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“Justice League”: I Totally Predicted This

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Gus Emerson

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In DC’s newly released superhero epic, Batman (Ben Affleck) discusses his concern for the end of the world with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) in “Justice League,” a movie that misses its mark. Image courtesy of Warner Bros. 

After Warner Bros. Studios slogged through three unfortunate hit-and-missed opportunities at a successful DC superhero franchise, fans were given a glimmer of hope by Gal Gadot’s charming and entertaining performance in her “Wonder Woman” solo film. Now, “Justice League” is here to make audiences appreciate “Wonder Woman” that much more, despite its failures.

On the surface, “Justice League” suffers from a lot of predictable setbacks as with Snyder’s previous DC Extended Universe films: nauseating, in-your-face action overflowing with poorly-rendered special effects, confusing and inconsequential plot lines, forced humor, poor character development and unspecified motivations, and a general disregard for the events of the previous films. Of all these issues, in terms of plot and storytelling, “Justice League” most likely suffers from amnesia at what all happened in “Batman v. Superman” and “Suicide Squad.”

From the start of the film, the world appears to be wholly united in mourning after the death of Henry Cavill’s Superman (spoiler alert if you didn’t watch “Dawn of Justice”), which directly contradicts a driving plot point of the previous movie, in that the world was bitterly divided by their thoughts on him; some of the world viewed him as a hero while others still despised him for the deaths he inadvertently caused in the destruction of Metropolis (spoilers, again). To see the world collectively brood over Superman’s tomb and destroyed monument is confusing if you (for whatever reason) decided to pay attention to the last movie, but this hopeless tone does well to set the mood for the rest of the film’s bleak and broody story, that we as the audience have seen four-too-many times from the DCEU.

To anyone trying to follow along with the plot but troubled due to poor storytelling choices, this movie’s villain is an evil, ancient, transdimensional alien-demon named Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds, CGI’d beyond all recognition), from the planet Apokolips, who attempted to conquer Earth thousands of years ago with an army of alien-insects called parademons, but was defeated and forced to retreat. With Superman dead and all the world in tears, Steppenwolf seizes his opportunity to return to finish what he started and invades Diana Prince/Wonder Woman’s homeland of Themyscira. After Prince seeks the help of Bruce Wayne/Batman to recruit the world’s other metahumans to join the fight against Steppenwolf, the two split up and search for: Ezra Miller’s quirky, fast-speaking, and wisecracking Flash; Jason Momoa’s stoic, serious warrior, Aquaman; and Ray Fisher’s robotic, standoffish, and poorly-developed Cyborg.

Add to the mix a genius billionaire superhero with gadgets and a metallic suit, and a World War-fighting red-and-blue superhero from a different time and place, who has a starry shield and superhuman strength and speed㇐and you totally don’t have “The Avengers,” you’ve got DC’s lesser ripoff of Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” who were already Marvel’s ripoff of their own “Avengers.” This is surprising, considering the former Marvel director Joss Whedon’s unspecified and utterly recognizable presence alongside Zack Snyder’s all-too-familiar style of directing; whether or not this adds or takes away from the film is㇐like all else㇐ultimately up to the audience.

Onto the way everyone’s (second) favorite superhero team is portrayed, and you have yourself an entirely new problem on your hands. While Ben Affleck’s Batman was a pleasant surprise as a compelling, emotionally-driven and conflicted character in “BvS.,” in “Justice League,” his Dark Knight-ly stoicism is all but diminished in favor of dry humor and wisecracks every second scene that he’s in, which all but derails his well-established character arc. Thankfully, the character of Wonder Woman is largely the same, though with her role sadly reduced to a side-player instead of the major leader figure she’s meant to portray in this film.

While Ezra Miller certainly attempts a charismatic Barry Allen/ Flash, the main issue facing his motivations in this movie’s plot is his need for friends, which is, in a word, “stupid.” Next is Jason Momoa’s oddly-realized Aquaman, who appears to be a half-attempt at a mixture of both Thor from “Avengers” and Drax from “Guardians of the Galaxy;” this is due in no small part to the fact that, despite it being in his name, Aquaman has surprisingly little to do with water and is instead seen as a beefy, alcoholic cowboy with a (five-tined) trident.
Then, there’s Ray Fisher’s Cyborg… sorely underdeveloped, brooding, quiet, and relentlessly boring and bland; it’s easy to forget that there’s a small part of his character that is still supposed to not be robotic.

Suffering from all the same problems as its predecessors, “Justice League” and the DCEU as a whole must unfortunately learn the hard way that they shouldn’t rush to the finish line at a time when the rivaling Marvel Studios clearly has the upperhand when it comes to cohesive character development, fleshed-out drama, organic humor and actor chemistry, tone, and action direction. Instead of tripping over itself to gather what little it currently has, DC should shift its focus away from beating Marvel head-on and continue under diverse direction㇐not just Snyder㇐to make movies whose central purpose is to actually entertain the masses while drawing relatable, three-dimensional figures of their superheroes, like “Wonder Woman.” DC, learn from your mistakes and strive toward surpassing your own greatest success, not Marvel’s… and you might just make it.

Gus Emerson, staff writer

 

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