It's been a long, hard road to "Justice League." Director Zack Snyder, who helmed the latest iterations of Batman and Superman in "Man of Steel" and "Batman vs. Superman," stepped away for personal reasons during post-production. "The Avengers" director Joss Whedon came in to finish the film, including reshoots, which were famously foiled by Superman Henry Cavill's "Mission: Impossible" mandated mustache. But after all of that, finally, DC's superheroes are assembled on screen at last. It's just a shame that the resulting film is a chaotic, baffling mess.
So what's it going to take to get Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and the zombie corpse of Superman together at last?
The end of the world, of course. The story is an old beloved superhero chestnut: a space monster needs a thingamajig in order to end/conquer the world. If he gets all three thingamajigs, it'll be bad. Which is why it's so frustrating when the Justice League just leaves the very last one just sitting on top of a Gotham police cruiser while they try and calm down the Franken-Superman they've reanimated. Obviously, the space monster gets it.
Batman (superpower: rich) is the ostensible leader of this team, recruiting his pal Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman, as well as newer friends Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman – a long-haired ocean bro who swills whiskey and swims about in his aqua jeans, Barry Allen, aka The Flash – a neurotic, chatty, socially awkward and very fast teen – and Victor Stone, aka Cyborg – a brooding former football star brought back from the dead by his scientist father who turns him into man-machine.
Snyder brought a level of darkness and nihilism to this franchise, so it's very, very strange that "Justice League" is as quippy as it is. No doubt this is due to the presence of Whedon, who takes a screenwriting credit, but it just does not fit with Snyder's dour takes on the characters. Not to mention the dialogue is painful. Miller's neurotic routine is initially quite charming, until his one-liners become incredibly cheesy and tired. Aquaman peppers his speech with many dude-brah phrases, while Cyborg, regrettably, utters "boo-yah" at one point.
But it's not the quips that truly offend, but the blur of horrible CGI that starts from minute one and never lets up – including Cavill's bewildering upper lip. The action is insane and impossible to follow, geographically. After a while you just give up trying to understand anything as the Justice League batters away at the alien warriors.
Gadot as Wonder Woman is a bright spot, a reminder of her wondrous stand-alone film from this summer. But the snippets of scenes with the Amazons won't satisfy anyone looking for more Amazonian fun, and the way the camera lasciviously lingers on low-angle shots of Gadot's body is a clear indication of the difference between the male and female gaze on film.
With "Batman vs. Superman," it seemed, sadly, the death of "goofy Batman" – the Batman of the '90s, with cheesy puns and silly costumes. But the breathtakingly bad "Justice League," with its corny banter and terrible effects just might signify a return to that goofy Batman form. This just happens to be a very rough bump in the road on the way.
1 1/2 stars out of 4
Cast: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Ciaran Hinds, Amy Adams, Diane Lane
Directed by Zack Snyder
Running time: 2 hours, 1 minute
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action.