So, DC’s latest addition to their superhero cinematic universe premiered this past weekend, and it’s had something of a mixed reception. From what I’ve been hearing the reading, people are either loving it or hating it. I’m somewhere in the middle, I think. It wasn’t this absolutely fantastic experience, but it was pretty fun. It’s not exactly a kids’ movie, but it steps in that direction by the end of it, and the plot is simple enough for that. And I could swear they stole the villain’s demise from Rise of the Guardians, but I am getting ahead of myself.
After the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and with Diana’s background given in her (fantastic) movie, Justice League follows Batman as he assembles a team of misfit superheroes, far smaller than he’d have liked, in order to fight off an ancient, extraterrestrial threat and give hope to a world which lost it when Superman died.
If Wonder Woman was a brilliant, blinding bright spot in the DC Extended Universe, then Justice League gives me hope that the DCEU might actually be able to duplicate that achievement, eventually. That is not what this movie is, but it does add to it, I am happy to say. 🙂
Within the DCEU, Justice League feels like a transition. It still displays many of the classic flaws and mistakes of the first few films, courtesy of Zack Snyder, but they aren’t so bad as usual, leaving room for better things, lessons learned from the more popular films.
Is there the usual “dark and epic” stuff? Yes, but there’s also some actual humor, fun, and simple, down-to-earth moments as well.
Are there the usual paper-thin religious allegories? Yes, but a little more subtle this time, and a little more interesting. Superman’s revival – please, that’s not a spoiler, we all knew it was coming – is an obvious Jesus parallel. Interestingly, he’s actually brought back by the League, who are stand-ins for the ancient gods of Greece, such as Hades, Poseidon, Hermes, Hephaestus, and Athena, leaving Superman as the League’s version of Heracles, I’d say. That comparison comes as the backstory refers to when all the tribes of mankind fought the antagonist once before, alongside Green Lanterns and even the gods themselves, some of which we see. And the villain, Steppenwolf, wants to join the ranks of the New Gods, alongside such figures as Darkseid, whom he refers to almost like a zealot referring to his deity. So, it’s not all “we’re hitting the audience over the head with a Jesus analogy,” and it’s not Lex Luthor waxing on about gods and devils. They show rather than tell.
Are the characters changed, as usual, from their cooler, comic-book versions? Yes, and I am especially thinking of the Flash, who is no longer a kind, brave, humorous, outgoing mischief-maker, but a socially-awkward nerd who has apparently never been brave in his life before. Several of the heroes are practically at the beginning of their careers, while Batman is a grizzled veteran (much more social than other versions of the character, being the driving force behind the League’s creation), and they explained Wonder Woman’s anonymity by apparently having her so devastated by her previous lover’s death that she shut down for a century. So, not entirely stellar, but they made Aquaman pretty cool, and they made fun of their own misstepping heroes a bit.
Can the DCEU do anything short of blowing up the world? Apparently not. But at least someone was actually saved this time around. Also, there was more action earlier in the film, as we spent less time plodding through an unending setup and got more to the point of things.
The entire narrative felt far less forced, overcomplicated, and broody than previous movies, plot holes notwithstanding, actually building up somewhat towards the conclusion instead of just springing it on us. It doesn’t really earn its hero shot, really, especially as the suspense goes out the window the instant Superman arrives on the scene, easily defeating the enemy and saving the civilians, the latter being used as a crutch to stretch out the climax for another minute or two. But it’s still a much more enjoyable superhero film.
The choppiest part of the film was how it focused on the individual heroes so much. When they were together, the spotlight shifted from one hero’s moment to another, so it didn’t always feel like their stories were together even when the characters were.
And they could have shown us Superman’s answer to the question!
What I like best about the movie, however, is how it’s not only about these heroes fighting alongside each other, but becoming friends. As different as they are from their comic-book counterparts, that little bit of humanity goes quite a ways to make them appealing to me, especially as they’re coming together against an enemy that, with exception to Superman, outclasses them completely. They can’t just power their way through, they have to build some bonds of trust and friendship so they can work together.
I suppose Justice League is a relatively simple movie, when you get down to it, but that is far better than the convoluted mess of BvS. The ride is fun, the tension is usually more legitimate when they don’t have the Man of Steel on their side, and the humor is a most refreshing change.
It’s not fantastic, but it’s pretty good.
Rating: 8 stars out of 10.
Grade: solid B.
P.S. Stay for the post-credit scenes. Both of them.