Garner: ‘Justice League’ could indicate unraveling of DC universe


Courtesy Photo

Ezra Miller, Henry Cavill, Ray Fisher, Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck, and Jason Momoa star in “Justice League.”

When “The Dark Knight” was released in 2008, it produced a shockwave in the comic-book movie ecosystem that is felt to this day. Here was a film that respected and relished its characters and the world they inhabited, while still tweaking the comic book aesthetic for a cinematic delivery.

Although flawed, “The Dark Knight” raised the bar for comic book movies, delivering a fully-realized and mature experience during a time when comic book films were still grappling with their identity.

Eight years later, we have “Justice League.” “Justice League” is the antithesis of everything intelligent filmmaking in the comic book realm represents. It is stupid and boorish, strung together by a loose collection of scenes so haphazardly edited it’s akin to reading a novel with paragraphs and chapters erased at random and then placed in an order resembling pure entropy.

After the brief bright spot that was “Wonder Woman,” there was a glimmer of hope for the DC universe. But where “Wonder Woman” excelled in its ability to weave tinges of humor throughout its plot, “Justice League” fails spectacularly.

Joss Whedon, who helped write the script and direct after Zack Snyder dropped out due to a family tragedy, brings his signature dialogue to the film, but it doesn’t work, for lack of comedic chemistry. This type of writing shines in “The Avengers” because the cast can support it, but here it lies flat and lifeless.

Gone is the xenophobic and cruel Batman from the previous film, (the most interesting part of “Batman vs Superman”), replaced by a knockoff impression of Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark. Jason Momoa’s Aquaman just feels like a poor man’s Thor without the comedic timing and charisma of Chris Hemsworth. Ray Fisher’s Cyborg is mechanical in every sense of the word.

There’s a bright spot is Ezra Miller’s Flash, but even he is just a re-skinning of Quicksilver from “X-men.”. Gal Gadot is still wonderful as Wonder Woman, but the film can’t rest on her shoulders alone.

This attempt at comedy is misguided. In addition to it being a complete tonal overcorrection from the moody and dour “Batman vs. Superman,” it also belies the dramatic tension the film is trying to establish.

Superhero films in general suffer in this aspect, but “Justice League” feels like one big pillow fight — due to a threadbare villain and the introduction of new characters. Furthermore, thanks to all of the re-shoots and behind-the-scenes meddling (20 percent of this film was re-shot under Whedon’s guidance), the CGI for the villain, the settings, and even Henry Cavill’s mustachioed face are laughable and clearly unfinished.

Where does this leave the DC franchise? While it clearly set out to be a rival to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that future seems less certain now. After the critical failures of so many films — not to mention the colossal fiscal failure of Batman vs. Superman — it lies at the precipice of success and failure.

Ben Affleck is clearly uninterested in being Batman, and the trilogy of films planned for his character hinge on the success of “Justice League,” but even that may not be enough. We may be watching a universe unravel.

At its core, this is a film that wants desperately to be whatever the audience thinks it should be. It’s a cinematic chameleon, trying to impress anybody and everybody who has a ticket to buy.

On one hand, it’s a bootleg version of “The Avengers,” without the charm, comedy, or real talent — not to mention the groundwork established by the preliminary films in that universe that justify the characters converging in one movie. On the other hand, it’s just a workshop of how not to make a movie, and how bending to the idea of what people are looking for can result in disaster. Almost every aspect of this film is flawed.

If you’re looking to waste 10 dollars, just burn it and watch that instead.