'Justice League' isn't good, but it is fun

Review: This installment from DC Studios is better than 'Batman v. Superman,' but way worse than 'Wonder Woman.'

Superhero movies aren't talked about the way they should be. They’ve walled themselves off into their own genre, and insisted that they be rated on separate terms from the rest of the film world. Justice League, the latest from DC Studios, is not a very good movie, but it is also not demonstrably worse than what Marvel has put out.

Justice League follows a newly united team of superheroes: Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), and The Flash (Ezra Miller), among others. Justice League is actually quite a bit of fun. The DC universe seems to have learned some of the right lessons from Wonder Woman, which was a much better film than this one. It serves as a much needed reminder that the world has plenty of good in it. 

In Justice League, the team of supers join forces to fight against an existential, world-altering terror that ended up being so bland his name isn’t even worth mentioning. He’s a CGI creation hell-bent on remaking the world in his own image, and that image is pretty bleak.

The film is at its worst when it focuses on this villain. As a result, most of the fight scenes are fairly uninspiring. Directed by Zack Snyder, who has a distinct style if nothing else, Justice League's fight scenes are awash with terrible lighting, slow-motion and action that feels almost entirely disconnected from reality. Although Snyder had to step away from the film early for personal reasons, his vision is very much intact, at least in the movie’s visual palette.

In the film's dialogue, it’s Joss Whedon who shines the brightest. The Avengers director stepped in for Snyder, and re-shot a large chunk of the film (and eliminated Henry Cavill’s newly grown mustache with CGI in the process). Whedon’s distinctive style of dialogue combines miniature character beats with plenty of fast-paced patter and gives the film a lighter feel. Batman actually has jokes in this one!

That lighter tone is also aided by the arrival of Ezra Miller as Barry Allen, a character who is much newer to the superhero game, and more willing to lighten the mood. Gal Gadot’s increased role here also helps. Wonder Woman is by far this universe’s most interesting character, even if Snyder takes every chance he can get to objectify her.

Overall, the performances here are good, but Justice League ends up feeling like a relatively slight experience, which is not what was expected from DC’s answer to The Avengers. But, it might be what this universe needed. This movie doesn’t have any huge ambitions. It’s a comic book movie, and it’s willing to play up the cartoonish elements of its story and characters. More movies about superheroes should learn that trick because it can make up for a lot of pretty messy plotting.

Justice League isn’t a great movie, or even a good one. If you ignore the unappealing visuals, it’s a pretty fun ride. Superhero movies have never needed to be great movies. Part of their problem is that they try so hard to be great. If they just settled down and gave audiences something fun to watch, everyone might be a little bit better off. 

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