Let’s start here, comic book fans: Are you okay with Barry Allen, hero of Crisis on Infinite Earths, master of the Speed Force, a character who has built his entire reputation on saving people, saying, “I am scared of bugs, and obnoxiously tall guys who murder people.” Honestly, that line is everything that is wrong with the Justice League, a movie full of characters that act nothing like their counterparts, to the point that it is embarrassing.
I did not discuss the plot for Batman V Superman, because… well there wasn’t one, but I feel the story of this movie needs to be discussed. Essentially the movie is a series of vignettes, meant to introduce us to the characters, which then shifts into two set pieces that sets up the fight with Steppenwolf. The problem is that, other than Wonder Woman and Batman, we never get any real sense of who these characters are. Aquaman is reluctant to join up with Batman because, and I quote verbatim, “Everybody is always telling me what to do, I just want to be left alone.” Flash hates brunch, and apparently that is a character trait. Cyborg mopes and whines, and fights with his Dad. And then all the characters devolve into quip machines, just randomly. It is unsettling.
And now let’s deal with this: the problem with Batman V Superman was not that it was dark, and lacked humor. The problem was that it took characters that the world loved and mangled them into Watchmen facsimiles. Justice League tries to fix that, but the problem is that it still does not care about presenting these characters in a way that is consistent. So what they are forced to do is present these characters as if they do not possess basic reasoning capabilities. At one point, Cyborg’s suit activates its defenses on its own, and threatens to escalate an extremely tense situation. At this point, we have seen both Wonder Woman and Flash use their super-speed, but when Cyborg yells for 3 minutes straight, no one moves. Worse yet, Batman, the most astute tactical mind in the DC universe, decides that his master-plan against Steppenwolf is to take down this control tower by himself, while the rest of the League just stands around watching. When they decide to help, Batman growls, “This isn’t the plan.” What was the plan!?
I don’t know who is written worse in this movie, but it is between Batman and Flash. I lean towards Flash, but Batman is ridiculous. In one scene he is arrogantly pushing Wonder Woman’s buttons, and in the very next scene he is lamenting the fact that Superman would be a better leader than him. How does he know that? His experience with Superman is literally a punch out with a monster, which did not suggest any leadership capabilities. But he is probably right because only twice does he give any directives in this movie (that I can remember), and they are both to Flash.
And yeah, Flash is basically useless. Here we have the DC Cinematic Universe’s now annual tradition of making a character so ridiculous and off the mark, that it makes one wonder why they even bothered adding the character at all. I know my compadre, Al, saw him as autistic and while I cannot speak to that, I can say that this iteration of the Flash is unlike any of the speed force users in the comics. There was some thought that maybe the writers were trying to make him a Wally West type figure, but I grew up with Wally West, and let me tell you… this is NOT Wally West. I know that there are big Flash fans, who are just waiting to see Flash on the big screen, and I do not see how they could be anything but disappointed.
So was there anything I liked? Yeah, there was. Gal Gadot is still amazing. There are points where we see acts of heroism, which is important. But even the things I like are surrounded by an incompetent movie, that still lacks the one indispensable element… Heart. I remain unconvinced that any of the people involved in making this film have any affection for the characters. And since I do, I cannot just be happy that these characters are finally on the big screen. Aquaman is a regal, displaced king. Cyborg is a robot, whose compassion and will to do the right thing keeps him human. Flash is a selfless hero, always pushing himself to keep more and more people safe. Superman is an aspirational figure. Wonder Woman is a warrior of love. And Batman is a beacon for justice; possessing a plan for every situation. None of what I have described is present in this movie, and it is this fact, more than any other, which makes Justice League such a disaster. Until Warner Brothers resolves to find directors and writers who care enough about these characters to be true to what they are (paging Patty Jenkins), then these movies will continue to fail miserably.