Justice League Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller. Directed by Zack Snyder. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday citywide.
Superhero movies are so common these days that it takes a lot more than just putting much-beloved comic book heroes on the big screen with a decent budget to generate real fan enthusiasm. It’s hard to imagine much more than mild approval from fans or general audiences for Justice League, a straightforward, unremarkable action movie starring DC Comics’ biggest superheroes—the kind of thing that would have been a genre milestone 20 years ago, but is now just another week at the movies.
DC has had a rough time building a movie superhero universe to rival Marvel’s, and Justice League attempts to bring together both heroes who’ve starred in their own movies (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman) and cinematic newcomers (Aquaman, The Flash, Cyborg). It’s an awkward fit, requiring the movie to give thumbnail origin stories for the new characters while building on the plot threads already established in previous DC movies (Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman). On top of that, director and co-writer Zack Snyder, a key architect of the DC films, dropped out before the movie was completed, leaving Joss Whedon (credited only as co-writer) to finish up.
So there’s a bit of Snyder’s portentous, slow-motion-focused action, and a bit of Whedon’s quippy dialogue, but mostly there’s a simple, streamlined superhero story, with one hero (Ben Affleck’s Batman) gathering others so they can team up against a world-ending threat. The first half of the movie mostly involves Batman tracking down the other heroes in familiar fashion, while forgettable alien villain Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds voicing a hideous CGI creation) searches for three powerful doodads he needs to destroy Earth.
The action is rote, the special effects are surprisingly poor (especially on Ray Fisher’s clumsy-looking Cyborg) and the character interactions are only occasionally entertaining (Affleck and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman have appealing chemistry, and Ezra Miller provides decent comic relief as the inexperienced Flash). Justice League is more cohesive than BvS but not nearly as rousing as Wonder Woman. It never does more than fulfill its minimum obligations.