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“Justice League” is fine and that’s good enough, for now

The newest DC Comics film is a slightly frustrating but overall enjoyable movie.

Jason+Momoa%2C+Gal+Gadot%2C+Ezra+Miller+and+Ray+Fisher+team+up+in+this+year%27s+Justice+League.+
Jason Momoa, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller and Ray Fisher team up in this year's Justice League.

Jason Momoa, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller and Ray Fisher team up in this year's Justice League.

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Jason Momoa, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller and Ray Fisher team up in this year's Justice League.

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Justice League” feels like the kind of paper that’s good enough to earn, at best, a solid B.

It’s structured coherently, free of technical errors and flirts with reaching for something meaningful while ultimately not being insightful nor different enough from others like it to stand out. It’s good enough.

This film sees Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) attempt to recruit Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and the Flash (Ezra Miller) to join them in defending Earth from an otherworldly villain which threatens to destroy all life. The Flash is quirky and well-meaning, he’s eager to join the cause because he needs friends. Cyborg and Aquaman would prefer to be alone, both feeling out of place in the world. These characters are distinguishable, funny and all interesting enough to follow on own adventures when the time comes. But for now they make for interesting enough relationships between them and the returning characters.

Our heroes meet, they argue and then eventually come together to vanquish evil, all while cracking jokes. It’s the same plot structure everyone has seen many times in other superhero movies. Yet in spite of this, “Justice League” mostly manages to remain interesting and fun by mixing character development with action scenes where it feels as if every hero’s unique abilities add something to the team. At least that’s the case until we see the heroes resurrect Superman (Henry Cavill), whose return was heavily implied to happen minutes after he died in last year’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

The movie commits a grave error by devoting a sizeable chunk of its nearly two hour runtime to reviving Superman and then having him come to terms with being alive again. None of this resonates because the death wasn’t impactful when it happened. This has been expected for the past year and Superman wasn’t an interesting enough character for audiences to care about.

This part of the movie is a chore to get through because we know where it’s headed, and the journey there isn’t as exciting as what we expected. Outside of this the film is well paced and doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Instead of wasting time on something so predictable, the film could have further fleshed out the backstories of characters who actually happen to be likeable. Their stories and interactions hint at complex, relatable themes that begged to be explored and could have helped to distinguish “Justice League” from other superhero movies. But it feels too afraid to offend viewers by exploring anything real, and so it relies on superhero film clichés to get by.

Aquaman, for example, appears to dislike being with people outside of the water because of their treatment of the environment. He also dislikes being in the water because he’s an outsider who is still expected to lead them. References are made to him being a man without a home who expresses views sympathetic of immigrants forced out of their lands. These are alluded to in a handful of lines of dialogue but never reacted to by other characters or explored by the film.

The most jarring visual flaws of “Justice League” can be traced back to poor planning. “The Avengers” director Joss Whedon stepped in to complete post-production for the film after director Zack Snyder departed due to a family tragedy.

The finished product clearly reflects that two very different directors had control of it. Though “Justice League” flows well from scene to scene, its control of tone is often non-existent. Scenes with palpable emotion that develop the characters are undercut by the film’s need to make a joke, displaying a lack of confidence in its own writing. It is trying to be both lighthearted and serious at the same time in multiple scenes, which muddles the intended result by making it difficult to determine exactly what that was.

The intent was clear in scenes where the jokes are at the expense of the sole female hero, Wonder Woman. It limits her to the role of “team mom” and has jokes where the punchline boils down to “she’s a girl, with boobs!”

Not only is it gross and immature, but it’s especially disappointing because “Wonder Woman” had done a good job of creating a complex and powerful heroine who wasn’t treated as an object.

If “good enough” is Warner Bros.’ ultimate goal for their DC Comics inspired movies, then efforts such as this one will earn them just that reaction. But if Warner Bros. wants to be more than “not Marvel,” they need to take the time to create interesting characters and stories instead of focusing on meeting a release date – a mistake which shows in Henry Cavill’s digitally manipulated mouth as the studio attempted to erase a mustache he was contractually required to keep for a different movie. Being decent at best will only get you so far for so long.

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