Justice League (2017)
The first major DCEU team-up is a bit of a mess, and Chris loved every minute of it!
Starring Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa, and Henry Cavill
Released by Warner Bros. Pictures
Written by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon
Directed by Zack Snyder, Joss Whedon (uncredited)
It was right around the halfway point during a preliminary fight between our heroes and the film's antagonist that it really began to sink in: this movie is a blast to watch.
Coming off of a legendary and arduously troubled production that seemed to have just as many twists and turns behind the camera as it does in front of it, a lot of people in both the circles of fans and of critics seemed to already make up their minds about Warner Bros. Pictures and DC Films' ambitious team-up film, Justice League, quite a while ago. And really, who could blame them? In addition to having to change directors and composers on top of an extensive schedule of reshoots and creative patches, the film being good was quite a longshot.
Sometimes, though, some perceived plotholes and some visible threads between the work of two different directors is easily forgiven for one, primary reason: at long last, the cinematic DC Universe we've been watching in theaters since the summer of 2013 nails the icons it's charged with representing. Not only that, but there are a couple of specific moments where they're not only recognizable, but they thrive in the presence of a kind of light and reverence that has been unseen with current DC Comics movies, including Wonder Woman.
That's not to say that all of its flaws can be so easily overlooked. As steeped in the mythology as this reviewer is and as intimately as I know the characters at play, there were a couple of moments that could've absolutely done with more exposition, and a little more breathing in a few pretty important beats before barreling forward to the next set piece. Be that as it may, it didn't take long for the sheer fun of the film to assert itself once again, and even though some may argue that the freewheeling presence of the plot may oversimplify the film a bit too much, in my judgment this is exactly what this version of the universe sorely needed.
The easy standout of the team is Ezra Miller as Barry Allen/the Flash, filling the boots of the Scarlet Speedster in a way that feels reflexive of both the beloved TV version as well as the sense of fun normally reserved for a good Flash comic book. Jason Momoa absolutely owns the role of Aquaman, making the wait for his solo outing all the more painful.
Ray Fisher as Victor Stone/Cyborg is likely the most reserved member of the team, but has a quality and a kind of regality that helps to bring the ensemble together with greater efficiency. Gal Gadot once again shines as a natural leader in the part of Wonder Woman, and Ben Affleck takes a decidedly more relaxed but just as truthful approach as the Dark Knight, Batman. As for Henry Cavill...well, let's just say that what we see of Superman is, by itself, very much worth the price of admission on its own if you have any semblance of love for the one, true Man of Steel.
While the primary antagonist, Steppenwolf, is a little on the forgettable side, this is another thing that seems very, very easy to forgive for one, primary reason: Steppenwolf was never going to be a character to own the screen. What he does is introduce us more explicitly to the horrors of Apokolips, hinting at the overseeing, godlike despot that awaits us in a future adventure with these characters. Steppenwolf, for all intents and purposes, is merely a device to put our heroes together and get his ass kicked while doing it. He's no Joker, he's no Thanos, he's no Hela, and he has absolutely no reason to be. His purpose was to tee himself up for a punch that I was anticipating being thrown into his ugly face for the entire film, and he served his purpose beautifully.
That, at the end of the day, may be why I can so easily (and gleefully) give Justice League an enthusiastic recommendation. In addition to being pure superhero entertainment, it's also very much a celebration of the characters and — more broadly — of heroes. Justice League is bathed in light, has singularly indentifying moments for each of our protagonists, brings back the iconic cinematic sounds we've associated with these heroes for decades, is true to the heroes it's representing, and is some of the most fun I've had at a movie all year.
(Much of that is very specifically focused on one character, but for more details, read this specific piece to see why Superman flies higher in Justice League than he has in any film since the eighties.)
Maybe that feeling of fun rushes to the forefront because I've been so hungry for seeing these specific characters treated in this fashion. Whatever it is, my heart did something that it most decidedly did not do after either Man of Steel or Batman v Superman: it soared. Justice League is exactly what it needs to be; no more and no less.
While your mileage may vary, go into the theater this weekend with an open mind. Chances are, if you're open to it, you'll smile just as widely as I did with the haphazard, beautiful mayhem of an adventure that owns exactly what a movie called Justice League needed to: its identity as a DC Comics film.
It took a while for these heroes to really arrive, but now that they're here, I hope they never leave.
This review originally appeared at Movies.com.