JUSTICE LEAGUE is a joyless slog

[GUYS. There are tons of spoilers below. Tons.]

I am not the target audience for JUSTICE LEAGUE. I haven’t read the comics, nor have I enjoyed the films in the DC Universe (save WONDER WOMAN). Because of this I am willing to ignore the fact that JUSTICE LEAGUE feels like a wholly disjointed exercise in trying to connect unrelated storylines. In fact, that is one of the more excusable sins in this lifeless, dragging, nihilist excuse for a superhero movie. Let me explain.

The plot is all about gathering up the Damn Yankees style super-group of super heroes to defeat this horned video game looking bad guy named Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarán Hinds). He’s got to collect three cubes, mush them together, and then he will be able to turn Earth into his own personal hellscape that he can rule over. Last time he pulled this bullshit all of the magical realms DC has to offer banded together, but now we are left with the to-be-formed Justice League.

Granted, the flying minions commanded by Steppenwolf are pretty awesome. They look like demonic, flying cousins of The Tick, which is pretty darn effective. And I did appreciate visiting Themyscira and Atlantis, but other than that there is nothing to enjoy here.

Because of the mopey, over serious tone of the film, somehow the Flash (Ezra Miller) is served up as the comedic character of the film. The only problem is that he isn’t funny. His quips, and nervous rattling is predictable and safe- two things real comedy never are. He reacts exactly as you are expecting him to. These punchlines brought no laughs in the theater I was sat in, which made the beats left in for the roaring laughs painfully awkward.

The bad guy is also incredibly bland. He just shows up wherever he wants, whenever he wants, and tries to win fights. He is just plain boring. Add to that the fact that he looks like a poorly rendered reject from WORLD OF WARCRAFT, and I’ve nearly forgotten his mission halfway through the two-hour running time.

The plot of the film sets the stakes of the gang’s mission so high, that there is no possible way they will lose. In more fantastical films it is very possible that an entire world will be destroyed.  We’ve seen it in STAR WARS, in GALAXY QUEST, and it almost happened in SPACE BALLS. But there is no possible way JUSTICE LEAGUE could ever end with the complete, global destruction of Earth. By presenting that as the endgame, the film sets its sights so high we know the outcome from the first from of the film. Earth will be saved, and any tension the film was hoping to achieve has been zapped from the entire film.

But the biggest problem I have with JUSTICE LEAGUE is that it never shows us what we are fighting for. Yes, it should be common knowledge that saving all of humanity, along with all of the puppies and kittens and baby goats in sweaters, is inherently a good thing, but show me that. Take a few minutes to celebrate the beauty of friendship, or love, or art, or even Earth’s natural wonders, but just show me what we are trying to save. In these really fucked up times, I rely on my escapist cinema to reaffirm what this whole planet is all about, and JUSTICE LEAGUE just kind of shrugs at the notion of showing us the benefit of life. Give me a reason to care, dammit. That’s the film’s job, and this one has failed.

I could drone on further about the sloppy editing in the film, the uneven tone, or the incessant emphasis on unnecessary character backstory. Or I could toss the film a bone and acknowledge the equal objectification of both men and women in their superhero uniforms. But ultimately these don’t change the fact that this film is soulless and a vapid waste of everyone’s time and energy.

Deirdre Crimmins

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Deirdre (Dede) lives in Cleveland (via Boston) with two black cats. She writes for Film Thrills, Cinematic Essential, The Brattle Theater, Rue Morgue Magazine, Bitch Flicks, and anyone else who will let her drone on about genre film. She wrote her Master’s thesis on George Romero and is always hopeful that Hollywood will get its head out of its ass.

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  1. BOFCA REVIEW ROUND-UP: 11/17/2017 | Boston Online Film Critics Association

    […] “…the biggest problem I have with JUSTICE LEAGUE is that it never shows us what we are fighting for.” – Deirdre Crimmins, Film Thrills […]

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