Justice League, an Injustice to Audiences

Film Review |By Christian Tesfaye - Exclusive to Fortune

DC Comic’s version of the Avengers is out, but with little success, either where movie critics or mainstream audiences are concerned. Christened Justice League, after the comic book series it gets its characters from, it is a bad movie even by the standards of many of 2017’s movies in particular, and superhero films in general. Christian Tesfaye awards 3 measly stars out of 10, the proverbial thumbs down.

There was something about the Avengers that gave it an edge. Perhaps, it was the fact that most of the characters who finally came together were rather satisfactorily set up. There was the most important one, Iron Man, who was launched in a 2008 film that was entertaining and none-too-shabby. There were Captain America and Thor, both of whom got a, granted, disappointing but an adequate entry by most standards of superhero movies.

Thus, when they finally came together as the Avengers, with some more characters to round their number to six, we more or less knew where they would fit together. It does not necessarily mean that the movie was predictable, but a certain sense of reference was set up. The fear instead was that such a mix of overwhelming characters might not be given due credit, that the film was chewing way more than it can swallow, but Joss Whedon, a comic book buff, directed with startling calm and briskness. The movie may have ebbed closer to the end, but it had a very exciting two-thirds.

Justice League, though, is not so lucky. It is not even the kind of movie that is trying to reach a particular artistic veracity. It just blunders its way through two hours of gags and action sequences only for the sake of fulfilling DC Comic’s long-held wish for the franchise to make it into the cinematic universe.

Already in that universe were, of course, the likes of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. As far as Ethiopian urbanites are concerned, the former two are households names. There is no comic book culture in Addis Abeba (good riddance), but those superheroes have made their name in other mediums like animated TV shows and films, not to mention popular culture.

But, Wonder Woman is a relatively new find for the populous East African nation. Released over six months ago, the movie of the same name was indeed superb for a superhero flick, with the character finding its niche in Israeli actress Gal Gadot. It was the first DC film that had the edge over that of Marvel’s heroes. Here was a woman who can punch and kick, while looking gorgeous, a feat the Hulk for all his strength would be hardpressed to pull off.

If I had to see Justice League, it would be for Wonder Woman. Alas, Zack Snyder, the director, was not much accommodating. The focus was mostly on Batman and the comeback of Superman. Other heroes also make the grouping. There is Cyborg, 90pc robot, 10pc human, and can telepathically access the internet and electric grids.

Another is the Flash, whose sole superpowers are to move at super-speed, and Aquaman, who can talk to fish, amongst other things.

The film starts with Batman fishing out what is known as a Parademon. Ancient beings who feed on fear, they are lackeys of the supervillain Steppenwolf. Long before humans started recording history, he tried to conquer all of Earth but failed to defeat an army that was made up of humans, Atlantians and Amazonians. He was nonetheless vanquished, and his Mother Boxes, a powerful energy form he can use to destroy a planet, kept hidden away by the three races.

But, he is back and wants his property back. Batman, without powers of his own but fancy gadgets, recruits a team – the Justice League save for Superman – which still falls short of defeating Steppenwolf. Thus, they come up with a different plan, that is to use one of the three Mother Boxes to bring Superman back to life.

Justice League is Snyder’s third film for the DC universe. The first was Man of Steel, which was somewhat hyped as Christopher Nolan, famed director of the Dark Knight movies, was involved with the project. As far as action scenes were concerned, it did not disappoint, with two Kryptonians, Superman and General Zod, turning the fictional city Metropolis into a battleground.

But it was senseless kicking and punching, subsequently crossing over into Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, but there lied more destruction, and to no avail. It was a movie that gave me a headache as I watched it in one of Matti Cinema’s theatre halls in 3D. But at least there was something to celebrate, as Diana Prince, a.k.a Wonder Woman, was introduced to a stunning soundtrack.

The culmination of all of that is Justice League, which is yet the worst film in the DC cinematic universe, save of course last year’s appalling Suicide Squad. The storytelling in the latter film was nothing less than barbaric, and Jared Leto’s performance of the infamous joker was harrowing.

Justice League is not big enough. I do not mean the film should have climaxed in a big city or that it lacked in scale where special effects were concerned. In fact, it is at the moment the second highest costing movie ever made, according to the Wall Street Journal.

But for all that cash, little goes on on-screen. It was like a TV episode, where the ultimate ambition is to provide a bridge to the next movie. It has lost its grip from start to finish, never a moment’s breath to allow us a hilarious moment or even a significant action sequence. There may be great talent in the movie, but all of it is wasted on characters that are one-dimensional.

Published on Nov 26,2017 [ Vol 18 ,No 918]



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