by Joe Shelton
Justice League resembles nothing so much as a less scary, more confusing Frankenstein’s monster. Only rather than an arm here and a leg there, it is put together out of bits and pieces left over from a survey of the last twenty years of big budget Hollywood.
Far from the relatively elegant Wonder Woman, Justice League feels like the nightmare that a recently pubescent boy might have at a sleepover after a big helping of pizza and cereal: muscle-bound lugs, half of whose names are comprised of the word “man” (AquaMAN, SuperMAN, BatMAN) punch, kick, shoot and throw their merry way through an army of winged zombies, accompanied, of course, by their token female friend, with whom each of them will, at some point or another, enjoy a moment of sexual tension. Then, once they’ve punched bad guys separately, they all come together at the end for an inspirational bout of punching bad guys together. Along the way they learn a lesson about how they have to stick together or something.
Truly, this is the superhero movie at its least comprehensible. Which is to say: maybe it’s all been leading up to this. The millions, even billions, that Hollywood has spent on bringing these four-color children’s stories to the screen has culminated, finally and forever, in a movie that succeeds in actually capturing what it is like to read a comic book. Or rather, what it is like to be a bemused adult paging through issue 247 of a comic book series he cannot hope to ever catch up on.
Because unlike Marvel’s Avengers, transparently the model for the kind of movie Justice League wants to be, Warner Brothers and DC have not spent 7 or 8 movies building up to this. Rather, with only Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Wonder Woman to guide us, watching Justice League feels jarringly different.
While those movies flirted with aliens and supernatural elements, Justice League goes all in on vintage comics writer Jack Kirby’s Wagner-esque mythos, complete with “old gods” and “new gods,” harpy-esque creatures called “parademons,” and “mother boxes” – magical mcguffins that, when united, create a portal to blah blah blah.
If the Marvel movies are sterile and cautious almost to a fault (with the exception of Dr. Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Thor: Ragnarok, some of Marvel’s weirder offerings), then Justice League is their sweaty, overeager little cousin shouting “wait for me!” Which is not to say that it is wholly unentertaining.
In fact, plied with enough pizza and sugary cereal (and maybe some hard liquor), you have to admit that behind all the bad special effects and dumb dialogue, there is a deep well of stupidity. And then behind that, somewhere, is a modicum of fun.