Gal Gadot Shines Brightest In Justice League

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Conspicuous by his absence...hint-hint...

Okay, deep breath…I can do this…in through the nose, out through the mouth…okay, I’m ready…

Justice League didn’t suck. There, I said it. Happy now? Oh, don’t get too excited, it’s far from perfect. It’s also got lots of Gal Gadot reprising her role as Wonder Woman, Ben Affleck returning as Batman, virtually no Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, and a pretty breezy pace, so that’s all good.  If the last Fantastic Four had not been released, Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice would be the Ishtar of superhero movies, and this effort is nowhere near that bad. However it’s also rather derivative, at times, of Marvel’s The Avengers films, has a tacked on villain few outside of DC Comics’ most loyal fans will have even heard of, way too much of Zack Snyder’s signature visual overkill, and poorly integrated Joss Whedon humor.

I’m going to do my best to avoid spoilers, though I often wonder why I bother since most people seem determined to ruin their enjoyment of movies by watching the wretchedly edited trailers Hollywood pumps out these days. The cast was mostly introduced in Dawn of Justice:  Ben “Batman” Affleck recruits Gal “Wonder Woman” Gadot, Jason “Aquaman” Momoa, Ezra “The Flash” Miller, and Ray “Cyborg” Fisher to join him in standing against a hostile alien invasion led by Clarán “Steppenwolf” Hinds of the New Gods. “Wait…who?” I hear you ask? Steppenwolf is one of the lesser deities of the New Gods, a race of aliens who are aligned with either The All Father and his forces for good, or Darkseid and his army of evil…yeah, I lost most of you already, accept for the nerds out there pumping their fists and squealing ”Sweet!” Suffice it to say, he’s a big dude with a giant axe who lives to destroy worlds, at least in the DC Movie Universe, and that’s pretty much all the character development he gets. He’s nowhere near as cool as Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, but at least he’s not Jesse Eisenberg either. Speaking of Marvel, I was reminded regularly of the Captain America versus Iron Man dynamic when Batman would throw some technical-futurist babble at the team and Wonder Woman would respond with the anachronistic rebuttals of someone who has fought for centuries no matter the state of mankind’s technical prowess.  I don’t wawnt to give away what they were arguing about, but it certainly wasn’t the way I’d have handled a certain…spoiler who shall not be named. Aquaman was a letdown, waffling from wiseass to gleeful barbarian, seldom projecting any real “King of Atlantis” regal vibe. Batman’s occasional queries as to if Aquaman could actually talk to fish didn’t help. In fact, I spent most of the movie reminding myself, “This is the dude from Game of Thrones, not Roman Reigns from the WWE.” Amy Adams is to Lois Lane what Michael Caine was to Alfred –awkward. More on that in a bit…

On the plus side, Ben Affleck still offers a pretty solid Batman, but the heart of this film and the team is most definitely Gal Gadot. After her much-lauded turn in this past spring’s Wonder Woman, it’s hard to picture anyone else doing a better job than this relative newcomer.  She’s beautiful, yes, but she’s also a talented actress who easily holds her own against the rest of this testosterone-laden cast. Ezra Miller brings a nice bit of naïveté to his Flash and lends both humor and heart to the team. I do think Grant Gustin, the CW television’s Flash, could have done just as well. It’s a real shame neither Marvel nor DC seem to be creative enough to incorporate the casts of their hit television shows into their cinematic ventures. Ray Fisher was very good as Cyborg, a well-loved character from the Teen Titans comic franchise who “graduated” to the big (Justice) leagues a few years ago. His character probably gets the best overall development, which was smart because he’s arguably the least well known of the bunch. J.K. Simmons isn’t on screen a lot, but when his Commissioner James Gordon does appear, he’s spot on, because that’s what J.K. Simmons does. Jeremy Irons is probably the best cinematic Alfred, but Gotham’s Sean Pertwee is my favorite.

Back to the Amy Adams awkward thing—director Zack Snyder experienced a personal tragedy and handed the reins of finishing the film and reshoots in the capable hands of Joss Whedon. The problem is even a casual fan can pick out the Whedon lines from yet another otherwise bleak DC movie script, and none are more awkwardly realized than when Lois blurts out that a certain spoiler that will remain nameless smells good. It was jarringly weird during what should have been the tenderest moment of the film. The action scenes are definitely Snyder’s trademarked brand hyperkinetic CGI and slow-motion. Danny Elfman’s score is tremendous. The overall color palette in Justice League is startling dark, odd for a franchise based on the generally brighter and more colorful of the major comic universes.  

Justice League offers just enough to keep superhero fans happy and should go over reasonably well with the general movie-going public. Fans of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman will be delighted with her stealing the movie once again. Grizzled old comic geeks like me will search every scene for Easter eggs. Taking a page from Marvel’s book, this movie has two short end credit scenes: one that will make you smile, and one that will make you want to cheer and curse simultaneously. I guess it was slightly better than Jared Leto’s stupid attempt at the Joker showing up again.   

3.5 / 5.0