The Popcorn Periodical
Does “Justice League” do the squad of legendary heroes justice?
This has been a heroic year for comic book characters at the movies. Blockbuster successes like Marvel Studio’s Logan, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, and Thor: Ragnarok dominated opening weekends all year. DC Comics, on the other hand, had three 2017 movie releases: The Lego Batman Movie, Wonder Woman, and now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for, Justice League!
The ongoing box office battle between these two universal titans is a war Marvel has been winning, but with this legendary DC Comics team coming together for the first time in major motion picture history, an early 48% rating on Rotten Tomatoes may not be the movie kryptonite strong enough to halt this extraordinary group of heroes from blowing up the long-term competition.
Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and Superman (Henry Cavill), with the short-lived but necessary love and support from Alfred Pennyworth (Jeremy Irons), Lois Lane (Amy Adams), Commissioner James Gordon (J/K. Simmons) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane), deliver an action-packed explosion of superhero nostalgia fans will definitely want to see on the big screen.
If the assemblence of the world’s most popular superheroes didn’t garner enough attention, recurring sexual assault allegations in Hollywood (ones that have resurfaced about Ben Affleck) have attached questionable integrity to the man behind the Batman. Ben Affleck’s debut as the Dark Knight in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was better than expected and he proved to fit into the billionaire’s suits quite nicely. This scandal could and probably will hurt the franchise, even if Affleck’s apologized for the actions he claims he “doesn’t remember.”
“What’s your superpower again?” Barry Allen (The Flash) asks Bruce Wayne (Batman) on their way to meet the rest of heroes for the first time. “I’m Rich,” he replies. And it sets the tone for the way this team of metahumans tease Batman, jabbing him with witty one-liners and embarrassing his mortality the entire film. It makes Affleck’s presence more tolerable, if anything. Seeing him get kicked around is oddly satisfying given his real life circumstances. For many, he’s still hard to digest, but besides the silly voice changer the Batsuit is equipped with, Affleck is a substantial Batman/Bruce Wayne, yet again.
Another controversy, this time surrounding Jason Momoa, resurfaced prior to the film’s release. A shocking quote of Momoa “joking” about rape during a Game of Thrones Q&A panel sparked online debate and even more bad publicity for the film. The talented star moseyed his way to stardom getting minor gigs in teen movies and television shows until he landed the career-changing role as Khal Drogo in the first season of Game of Thrones. His seemingly effortless portrayal of the savage warrior leader solidified the character as a fan favourite in the television franchise.
In Justice League, Momoa is cast as Arthur Miller aka Aquaman, the incredibly attractive heir to the kingdom of Atlantis. His debut, along Ezra Miller’s The Flash, integrates into the DC Extended Universe seamlessly. For many, Momoa’s promising depiction of Aquaman sank before it even began to swim. Fans took to Twitter to express their disappointment in Momoa and Affleck with the hashtag #InjusticeLeague, but upon the flash floods of destruction that plays out onscreen, both Momoa and Affleck, along with all the other leading actors, shine in the shoes of their respected heroes.
Director Zack Snyder returns to direct Justice League marking the fifth film in the DC Extended Universe following 2013’s Man of Steel, 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, and this past summer’s Wonder Woman. There are many layers within many realms of this fictional universe that only super fans will comprehend, but even if you’re unfamiliar with the cinematic pasts of Gotham, Metropolis, Krypton, Themyscira or Prime Earth, Justice League stands tall on it’s own. You may however want to watch a few of the preceding films if you’ve never seen them.
Now, after Superman’s death in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the world is in mourning, crime has spiked in the city centres, and a war on the universe has started where only Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) could recognize. Wonder Woman really comes into her own in this film, taking charge of nearly every situation she’s in. The fate of the world is in jeopardy as the film’s powerful but seemingly lazy super villain, Steppenwolf (an evil New God with a checkered past and inhuman strength), played by Irish actor Cirián Hinds, sets out with his army of flying Parademons to retrieve three miniature “supercomputers” known as Mother Boxes. The rest is a wild ride full of non-stop action, adventure, passion and laughs that keep you engaged and holding onto you seat.
At times, Justice League feels like two movies spiralled into one white-knuckled joy ride. There’s the drama/suspense movie, where a lot of heart and passion from characters like Victor Stone (Cyborg), played by Ray Fisher, struggles with his physical and mental changes as well as his relationship with his father. Or the determined Lois Lane and modest Martha Kent, who are both mourning the loss of Superman/Clark Kent. Towards the end of the film, Lane narrates by reading her latest article in the Daily Planet, so much of what she says resonates with how we as humans view and treat one another. And like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, today’s political climate transcends into this fictional universe of super human paragons making you wish there really was a team of superheroes to save us from destruction.
Then there’s the action/comedy movie. The kind of superhero movie we’ve grown to expect from Marvel Studios. Justice League is similar to Thor: Ragnarok in that it packs an exceptionally expensive amount of thrilling CGI combat with off the wall humour and lighthearted moments used to string the story line along. Aquaman proves to be incredibly endearing and likeable, contradictory to his tough exterior, and The Flash brings the laughs from the moment he shows up on screen. The film weaves scene after scene together for it’s entirety, changing the tone faster than The Flash in a foot race. If you turn away during the fight scenes, you’re bound to miss something.
The Justice League has crash landed into theatres, and while it’s impact on ticket sales and popular comic culture is to be determined, this film is for thrill seekers more than anything. The battle scenes are epic, and you can tell production really set out to make each and every character stand out. At times, the film looks as if you’re in a video game, watching the selected characters fight to the death in front of you. If you’re looking for a Dark Knight Rises type of rawness, you’re going to be disappointed, but if you want to buckle up and enjoy the ride, this is the one to watch. Even critics can be too critical.
Tip: Stay after the credits for not one but TWO additional scenes!
Watch the Trailer
About the Author
Joey Viola is the Co-Founder of MoJo Toronto and an LGBTQ community leader who utilizes his passion and flair for the art of writing by bringing a fresh perspective in reviewing entertainment and advocating for equality, tolerance, and social/political justice.