I don’t often see movies more than once in theaters upon release, so it must be a sign of a great year that I’ve gone back to the theater twice for three separate movies this year. For Dunkirk and Blade Runner 2049, I went back to have that immersive experience again and because both of those films are cinematic achievements (not to mention easily the two best films of the year). Justice League is the last one I will see twice this year in theaters and that’s because it is a flat-out blast.
I was extremely hesitant going into this movie. Critics have absolutely hated most of the DC films that have been released since Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. Apart from Wonder Woman, every film has received an unwarranted beating. Suicide Squad is the weakest of the three (including Batman v Superman and Man of Steel) and is very enjoyable until a problematic third act. I have a soft spot for BvS because the director’s cut that ended up on blu-ray is an operatic tour de force. Man of Steel is the best Superman film to date, just barely beating out 1978’s Superman: The Movie simply because there is not one action sequence in that movie. I am happy to say that Justice League stands toe-to-toe with Wonder Woman for me. It’s exciting, funny, and has some truly great character moments. The film sits at just two hours and it flies by.
The film begins soon after the events of Batman v. Superman with Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) trying to keep the world safe in the absence of Superman. Once they learn of an impending invasion from an otherworldly power, they must form a team of exceptional people to come together and save the human race. The newcomers here include The Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Aquaman (Jason Momoa). The film takes on quite a bit having to not only introduce the villain they are all up against, but also the rest of the team we haven’t seen before. Luckily, they are all given moments to shine (even if Aquaman is a little short-changed) and each actor feels perfectly fitted to their character. Justice League gets me as excited to see standalone films for each of these characters as it does to see a JL sequel. I have heard a lot of people hating the villain of Steppenwolf (played by the great Ciaran Hinds) because he’s a CG character with a “boring” motive. I didn’t have a problem with this character here, he’s very much akin to Ultron in the Avengers sequel or whatever the villain was in Doctor Strange. It’s a CGI villain that is given a scene or two to explain what his motive is and how powerful he is. Steppenwolf is more than a serviceable villain in order to get all of our heroes together. His onslaught on Themyscira is a real highlight of the film.
This film truly exceeded my expectations. There was so much behind-the-scenes controversy that it had much to overcome. If you are a fan of any of these superheroes, I think you’ll get a kick out of Justice League. The character moments are great and often even overshadowing the action sequences, with the cast’s chemistry being through the roof. As for the action, I found to be visceral and exciting. It may be in part due to seeing all of these superheroes fighting on screen together for the first time, but having seen this film twice now, I have to say that there isn’t an action sequence in the film that feels dull. As with 99% of blockbusters today, there is an over-reliance on CGI effects, but it never felt overbearing here as it did with Doctor Strange or Guardians of the Galaxy 2. I never felt like I was watching a cartoon.
Overall, I enjoyed this film from beginning to end. Gal Gadot continues to steal the show as Wonder Woman; I am still a big fan of Affleck’s portrayal of Batman; Ezra Miller is a scene-stealer as The Flash; Ray Fisher is fantastic in his first big screen role as Cyborg, who is easily the toughest character to translate to the screen. Momoa is a fun Aquaman, but isn’t given much to do here, although I do look forward to his solo film next year. Justice League is fast-paced, big-budget fun that should get you eagerly anticipating what we see next from DC.
Rating: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action
Runtime: 2 hours, 1 minute