Sunday 15 September 2019

Justice League movie review: Zack does not do it Justice

Justice League (12A, 120mins) **

Dream team: Batman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, The Flash and Aquaman unite to fight Steppenwolf
Dream team: Batman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, The Flash and Aquaman unite to fight Steppenwolf
Paul Whitington

Paul Whitington

DC and Warner Brothers have worked hard to dispel the notion that their Extended Universe is a bargain basement version of the Marvel franchise, and with Wonder Woman they finally created a movie that was the equal of their rival's output in terms of wit, star power and watchability.

Gal Gadot was perfectly cast as the incorruptible Amazonian and Chris Pine provided the comic backdrop necessary to make this kind of stuff digestible. Suddenly, the DC Universe was on the up and the ugly excesses of the interminable Batman V Superman were all but forgotten.

Not any more, they're not. The common denominator between all the worst DC movies has been Zack Snyder, whose heavy hand may have suited the gory charms of schlock horrors like 300 and Dawn Of The Dead, but is kryptonite to superhero yarns. His 2013 Superman reboot Man Of Steel was dull and laden down with ugly effects; Superman V Batman was worse; and Justice League may be the biggest mess of all.

It ought to be said that Snyder departed the film in post-production following the sudden death of his daughter, with Joss Whedon coming in to finish the project and reshoot up to 20pc of it. Many chefs is rarely a good idea in films and Justice League has the feel of a movie that's been hacked about a bit.

But it also contains all the usual Snyder trademarks - a gloomy aesthetic, badly-edited fight scenes, a muddled plot and nasty Cgi - giving us no reason to suppose it was ever going to turn out like Citizen Kane.

**WARNING: SPOILER FOR BATMAN V SUPERMAN and plot details of Justice League to follow**

In Batman V Superman, the ageless and frankly rather splendid warrior princess Wonder Woman showed up to join the fight against evil. When Superman died at the end of that film, all bets were off, but now Batman realises he'll need all the help he can get if he's going to suppress the latest threat to humanity.

Wonder Woman is in London going about her crime-fighting business when she gets disturbing news from her clan on Paradise Island. The Amazonians have been attacked by an ancient, war-obsessed god called Steppenwolf, who has stolen their so-called Mother Box, a source of unspeakable power. There are two other such boxes on Earth and if Steppenwolf gets hold of them, he will be unbeatable.

The only one capable of stopping him is in the cemetery so Batman and Alfred (Jeremy Irons) begin searching for talented allies. They find them in The Flash (Ezra Miller), a university student who can move at the speed of light, Cyborg (Ray Fisher), a former athlete who was cybernetically reconstructed after an accident, and Aquaman (Jason Momoa) heir to the throne Atlantis and a hell of a swimmer.

They and Wonder Woman join forces to confront Steppenwolf, but when Batman realises they're out of their depth, he has the bright idea of trying to blast Superman back to life.

Does he succeed? The fact that Henry Cavill's name appears in the credits may give you a clue, but this is a film that flits between characters so aimlessly that it doesn't really matter who shows up. If Justice League has a central character, it's Batman, but Ben Affleck's caped crusader is glum to the point where one starts to worry about him, and wonder if he ought perhaps be medicated. He strolls through this film like a middle-aged Hamlet, brooding aimlessly about global warming and the fate of mankind.

At least he gets a funny line. When The Flash asks Bruce Wayne what his superpower is, he pauses and says "I'm rich". There aren't nearly enough laughs in Justice League, though it's not for want of trying, and the film is also saddled with a boring Cgi villain. It's frenetic and lacks dramatic focus, but, worst of all, it's really not very nice to look at. The bombastic and boastful Aquaman shows promise as a hero and will soon appear in his own film, and Gal Gadot seems very comfortable in Wonder Woman's skin. But this film is dull, deadly dull, and may even jeopardise plans for Ben Affleck's first standalone appearance as Batman.

  • Films coming soon... Suburbicon (Matt Damon, Noah Jupe, Oscar Issac, Julianne Moore); Battle 0f The Sexes (Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough); Daddy's Home 2 (Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Mel Gibson, John Lithgow); The Star (Oprah Winfrey, Kelly Clarkson).


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