Justice League stifles with déjà vu

This should-have-been hit-it-out-of-the-park piece is more a film that never managed to convince itself to reach for greatness, writes Darren Bevan

The Avengers had it after numerous build-up films, and while Suicide Squad signalled DC's intentions to let the baddies have all the fun first to cinematically buck the team-up trend, it was perhaps inevitable that the squad team-up event would ultimately arrive.

And that it has now - albeit more with dramatic deja vu and some moments that genuinely engage and amuse among the appallingly executed and shonky CGI - should come as nothing of a surprise to those who've been following the rapidly-bloating superhero genre.

Following on from Snyder's much-derided Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the critical success of Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman, Justice League arrives with a degree of weight of expectation to see if DC can properly launch a squad franchise for future incarnations. (Though bafflingly, Jason Momoa's Aquaman will get an origins film after this one releases).

With Superman dead after the tussle with Batman, the world's awash with chaos, with an increase in terrorist events and general hoodlums.

As if that's not enough, Batman's wandering around in a kind of funk, drenched in ennui and with hair flecked with grey - even Alfred (Irons) wryly notes at one point that one misses the days when the biggest problems they faced were wind-up electronic penguins.

Diana Prince (Gadot, a little less wooden this time around) is faring a bit better, protecting those in peril and persuading Bats they need more people on their team to help combat a growing problem, which threatens the world and as usual, involves a MacGuffin.

Enter Ezra Miller's Barry Allen aka The Flash, the quip machine and nerdy heart and soul of the story. His touch of levity doesn't go too far a la Thor Ragnarok, but signals DC's intentions to perhaps add a degree of humour.

Sadly, he's the only one of the new additions who's not saddled with reams of exposition for their introduction - unlike Ray Fisher's Cyborg, and Jason Momoa's Hawaiian-influenced Aquaman.

Their involvement isn't so much shoe-horned in, but clearly laden with necessity that could have been cleared up in an origins film.

The sense of déjà vu in this heroes assemble film is almost stifling, it feels like much is an identikit of all-too-familiar elements and tropes.

The main issue with Justice League isn't so much that DC's pulled together something that feels like a revamp of intentions for the DCEU, but more that due to superhero cinema overflow, feels like a rather unfortunate piece of déjà vu, suffering once again from a lacklustre villain and definite feeling of lack of threat to all. It certainly undoes some of the good work done by Wonder Woman in terms of narrative and execution.

A series of cubes that threaten the world - pretty sure that was in an Avengers film. 

A series of flying insect creatures that threaten the world - again, pretty sure that was in an Avengers film as well.

The sense of déjà vu in this heroes assemble film is almost stifling, it feels like much is an identikit of all-too-familiar elements and tropes.

Its denouement is perhaps its weakest point, a muddled mess of CGI weakness that feels dark, muddied and narratively laughable thanks to its deus-ex-machina.

And while for a DC effort, there's no denying this is a massive step up in terms of delivery and signalling of intent, it never quite reaches any highs that you'd hope for, and settles more for a run-of-the-mill middle of the road blockbuster that's let down poorly by badly executed CGI and a rote plot.

Ultimately, while there are parts of Justice League that show the DC universe is righting itself, there are not enough of them on show in the film among the dullness that pervades. There's no denying Justice League is the creative leap that DC wanted, but there's also a persistent nagging feeling that the genre is reaching the end of its shelf life, and this should-have-been hit-it-out-of-the-park piece is more a film that never managed to convince itself to reach for greatness.

Justice League

Cast: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot,  Jason Momoa, Amy Adams, Ezra Miller, Henry Cavill, JK Simmons, Jeremy Irons
Director: Zack Snyder

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