13 QUICK THOUGHTS: JUSTICE LEAGUE Is an Unexpected Triumph

Was it the lowered expectations? Who cares?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote how I was deeply concerned about Justice League, having been burned by Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman (opting to bypass Suicide Squad entirely).

I liked Wonder Woman well enough but there have been so many alarm bells surrounding this movie that I was profoundly apprehensive, even as I bought advance tickets.

Unlike Marvel’s consistently strong slate of movies, DC’s been a huge letdown for me — this coming from a DC guy.

Then I saw Justice League — and here are my 13 QUICK THOUGHTS. And yes, there are SPOILERS:

1. I liked it — and I was so damned relieved that I did. I can’t say it was great but it was a lot of fun and bodes well for the future of the DC franchise. Maybe. It’s still gotten a critical shellacking and Warner Brothers may still want to push a further course correction. I’d be OK with that, assuming they keep what made this movie work — the humor and, as the movie progressed, the heart.

2. I spent the first 45 minutes to an hour telling myself, “Hey, this isn’t terrible. This is pretty good. I wonder when I’m going to just give myself over and enjoy myself?” And then, before I knew it, I did.

3. Let’s take things character by character. Ben Affleck is an OK Batman but it wouldn’t surprise me if he left after this. He’s shown no real enthusiasm for the role and the solo front has had all sorts of issues. I’d be OK if we got a new Bruce Wayne.

4. Gal Gadot is great as Wonder Woman. She’s gonna take her place next to Lynda Carter in Wonder History, if she hasn’t already. Every scene is better with her in it. She and Affleck played well off each other as co-leaders of the team.

5. The movie gets points off for telling us what a meaningful symbol of hope Superman was, when his first two movies basically set him in a world that feared or even hated him. But Henry Cavill gave us a lot of Christopher Reeve this time around — and I’d be willing to see this kinder, gentler Superman in a Man of Steel sequel. Nice, brighter threads too.

6. I really screeched when Ezra Miller was cast as the Flash and this Scarlet Speedster isn’t any version I recognize. But I got over it because he was so charming and funny. Some of his gags felt a little forced but I liked him. He did a creditable job as the audience’s stand-in and my chest filled when he and Superman began their race in the mid-credit sequence. But, please, please, please get this guy a new outfit the next time around. This one is horrid.

7. Having been there when The New Teen Titans introduced Cyborg back in 1980, I will never accept him as an original member of the Justice League. Never. It’s too much of a retcon for me and anytime I read JL comics now, I’m thrown. This has been going on for more than six years now, so if I’m not used to it now, I never will be. But Ray Fisher got rolling more as the movie went along and the writers did a better job of showing his value to the team than any DC writer has in the last six years. And I was so glad they improved his “outfit” in that final shot of him. Plus they gave him a “Booyah!” I’d like to see him a little more boisterous — and a little less dour — next time.

8. Finally, Aquaman. Maybe this is where higher expectations got the better of me, but I was a little let down by Jason Momoa. I didn’t feel like the writers had a really consistent idea of what they wanted him to be — brooding loner or smartass bro. He’s an incredible specimen to look at though.

9. Superman’s arrival at the big battle with Steppenwolf wasn’t quite “General, would you care to step outside?” but it was close enough. It was definitely a Fuck Yeah moment, even though it’d been telegraphed two continents away. On the other hand, that fight with his fellow Justice Leaguers was a forced cliche. It did a good job of showing his strength relative to theirs but it was emotionally inert. I kept wanting to feel something but I didn’t. Also: Where was everyone in Metropolis?

10. For about 45 years, I’ve wondered why Superman really needed a team at all. I’m one of those people. But this movie conveyed each hero’s strengths and weaknesses and why a Justice League would be necessary. Especially with Darkseid — and the Legion of Doom — on their respective ways. (And they’re getting a Hall of Justice!)

11. I didn’t dislike Steppenwolf as much as so many other people do. He’s designed to set things up for Darkseid and I’m OK with that. My bigger beef was the Mother Box quest. Too many superhero, sci-fi and fantasy movies — especially Marvel’s — are centered on the Items of Doom That Will Destroy Creation If They Fall Into Evil Hands. The Mother Boxes were basically watered-down Infinity Stones. The overreliance on CGI and the grimy production design have to go too.

12. But, hey, the Green Lantern Corps! Cool.

13. I actually welled up when Clark hugged his mom. I’m a sap. And it happened a couple more times down the stretch. I think it’s because I was so relieved that the movie worked. I love these superheroes and desperately wanted a movie that did them, well, justice.

This one, though it was far from perfect, did.

UPDATED 11/21/17: I needed to be sure, so I went and saw it a second time. Here’s what I found.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. Hi, Just finished looking at all those cool B&B covers chosen by Lima Sharp, and thought I’d take a look at your JL review. I just saw it last night and had a lot of similar reactions to the film. The insertion of Cyborg seems more like a nod to diversity and a marketing decision than anything else. And I always thought Mother Boxes were supposed be sentient computers that to belonged to the New Gods of New Genesis. I don’t care for Ben Affleck in this role, even though I like him elsewhere. His best scenes here where as Bruce talking to Diana. And I really hate the short ears and the “fat” bat on his chest. It barely reads a s a bat. Ugh! I wish there as more synergy between the DC movies and the TV shows. The shows are generally much better. Why the couldn’t use Grant Gustin and that version of the Flash costume is just beyond my comprehension. It’s not like Ezra Miller is a big box office star. But I did generally enjoy his POV and his humor. Joss Whedons reshoots probably saved this movie. But not enough. Marvel is kicking DC’s butt at the theater, which pains me no end, because, like you, I am a DC guy. Anyway, I really enjoyed the B&B covers and your JL review. Keep up the good work.

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  2. Sorry, guys and gals, but I can’t get past the costumes. They’re comical. Batman looks like he’s been dipped in foam rubber. Steppenwolf couldn’t make through a door with that hat rack on this head. Who does he think he is, Bullwinkle? And the Flash’s costume looks like the seamstress couldn’t decide whether to make him the Scarlet Speedster or Black Rivet Man. That can’t be aerodynamic. I’ve never liked the updated Superman or Wonder Woman outfits but compared to the other three characters mentioned, they look like they’re wearing formal wear.

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  3. Totally delightful film. Yes I got quite emotional more then one or two or three times. I cannot say have have been that touched by any marvel film. Thor was not as good as some Hope Crosby road shows in terms of depth. I think what is being sort of unfairly done with the DCU films is a tremendously high set of expectations. I do think the Aquaman story will become more flushed out in a future film. And the taste we got is only a beginning. I like the Flash CW and like others was disappointed that Grant Gustin was not The Flash. After seeing the film I can understand the reason. Two different worlds of entertainment. Miller did an outstanding job. I will see the film more then once. Those who will not see it because of BVS will miss something they might regret. However I think that maybe if they won’t see it in the theaters they will do the renting. In the end this film will make plenty of dough. And thanks to the Kirby for mother boxes. And maybe now the coming Captain Marvel/Billy Batson film will pull off something too.

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  1. Upon Further Review, JUSTICE LEAGUE Is Still Good | 13th Dimension, Comics, Creators, Culture - […] I dutifully went back to 13th Dimension HQ and spun my 13 QUICK THOUGHTS review. You can read it…

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