Fun’s over, superhero movie fans.
We all had a good laugh at Thor: Ragnarok, but now it’s time for another dour Zack Snyder DC Universe movie, so bring your long face.
The Justice League prologue reminds us where Batman v Superman left off (Superman more or less dead), and how awful things are as a result: Clark Kent’s boyhood home is in foreclosure, skinheads menace Muslim shopkeepers, a homeless man begs for money in the street, a giant Superman mourning flag is draped over a bridge.
As we view these images, we hear a cover of Leonard Cohen’s dirge “Everybody Knows.”
“It’s like your dog just died,” Sigrid, the singer, moans.
Wait, it gets worse.
Screeching insect aliens are starting to swarm the Earth — shock troops prefiguring the arrival of a power-mad demon called Steppenwolf (Led Zeppelin was booked), destroyer of worlds, sender of humanity to bed without supper, sayer of, “Don’t make me turn this galaxy around,” etc.
What’s to be done?
Batman (Ben Affleck) decides that in the absence of Superman, he must round up the rest of the world’s supertalent — Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), obviously, and some new recruits as well. Speedy, upbeat millennial Flash (Ezra Miller) agrees immediately, others must be persuaded — they include man/machine/AI amalgamation Cyborg (Camden’s Ray Fisher), still getting used to his new powers, and undersea misanthrope Aquaman (Game of Thrones’ Jason Momoa).
Batman has a pretty good sales pitch — if Steppenwolf has his way, the earth will be turned into a “primordial hellscape.”
Snyder underscores the seriousness of this threat with some early scenes that show Steppenwolf in action. He shows up on Paradise Island and kills some of Wonder Women’s Amazonian comrades, so that he can steal something called a Mother Box. There are three of them, and once he collects all three, he gets a free Happy Meal. No, that’s not it. He acquires unstoppable power.
Is there something else that can be done with the special properties of these power sources?
Like, something related to Superman, who is maybe not completely dead?
Certainly this would make guilty-looking Batman feel better. Everybody keeps hinting at the awful thing he did to Superman, but nobody gets specific.
Have they signed non-disclosure agreements?
There’s another hitch: If Superman can somehow be resuscitated, he might be in a really bad mood. Like just about everybody else in the mopey, moribund Justice League.
Flash provides some comic relief (Joss Whedon, known recently for his Avengers work, was brought in to punch up the dialogue), Aquaman some terse tough-guy laughs, but the jokes land stiffly, and Wonder Woman, recently the star of her own blockbuster movie, is back to being part of a superhero tag-team, taking turns in the end at beating on Steppenwolf.
Steppenwolf, by the way, is supposedly played by Ciarán Hinds, but as far as I can tell he’s completely computer generated, which means another flimsy, bloodless, animated avatar of something that exists in place of an actual performance. Ditto Steppenwolf’s army of flying minions. For all of the improvements in CGI technology, what we see in Justice League is a malevolent air force 95 percent less scary than the flying monkeys of The Wizard of Oz.
- Directed by Zack Snyder. With Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher and Amy Adams. Distributed by Warner Bros.
- Parents guide: PG-13 (violence)
- Running time: 1 hour, 50 mins.
- Playing at: Area theaters