Film reviews: Justice League
MANILA, Philippines — There was a time decades ago, when a superhero film was a one-man (or woman) event unto itself. Despite our hero’s limitations or the strength of the villain, this superhero would fight personal demons and/or adversity in the course of the film’s narrative and “save the day.”
Unfortunately, that was the past and in the DCEU (DC Extended Universe) of today, the solo outing of Wonder Woman and its success earlier this year, is more the exception. The rule nowadays would seem to be: stuff as many superheroes into every film outing, and turn it into a numbers game that hopefully, spells box-office success (i.e. more superheroes means more core fans). Justice League follows that formula.
By the time the exposition of the main villain (Steppenwolf portrayed by Ciaran Hinds), and the introduction of the new superheroes are established, we’re halfway through the film. The main narrative has to do with three Mother Boxes that Steppenwolf is after — and that’s all we really need to know, as the film is more about three fundamental questions. One, will the new superheroes be likable and manage to work together? Two, when does Superman “resurrect”? And three, are the end credits ‘golden eggs’ worth the wait?
To the first question, the answer would be both yes and no. Flash (Ezra Fisher) is extremely likable, while Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg (Raymond Fisher) barely make an impression. While their back stories hold promise, we don’t really get that here. When they bicker and argue or poke fun at each other, we see the potential. So the quick report is half-formed, but happily, it’s now out of the way and the solo outings of Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman will hopefully, redeem them. After all, this is what transpired with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) — she really came to life in her solo film, and not in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Yes, without being a spoiler, it’s obvious that this film will see the return of Superman (Henry Cavill) — but how it’s achieved and what initially happens, is the surprise here. One almost wishes it happens earlier on in the film, as it is the much-needed shot in the arm for the plodding narrative. Steppenwolf is nothing more than a CGI-mess; and we know none of our superheroes are going to expire, so there is no real tension in the action sequences — which we notice, the storyline goes into double drive in keeping Batman (Ben Affleck) involved in (after all, his only real superpower is being super rich). Plus, these action scenes aren’t even interesting — they merely follow the formula of ramp up the volume of the rock track.
As for the third question, do stay for the two end credits; the first is cute and fun, while the second spells intrigue and hope for the next installment. We know Joss Whedon (who directed The Avengers) had to get involved when Zack Snyder had to leave for family reasons; and that may partially explain how the tonality and narrative drive is never really established. There are great, entertaining moments, and one doesn’t feel gypped — but one wonders if the days of stuffing so many superheroes in one basket has seen it’s best days — or perhaps, on this side of ComicsTown, it’s done in too dizzy (DC) a manner.