First, the good news. Justice League is better than its joylessly somber dress rehearsal, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Now the “but”…you knew there was a “but” coming, right? But it also marks a pretty steep comedown from the giddy highs of Wonder Woman. When Gal Gadot’s proto-feminist Amazonian avenger got her solo showcase earlier this year, there were a lot of DC partisans who finally had a reason to feel bullish about the state of their union. Following the exit of Christian Bale in 2012, it was the first real glimmer of hope that maybe the studio was headed in the right direction. That the future was bright. Justice League won’t extinguish that hope. Not by a long shot. But it also doesn’t quite translate into a winning streak either. It’s a placeholder in a franchise that’s already had too many placeholders.
Directed by Zack Snyder (with a big assist from Joss Whedon — a balancing act of darkness and light), the film kicks off with the world mourning the death of Superman. Rank and file mortals aren’t the only ones grieving either. Minus the Man of Steel, Batman and Wonder Woman are down a man. And into this imbalance has come a swarm of locust-like flying demons doing the buzzing bidding of a mysterious super-threat to humanity. Our heroes need help. So Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince head off to recruit a trio of new teammates to join the cause: Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg.
With his long rocker hair, boozy swagger, and frescoes of scaly tattoos, Momoa looks like a cross between Michael Phelps and a member of the Oakland branch of the Hells Angels. You could argue (as comics lovers have for ages) about how critical it is for this team to have an ambassador to the deep, but Momoa ends up getting one of the movie’s best scenes. During one of the group’s impromptu pow wows, Aquaman begins to insult all of the other superheroes and their backstories — except for Wonder Woman, whom he has a thing for. He thinks he’s just saying all of these brutally honest things in his head, then he realizes that he’s actually saying them out loud because he’s sitting on Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth.
Ezra Miller’s the Flash, on the other hand, is more overtly needy in his bid for laughs. Like Tom Holand’s Spider-Man, he gives the movie a energetically loose and nerdy shot in the arm. At first, his nervous, stammering character is a caffeinated breath of fresh air. He’s like a stand-in for all of the…