Justice League
The Gang’s All Here

There seems to be a misconception that the films in the DC Comics Extended Universe have been failures to this point, but financially they have done quite well.  The first film in the series, Man of Steel, was the least successful at the box office, but still pulled in 291 million dollars domestically, the fifth best tally of 2013, and more than nearly half of the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Critically it has taken its lumps, with every film but Wonder Woman finishing with a Rotten Tomatoes score below 50%, but if you take a look at the audience rating, the lowest scoring film in the series was Suicide Squad with a rating of 61%; meaning that at least three out of every five people who see these movies enjoy them (ratings according to Flixster.com).  So the odds are in your favor that you will enjoy this movie, just like I did.

Justice League is the long-awaited team-up movie uniting six of the most iconic characters in all of DC Comics lore.  Unexpectedly, the movie is also the shortest of any of the DCEU movies released thus far and that appears to be a result of director Zack Snyder and screenwriters Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon simplifying the storyline.  This may upset audience members looking for something deeper and more meditative in their superhero movies, but for those just looking to sit back with a soda and some popcorn to have a fun time at the cinema, it will feel just right.

The plot is as simple as it gets: Bruce Wayne has discovered that an interplanetary invasion is coming and seeks to assemble a team of superpowered individuals to help him save the world.  He has already enlisted the help of Wonder Woman following the conclusion of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and now looks to bring into the fold Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg.  Together they must stop the alien invader Steppenwolf, who seeks the three mother stones that together could destroy all life on planet Earth.

Now, despite all life on Earth being threatened in the events of this movie, the stakes in this movie never feel very high.  Aside from some hostages in an opening action scene and a singular family threatened at the climax, there are very few innocent citizens in this movie.  This is likely an overreaction by DC to negative reactions to earlier films like Man of Steel that were criticized for how often the actions of our supposed heroes put the lives of innocent people in danger.  Therefore, instead of the climactic battle taking place in the center of Metropolis or Gotham City, the action is set in the former site of a nuclear disaster that is inhabited by a minimum number of civilians.

It is almost laughable how far this movie goes to avoid endangering the lives of everyday humans and that could have really hurt the movie had the characters not been so much fun.  Whereas previous films in the series have carried a somber tone with moody central characters, Justice League seems to have embraced the fact that it is a comic book movie and goes for the fun.  This is largely achieved by using two of its new characters—Flash and Aquaman—largely for comic relief. Ezra Miller’s Flash is the counterpart to Tom Holland’s Spider-Man in the Marvel universe, the kid who wants to help, but doesn’t have much experience in being a hero (“usually I just push people and run away”), while Jason Momoa’s Aquaman just seems to find the entire situation amusing.

That is not to say that Flash and Aquaman don’t carry their weight in the action scenes.  Aquaman, especially has come to kick butt and take names.  The other new character, Ray Fisher’s Cyborg, is more in line with the typical moody DC protagonist, but not so much that it weighs the movie down.

It is the characters in this movie that make it work.  They are fun to watch together and the action, while nothing mind-blowing, is quite entertaining.  And even though there are still a lot of special effects going on in every action scene, it feels less chaotic in this one and easier to follow who is using what powers to attack whom.

The movie also hints at the larger DC Universe, especially in an early flashback scene that had me wishing I could pause the digital projection in order to count the many cameos presented in one single frame.  An intriguing post-credit scene also successfully sets up the villain for the next installment.

Justice League is far from a groundbreaking superhero experience as its plot structure is very similar to its Marvel forerunner The Avengers, but it is nevertheless a fun entertainment that introduces some fresh new blood into the cinematic universe.

Justice League is rated PG-13 for “sequences of sci-fi violence and action.” Like most superhero movies, there is a lot of violence, but little-to-no blood and most of it aimed at the hordes of disposable baddies. 

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Justice League.