Justice League

After exclusively working for Marvel Comics for the better part of a decade, having created many of their recognizable properties including the Hulk and the X-Men, in 1970 artist/creator Jack Kirby was handed a contract that required him to sign away legal ownership rights. So he quit, and abruptly went to work for the competition, DC Comics, where in Jimmy Olsen #134 (Dec. 1970) he introduced his “Fourth World” stories. Centered around the merciless tyrant of Apokolips known as Darkseid, over the course of five years Kirby altered DC mythology to such a degree that when the company imploded its past history through the year-long restructuring series Crisis on Infinite Earths, Kirby’s Darkseid and company remained the only property not tampered with.

Justice League, the movie that Zack Snyder left unfinished, with Joss Whedon brought in to pare it down from its three-hour running time, attempts to provide the cinematic thread joining Kirby’s concept with DC’s superhero roster of favorites: Batman (Ben Affleck), Superman (Henry Cavill) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), but with flawed results.

For the uninitiated, the two comic book companies run together. Marvel with its angst-ridden stock-in-trade was modeled after King Arthur’s roundtable and Norse myths (the shield, the hammer, the knight in armor), and DC, which for the most part consisted of meta-humans who acquired their powers accidentally or aliens from another world. Modeled after the Greek gods – Hermes (the speedster), Athena (the protectress), Poseidon (master of the oceans) and Hephaestus (the metal craftsman) – this older, more familiar roster came to be united as the Justice League.

In addition to these “gods” is the Batman, who uses brain and brawn to apprehend criminals, aided by his butler Alfred (Jeremy Irons) and the dependable Commissioner Gordon (J.K. Simmons). In Justice League, however, he’s little more than a punching bag for the others to take potshots at, though he’s always two steps ahead of his adversaries. So when insect-like Parademons arrive, he knows he needs help!

Assisted by Diana Prince from the Batman v Superman and Wonder Woman films, he convinces the partially mechanical Cyborg (Ray Fisher), a speedy costumed kid, The Flash (Ezra Miller), and a soggy biker-looking “king” from Atlantis, Aquaman (Jason Momoa), to join them in tracking down a militarized axe-slinging foot soldier from Apokolips, Steppenwolf, who fought and lost a previous incursion into this world at the hands of the Amazons, the Atlanteans and the Green Lantern Corps!

The remainder of the film finds these heroes to be no match for Steppenwolf and in dire need of even further assistance.

It’s not that Justice League is such a terrible movie, but it’s terribly ill conceived as any kind of flagship undertaking to base the DC cinematic universe around!

For one thing, the true menace is Darkseid and he’s only mentioned as a looming threat for the sequel.

And whereas Marvel has taken great pains to preserve its cinematic continuity, DC’s Arrowverse on TV’s CW network has already won over fans with actor Grant Gustin’s affable portrayal of The Flash. Now, this movie recasts Ezra Miller as a socially inept pratfall comic relief element in an otherwise “serious” film.

The fact that Joss Whedon reshot 20% of this movie leads me to speculate whether he just restaged key scenes or was he the deciding factor who determined it would be a good idea to compliment a sketchy narrative by bringing the supporting players forward? I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that both post-credits scenes were his doing!

In The Brave and the Bold #28 (Feb./March 1960), seven heroes came together to combat an alien invasion, and decided to stay united to stave off domestic, international and intergalactic threats. With that kind of legacy, wouldn’t it be conceivable that just a passing mention be made about the space pirate Kanjar Ro, or the adaptable robot Amazo, or Felix Faust, or a giant chessboard laying around out back?

The sole purpose for this movie existing appears to be to provide a bridge between Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Kirby’s “Fourth World” stories.

In later years, Batman’s suspicion of the League will grow, causing him to distance himself from the group. It might’ve been more plausible to facilitate or foreshadow this at some point in Justice League.

DC’s most successful property to date has been Wonder Woman, and Gal Gadot is far and away the most rewarding aspect in her introductory scene in this movie where hostages are taken. At this point, DC’s cinematic focus should be on this perfectly cast Amazon, rather than populating its gloomy cinematic future with this sort of rubbish!

It’s been said that “DC shouldn’t imitate Marvel.” In light of the profitability of movies like Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok, that’s precisely what they should be doing!