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Movie Review: “Justice League”

Somewhere in Burbank, California, there are Warner Bros. executives wondering if someone put a hex on Justice League, given its laundry list of production woes and a $96 million opening weekend — the lowest for DC’s Extended Universe films. Adding credence to the theory would be the fact that it’s actually a decent movie.

One of the most difficult tasks a director has when taking on a big-budget superhero franchise is finding a way to juggle teams of characters. Each hero typically requires time in the limelight, but a creative misstep risks schizophrenic pacing and a muddled story. In a macabre way, the decision to bring in Joss Whedon for re-shoots after the death of director Zack Snyder’s child in March produced a film that highlights each man’s talents while downplaying their weaknesses.

The plot to Justice League is one that moviegoers — particularly Marvel Universe fans of The Avengers (2012) — know too well: a group of aliens are closing in and earth’s mightiest heroes need to stop them. Instead of Captain America and friends, the DCU has Aquaman (Jason Momoa); Batman (Ben Affleck); Cyborg (Ray Fisher); and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). The group needs Superman (Henry Cavill) to ensure victory, but he’s dead as per the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016).

Or is he?

The group decides (after a bioethical debate) that alien technology in their possession, but wanted by the film’s villain Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds), could conceivably rip the Kryptonian from death’s grip.

“This is science beyond our limits, and that’s what science is for — to do what’s never been done, to make life better,” Batman says.

“Or to end it. Technology is like any other power. Without reason, without heart, it destroys us,” replies Diana Prince, whose philosophy was shaped during the World War I setting of director Patty Jenkins blockbuster Wonder Woman in June. “You’re risking lives — theirs, and maybe countless more.”

“Superman was a beacon to the world,” Batman replies. “Why aren’t you? You’re an inspiration, Diana. You don’t just save people — you make them see their better selves. And yet I never heard of you until [Lex] Luthor lured you about by stealing a picture of your dead boyfriend.”

Wonder Woman reluctantly agrees to the plan after punching her teammate for the personal attack, and it isn’t long before the Man of Steel once again save the planet from an impending apocalypse.

Justice League may be predictable, but it also happens to be 120 minutes of pure fun. It judiciously uses humor and, unlike Marvel’s cash-cow Thor: Ragnarok, it doesn’t shy away from heartfelt moments with slapstick humor.

Does Justice League have some glaring flaws? Sure. Henry Cavill, for instance, was not allowed to shave a mustache for Mission: Impossible 6 over at Paramount when reshoots were required. Warner Bros. then decided it would spend millions on CGI to remove the facial hair in post-production. The feat couldn’t be pulled it off on short notice, but that in no way should serve as a deal-breaker.

Fans of the superhero genre should see this film in the theaters, because if it doesn’t recoup its rumored $300 million budget then there might not be another one. That would be a shame, too, since everyone involved seems legitimately invested in giving moviegoers a reason to smile.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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