Zack Snyder again goes dark and dour and poundingly loud as he did in 2016’s “Batman v Superman.” Only the super-speedy Flash, played by Ezra Miller, lightens up the proceedings. Rating: 1.5 stars out of 4.
People of Earth! Rejoice! The Justice League is here to save the day.
Listen. Do you hear that? It’s the sound of one hand clapping.
Zack Snyder, maker of filmed entertainments that crush the soul, has done it again — gone dark and dour and poundingly loud as he did in 2016’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Now he’s brought that same doleful sensibility to “Justice League.”
Movie Review ★½
‘Justice League,’ with Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher. Directed by Zack Snyder, from a screenplay by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon. 118 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action. Several theaters.
Look, saving Planet Earth from otherworldly menaces — the League’s prime mission — is certainly no laughing matter. Still, throughout “Justice,” the Joker’s signature phrase, “Why so serious?,” resonates. The lethal clown isn’t in “Justice League,” but those three little words capsulize all that’s wrong with the picture.
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From Ben Affleck’s unchangingly grim-visaged Batman, to the permanent scowl on the moist mug of Aquaman (Jason Momoa), to the baleful glare of the half-metal/half-flesh Cyborg (Ray Fisher), these guys are overboard with the angst.
Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is pretty stern, too, though there’s an undercurrent of warmth that suggests the character’s empathetic nature.
Only the super-speedy Flash, played by Ezra Miller, lightens up the proceedings. Miller’s goofy, eager-beaver take on the character, very reminiscent of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, is the picture’s saving grace. Whenever he shows up, slyly mocking his sobersided compatriots, or just gleefully geeking out at being in the presence of these superhero stalwarts, “Justice League” suddenly feels 10 tons lighter.
The feeling doesn’t last long though. Not with Snyder cranking up epic CG battle sequences with numbing regularity, heavy (and I do mean heavy) with thunderous, fiery explosions delivered at ear-shattering volume.
The bringer of all this sonic badness is a gnarly horned monster named Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), who rasps and raves about being the nastiest dude in the universe while dispatching swarms of winged demons to wreak massive property damage across poor old set-upon Earth.
In between the rough stuff, Snyder and credited screenwriters Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon (who also directed sections of the movie after Snyder dropped out for personal reasons) shoehorn in mawkish inspirational speeches like Bruce Wayne’s paean to the late lamented Superman: “Superman was a beacon to the world. He didn’t just save people, he made them see the best parts of themselves.” Those words are delivered with thudding earnestness by Affleck.
The movie veers into bonkers sentimentality in a scene in which a couple, reunited under some pretty incredible circumstances, declare their quite literally undying love in a field of — wait for it — waist-high corn. Corny is as corny does in “Justice League.”
Warner Bros. is achingly eager to establish a superhero franchise to rival Marvel’s dominant position in that cinematic territory. But Marvel movies are relatively light on their feet (see, lately, “Thor: Ragnarok”). On the basis of this picture and “Batman v Superman,” however, it’s clear the studio has a long way to go to catch up.