PLOT Batman must put together a superhero team to stop a destructive monster.
CAST Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller
RATED PG-13 (action violence)
BOTTOM LINE A mushy superhero soup.
For several weeks this summer, the gloomy expanse of cinema known as the DC extended universe was illuminated by “Wonder Woman.” Leaving aside the movie’s feminist milestones — first female director to score a $100 million opening, and so on — it was terrific entertainment, clever and funny, with a shining star, Gal Gadot, at its center. In the wake of such recent DC misfires as “Suicide Squad” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (the former a mess, the latter a snooze), “Wonder Woman” promised a brighter future for the DC franchise.
Maybe later, but for now it’s business as usual with “Justice League.” A gathering of comicdom’s biggest superheroes, “Justice League” thinks of itself as a massive event, a culture-rocking fusion of star power and intellectual property. Instead, it’s another bloated blockbuster with generic effects, stock action scenes and strained dialogue. Much of the film was directed by Zack Snyder (the aforementioned “Batman v Superman”), who left the production after his daughter’s suicide, but many scenes — perhaps the more lighthearted ones — were written and filmed by Joss Whedon (“Avengers: Age of Ultron”).
One bit of good news is Ben Affleck, who at 45 is growing nicely into the Bruce Wayne role. The rest of the cast doesn’t fare quite as well. Ezra Miller plays the high-speed superhero known as The Flash, whose antic chatter is meant to be endearing (but isn’t). Jason Momoa turns Aquaman into a rollicking grunge god with fish-scale tattoos and Soundgarden hair. Ray Fisher brings the overall energy level down as Cyborg, a half-robot with a bummed-out attitude. As Superman, Henry Cavill once again looks the part, and that’s worth something.
Most disappointing is the villain Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds, under all the makeup and motion capture). He’s yet another world destroyer with a satanic helmet and no identifiable motivation. He needs to collect three “motherboxes” to reach his full potential. Yawn.
And what about Gadot’s Wonder Woman? She’s here and doing her best, but even her superpowers can’t make this movie smart or interesting. Anyway, she’ll return in her own sequel in 2019. By then it’s hard to imagine anyone still caring about “Justice League.”
THE BIG LEAGUES
Batman, Wonder Woman and several other superheroes join forces in the new action movie “Justice League.” Here are four other big “League” movies.
20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (1954) Kirk Douglas did everything from singing a sea shanty to battling a giant squid in this film version of Jules Verne’s nautical adventure.
MAJOR LEAGUE (1989) The new owner of a baseball team needs to hire the worst players in order to wrap up a business deal. Her plan backfires when the team starts winning. The movie was a home run at the box office and spawned two sequels.
A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN (1992) “There’s no crying in baseball” was the first rule that grizzled coach Tom Hanks taught the female baseball team he had to whip into shape in this hit that co-starred Geena Davis, Rosie O’Donnell and a surprisingly good Madonna.
THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN (2003) Literary adventurers, including Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery) and Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend), team up to stop a villain bent on global domination.
— Daniel Bubbeo