Justice League begins in the wake of Superman’s death in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), and the world is in all manner of despair. Worse than that, just as Lex Luthor hinted, a powerful threat is gathering on Earth.
Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hind), an all-powerful (supposedly) alien leader of an army of Parademons – human sized insects who feed on fear – is searching for the three ‘Motherboxes’, which would grant him the power to rupture worlds. Reprising their roles from earlier films, both Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Godot) become cognisant of Earth’s impending doom, and attempt to recruit Cyborg (Ray Fisher), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and The Flash (Ezra Miller) to their cause.
As much as it appears to be an ensemble piece, the beating heart of the film of is Cyborg, and he is much the best thing about it. Unfortunately, the film seems to be being drawn in several directions simultaneously. It wants to command the kind of ponderous severity that Batman v Superman did (“I don’t recognise this world,” Jeremy Irons’ Alfred intones early on), while also introducing regular comic relief with The Flash and Aquaman.
But the flippancy does not relieve. Indeed it’s so obviously tacked-on that it just compounds the irritation. Batman is reduced to a rather pathetic figure here, showing up primarily as a weapons specialist. Wonder Woman is granted an unconvincing arc about heroic reticence.
The connective tissue between the scenes, the logic of the story, is simply non-existent. Character motivations switch as the timing requires, allowing murky set-piece after murky set-piece just to bleed into each other until we reach a final half-hour red-skyed calamity that is only impressive for its stunning, catatonic dullness. Although Steppenwolf is touted as an omnipotent force only the League in tandem can defeat, he’s so poorly characterised and evidence of his power is so inconsequential that his presence barely registers.
Tonally incoherent, visually boring, plotted by pritt-sticking half-formed characters and set-pieces together, and culminating in the worst final half-hour of any modern superhero movie yet, Justice League is irremediably terrible.
Film reviewed at Cineworld, Edinburgh.
Image: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures/ TM & DC Comics