The engaging, endearing Justice League, in its brisk two hours, is a big improvement on 2013’s Man of Steel and last year’s Batman v Superman—which could have been subtitled “The Dawn of Superman’s Funeral.”
Justice League commences with charm worthy of the Christopher Reeve Superman films. A couple of off-camera kids corner Superman (Henry Cavill) for an interview. The question that stops him speechless: “What’s the best thing about Earth?”
In BvS, the demise of the hero seemed like a sad gimmick. Here, the montage of street-corner monuments and rotting flowers on the street corner really stings: Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” on the soundtrack, Superman flanked with Bowie and Prince on a tabloid cover, Lois (Amy Adams) reaching for the empty side of the bed, and a beggar on a blanket next to a cardboard sign: “I TRIED.”
Smelling blood in the water, an alien god called Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarán Hinds) arrives by wormhole. He’s essentially another Sauron, from Lord of the Rings, here to retrieve three strange pulsating cubes hidden by the ancients—three boxes to rule them all.
To save the world, Batman recruits a defense team of meta-humans, including the witty, self-doubting Flash (Ezra Miller), the fastest man alive and a self-described “attractive Jewish kid”; the insanely hearty barbarian of Atlantis, Aquaman (Jason Momoa); the somber half-machine Cyborg (Ray Fisher); and, in a welcome return, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot).
This rapid yet smooth film has the time for breaks—the aging Bruce Wayne gets a sympathetic ear from Wonder Woman: “You can’t do this forever,” she warns. “I can barely do this now.”
The weariness and second thoughts are as much a surprise as the final battle where Steppenwolf is busy un-terraforming Terra. Gadot is glorious in slo-mo, and the sight of the Batmobile roaring away with a cloud of flying monsters behind it is thrilling to any former child who ever tied a towel around his neck, pretending it was a cape.
‘Justice League’ is playing in wide release in the North Bay.