Rating: 3 Stars
The following review contains spoilers.
Following the death of Superman, the world is in mourning. With all hope lost, an intergalactic conqueror (I think he is? not clear what else he’s conquered?) named Steppenwolf sees Earth as vulnerable. He comes down from Apokolips to gather up the three Mother Boxes he left behind the last time he attempted to invade and use them to destroy everything.
Batman discovers some of the parademons Steppenwolf sent as scouts and realizes a massive and deadly alien army is coming, and, with Superman dead, he has to gather every remarkable individual he can to defend the Earth. Using Lex Luthor’s metahuman files, Batman tracks down and recruits Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg, and the Flash, and together, as the never-named Justice League, they will stand as Earth’s first and last line of defense. And when that totally doesn’t work, they’ll just resurrect Superman.
Justice League is actually not terrible. All of the acting is basically fine, and the story is basically fine. There are no unforgivable plot holes and no one ever pees in a jar and gives it to someone else. It attempts to course-correct a bit from Batman v. Superman, pretending this was always a more fun, more comic-book-y universe.
The best scene is probably the one between Batman and the Flash in the underground tunnels. The Flash is scared, and feels incapable of getting in there and actually fighting, so Batman tells him to just concentrate on saving one person.
The Flash: “And then?”
Batman: “Then you’ll know.”
Too many people write Batman as if he’s the Punisher—just an angry loner who hates crime. But Batman, in my opinion, is doing this because he wants to help people. He is secretly one of the most hopeful superheroes. And this scene captures that in a rare way.
Although with that being said, I also did like the moment where Batman says they need Superman because he’s “more human than I am.” Even with all of Superman’s power, and even with him literally being an alien, he is one of the most human superheroes in DC Comics.
The resurrection of Superman and his subsequent confused fight with the rest of the heroes is a superficially entertaining scene (like when the Flash goes into slow-mo and Superman slowly turns his head and watches him), even if I think it has some problems (more on that later).
It’s just an Easter Egg I guess, but I did really like seeing the Green Lantern Corps in the flashback to Steppenwolf’s first invasion.
Since they already established Batman doesn’t live at Wayne Manor anymore, I think it’s a fine idea to make it the Justice League headquarters. I don’t know what that does to Batman’s secret identity, but he doesn’t seem to give much thought to his secret identity in this movie anyway.
The idea of the Justice League is to come together to face threats none of them could handle alone, but they make it very clear in this movie that Superman could have handled these threats alone, had he never died. It’s not clear at all what storytelling benefit they hoped to get from killing Superman in the first place if they were just going to bring him back immediately with no consequences (somehow we even see Clark Kent at the end of this one, with not even a tip of the cap to explaining how anyone would accept his return to the land of the living after his funeral). The entire League teamed up can’t even hope to stop Superman when he’s rampaging after his resurrection, and in the climax we are just killing time until he shows up, completing every task with ease (beating up Steppenwolf, tearing apart the Mother Boxes, even saving way more innocent bystanders than the Flash). In the end, the world only really needs Superman (and maybe Cyborg?).
Steppenwolf is a rather dull villain. He just wants to invade and/or destroy the Earth because that’s what villains do. He looks like he stepped out of a PlayStation 2 game, with no sense of actually existing in the same world as the human actors. And in the end he’s a complete pushover once Superman shows up. It really took a combined army of thousands of warriors from every civilization plus multiple actual Greek gods and a couple Green Lanterns to defeat this guy the first time?
Some of the humor falls flat. The Flash not understanding the concept of brunch is just the weakest, hackiest idea for a joke imaginable. The Flash tripping and falling face-first into Wonder Woman’s boobs was stupid when Bruce Banner did it to Black Widow in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and that kind of gag gets dumber with every passing year. And if there’s a dorky guy falling into Batgirl’s boobs in Whedon’s next film we’ll know he’s completely out of ideas.
Speaking of Wonder Woman’s various assets, the camera was pretty obsessed with ogling her this film. Also, sometime between Wonder Woman and Justice League the Amazons all exchanged their armor for two-piece bikinis for some reason.
Also, the idea of Wonder Woman as someone who has completely withdrawn from the world for like 100 years is continued here from Batman v. Superman, and makes no sense when compared to her character from her solo film. If they were going to pretend that Superman was a universally-beloved beacon of hope (in stark contrast from Batman v. Superman, where the public opinion on him is clearly mixed, to say the least), why not just wipe away this misstep as well?
Mostly I liked Aquaman, but he contributed nothing to the final sequence, just being another strong person, but who isn’t as strong as Wonder Woman or Superman. Also, do they really intend to say that Atlanteans need to find or make air bubbles underwater whenever they want to talk?