We all joke that Batman is the kind of guy who can grow a full beard overnight. Now, thanks to time lapse inconsistencies and multiple re-writes, our suspicions are finally confirmed. We’ve all heard the theory that Justice League made some changes after Wonder Woman’s spring success, but it’s hard to say if those edits are responsible for a last minute Amazon casting call, the suspiciously shortened state of Diana’s skirt, or Batman’s testosterone levels. I guess we’ll have to wait for the extended director’s cut to find out.
We may not know who all the members of the Justice League are, but The Avengers already have two and a half movies so it’s time to assemble them anyway. Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) has been sitting on a list of curious humans for a few years. Finally, after facing one very large bug, he throws in the towel and seeks help from these super powered strangers. Bruce tracks Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) to Newfoundland – I mean… Russia – and tries to recruit the king of Atlantis with a $20,000 bribe. Really, Bruce? Does this (→) man look like he needs $20,000?? The Aquaman swims away and leaves Bruce feeling rather silly. Meanwhile, Gotham’s large bugs leave the city and set their sights on Themyscira, home of the Amazons. Out of a celestial tunnel of light emerges the tall, terrifying, and computer generated Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarán Hinds), a mythical conqueror bent on finding three ancient boxes that will unite and… go all sparkly and stuff. The Amazons have one box, but after an epic game of keep-away it unfortunately falls into Steppenwolf’s digital hands. The Amazons warn their sister, Diana/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), that an invasion is coming, prompting the warrior princess to join Bruce and unite his team. While Bruce tracks down the socially awkward Barry Allen/Flash (Ezra Miller), Wonder Woman recruits the recluse Cyborg (Ray Fisher) whose knowledge of magic sparkly space boxes is a major asset. After an attack on Atlantis in which Steppenwolf steals magic box #2, Arthur finally comes around and joins Bruce’s team to stop the mythical conqueror.
Justice League is a bit all over the place. I get Bruce Wayne and I get Wonder Woman, but there are three other characters that are new to the scene and complete mysteries. There is more to this Arthur Curry/Aquaman guy than Maui ink and Dothraki pecks, but we have to put a pin in it until his solo movie. We just met this wandering, 6`3 demigod with no roots, no nerves, and a drinking problem so I find it hard to follow Arthur’s motivations to become a member of our heroic troop. It’s even harder to trust that Barry joined the Justice League intimidation squad and suicide mission because he needs a new friend. Although, I suppose both are better than Cyborg who joined because a pretty lady said please. Maybe I’d be more convinced if I had a chance to explore their backstories. Here’s the biggest difference between Justice League and The Avengers; the latter brought our favourite characters together for a change in dynamic and because we all love a celebrity team-up, while Justice League unites new faces we know nothing about and have little time to get acquainted with.
That said, some of Justice League’s action is pretty mind-numbing. Amazon keep-away is my new favourite game, and every scene with Barry running sparks around the room is very well designed. Next to that, it was nice to see the characters from my favourite Saturday morning cartoons come alive and talk it out. Ezra Miller is adorably awkward as Barry Allen and saves more than one scene from being overly mopey. As for Gal Gadot, if you can get around the numerous up-angle shots of her bum and tight leather pants, Wonder Woman is still our fierce and strong-willed saviour. We got to know Bruce Wayne pretty well in Batman v. Superman, and what we see here is more of the same with a few additional bruises and varying degrees of facial hair. They’re all mixed in with a Cyborg who acts like a robot and an Aquaman doing his best impression of Jason Momoa sponsored by Captain Morgan rum.
The rest is just noise. Three quarters of the credits are for special effects teams meaning that Justice League’s major focus is visual, not editorial. The result is like a video game you can watch but not play. Characters ignore the laws of physics and biology to fly across the planet and shout catch phrases. The grand finale boss fight, especially, might have been mapped out with action figures.
Justice League builds up the conclusion with hints at a sequel, which, to be clear, I’m not totally against; but someone needs to shake things up behind the scenes. The effects are neat, but it’s all too much. The characters are fun, but who are they? The villain is – well, Steppenwolf is just a whole closet of Halloween and that situation needs a major creative overhaul. Bring us an honest villain with an honest goal (beyond the smash, grab, kill checklist) and push the characters – all the characters – out of their moral comfort zones. Justice League is a movie worth seeing just to stay current on pop culture references, but not necessarily because it’s so super amazingly fantastico. A little more heart and a tight believable script are some top areas for improvement. Justice League is a satisfactory 5.5/10.