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'Justice League' Film Review: DC's long-awaited team-up is a heroic effort that struggles to live up to the hype

November 15, 2017Ben Mk



   
DC's answer to Marvel's The Avengers is finally upon us. But while it's a definite plus that comic book fans needn't have to endure the suspense of three more solo films before finally being able to see their favorite superheroes come together on the big screen, have the shortcuts taken by director Zack Syder and company helped or hindered DC's chances at matching Marvel's success?

Picking up amid the solemn aftermath of Batman (Ben Affleck), Superman (Henry Cavill) and Wonder Woman's (Gal Gadot) violent showdown with Doomsday in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Justice League finds the citizens of Metropolis still reeling from the Man of Steel's death, with Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane) being, of course, the most devastated by the loss. However, as Batman soon discovers, the time for grieving is at an end, for a new threat is about to emerge now that the Last Son of Krypton is out of the picture.

A flashback to an epic battle reveals the modus operandi of the movie's CGI villain, Steppenwolf (voiced by CiarĂ¡n Hinds). Long ago, Steppenwolf and his army of winged soldiers invaded Earth, with the intent of procuring three "Mother Boxes" — supremely powerful cubes that, when unified, would bring about the end of our world as we know it. What this towering big bad didn't count on, though, was to be defeated by an alliance of humans, Atlanteans and Amazonians (with a few other surprise DC heroes thrown in for good measure).

Now Steppenwolf has returned to finish what he started, leading Batman and Wonder Woman to embark on a global quest to recruit a few steadfast allies to join them in what will surely be the biggest fight of their lives. Some, like the gruff Atlantean prince Aquaman (Jason Momoa), are reluctant, while others, like awkward speedster The Flash (Ezra Miller), are all too eager. Then there are the unknown factors in the equation, like Cyborg (Ray Fisher), the genius-athlete-turned-Terminator whose robotic body seems to have a mind of its own, and Superman himself, whose help is desperately needed, but who is also in desperate need of resurrection.

As Justice League dutifully assembles its heroic lineup to contend with this impending apocalypse, however, one can't help but wonder what might have been. It's no secret that Joss Whedon was brought it to put the finishing touches on the film — he even shares the screenplay credit with original screenwriter Chris Terrio — and with the result clocking in a full half-hour shorter than Batman v Superman, Justice League's pacing appears to have been the unintended casualty. Perhaps an extended director's cut will one day do this team-up justice, but in the meantime, it's hard to shake the feeling that too much may have been left on the cutting room floor.

That said, Whedon has likely helped the movie in other aspects, most notably the humor. As opposed to Man of Steel and, to a lesser extent, Batman v Superman, there's a consistently fun tone throughout, whether it's The Flash's oftentimes perplexed expressions and bemoaning of the concept of brunch, or a scene in which Wonder Woman uses her Lasso of Truth to coax emotion out of the typically stoic Aquaman. Suffice to say, Justice League doesn't take itself too seriously, which has been a criticism leveled against the DC Extended Universe in the past.

When you add it all up, there's no denying that Justice League is fun to watch, and it never fails to seize the opportunity to plant the seeds for future DCEU installments. However, in many respects, the film is also remarkably unremarkable, in the sense that it often struggles to capture just what makes this team so special (aside from their superpowers). Yet, as the movie's messaging reminds audiences, hope always prevails. And for anyone leaving the theater with unmet expectations, Justice League Part Two is only a few years away.


Justice League releases November 17th, 2017 from Warner Bros. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action. Its runtime is 1 hr. 59 min.








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