“Justice League” (PG-13)
Pop a couple of Advils before seeing DC Comics’ “Justice League.” You’ll need it to ward off the acute migraine brought on by a nonstop exercise in incohesion and unnecessary loudness. I usually find superhero movies to be fun, albeit flawed. But “Justice League” is fatally flawed from the get-go. The lone exception, naturally, is Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, who steals the show.
The movie picks up in the aftermath of “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” with the Man of Steel dead(?) and the world in mourning. Now the big cheese in town, Batman (Ben Affleck), orders up an Avenger’s style group of metahumans to take down the latest threat to humanity — an interstellar warlord named Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds). Along with the Caped Crusader and Wonder Woman, this new group of superfriends includes: Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and Aquaman (Jason Momoa). Teamwork makes the dream work. Got it?
Together, the Justice League must fight off an invasion by the alien forces of Apokolips, led by the malevolent Steppenwolf. The goal, or at least what passes for one, is to keep the fiend away from the three Mother Boxes (yes, this movie has not one, but three MacGuffins). Before you get to all that, though, director Zack Snyder, working from a cluttered screenplay by Chris Terrio (“Argo”) and Joss Whedon (“The Avengers” and its sequels), touches upon each character’s back story — prologue style.
With this many characters and moving parts, the filmmakers have a lot of trouble holding it all together. And the big cast faces the challenge of propping up all the lameness and they can’t meet it. Affleck has no emotion. Miller is miscast, playing Flash as a millennial wiseacre whose endless one-liners soon wear out their welcome. The whiskey-swilling Aquaman is the protector of the sea, yet spends the majority of the movie on land. The only two worth their weight are Wonder Woman and Cyborg, whose standalone movie is in development.
I can’t help pointing out that there are far more below-the-belt shots of Wonder Woman than were in her standalone blockbuster from this past summer. That’s the difference between a male and female behind the camera, I suppose. For the record, those gratuitous shots of Gadot’s toned thighs do nothing to advance the plot.
Another obstacle is a weak and uninteresting villain in Steppenwolf. He never feels threatening, probably because we’ve seen this situation before in practically every other superhero movie. “Justice League” is pure formula. And without a sense of doom and danger, there’s nothing but beefcake and banter. I take that back. I bet the video game will be fun, and with much better CGI.
The action scenes concocted by Snyder (with an assist from Whedon, who took over directing duties after Snyder’s daughter died) are so dizzyingly chaotic that you cannot tell who’s fighting whom. And after a while, you just give up trying.
Also returning to the fray — and bringing zilch to the table — are Amy Adams as Lois Lane, J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon and Diane Lane as Martha Kent. The best character remains Jeremy Irons as Alfred the butler. There’s nothing he can’t do.
There’s very little in the way of surprises, including the ending and questions surrounding Supes. I won’t be a spoiler, but ask yourself this: Is anyone ever really dead in comics, superhero movies, or soap operas?
As always, stay until after the final credits for a teaser to the next film.
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Raymond Fisher, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller.