Justice League — Nice Moves No Soul

6 out of 10; maybe a 5 out of 10 due to a waste of potential, and my dashed hopes and expectations. As I watched the movie, I wondered what was wrong, because a lot of it was right and yet there was no pulse. The thrill of caring was missing from a lot of the movie. Sometimes the actors and characters rose above the unremittingly gloomy fabric of the movie, but these were heroic acting anomalies and not the norm. In general, the movie was too dark, and the characters too psychologically flat or inconsistent. Even the music took itself too seriously. Josh Whedon, who directed the last twenty-percent of the movie, let me down.

It seems obvious where Josh Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Avengers, Age of Ultron) added in material to try to save the move. Likely any witty repartee, which is the basis of all of his successes, but here, it failed and he should have been able to see that it would. It was like taking a formal Victorian funeral dress, black and draped, and sprinkling a dozen small pink flowers onto it. They don’t help that dress; they just seem odd. Mired in darkness, the comic wit came and went too fast to be humorous, often handled badly by an actor who can’t do comedy or can’t wrap their head around doing it in their super serious superhero role. Ben Affleck actually did the best job trying to bridge the gap. I imagine Batman gripping each side of a bottomless chasm and grunting with the effort.

Alfred the Great

And now we get to why Alfred is the picture I chose for this movie because he exemplifies the fundamental flaw with this latest Batman version. (As this has been showcased in two previous movies, this is not a spoiler.) In Batman’s past, for me, Alfred was the highlight of every show: Batman’s foil. Humor against grim seriousness, love against cold, relentless duty. And Alfred humanized Batman by forcing him, from time to time, into his more kindly reality. This new Alfred is just as grim as Batman. He would not shed a tear at Batman’s grave. He’d probably be disgusted and make a slightly clever sneering comment. Without Alfred humanizing Batman, all other efforts in the Batman scenes were beyond even Joss Whedon’s magical touch or Ben Affleck’s competence.  Alfred is but one example of why this movie couldn’t be fixed in the last twenty percent of its creation, and why Josh Whedon shouldn’t have tried. It turns out, while Josh does great work, he’s not a film-making superhero. Sigh.

The fight scenes are well done. Wonderwoman and the Amazons were enjoyable, as always. The CGI villain, again, flat, which seems to be the norm in most superhero movies these days–might as well put angry faces on meteors coming to flatten earth.

SPOILERS BELOW

  • The Superman scenes with Lois and his mother were great. Amy Adams brings the human touch to every scene she’s in. Henry Cavill did a good job, too. For me, their scenes were the best in the movie.
  • Cyclops couldn’t control his body in one convenient part to add a fight scene but otherwise had no problems. Whatever’s going on with his merger of body and machine should have been handled more consistently and with enough detail for this conflict to be understandable. It also could have been used to bring drama to other scenes.
  • The Cyclops arc from being angry at being alive to wanting to live was handled well, and with very little screen time. It doesn’t take a lot of time to get it in there.
  • The Flash was supposed to be the comic relief, and he was, but it was too much to put on his little whippet shoulders with Batman as his straight man.  It didn’t help that I’d just seen Civil War the night before, where Spidey blew a similar role out of the park.
  • As Aquaman, Jason Momoa has brooding violence and sexuality down pat and can handle dark humor. Sensitivity did not work for him in the one scene he had to try it. Very awkward. The scene in Atlantis contained too little of his backstory and was too rushed, so we didn’t care anyway. A Nicole Kidman cameo as Atlanna, Aquaman’s mother, showing the conflict between them, would have done wonders for the Aquaman character and storyline.
  • The scenes with the normal family in the midst of tribulation were too rushed to care about them. I think it should have been cut to make room to provide more depth to Cyclops and Aquaman.
  • There were hints of (maybe) lust and affection between Batman and Wonderwoman, but they were too subtle and unfortunately all verbal. Wonderwoman was her least interesting in this movie and will continue that trend if she remains in icy widowhood. Next movie had better show some fire!

Thanks!