JUSTICE LEAGUE is the fifth movie of the D.C. Extended Universe (DCEU). It is preceded and informed by MAN OF STEEL (2013), BATMAN V SUPERMAN (2016), SUICIDE SQUAD (2016) and WONDER WOMAN (2017). The story begins in a world that is still coming to terms with the death of Superman. Massive black flags fly in tribute to the lost son of Krypton. There is a sense that Earth is now unguarded against alien threat and it has become a grief-stricken, doom-laden planet without hope. As a counter to the fear and as a defence against potential extraterrestrial dangers, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) and Diana Prince /Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) work to bring together a team of heroes—a Justice League.
Top draft picks for the League are: the oceanic Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa); young and speedy Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller) and former college football star, with a newly acquired and still evolving cybernetic body, Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher). Batman and Wonder Woman have some initial difficulties in locating these three and getting them to answer the call for the heroes’ journey but Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg eventually cross the threshold and the Justice League is formed.
The timing is fortunate because it turns out that an ancient and all-powerful foe Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) has returned to dominate and enslave the planet with his multitude of deadly, winged minions, the Parademons. Steppenwolf is on a quest to bring together three mysterious cubes known as the Mother Boxes; when joined they become the Unity which Steppenwolf will use to conquer Earth.
From here, the good guys have a number of obstacles to overcome in their mission to defeat Steppenwolf’s plan. The movie does a good job tying-up a major strand in the DCEU story. However, the good versus evil part of the tale is strictly by-the-numbers for the modern superhero movie. Steppenwolf, in his desire to conquer, is very similar to Apocalypse in X-MEN: APOCALYPSE, or Dark Elf Malekith in THOR: THE DARK WORLD, or many of other the power-hungry super-villains. In their original conception on the comic page, all these antagonists doubtless have stories of specific detail, but on screen, most of the bad guys seem similar.
The new League members are not shown in great depth, but Fisher, Miller and Momoa bring sufficient presence to make a solid impact in their roles. Seeing the five characters connect as a team, provides the movie with a number of highlights. Time is given to family moments with Cyborg’s father Silas (Joe Morton) and The Flash ‘s father Henry (Billy Crudup). Diana’s mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) makes a welcome return. There are blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearances from Amber Heard as Mera, J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon and Robin Wright as Antiope. The excellent Jeremy Irons is back as Alfred and is underused, but then this movie is packed tight with characters.
The physical action set pieces are good enough, but there is an over-reliance on visual effects. The computer-generated images are numerous and unremarkable. Sometimes the frame is busy and the visuals are confusing. A number of exteriors have the feel of being green-screened sound-stages.
Overall, JUSTICE LEAGUE is entertaining. The main story is average in its execution, but the new team have a number of amusing and heartfelt moments. This isn’t the blockbuster some were hoping for. WONDER WOMAN is a better movie, but JUSTICE LEAGUE is at least more coherent than the remaining three films of the current DCEU.
USA | 120 minutes (6.5/10)