Not Even Wonder Woman Can Save 'Justice League' from Itself

The movie isn't insidious. It's just dumb.

Black hair, Fictional character, Darkness, Photography, Flash photography, Scene, Cg artwork, Wonder Woman, Digital compositing, Night,
(Image credit: Warner Brothers)

The most entertaining scene in Justice League has absolutely no bearing on the rest of the plot: Wonder Woman detonates the bomb of some random terrorists by hurling it into the sky. Then, she methodically deflects every single bullet from a machine gun using her cuffs. It's rousing and fun in a way the rest of the movie absolutely is not.

Wonder Woman's release over the summer left me hankering for more from Diana Prince and her Amazon sisters. Hell, I even bought a branded "Daughters of Themyscira" jacket to show just how jazzed I was. But Patty Jenkins' movie seems to exist in a magical universe divorced from the aggressively bro-y and lethargic franchise known as the DC Extended Universe, so I went into Justice League with my expectations in check. Turns out, I was right to do so.

Is the movie as offensively terrible as, say, Suicide Squad? No. Nothing could ever be. Honestly, Justice League's main problem is that it's boring, and fails to convince me why I should care that "the fish man" is finally fighting alongside "the fast kid" and "the rich jerk in a bat costume" beyond the fact that they are all famous cultural properties. It's dramatically inert, peppered with lame quips that attempt to stand in for a genuine sense of humor, and—if you look closely—you can see just how important Jenkins' eye was now that it's gone. Good thing it will be back sooner than expected.

"If you look closely—you can see just how important Jenkins' eye was now that it's gone."

Justice League—directed by Man of Steel and Batman v Superman's Zack Snyder with an assist from Joss Whedon—is largely driven by endless exposition which dully lays out why/how the heroes are going to defeat the latest bad guy. The dude in question is Steppenwolf, and his thing is basically just that he's super evil. Ask me to explain anything else about him and I wouldn't be able to based on the screenplay alone. Like, uhhhhh, he also has these parademon creatures that follow him around looking like the Wizard of Oz monkeys gone terribly wrong? He needs to collect three boxes to achieve power? He's constructed via some painfully obvious CGI work?

Bruce Wayne (a grumbly Ben Affleck whose terrible press is hard to forget during the movie) and eventually Diana (the wonderful Gal Gadot) are clued into the threat and must recruit the hard-drinking Aquaman, the skittish Flash, and the brooding Cyborg. It takes some time—AKA an endless amount of time, AKA a little under two hours—but they eventually unite. And, hey, Superman's there too! How he survived that Batman v Superman death scene would constitute a spoiler, but never-fear, he's back, as is Henry Cavill's chest hair! And if you're distracted by how strange the actor's face looks, that's because the production had to edit out a mustache he had grown before reshoots using some technical wizardry. That sloppy edit is basically a metaphor for this movie.

"Justice League is seemingly aware that Diana's the the emotional lynchpin of the group, but doesn't seem to know what to do with that."

So, what about Wonder Woman—does she manage to save Justice League from itself? The film is seemingly aware that Diana's the emotional lynchpin of the group, but doesn't know what to do with that. It can't figure out whether the other members should treat her as a maternal figure or a sex object, so it ends up doing both. "Children! I work with children," she jokingly exclaims during the climactic conflict. Meanwhile, the Flash momentarily freaks out after landing on top of her during a different battle, because, whoa, boobs; and the boorish Aquaman can't help but remark about how hot she is. Oh, and then there's Batman, who we're possibly (???) supposed to think is a viable love interest despite the fact that Affleck and Gadot have no demonstrable chemistry.

Example: A pivotal scene revolves around Diana making a reasonable argument about a dangerous mission, and Batman subsequently starts negging her about the death of Chris Pine's Steve Trevor. Cute? No. Mansplain-y? Yes.

There were other little indignities against Wonder Woman that I picked up on, too: The shot that lingers slightly too long on Diana's butt clad in leather pants; the insanely low cut shirt she wears which I can't imagine a female designer choosing. There has already been noise about the fact that some of the Amazons' costumes appear to have gotten skimpier between the two movies. The change is noticeable if you're attune to it, but what's even more enraging is that the warriors' primary purpose in Justice League is to brutally lose a skirmish to Steppenwolf. Oh, and if you're looking forward to the water-logged debut of Amber Heard's Mera, she's there for basically the same reason.

But for all of that, it's hard to read Justice League as an insidious movie. It's just sort of a dumb one—marred by a dysfunctional cinematic universe, and actors who are in the midst of publicity crises. Skip it, or see it for Wonder Woman's scenes and sleep through the rest.