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Front Page - Friday, November 24, 2017

‘Justice League’ has too little Flash

When Marvel released “The Avengers” in 2012, it had already laid the groundwork for a great character-based action movie. After each of the main characters had starred in their own film, they came together to complete the bond between them and fight a common foe.

DC Comics has taken a different approach. First, after wringing the joy out of Superman in “Man of Steel” (2013), they sucked the fun out of going to the movies with “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016).

DC then released the superb “Wonder Woman” this year. But instead of waiting to introduce the other characters who form the Justice League in their own movies, DC decided to springboard “Justice League” off the two bad movies and use the film to introduce two more superheroes – Aquaman and Cyborg – who will now get their own projects.

The results are mixed.

I doubt “Justice League” will win DC any new fans or thrill their enthusiasts, but it does contain a few nice character touches and laughs. Unfortunately, the film lacks an interesting story and action worth seeing.

The plot just feels inconsequential. In a nutshell, Batman becomes aware of a looming threat and, since he can’t call on the late Superman to help him deal with it, he sets out to assemble a team of superheroes. No one is thrilled about joining, but Mr. Wayne eventually puts the band together.

Their target: Steppenwolf, a god who wants to make every inhabitable world look like Hell and every living creature upon them a minion in his army. He gets his redecorating powers from three cube-like objects called Mother Boxes. (Go ahead. I rolled my eyes, too.) To keep Steppenwolf from destroying Earth, the Justice League must keep the cubes out of his hands and send him back to his own dimension.

You can probably tell I’m suffering from comic book movie burnout. But that’s not DC Comics’ fault, so why should I rag on “Justice League?” Because for an event movie on the scale of “The Avengers,” it not only offers a weak story, it tries to hide its routine plot under mountains of bad computer-generated imagery.

When I say bad, I mean bad. Obviously bad. Glaringly bad. I’ve seen video games cut scenes with better animation. A lot of attention is being given to Superman’s mouth, which just looks…wrong. (Oops. Spoiler alert! Superman is raised from the dead.) I thought maybe actor Henry Cavill had plastic surgery that went awry, but no. After the film, I learned the filmmakers replaced his mustache with a CGI lip.

While I have a few body parts I wouldn’t mind having redrawn, couldn’t Cavill have just, you know, shaved? (Actually, no. It turns out the mustache was there for “Mission Impossible 6” and couldn’t be shaved during the “Justice League” reshoots.)

That’s not the worst of it. The CGI replacements for the actors during the action sequences often look fake and are stiffly animated. And the action sequences are filled with visual clutter and quick camera movements, ostensibly to hide the subpar CGI.

So, what works? Not much.

I did like how Wonder Woman emerged as the nurturing and compassionate mother of the group while still kicking ass. I also found it nicely ironic that Cyborg, who’s more machine than man, is one of the more grounded members of the Justice League.

And I liked Flash, who provides comedy relief and has a nice character arc. But none of these plusses makes the movie worth seeing.

More than a few critics are calling “Justice League” a mess. While the film is the product of two directors (Zack Snyder, who got the project rolling, and Joss Whedon, who took the reins when Snyder left due to a family tragedy), I thought the film more or less maintains a consistent tone and that the story – for all its triteness – held together under the stress of a fractured production.

So, I’m puzzled by the reviews calling “Justice League” a mess.

Pedestrian, yes, but not a mess.

Either way, there’s no reason for anyone but diehard fans to see it.