“Justice League” (2017): a totally forgettable movie that risks nothing, and achieves nothing

The latest film in the DC cinematic universe is… disappointing. There isn’t much more I can say.

True. It was marked by a troubled production history: Zack Snyder (“Man of Steel”, “Batman vs Superman”) had to abandon the project mid-way for the tragic death of his daughter, and this led Joss Whedon (“The Avengers” and “The Avengers: Age of Ultron”) to fully take the helm.

But the result is a DC / Warner film that tries to be a Marvel movie, and at the end misses both targets. 

“Justice League” lacks the epic-and-dark (maybe too dark) tones, the social and cultural grounding implications, and the grandiose photography of the previous Snyder DC movies – which attracted some criticism but I personally liked very much and gave the DC stories a more mature tone; and yet doesn’t quite achieve the buddy-movie levity of “Avengers” and its various spin offs.

I left the theater having felt barely anything at all. No awe, no laughs, no fun, and no challenge at all.

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Yeah, true. But to be honest, this movie has hardly any ambition of that epic scale.

This film is not even messy, or confusing. I wish I could say that. This is just a super-safe bet that tries to be a crowd pleaser and in the process doesn’t want to trouble anybody. It’s as if the studio tried its hardest to avoid the criticism received by “Batman vs Superman” (too dark and scary; too much collateral damage; big emphasis on the characters’ flaws) by delivering… a flat-out ready made soup that by avoiding controversy at all costs, falls flat of any artistic ambition.

Also – and this is not good – Warner must have learned a lesson or two by “Suicide Squad”: a very rough product that was nonetheless rewarded by very good box office results (745.6 million USD globally).

Problem is: the Justice League is NOT the Suicide Squad. Gone the larger than life villains on a desperate quest for personal redemption – this time, it’s heroes we are talking about. And heroes should be all about characters development, dramatic, personal challenges and universal life dilemmas. Unfortunately, none of this is present here.

The plot. 

(a little warning: this thing is so predictable that no real spoiler is possible. Anyway, skip to the last section if you really want to avoid any plot element):

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An alien demi-god – so stereotyped and poorly written, it would result stereotyped even as a villain in a very stereotyped videogame – leads an army of vaguely humanoid aliens to conquer an object of immense power. His very original motivation: to destroy the world. Really? Really. Yawn.

He builds his base in a former Soviet Union abandoned city (Chernobyl? That’s my guessing, since we get to see what looks like an old nuclear plant), where for some reason there is still ONE family living. I am not joking: mother-father and two kids. And nobody else. What the hell are they even doing there? Where do they go for groceries?

To contrast the evil guy – with his mandatory horned helmet and big two-handed weapon – a bunch of diverse yet flawed heroes join forces to save the planet. How very original.

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The Flash didn’t make it to the Empire cover, sadly.

The cast of characters. Feel free to guess who is who 

1) the heroic lead who struggles to accept her leadership role;
2) the dark-and-aging gruffy and scarred veteran, dressed in black;
3) the “I am too cool for school” muscle guy, with a golden heart;
4) the boy with a son-father unsolved conflict who needs to build his new independent identity to enter adulthood;
5) the comic relief, young and smart but with no battle experience.

And, sadly, don’t expect any surprise here in terms of twists or developments, because there ain’t any here.

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Steppenwolf is the villain, so cliche it seems straight out of a God of War game. So boring and predictable, it hurts. WHY?

The whole thing is so confusing that at times I was expecting Marvel characters to jump out and mix with the team. That’s Thor? Ah no, it’s Cyborg. And is that Flash or Spidey? Does it really matter?

The only (few) enjoyable moments happen when the heroes manage to interact with each other and show their human sides. But these are few and far between, and not equally distributed.

Barry Allen / Flash is intended as comic relief and turns out as the most likable character, also because thanks to his supersonic speed many of his sequences are in slow motion, and he gets the most screen time.
Gal Gadot does a good job as Wonder Woman, and at the end results the most convincing of the nominal heroes.

Ah yes, there is also Superman (widely anticipated, it’s not a surprise), who literally is the Deus Ex Machina. Resurrected and brought back in action by… the Power of Love. I am not joking. Again? How many times do we have to see the same old narrative trick?

I slept for at least 10 minutes during his blah-blah-this was your farm, remember? storyline, but I seriously doubt I missed something of importance. The plot very reassuringly took me back in the palm of its (not so invisible) hand.

Seriously. How more predictable can a super hero movie be, in 2017?
The overall result is a film that risks nothing, and achieves nothing – or very little anyway. No challenges, no fun. It doesn’t even work as a Batman, Wonder Woman or Superman stand alone product.

The most enjoyable bits are the two cameos at the end, during and after the credits. You have been warned.

What a waste. Watched it in 2D, wouldn’t invest the extra bucks for 3D unless under serious life threat.

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