The silver lining of all the recent monumental failures adapting characters from the DC Comics universe into feature films has finally become clear with “Justice League.”
After slogging through the massive miscues of “Man of Steel,” “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad,” any comic book movie that is in focus would look better by comparison.
That’s not to say “Justice League” comes close to the beautifully crafted “Wonder Woman.” But it does have enough entertaining moments to balance how the film still suffers from a disjointed plot, an opening that plays like an endless loop of prologues and some painfully bad casting.
“Justice League” opens in a world that has given into the darkness of evil after the death (?) of Superman. Things are so bad, an intergalactic world crusher known as Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) gets his motor running and launches an invasion of Earth. All he needs are three glowing cubes — Mother Boxes — that once unified will wipe out the planet.
Steppenwolf has no problem grabbing the Mother Boxes being guarded by the Amazons and Atlanteans. Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) recognizes the problem and decides he needs a team to stop the invasion before the last cube is collected.
This is where the plot gaffes start. The last time Steppenwolf tried to conquer Earth it took an army of Amazons, Atlanteans and humans plus some help from a few gods to stop him. This time it is five heroes — one who has no super powers, another whose skills are best underwater and a third who comes across more like a very bad stand-up comic than the fastest man on Earth.
If only Superman could be brought back to life to save the day. If only.
Each character — including a reintroduction of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) — gets their moments. There’s also time spent by Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane) lamenting about their loss.
Affleck has again confused being a worn-out warrior with being apathetic. At least when he seems to be showing a lack of interest in the world around him it’s clear he’s not fallen asleep out of boredom.
Affleck’s casting and performance aren’t the worst. The endless one-liners and wisecracks by the Flash (Ezra Miller) gets annoying quicker than a flash.
Then there’s Aquaman (Jason Momoa), one of the B-list heroes in the DC Universe. His being part of the team would have made far more sense if the big final battle had been close to at least a drinking fountain.
The only person who truly understands the right way to play a comic book hero is Gadot. Whether she’s Wonder Woman or Diana Prince, Gadot’s performance always comes with great heart and courage.
As for other big plot misfires, the biggest comes in the third act. The team is not having much success, and it takes a predictable super plot twist to save the day. Having the fate of Superman so obviously looming throughout the film serves only as a cheat to get to a proper conclusion.
Director Zack Snyder has not put together a complete action film since “Watchmen.” Since then, his action scenes are more chaotic than cleverly controlled, and he puts together scenes where events unfold before there’s any explanation of what is happening.
The two best things going for “Justice League” is a running time of 119 minutes and that it came out in the wake of so many recent stumbles with DC Comics movies. Buried under a stack of problems is a core of a good idea that could be used should the franchise continue.