Maybe the bar was set too low after Batman V Superman, but Justice League is alright. No, it’s not as good as Wonder Woman, but Wonder Woman also had the benefit of being a stand alone story that was trying to do something different than these big superhero mash up movies. Justice League takes what was bad about Batman V Superman and fixes some of it, which leaves us with a film that, to be kind, didn’t feel like a complete waste of my time or money.
The world is in chaos following the death of Superman, leaving criminals free reign to do whatever they want and for aliens to drop from the sky now that Earth is unprotected. To stop the mayhem, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) assembles a team of super powered people that include Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller), Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), and Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher). Together, they form the early stages of the Justice League and are the best part of this film by a landslide. Their chemistry as a group is great, with enough comedy to feel like a Marvel flick, but enough drama as well to distance themselves from the Marvel formula.
Individually, they’re just as interesting. Gal Gadot’s return as Wonder Woman is a relief after the five month hiatus since we last saw her. Jason Momoa as Aquaman kills it, although if you’re not familiar with the character, you might be a little lost on some of his story (like me). Ezra Miller as The Flash, who I was the most concerned about due to my affection for Grant Gustin’s turn on the CW series, ultimately impressed with his charm. It’s the relatively unknown Ray Fisher who is the stand out here. Victor Stone may mostly be robotic, but Fisher imbues humanity and warmth through just his facial features and voice. It also helps that Victor has the most compelling character arc out of all of them.
The nicest thing to say about Ben Affleck’s Batman this time around is that he isn’t a distraction while Superman played by Henry Cavill remaining the dark mark on the DC Universe. Delivering a wooden performance, his relationship with Lois Lane (Amy Adams) remains cringe-worthy. Cavill’s turn as Superman has been around since 2013, but I couldn’t find it in myself to care about his return, despite how much the film wants you to.
The plot is less chaotic than the over-stuffed mess of BvS, but there’s still some questionable turns that makes it hard to follow at times. While some feel that Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) is just another CGI villain, I found him to be a worthy opponent for our heroes. The flashbacks of the very first battles with him put Justice League and the universe of the DCEU on a much grander, epic scale. The action is thrilling, most notably when it heads back to Themiscyra, home of the Amazons. It’s here we first meet Steppenwolf when one of three of the magical Macguffin boxes awakens and Steppenwolf appears to take it back. The Amazons attempt to keep the box moving between them, flinging it between each other as if it was nothing more than a beach ball. The larger plot surrounding the three boxes is a little vague — something to do with recreating Steppenwolf’s home planet, but it only goes so far as to tell us that’s bad, rather than give any details on what that means, exactly.
The film also suffers tonally. The comedy fits well with the drama between the characters, but it also flits between Lord of the Rings-type mythical battles, sci-fi alien invasions, and a gritty dystopia that can only be healed when their hero returns.
Justice League lightens up the DCEU, so at least this time, there was some fun to be had. It’s definitely a step up from BvS, not quite as remarkable as Wonder Woman, but a good popcorn film that doesn’t have me losing faith just yet. Be sure to stay for the two mid-credit and post credit scenes, though, because that’s the world we live in.