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JUSTICE LEAGUE: An Entertaining Mess

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If you’ve been watching films of the DC Comics Universe directed by Zack Snyder, and you like them, you know what to expect with Justice League.  There are lots of explosions, protracted fight scenes, and dour superheroes.  Sometimes those of us who are fans wish for a little more levity.

For better or worse, Joss Whedon had to take over finishing the film, (the reasons for which are decidedly on the worse side, since it relates to the death of Snyder’s daughter).  As a result of that, and perhaps also due to an awareness that with all that’s happening in the news, we all need a bit less darkness onscreen, Justice League, which releases this weekend, has some pretty funny moments.  It’s no Thor: Ragnarok, but no one should ask it to be.  DC’s sensibilities, its characters, have always been heavier and more intense than most of those from the Marvel universe.  That being said, Aquaman and The Flash are known to be smart-alecky, ready with a snappy comeback, far more so than Batman and Superman.  This is lucky for all of us wanting our DC Comics a bit less Dour and a bit more Comic.

I’ll set the movie up, so as not to spoil.  As you’ll all recall, Superman is dead. Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) discovers something very bad is happening as it relates to some boxes, that, by the way, look a lot like the ones in Hellraiser.  It’s something to do with energy, releasing some villainous character from eternal prison or some such.  Suffice to say, if CGI-heavy character Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciaran Hinds) and his evil flying minions get the three hidden on  Earth, the end of the world is nigh.  Wayne and Princess Diana/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), who has been laying low since World War I, determine to put together a force to save the world.  They hope to enlist the help of Arthur Curry / Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Barry Allen / The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Victor Stone / Cyborg (Ray Fisher).  How they come together, the motivations of each character, and how they interact, is what makes the movie watchable.  Momoa’s Aquaman and Miller’s Flash, along with Jeremy Irons’ Alfred, get some great one liners.  As Alfred has always been portrayed by Irons as a witty, sanguine voice of reason, the delivery of his dialogue works as a great foil for the continued grumpiness of Affleck’s Wayne.  Because Momoa and Miller’s characters are just being introduced in this film, they have the flexibility to be more off the cuff, which experts will tell you is how they have been mostly portrayed in the comic books.

Where is Superman?  If you’ve seen the promotional pictures, he clearly figures somewhere in the film.  I’m not sure why they chose to let everyone know that, before the movie, but there it is.  He is part of the story.  I won’t say more. I mean, maybe he’s a ghost, if aliens have souls.  You’ll have to go see the film to find out.

The film is more than a bit of a mess in terms of editing and storyline, and attempted shifts in tone sometimes don’t work, and are often thrown at the audience without warning.  More than once, I asked myself if I cared what was happening, or even what the hell WAS happening.  No matter. It is still a surprisingly entertaining experience, all a result of the star power of the talent onscreen, (including a number I won’t mention for the sake of spoilers) and the interplay between actors as their characters.

If you love Wonder Woman, she is still bringing her magnetism and wisdom.  If you want to see pretty, shirtless men, it has that.  As a matter of fact, that is one way it does actually meet its Marvel competition.  Of course, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok, among other superhero movies not released this year, have created expectation for more.  Still, there is something impressive and exciting seeing the Justice League characters assembled.  For all its bungling, it’s still a fun time at the multiplex for superhero fans, and may be a portent of lighter, better balanced things to come in the DC movie universe.