Movie review: 'Justice League' assembles heroes for invigorating thrills

Posted at 8:46 AM, Nov 17, 2017

The only consistent part of D.C. universe films is how inconsistent they are.

Over the past few years under producer/director Zack Snyder's watch, the films have ranged from deplorable ("Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice") to sensational ("Wonder Woman") to bizarre yet fascinating ("Suicide Squad").

All of the building blocks, good and bad, have been stacking toward the eventual, inevitable team-up film "Justice League." While the latest D.C. film doesn't quite match the resonance of Disney's Marvel team-up movies," the fact that it's not an embarrassment feels like a resounding victory for the franchise as a whole. 

"Justice League" is weird and wacky, but it's never dull, and manages to pull its disparate strings together with a cohesive vision. Its action scenes are thrilling and majestic, its dialogue is witty and humorous, and it pulls off the impressive trick of justifying a reason for loner superheroes to work together, making use of each of their talents to cover for their squadmates' weaknesses. 

It's a solid film that will be mistaken by no one for great, but works as a functional base to launch spinoffs, sequels and one-shots moving forward. "Justice League" works as a sort of State of the D.C. Cinematic Address.

Snyder focuses the bulk of the running time on the struggles of Batman (Ben Affleck) to herd his superpowered cats together. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), the Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and Aquaman (Jason Momoa) are all off doing their own thing, oblivious to the emerging threat of godlike, planet-ravager Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hands), and nowhere close to wanting to become Superfriends. The time spent laying the groundwork to forge motivations for the oddball group to work together pays off in the style of the "Dirty Dozen" template.

Walking the tightrope between the grim tone of past D.C. films and cartoonish buffoonery, the film cranks out the thrills while subtly and affably acknowledging its absurdity. It's Miller, as the Flash, who nearly single-handedly keeps things grounded, echoing the wide-eyed, fanboyish tone that Tom Holland nails in "Spider-Man: Homecoming." And give Momoa credit for pulling off the nearly impossible task of making Aquaman seem like a badass rather than a Hawkeye-like, superfluous dork.

If you're curious about the film but wary because of some Internet hate being spewed at it, don't let your reservations deter you from checking it out. The dismissive rants seem to be residual angst from the "Batman v. Superman" debacle. "Justice League" steps right where that film miscalculated, managing to to the D.C. universe justice.

RATING: 3 stars out of 4.

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