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'Justice League' goes nowhere fast

Aquaman was always my favorite as a kid. I've never really been able to explain that, but there you have it. It certainly isn't because I loved swimming and was good at it. Quite the contrary. Maybe it's because none of us were ever going to be able to see through walls or "leap tall buildings in a single bound" the way Superman did. A pool or a beach, though, was a definite possibility.

I liked Batman but I never wanted to be him, you know? Who would? Also, that "ward" stuff with Robin was too weird, even when you're 8.

It was Aquaman for me. He wore cool gloves. And could do amazing things with water, including getting fish to act together the way Tarzan could get the animals of the jungle to gang up. None of which Aquaman does here--only the first of a large volume of missed opportunities.

So call it "Injustice League."

I still think Jason Momoa as Aquaman is the best thing about the new "Justice League" which is, obviously, DC Comics' answer to Marvel's "The Avengers," i.e. an all-star team of superheroes to keep everybody happy and poor, beleaguered Earth unconquered. It isn't nearly as much fun as "The Avengers" was, but it's not a total loss either, the way "Batman vs. Superman" was.

Joss Whedon of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is one of the writers and that means there are a few pretty good wisecracks. "What's your superpower?" The Flash asks Batman/Bruce Wayne. "I'm rich," he answers.

"You really are out of your mind" says Aquaman to Batman/Bruce. Who answers back, just before they go into battle, by pointing at Aquaman's mythological Trident and says "I'm not the one who brought a pitchfork."

There should have been three times more gags in this movie and three times less of the same CGI battling we see in every bloody superhero movie but, hey, any effort at all to put the "comic" into a comic book movie has to be applauded.

Which means that "Justice League" is yet another big, noisy, expensive, busy superhero conclave where a lot of people get thrown into walls, no one gets really hurt and a crazy bad guy is thwarted from taking over everything and ruining everyone's fun.

A better movie would have had him giving Twitter a try but in this one, the bad guy is named Steppenwolf and he's played unrecognizably (good move) by fine Irish actor Ciaran Hinds. I'd love someone to explain to me why DC Comics had to pluck a villain's name from a novel by Herman Hesse but I suppose it's because if you divorce it entirely from Hesse (which John Kay's rock group never did), "steppenwolf" is just a cool sounding word.

What goes on in this movie while it goes nowhere special is: Batman gets the group together but all but talks Wonder Woman into leading it because he's too tired and hurt; and the other major newbie, The Flash (Ezra Miller), shows what you can do as a skinny, timid Jewish kid who happens to go fast because he was struck by lightning.

Any one of those plots, if developed at all, might have been very cool. Unfortunately, none of them are which affirms the whole movie as a kind of "Injustice League" of screenwriting notions, just so that Steppenwolf can be stopped from uniting three pointless magic boxes and subverting the universe.

Batman's English butler Alfred (Jeremy Irons, looking more wan than usual), as always, is the voice of experience: "I miss the days when our biggest concern was exploding, wind-up penguins." You know what? Aquaman and the Flash, notwithstanding, me too.

 

"JUSTICE LEAGUE"

Two and a half stars out of four

Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot and Jason Mamoa in DC comics' cinematic all-star team movie about superheroes banning together. 121 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action, a little language.

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