At almost two hours and featuring the talents of not one but two high-powered directors—Joss Whedon took over for Zach Synder who stepped away in post-production due to personal issues—it features the top-line DC heroes like Superman (Henry Cavill), Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) plus a host of others like Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Mamoa) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher). Then there’s odds and ends like Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta, villains such as Lex Luther (Jesse Eisenberg) and the motion captured Ciarán Hinds as Steppenwolf and significant others like Martha Kent (Diane Lane), Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and James Gordon (J. K. Simmons).
Phew. That’s a whole lotta movie. I wonder, is there anyone left to make other superhero films?
“Justice League” takes place months after the events of the grim-faced “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Superman, apparently, is out of the picture—we see a newspaper with the headline “Disappearing heroes. Did they return to their planets?” accompanied with photos of David Bowie, Prince and Superman—so billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne (Affleck) and Diana Prince (Gadot) a.k.a. Princess Diana of Themyscira assemble a team of super-dupers including the world’s fastest boy, Barry Allen (Miller), merman Arthur Curry (Momoa) and man-machine Victor Stone (Fisher). “There are enemies coming from far away,” says Wayne. “I need warriors right now.”
Their job? To combat alien military officer Steppenwolf—“I am the end of worlds!”—and his army of winged shock troops called Terror Demons. How do we know Steppenwolf is the villain? He has big silver and says things like, “Praise to the mother of horrors!” These are bad dudes and if they lay their hands on the three earthbound Mother Boxes—perpetual energy matrixes that, if joined together, destroy as they create—not even the combined forces of all the DC superheroes will be able to save the planet and stop Steppenwolf from taking his place among the new gods! “One misses the days when the biggest concerns were wind up exploding penguins,” moans Alfred Pennyworth (Jeremy Irons).
The first hour of “Justice League” is essentially a long origin story, detailing the backstories of each of the new characters. It’s still sombre and underscored with a VERY dramatic soundtrack by Danny Elfman. At the same time it doesn’t take itself as seriously as “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” It’s hard not to find the humour in Bruce Wayne pseudo-seriously asking Aquaman if he can talk to fish. The funny stuff is a welcome addition. The downhearted tone of Synder’s previous film was oppressive, sending the audience on a one-way trip to Bleaktown, USA.
“Justice League,” by comparison, has hills and valleys. Moments of weight play off the lighter scenes, combining to create an overall more enjoyable experience. It even ends on a hopeful note. “Heroes remind us that hope is everywhere,” Lane writes at the end of the film. “You can see it. All you have to do is look up in the sky.”
“Justice League” features a typical-destroy-the-whole-damn-planet-and-bathe-in-your-blood style villain and there’s still way too much CGI but allowing the characters to acknowledge the ridiculousness of their situations—I’m looking at you Aquaman!—doesn’t make it a silly movie. Rather, it makes it a self-aware film that winks at the audience while providing a simple, action-packed story of good vs. evil.