Arts & Leisure

Good, but not great, guys win in “League”

GAL GADOT (Wonder Woman) and Ben Affleck (Batman) star in “Justice League.”

By Jim Tortolano

For years, the owners of the rights to the superhero movie franchises for Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, et al, have unaccountably been resistant to bringing those iconic characters together in a film.

While Marvel and now, Marvel-Disney, has been launching “Avengers” films around like balloons in a parade, the folks at Warner Bros. have been involved in a curious stop-and-start process with their comic book properties.

Finally, with “Batman vs. Superman” in 2015, the logjam broke, with mixed success. Now comes “Justice League,” which the studio hopes will both shine at the box office and kick off a new era of smash-pow synergy with its well-known characters.

The result is mostly good. “Justice” has a coherent story line, decent character development and a satisfying conclusion that sets up – surprise! – a sequel.

Although the Dark Knight (Ben Affleck) and the Man of Steel (Henry Cavill) are the tentpole heroes in the DC Comic universe, the standouts in this film are Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and Ezra Miller as the Flash. Gadot’s combination of athleticism, charm, beauty and laconic wit carries much of the spirit of this movie. Charming in an entirely different way is Miller. His super-speed character is a nerdy, initially timid young man who provides most of the much-needed comic relief.

The story line, written by Chris Terrio, Joss Whedon and Zach Snyder , is simple. Superman is dead, and not only are ordinary people going just a bit nuts, the Earth is under attack by a horned-devil called Steppenwolf, no relation to the Sixties heavy metal band. This guy (voiced by Ciaron Hinds) and his “parademon” minions – who look like the love children of a fly and teenage punk rockers – are searching for three mystical boxes which will allow evil to reign over the world.

Batman assembles his team of Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman (Jason Momia) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to do battle with the bad guys in heavy makeup. Things don’t go so well, so they go to the bullpen. Don’t want to give up too much, but … it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s …

The special effects are well done, generally, and the casting is pretty inspired. Momoa, as Aquaman, is bound to be the male counterpart to Gadot as the new cinematic heartthrob. Fisher, as Cyborg – part man, part machine – is less fully developed as a character, and is not given much to do.

Direction is credited to Zack Snyder, but a lot of the finish work was done by Whedon. But, of course, in the world of Hollywood with its shunning of originality, nothing is ever finished, as long as it is a smash-pow at the box office.

 

“Justice League” is rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence.

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