‘Justice League’ delivers mediocre story, super entertainment


Tribune News Service

TEAM UP. Batman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, Flash, and Aquaman come together in “Justice League.” The movie was far from a box office hit, but it does provide a good time. Despite some plot quandaries, the character moments pull through to save the day.

2017 has been a great year for cinematic superheroes: the top three superhero movies of all time on Rotten Tomatoes –“Wonder Woman,” “Logan,” and “Thor: Ragnorak”– all hit the big screen this year.

Particularly after the critical and box office success of “Wonder Woman” (the second highest grossing film of the year), DC hoped to keep this trend going with “Justice League.”

Theoretically, the movie should have succeeded–after all, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman are easily a few of the most recognizable heroes in modern entertainment. However, financially, the movie was essentially a flop.

It opened with $94 million, the lowest opening weekend in the DCEU franchise. With a budget of over $300 million and a significant drop in sales the second weekend, it was evidently not a cash cow.

All that being said, I actually really enjoyed the film. Part of that was likely due to the fact that I was seeing it with close friends and we spent the whole movie comparing ourselves to the characters, but it was also incredibly entertaining.

Full disclosure: I know nothing about the DC universe. I have never read the comics, and literally the only other DC film I have ever seen is “Wonder Woman.” Yet, I have seen my fair share of superhero movies and tend to enjoy them because (in recent years) they are generally well made and engaging.

I would be willing to bet that most of the film’s audiences are not intimately familiar with the Justice League of the comics, so I did expect to be able to enjoy the film without prior knowledge. To a certain extent, that was true.

I was able to piece together enough to comprehend the film in broad strokes, easily. Batman and Superman are so iconic that they do not need much introduction, and enough time was spent on the backstories of Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman.

However, without having seen “Wonder Woman,” Wonder Woman’s characterization in this film and several critical moments would have gone over my head. I have not seen “Batman v. Superman,” but it was pretty immediately clear there was crucial information in that film as well.

Perhaps one should not expect to be able to just step into a cinematic universe like this, but “The Avengers” (2012) was the first Marvel film I ever saw. Without knowing a single thing about Black Widow, Captain America, nor Hawkeye, I had no trouble at all.

Still, I do recommend this movie to those who are not well-versed in the DC film-verse. Like I said, I was still able to enjoy the movie by making some key assumptions.

I am not even an action fan, but I always watch superhero movies. Why? The characters. I am and always will be a sucker for a layered character with complex motivations and development, and there is no shortage of those among these iconic figures.

The characters in “Justice League” did not disappoint. The antagonist was essentially a throw away, but within two hours, the film pulled off the feat of establishing five distinct characters and having each one grow in unique ways. I felt honestly warmed and excited as they started to act like a real team.

“I loved the character development. [Spoiler:] Batman, who always preferred to work independently, acknowledged that they couldn’t achieve victory without Superman. I sympathized with the Flash and his lack of experience while enjoying the comic relief his character provided,” said Carolyn Zhang, 11.

There was a nice, balanced addition of humor as well. The one-liners were certainly abundant with this one, particularly from the side characters, but it never felt contrived to me. A particular favorite line of mine was a deadpan: “That was nice while it didn’t last.”

Once again, I am no action connoisseur, but that element here was just…sufficient. As in, it did not seem smart (like in “The Avengers”) nor beautiful (as in “Wonder Woman”), perhaps a bit too blunt force and bat-mobile-shotgun for my taste, but the sequences were nicely timed.

My only significant complaint about “Justice League” was some plot laziness. [SIGNIFICANT SPOILERS AHEAD] I suppose I guessed early on that Superman would return from the dead, but really his role at the end was something of a deus ex machina.

I know he is an alien, but he is essentially ten times stronger than a literal demigod Why was anyone else even there, to hold off the baddies until he arrived?

Because I watched with close friends and teammates, the experience was made even more precious in my heart.”

— Carolyn Zhang, 11

“When [Superman] comes back to life, he defeats the enemy whom the other main characters had been fighting the whole movie in about five seconds…The whole distribution of power in respect to the characters was just a little bit too drastically uneven for my taste,” Zhang said.

Furthermore, of course the team manages to forget about this all-important box of power, the last piece the villain needs for his plans. It just flies off and gets snatched, and meanwhile everyone else occupies themselves with a subplot and just misses it. [END SPOILERS]

So, “Justice League” is clearly far from a cinematic masterpiece. Perhaps it tries to slip in a social statement about hope and unity, but honestly, a film like this does not have to be incredible. It just has to provide a good time. At the very least, this movie does a decent job of delivering on that front.

Just as the movie is about the formation of a team, it is made for a group of pals willing to suspend their disbelief together.

“My experience was made even more special by the fact that I was watching it with the beloved members of my own Justice League. We had named our 2017 moot court team after this group.

“Even my co-counsel who graduated in the previous class reunited with us…Because I watched with close friends and teammates, the experience was made even more precious in my heart,” Zhang said.