Tuesday, November 28, 2017

"Justice League": two-paragraph review

2017's "Justice League" is directed by Zack Snyder and stars an ensemble cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, and Ciarán Hinds. The movie's plot is fairly straightforward: an alien villain named Steppenwolf (Hinds) has boom-tubed* to Earth in the far-off past in an attempt to take over the planet. This attempt failed when a coalition of Amazons, Atlanteans, old gods (i.e., ancient Greek gods like Zeus and Ares), and humans beat Steppenwolf and his minions back, resulting in Steppenwolf's first-ever defeat. Now, in modern times, the angry alien giant has returned, and it's up to a league of superheroes to stop him. Batman (Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gadot) head up the league, looking to recruit others. They eventually sign on The Flash (Miller), Cyborg (Fisher), and Aquaman (Momoa). Steppenwolf, meanwhile, tries to steal and unite three "mother boxes" (DC's analogue to Marvel's "tesseract") in order to subjugate the earth and terraform our planet to look like his homeworld. Batman, having had a major change of heart about blue-suited Kryptonians, gets the harebrained notion of resurrecting Superman by using a mother box; the Flash and Aquaman both think this might be a bad idea, especially if Superman reawakens with no memory of who he is—or reawakens, as the Flash puts it, "Pet Sematary"-style, i.e., as an evil undead entity. It's no spoiler to note that Superman does eventually come back to life, and the entire Justice League does do battle against Steppenwolf and his legion of zombie-dragonfly parademons.

I found the film generally watchable, if disjointed in pace and tone. You may have heard the behind-the-scenes story of how director Zack Snyder's daughter committed suicide a year or so ago, thus forcing Snyder to leave the film, which was completed by Joss Whedon, who is best known for helming Marvel films like "The Avengers." The end result is a clash of styles and visions, and it shows: the humorous scenes belong to Whedon; the Roland Emmerich-style scenes—in which shit is blowing up—belong to Snyder. With so many characters, characterization itself becomes a problem, and figures like Aquaman and Cyborg are woefully underserved. Ezra Miller, however, stands out for his youthful vigor and comic chops: his Flash is one of the best things about the movie. Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman also deserves a shout-out for being the moral center of the league, and there's a hint of a Batman/Wonder Woman romance lurking in the shadows, reflecting an ancient, pancultural fascination with how some immortals take mortals as lovers. Steppenwolf is played by the always impressive Ciarán Hinds, but Hinds's voice and body are so thoroughly distorted by computer trickery that the villain registers as little more than a video-game character with no depth and no development. Hinds, a powerful and talented actor, is wasted in the role. Danny Elfman scores the film (as he did with "Avengers: Age of Ultron"), but aside from a brief evocation of the 1989 "Batman" theme, there's little memorable here. The movie's funniest moment comes when the Flash, in trying to circle around Superman, realizes with horror that Superman is fast enough to see the Flash and make eye contact with him. It's a brief but delicious moment. Alas, beats like that come only rarely, and while "Justice League" is watchable, I fear that its flaws don't make it re-watchable.

*A boom tube—the term comes from various DC comics—is basically a wormhole (more technically, a science-fiction-y sort of Einstein-Rosen bridge) that allows someone or something to teleport great distances. The recent "Thor: Ragnarok" featured its own version of a boom tube: the Devil's Anus on the trash planet of Sakaar.


Charles said...

I haven't seen JL and probably won't, but I'm curious how it stacks up to Thor: Ragnarok. I know the films are entirely different in tone, but which did you enjoy more? I can probably guess from your reviews of the two films, but I thought you might like to weigh in on the DC/Marvel comparison.

Also, how is Steppenwolf a villain and not a metal band? I have no idea what sort of character he is, but I can't help picturing him wielding a wicked electric "axe" (that is, guitar) and attempting to subjugate Earth through the power of rock.

Actually, I think I would watch that film.

Kevin Kim said...

I can't believe I never responded to this comment before now. Sorry.

To answer your question: "Ragnarok" was way better.