Justice League


            OK, it's a comic book movie.  And, it pretty much assumes some prior knowledge about the characters involved, because not much is explained.  We're too busy saving the world here for any long dialogues, anyway.

            Batman (Ben Affleck) is trying to be the superhero Gotham city needs, always at the beck and call of Commissioner Gordon (an underutilized J.K. Simmons).  But he doesn't seem to be much interested in being Bruce Wayne, philanthropist-about-town.  He mostly hides out in his batcave, working on flashy techno-toys with his trusty butler, Alfred (Jeremy Irons, also underutilized). 

            But now that Superman is no longer on the scene, the bad guys are emboldened.  Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) has returned from the Netherworld (you don't have to explain mythology in comic books, either) to wreak havoc and return the world to its natural state, chaos and darkness (a reference to the first verse of the Bible?).  Even his harpy-like minions are too much for Batman, who has to try to recruit some help, starting with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), then The Flash (Ezra Miller).  Then there are the more reluctant recruits, Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and Aquaman (Jason Momoa).  But even all these are not quite enough to overcome the devilish Steppenwolf, until Superman is...resurrected?

            Well, just know we have a very powerful and sinister evil force, which can only be stopped by the co-operative efforts of the “good guys” (and yes, the lesson on teamwork is quite intentional).

There is a plot----Steppenwolf must find the three parts, which look like moving boxes, which comprise a very ancient power source.  If he can put the “power trinity” back together again, he can destroy the earth, and rule the universe.

            Yes, that sounds way too heavy for the whole narrative, so we have a couple of side trips---

to the lair of the Amazons, where Girl Power has triumphed in the extreme, banishing all men.  (They were weak, childish, and useless, anyway).  And we spend time in the bat-cave, putting the finishing touches on a private jet transport, conveniently fitting the whole group.

            We also have continued attempts at humor:  Flash: “What's your superpower?”  Batman:  “I'm rich.” Flash being embarrassingly bad with directions.  Flash trying to fist-bump Cyborg, and being rebuffed with a withering look (so much for informal espirit de corps).  Wonder Woman complaining about the childishness of a couple of her cohorts (in tacit acknowledgement, they elect her as the Den Mother).  Also, Superman's mother (Diane Lane) and girlfriend Lois Lane (Amy Adams) appear, but they don't have enough screen time to transcend their stereotypes.

            There are a few tender moments (between Superman and Lois, and even a little lively argument (between Batman and Wonder Woman), but mostly, a lot of comic-book violence, where superheroes may be battered, but never vanquished.  The legions of loyal fans will overlook its flaws and love it, anyway.  The rest of us might wish for less splashy special effects, and more old-fashioned character development.


Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association