If “Batman v Superman” was Zack Snyder’s own way of exploring how antiquated Superman is, “Justice League” is the proof by Joss Whedon that Superman is actually a bad ass with the right mind behind him. I won’t pretend that “Justice League” is a masterpiece of the comic cinema boom, but I can’t claim it to be one of the worst movies of the year, either. With some spit and polish, it could have risen to be a fantastic film, but in its final form, it’s a neat diversion with a manic energy, and the return of a modern cinematic Superman who presents an iota of positivity, charm, and hope. Finally.
After many years in development hell (starting in the early aughts), “Justice League” feels exactly like the recent news has dictated. Most of the premise feels rushed, and there’s a definite tonal and pacing inconsistency to where you can see where Snyder ends and Whedon begins. One moment there’s a scene of the horrifying parademons invading a farm house, and the next moment there’s the Flash eating a pizza while riding with Bruce Wayne in his bitchin’ hot rod. Steppenwolf is a monstrous warmonger from another planet who is also leader of an army of bug like entities called Parademons. By travelling around Earth, he hopes to find three Macguffins/Deus ex machinas known as Mother Boxes, which when united, will allow him to open a portal from his world bringing a force of evil in to our world.
And there’s also something about terraforming our world, which feels like someone chopped up that motivation so as to avoid the obvious comparison to General Zod from “Man of Steel.” Steppenwolf lacks any kind of depth and motivation, feeling like a mix of Apocalypse from “X-Men: Apocalypse,” and Skeletor in his gold garb in “Masters of the Universe.” He spends an enormous amount of time preaching about the end of the days and looks like he popped out of a cancelled “God of War” video game. What keeps “Justice League” afloat are the performances by the titular heroes, all of whom have their moments where they grate on you, but are ultimately riveting to watch. In particular, Wonder Woman is given a great importance with Gal Gadot impressing once again, while Ezra Miller is something of a goofy avatar for the fans.
He approaches every instance he’s with the League with pure awe and wide smiles, and seems to love being a superhero, which ultimately is an antidote to the morose drawn out moments left behind by Snyder’s integration. While Superman still isn’t the main focus, he’s at least allowed a relevance and chance to shine, with Henry Cavil being given so much more to do in this outing. I hope this Superman returns for the eventual “Man of Steel 2.” In the end, “Justice League” feels more like “Super Friends” with hints at the wider DC Universe, and even the implications of a bigger team that we’ve seen in the past. That said even with all its obvious imperfections, “Justice League” is kind of fun once it gets going.