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"JUSTICE LEAGUE"
(2017) (Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Superhero Action: Batman tries to assemble a team of superheroes to battle a powerful villain who's intent on destroying Earth.
PLOT:
Following the death of Clark Kent, a.k.a. Superman (HENRY CAVILL), that's left his girlfriend, Lois Lane (AMY ADAMS), and mother, Martha (DIANE LANE), still buried in grief, the world feels like a far less safe place. That's something for which Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. Batman (BEN AFFLECK), feels responsible, what with having previously battled the superhero, ultimately resulting in his demise. Sensing something bad is about to happen, Bruce decides he must assemble a group of fellow superheroes to save the day. But Arthur Curry, a.k.a. Aquaman (JASON MOMOA), wants no part of that and Wonder Woman (GAL GADOT) hasn't been seen in decades, although her alter-ego, Diana Prince, is around.

Things change when a powerful being known as Steppenwolf (CIARAN HINDS) arrives on Earth and attacks Aquaman and Wonder Woman's home bases. Using flying, humanoid type creatures known as parademons, Steppenwolf is after three powerful "mother boxes" that have been long protected and hidden after his last attempt at getting his hands on them. When brought together, they'll form the Unity which will ultimately make him all-powerful and destroy Earth in the process.

With Wonder Woman and Aquaman now on board, the growing Justice League is joined by Victor Stone, a.k.a. Cyborg (RAY FISHER), a part human-part machine being created by his father to save his life, and Barry Allen, a.k.a. The Flash (EZRA MILLER), a hyper and naive young man who moves at ultra-high speeds. Together, they set out to stop Steppenwolf from creating the Unity using the "mother boxes" and destroying all of humankind.

OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10
I have no idea who first came up with the idea for crossovers in the world of entertainment, but from a marketing and bottom line perspective, it's usually a brilliant move. I'm guessing some book series long ago probably originated the idea, but since then it's been used countless times in movies, TV shows, songs and especially comic books.

After all, if you want to draw in more readers, viewers or listeners, tap into the popularity of other characters or artists and bring their fans into the fold. Following in the footsteps of their print predecessors, comic book movies have been doing that of late.

That's particularly true in the Marvel universe where the standalone films slowly but brilliantly started including cameos from other characters, culminating in the all-star ensemble of the "Avengers" flicks that's now continued in other supposedly single character films that have included many other such characters (such as "Captain America: Civil War" and the more recent "Thor: Ragnarok").

DC comics took a while to recognize that trend (despite having a property already established for just that) and have slowly but surely inching their way there, with the closest of recent being "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" that featured not only those two titular characters, but also the third act intro of Wonder Woman."

If the latter part of that title wasn't an obvious dead giveaway about where things were headed, the follow-up to that financially successful but critically maligned film comes out this week in "Justice League," DC Comics' answer to Marvel's all-star assembly films. But rather than wait for all of the standalone movies to introduce all of the characters, the powers that be decided to include the likes of Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg in this offering first before giving them their own pics that are coming soon.

The good news is that those behind the scenes finally figured out that audiences of superhero movies prefer them not to be as morose, grim and humorless as most of DC Comics latest offerings, and like them having a little Marvel style humor thrown into the mix. I can't say if the late in production replacement of original director Zack Snyder with Joss Whedon (due to a family tragedy for the former) had anything to do with that change, but it's a welcome one that greatly benefits the offering.

I'd wager there's more humor in this single film than all of its immediate predecessors combined, and much of that stems from Ezra Miller showing up to play the hyperactive, lightning bolt activated The Flash character. Much like Quicksilver in the "X-Men" movies, he zips along at high speed (thus making everyone else seem frozen in a freeze frame collage), resulting in some similarly fun scenes. But his naive eagerness and interaction with others are what makes him stand out.

Jason Momoa gets some less hyper moments of humor playing the loner surfer dude type Aquaman character, but it's the presence of Gal Gadot reprising her Wonder Woman character that truly saves the day...and the film. The actress is so natural and comfortable in the part and the character is so powerful (above and beyond the physical) that you simply can't take your eyes off her, and the film really excels whenever she's present.

Ray Fisher is okay as the part-human, part machine Cyborg character, but isn't explored enough to make him that interesting. Ben Affleck seems tired and ready to hang up the caped crusader character (which sort of parallels his Bruce Wayne alter-ego), and a character from past films makes a return (guess who) and livens up the proceedings in the third act.

Which is a good thing as both the villain (Ciarán Hinds, heavily assisted by CGI) and his plot (assembling some powerful boxes to destroy the world) aren't anything worth writing home about. Many of these films really fail to create compelling antagonists and this is yet another prime example. As a result, you're not as invested in watching him get his comeuppance that you automatically know is going to involve lots of CGI heavy, multiple character fight sequences where too much is occurring and looks fake up on the screen.

Thankfully, the return of that one significant character along with the presence of Gadot, Miller and Marvel-like humor makes most of the film easy and sometimes quite entertaining to watch. I would have preferred a more compelling story (rather than the usual end of the world material), better villain and less reliance on special effects. But enough of the pic works, even considering its various issues, to earn a recommendation. "Justice League" rates as a 5.5 out of 10.




Reviewed November 14, 2017 / Posted November 17, 2017


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