Jus­tice league

JLA Story

SFX - - Reviews - Nick Setch­field

re­leased OUT NOW! 12a | 120 min­utes Di­rec­tor Zack sny­der Cast Ben af­fleck, Gal Gadot, Henry Cav­ill, ezra Miller, amy adams, Ja­son Mo­moa

There’s a sin­gle vis­ual in Jus­tice League that says ev­ery­thing. It’s not some epic mo­ment, art­fully com­posed and strain­ing for iconic im­pact. And it’s not one of the count­less times a char­ac­ter en­ters the frame in ap­proved movie su­per­hero style, head-to-the-chest and fist-to-the­floor. No, it’s the briefest glimpse of a bro­ken, home­less man, pan­han­dling on the street. There’s a tat­tered card­board sign next to him. It says, sim­ply, “I tried”.

These two words shadow ev­ery sec­ond of the lat­est DCEU en­try. It’s si­mul­ta­ne­ously a mea culpa for the mis­steps of Bat­man V Su­per­man: Dawn Of Jus­tice and an ea­ger, puppy-faced at­tempt to make amends, shift­ing that movie’s doomy, dispir­it­ing world into a brighter, shinier or­bit, build­ing on ev­ery­thing that this sum­mer’s Won­der Woman got so right. “Our dark­ness was deep and seemed to swal­low all hope,” ac­knowl­edges one par­tic­u­larly self-flag­el­lat­ing line of di­a­logue. It may well be ripped ver­ba­tim from the Warner Bros an­nual in­ter­nal report.

Locked into pro­duc­tion even as the stu­dio re­alised they needed a major cre­ative gear change, Jus­tice League lost its orig­i­nal helmer when Zack Sny­der stepped down mid-shoot due to a fam­ily tragedy. The ti­tle cred­its state, bullishly, that this is “A Zack Sny­der Film”, and the stu­dio in­sists that around 80% of his material re­mains.

A thou­sand movie blogs will doubtlessly dis­sect the truth of that. Mop-up di­rec­tor/ screen­writer Joss Whe­don’s in­put cer­tainly screams out in the pop-cul­ture riffs (“Not, like, in a Pet Se­matary way?”), meta-zingers (“I’m not the one who brought a pitch­fork…”) and gen­eral vibe of Hall H self-aware­ness that teeters on the point of self-par­ody (“Wow, it’s like a cave! Like a… BatCave!”). Gone is the de­sat­u­rated grad­ing that swal­lowed all colour from the world, let alone hope – Su­per­man’s red, blue and gold pop on the screen as they should (spoiler: he lives. Of course he lives). There are mo­ments where the ac­tion freezes into god­like tableaux and you sense Sny­der’s over­wrought, awe-chas­ing touch, but over­all the gloomy, bom­bas­tic vi­su­als of Bat­man V Su­per­man are his­tory.

The story is thud­dingly sim­ple. There are these boxes, right? Weird, crazy boxes. Put the boxes to­gether and bad stuff hap­pens. Bad man wants bad stuff to hap­pen. Good guys don’t. That’s it. There are Sil­ver Age is­sues of Jus­tice League Of Amer­ica with more rig­or­ous plot­ting. There are pages of Sil­ver Age is­sues of Jus­tice League Of Amer­ica with more rig­or­ous plot­ting. The film mines the cos­mic lore of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World comic books but, like its CG-aug­mented blank of a vil­lain, Step­pen­wolf, it’s empty plun­der­ing that re­lies on the au­di­ence’s knowl­edge of the source material to achieve any kind of res­o­nance. The stakes are vast but strangely empty.

There’s no emo­tional con­text to make you feel in­vested

Of course, it’s all a means to line up our heroes like so many tie-in tumblers in a Happy Meal dis­play. Ben Af­fleck’s sturdy Bruce Wayne gets to be Yul Bryn­ner in The

Mag­nif­i­cent Seven, growl­ing, “I’m putting to­gether a team”. Of the new re­cruits, Ezra Miller and Ja­son Mo­moa bring mil­i­tary-grade screen pres­ence: Miller’s Flash is a jit­tery, wide-eyed in­die kid, Mo­moa’s Aqua­man a whiskeyswig­ging met­al­head. Ray Fisher brings some­thing qui­eter and deeper to Cy­borg, while Gal Gadot may not have a chance to shine as she did in her solo movie, but re­mains the key em­pathic linch­pin of this screen uni­verse, war­rior and Earth mother con­joined.

It’s a charm­ing cast, and their quip-loaded, Whe­don-pow­ered in­ter­play is solidly en­ter­tain­ing. But ul­ti­mately so much of this movie is numb­ing, a weary­ing orgy of ev­ery weight­less, hy­per-real cliché of su­per­hero physics. You’ll soon lose track of the num­ber of peo­ple flung against walls. And when it aims for Peter Jack­son epic­ness – hordes of horse­backed Ama­zons charge against Step­pen­wolf’s can­non-fod­der army of Pa­rademons – there’s no gen­uine emo­tional con­text to make you feel in­vested.

Hid­den among the cos­play car­nage is a scene that works beau­ti­fully. In a Kansas corn­field, a res­ur­rected Clark Kent tells Lois Lane, “I’m back now, and I’m go­ing to make things right.” It’s sim­ple and real, a hu­man mo­ment among the metahu­man. If DC’s cin­e­matic uni­verse has a fu­ture beyond end­lessly bank­able Won­der

Woman se­quels then this is where it needs to be­gin.

The mid­night fire drills sucked.

Diana was in the mar­ket for a big­ger sword.

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