Are the Justice League cursed? Years in the making, with a number of false starts, the superhero team arrived in cinemas with hype and baggage like few films before it. Can the film possibly reach the heights of the rather marvellous Wonder Woman, or will it prove as contentious as other DC movies?
Picking up after the events of Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, the world is in mourning for the loss of the son of Krypton. In the vacuum left behind an ancient evil looks set to return and take over earth. It is up to Batman and Wonder Woman to construct a team to take on this villain and save the day.
I approached Justice League with a certain trepidation, the howls of rage from critics particularly deafening this time. I expected a mess, what I got was a breezy superhero romp that occasionally sparkled into something special but spent much of its time being an enjoyable blockbuster. There’s a lot going on here, a richness to the mythology constructed around the film. Certainly flawed, the cracks of a painful production are apparent. But this is not the slog of previous DC films, thanks in particular to the roster of heroes who make up the league.
The film has three new heroes to set up and does so mostly successfully. Standout amongst them is Ezra Miller's The Flash. Initially threatening to come across as the Big Bang Theory's Sheldon, but with super powers, his performance calms down and gives the film much needed levity. Jason Momoa is fine here but never manages to escape the absurdness of Aquaman, while Ray Fisher, as Cyborg, has potential as the least explored of the heroes. His is the character who feels most tinkered with during the film's mammoth post production.
Ben Affleck’s Batman still clicks for me even if the makers can’t seem to find a consistent use for him. Maybe Batman just doesn’t fit a world of gods and metahumans. Gal Gadot is as inspired a piece of casting as Wonder Woman as she was in her solo film and is the heart of the DC universe, offering the series something that Marvel is still so very far from (name one compelling female hero in their roster). And yes Superman returns (I won’t tell you how) and Henry Cavill seems to have finally found a comfortable place for his character. The gloom is mostly gone and he holds much of the final act together.
Other great actors flit in and out with enjoyable support from Jeremy Irons and JK Simmons, who are left in waiting for the eventual Batman film to follow. Regrettably these films still have no idea what to do with an actress of Amy Adams calibre, and she is given little to do here. Ciarán Hinds-voiced Steppenwolf is a mostly-CGI frustration, proving once again how hard it is for modern comic book movies to produce an interesting antagonist.
Sometime I find myself at odds with the critical consensus that amasses around a film. I went in to Justice League expecting an unmitigated mess, and came out of it having had a great time. The central team are likeable, the universe feels expansive and rich in mythology, and I left eager for another visit to it. Most importantly I had fun with this film, something that can't always be said for other DC films. Bring on the sequel.