Justice League (2017)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 11/23/17
Director: Zack Snyder
Music: Danny Elfman
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J.K. Simmons, Ciarán Hinds, Amber Heard, Joe Morton, Billy Crudup

An improvement over "Batman V Superman" (2016), but still a bit of a mess. The death of Superman (Henry Cavill) has brought about the return of Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), a powerful being who is tracking down a trio of ancient artifacts that will allow him to destroy Earth. Unable to handle the global threat alone, Batman (Ben Affleck) recruits Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to help neutralize Steppenwolf.

Typical of Zack Snyder's work, it's an attractive collection of eye-popping vignettes that has trouble coming together as a cohesive whole. Some of the film's disjointedness may be attributed to Snyder leaving the project in Joss Whedon's hands after he bowed out due to a family tragedy. Whedon reportedly re-shot 20% of the film and brought in Danny Elfman to write a new music score. Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill are adequate in their roles, but also a bit dull. The radiant Gal Gadot is fiercely beautiful and immensely charming as Wonder Woman, while a shockingly sexy Jason Momoa turns in a surprisingly entertaining performance as Aquaman. I've never cared for Flash or Cyborg as characters, but Ezra Miller's innocent quirkiness and Ray Fisher's brooding angst made them endearing. Amy Adams, Diane Lane, and Connie Nielsen return in small supporting roles, and Amber Heard is criminally underutilized as Mera, which is a major disappointment. However, the biggest disappointment is the post-credits sequence, which announces the return of Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) and brings back all of the horrible memories of how he ruined "Batman V Superman." That left a seriously bad taste in my mouth as I walked out of the theater.

I've never been a Justice League fan and in general I don't like superhero team-ups. There are always too many characters to keep track of and it's difficult to make sure they all get the same amount of time and attention. However, in this regard I think the film did remarkably well. The visual effects are excellent and the action scenes are a bit overwhelming, although the fight choreography is a bit disappointing because the cinematography and editing are so frenetic. The film moves at a fairly brisk pace, but it definitely has moments that drag and the forced sentimentality becomes overbearing at times. Some of the dialog made me wince, but it's nowhere near as awful as the cringe-inducing moments in "Batman V Superman." I'm curious to see where things go next, as so many of the people involved in the DC film universe are in flux.