. As for Affleck, he is more comfortable in the role of Batman than he was in “Batman vs. Superman” but is let down by a screenplay that knows that it needs to focus on him, at least until Superman is revived, but can never figure out a way of how to approach him in a satisfactory manner. At least he fares better than Cavill, who once again fails to inspire much enthusiasm as Superman—he is supposed to be the mightiest of all superheroes and yet, whenever he turns up on the screen, he is so bland and unmemorable that most viewers will find themselves looking at him for evidence of the mustache that he grew for another film and which had to be digitally erased from the material that was reshot later. Of the newer players, Ezra Miller comes off the best as The Flash, pretty much the only one in the entire movie who appears to be actually having fun. Meanwhile, Momoa is unable to transcend the pop cultural joke that Aquaman has become nor is he able to demonstrate any reason why his character is necessary to the proceedings at all—was Apache Chief busy or something?—and Fisher is pretty much a non-entity as Cyborg, though that is less a criticism of his performance as it is of a screenplay that has little use for him except to occasionally fill out the widescreen image.

“Justice League” has a few exciting moments (mostly the ones where Wonder Woman kicks ass) and a few amusing bits here and there (the funniest probably being the one where The Flash innocently asks Bruce Wayne what his superpower is and he replies “I’m rich”). However, unlike the “Avengers” films, which, for all their flaws, feel like a legitimate convergence of the various characters and plot threads of the extended Marvel universe, “Justice League” does not seem to have any other driving purpose behind its existence other than the fact that Warner Brothers felt that their DC Universe should have a multi-character mashup along the lines of their rivals. The film will no doubt make money—especially with the added boost of audience goodwill towards Wonder Woman—but despite all the time spent making and later remaking it, there is precious little of it that anyone will remember about it a couple of months from now. Say what you will about the atrocity that was “Suicide Squad”—at least it was terrible enough to stick in the mind afterwards. With this one, viewers will come away with it with nothing more than a shrug of the shoulders and a “meh” in their hearts—coming from a film that reportedly cost upwards of $300 million to produce, that hardly seems like a bargain.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=27751&reviewer=389
originally posted: 11/15/17 14:21:08
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User Comments

12/06/17 the truth looks like 5 lbs of crap in a sack that only fits two pounds 1 stars
11/25/17 Bob Dog Betst DCEU movie (not that that's saying much). 3 stars
11/18/17 Batgirl Pure magic, the best superhero movie ever made. 5 stars
11/17/17 morris campbell needed more superman but still entertaining 4 stars
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  17-Nov-2017 (PG-13)
  DVD: 27-Feb-2018


  DVD: 27-Feb-2018

Directed by
  Zack Snyder

Written by
  Chris Terrio

  Ben Affleck
  Henry Cavill
  Gal Gadot
  Amy Adams
  Jason Momoa
  Ezra Miller

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