Summary: Few of the reviews, whether giving one or five stars, well describe Justice League. This brief spoiler-free review (nothing not seen in the trailers) explains why you should see it. If you have seen it, this highlights some points you might not have fully appreciated. Post your thoughts about it in the comments.
This is a good film, in many ways. Perhaps most important, the Justice League (JL) members are shown as regular people. Heroic people, but with weaknesses like yours and mine. Such as anger, fear, and angst. Wonder Woman is the exception — appropriately so. An invincible goddess sculpted from clay, given life by Zeus, she is less like us than Superman (a humanoid alien). This unusually high level of thought (for a superhero film) is shown throughout the film (except in the plot, which is a bit ramshackle). WW plays the boring perfect icon role often assigned to Superman.
Most critics hate JL (a Rotten Tomato score of 41%), for good reason. First, it features a strong male leader — Batman, in his strongest appearance since Batman Begins. This is the brilliant, bold, self-sacrificing man that stands in the first rank of mythical heroes in modern America (unlike the oddball Batman in Batman v Superman). Ben Affleck nails the role, given powerful dialog to work with by the writers.
It is a serious film, which is the second reason critics hate it — since they believe classical heroism is only for mocking (it took them years to openly express this). That is why they loved Guardians Of The Galaxy, the sequel, and Thor: Ragnarok. JL nicely sets the stakes high, and lets the characters naturally evolve on the screen in response to it. They reveal themselves by their choices.
Like The Matrix trilogy, JL is about choices. At a key moment, Wonder Woman tells Batman he could have been killed by his decision. She is appalled by the cold decisive logic of his reply: “that is a trade-off I was willing to make” (quoted from memory). The core plot point of the film concerns a harsh choice confronting the JL. Batman saves the world by choosing the hard path that the other JL members won’t. That, and his foresight in locating and uniting the JL, proves that he is its natural leader — despite having no superpowers.
This is the third reason so many critics hate it. They are bien pensant liberals who recoil from contemplation of harsh choices. For example, the classic science fiction story about hard choices is “The Cold Equations” by Tom Godwin (Astounding Magazine, 1954; see Wikipedia). In Locus magazine Cory Doctorow gave elaborate reasons for closing his eyes to such a scenario — explaining why stories shouldn’t discuss them. “It is a contrivance.” It is “moral hazard in action.” It is the fault of capitalism. All nonsense; harsh dilemmas are the nature of life.
The acting in JL is excellent across the board. The heroes are all well cast. Amy Adam is superlative (as always) as Lois Lane. Jeremy Irons does a fine job in the key supporting role of Alfred.
The moments of humor in JL are mostly handled well, in a Shakespearean way as brief counterpoints to the action.
Unlike most modern superhero film, the heroes evolve in JL. They are better and stronger individuals at the end. More importantly, they learn a vital lesson — one that American once knew well but has forgotten: they (and we) are stronger together than as individuals.
It is the lesson we need, although not one we want to hear. Since we watch all these tent-pole superhero films (giving the studios fantastic revenues), no matter how slap-dash their production, this is a film we need but don’t deserve.
See the great “Justice League” Animated series
For More Information
- Are our film heroes leading us to the future, or signaling despair?
- The horrifying list of inspirational films about humanity building a better future.
- A new Man of Steel for 21st century America: a warrior superman.
- Captain America: the Winter Soldier – high-quality indoctrination for sheep.
- Review of Dr. Strange: a good film misunderstood by the critics.
- Jeff Beck reviews “Wonder Woman”, a contrary note amidst the ecstatic applause.
- “Thor: Ragnarok” is a passionless apocalypse, but revealing.