Despite ample screen time and her abundant charisma, Gal Gadot, the most significant Israeli find since the Dead Sea Scrolls, is unable to rescue this meandering, dreary and pointless movie.
It isn’t just dull, it’s infuriating. The whole world loves these characters, and so much time, effort and money has been hurled at this property. But the story in “Justice League” is practically nonexistent — and, even more insulting, the big Hollywood special effects look like garbage.
If this were a low-budget matinee B-picture, I’d let it slide. But this tentpole franchise picture, which opens November 16, cost more than the GDP of some small nations. What a mess.
Things kick off when Batman, aka Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), is fighting crime in Gotham (as he does) but starts noticing more and more fly-creatures. (Parademons, they are called, if you pay close attention.) As they implode they leave behind a mark: three squares. It’s something Batman remembers scribbled in Lex Luthor’s notebooks, so clearly they are evil.
He decides it’s time to call upon the other “metahumans” that were briefly glimpsed in “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.”
First there’s Aquaman (Jason Momoa) who is entertaining, but isn’t given much to do but swim. There’s also Cyborg (Ray Fisher), a gloomy kid in a hoodie, who spends most of his time staring at his hands. There’s also Superman (Henry Cavil) but he’s dead for the first half (unlike the drama in this story, which is dead throughout). Then there’s Barry Allen, aka The Flash (Ezra Miller), but more on him later.
Before collecting the team we cut to some Wonder Woman action, in which she foils a terrorist attack at the British Museum. It’s not shot as well as the action in Gal Gadot’s solo film, “Wonder Woman,” but once again she is impressive in her athletic moves, half-smiles and reaction shots.
Gal Gadot may not be much of a thespian (her voice-over exposition about those three mysterious cubes later in the film sounds as if she’s as confused as we are) but she’s a remarkable movie star.
It isn’t just that she “looks good” — her glances exude the confidence and grace that would have made her a legend even back in the days of silent film. She and the camera love one another. Yes, it may be ridiculous that she, in her position as an art conservator at the Louvre, dusts statues in a tight, laced-up white dress and push-up bra, but no one ever came to superhero movies for their realism.
It’s lucky she doesn’t need any dazzling effects to brighten the frame, because the computer imagery in “Justice League” is just awful. There’s a green screened cornfield that had my audience laughing. The action in this movie is so video game-like I almost grabbed a controller based solely on muscle memory.
The fighting comes when the big villain, a poorly rendered Minotaur-ish ghoul called Steppenwolf, emerges from a portal to collect those three boxes I keep talking about. When he has accomplished this the “Unity” will be complete, and then, I dunno, I guess he’ll get lower interest rates or something. His plans are very vague.
What isn’t vague is just how much Batman feels sorry for the fact that Superman got injured in the last installment. This, in addition to wanting to save the world, is what motivates him to create this new superhero team-up.
Aquaman, like I mentioned, is something of a breath of fresh air (ironic, as he breathes underwater) as he is played like a lovable tough guy — the type of dude who will smash beer cans on his head. Opposite him in the testosterone department is Barry Allen, and I guess it’s time for the big reveal: The Flash is Jewish.
No, I don’t just mean that Ezra Miller, the actor, is Jewish. I mean the character, for the first time in its 77-year-old history, is a member of the Hebraic faith. Baruch Hashem!
The Barry Allen we see here is a motormouth kid who describes himself as an “attractive Jewish boy” who plays the viola, is into web design, sign language and, also, gorilla sign language. He has trouble making friends because he’s always a mile ahead of everyone else. (He gets a little schtick about not understanding brunch.)
He also eats nonstop, thanks to his high metabolism, which he describes as being in a “snack hole” thanks to his molecules living in the Speed Force. (In case you don’t know, The Flash’s main deal is he can run really fast. But can he run as fast as Superman?)
While it’s great to see Jewish representation in a mainstream international film, it’s undeniable that the character is meant as borderline annoying comic relief. On the one hand he’s cute; on the other hand it is cringeworthy when he tries to go in for a fist-bump with the cool African-American kid (Cyborg) who looks at him like he’s a big dork.
The best thing you can say about “Justice League” is that it is a relatively quick two hours. “Batman V Superman” lasted roughly 40 days and 40 nights. It’ll still be a big hit, and you may even find yourself dragged to the theater with excited kids, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Luckily, when a team is involved no one gets the full blame. Ezra Miller will still get a solo Flash picture and maybe that’ll still be good. (The Flash that’s currently on TV is, however, much better.)
An aside: With the same creative team in place for Wonder Woman’s sequel there’s every reason to think it’ll be comparable to the first one. Heck, maybe Wonder Woman and Flash can even team up some day. What if the Justice League was “just us,” huh?