Trailer-itis: Where’s the Justice in this League?


Movie Review by Shawn StJean

[spoilers follow]

When superhero-fatigue finally kills that movie genre for big profitablity, as it inevitably will, we diehard fans can lay part of the blame on trailers.  They’re symptomatic of the general ripoff that has become of the neighborhood cinema experience: once you walk in the door, your appetite will be ruined by the prospect of a six-dollar soda pop and a nine-dollar popcorn.  Trailers can make mediocre movies look good enough to get your bum in the seat; and apparently the philosophy of some studios, these days, is that the film itself holds no obligation to deliver on its promise.

A trailer–as the four that preceeded Justice League certainly did–can stripmine the film for its best fragments of dialogue and a few choice CGI effects, along with a licensed, catchy song.  It may hold back one or two plot twists, but if the film is disappointing enough, this might not even be a bad thing, from a promotional standpoint.

Much like a trailer, the JL feature film appears to me to have been cut with a blunt instrument, too quickly and heedlessly: too many repetitive shots of Aquaman and Wonder Woman bashing/being bashed by Steppenwolf, too many slo-mo shots of Wonder Woman in general.  All this to disguise the almost total lack of a plot. It’s nonsense unworthy of a Supergirl episode.  And as a villian, Steppenwolf is a second-rate enforcer in his best moments, and not nearly as entertaining as the comedic Grandmaster of the vastly superior Thor: Ragnarock.   His evil parademon minions make the flying monkeys of The Wizard of Oz look menacing.  Anyone anticipating so much as a cameo by Jack Kirby’s New Gods’ uber-villian, Darkseid (which Steppenwolf’s appearance in the trailers surely suggests) will go away empty-handed.

What the trailer doesn’t show us is the pathetic resurrection of Superman from his supposed death at the end of Batman Vs. Superman.  Since when do good guys hold (CGI-)seances, anyway, and when in the history of storytelling did that ever come to good?  The film even acknowledges this with two direct references to Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, and two of the five league members saying “this is a bad idea.”  Of course, whatever Superman might have been missing from his resurrection is taken care of in a ten minute fight scene, and visit from Lois Lane.  Any decent writer/director team–or the editor. . .someone–should have realized two characters digging up a grave would remind everyone, over the age of 35, of Young Frankenstein–though with far less humor.

The film itself completely contradicts the message of the trailers, which features Batman “putting together a team.”  Joss Whedon has repeatedly  shown, most recently for Marvel, throughout his career, that this Seven Samurai plot can be recycled to good effect, but no one here seems to have bothered to try.  The Justice League proves absolutely ineffectual without Superman:  and no number of Beatles covers of “Come Together” can shroud that fact.  They might as well have used “Help!”  And, by the way, the script doesn’t attempt to make any sense of the idea of “Justice,” whatsover.

There are a few laughs, and fun punches, and quiet moments: for example, Diana re-sockets Batman’s shoulder:  “You can’t do this forever, Bruce.”  I’m barely doing it now,” he replies, in a nod to all of us mere mortals.  It’s not a horrible film: but if popcorn costs nine bucks, it better not leave you hungry.  It should be noted that Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is the standout character for the third film in a row, and the trailers rightly emphasize this fact.  Her lasso of truth produces some of the decent moments of the movie, and Superman appears not so easily to bat her around, as the others.  Don’t be surprised, then, if she continues, like Atlas, to carry the DC movie universe on her shoulders, for the forseeable future.