'Justice League' falls flat

(GMA photo)

What makes the generally dire "Justice League" somewhat worth watching is Wonder Woman.

Gal Gadot's fiery, intense warrior remains a delight to watch as she charges headfirst into a fight, sword and shield in hand ready to strike down the foes who oppose her. Aside from the satisfaction wrought from having Wonder Woman serve as the toughest character among a collection of super powered folks - a trait shared with the great "Justice League" animated show from the 2000s - Gadot gives the character a little charm to add a touch of humanity to her character.

Some adaptations, for example recent video game entries, have centered her character on the character's warrior spirit they lose touch of the humanity that allows a god to embrace life among humans. DC has a good thing going with Wonder Woman, so it totally makes sense for the company to add a male version of her in the form of Jason Momoa's Aquaman. They're effectively mirrors of each other, one serving to make the other moderately redundant. Because having a unique, distinguished female character is a step too far for DC, and Aquaman needs to do something besides speak to fish.

One way or another, DC can't get out of its own way when adapting its comic properties to film, which is the driving force of "Justice League's" failures. The decisions made in the filmmaking process by director Zack Snyder and writers Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon are more often than not wrong, resulting in a disjointed, slight movie instead of the powerful blockbuster the company needs. This was DC's shot at a franchise centerpiece, and it fell remarkably short of achieving that goal.

The most fundamental flaw with "Justice League" is a story that feels incomplete, as if key components were removed to keep the run time at around two hours. The movie brings back Wonder Woman and Ben Affleck's Batman (who spends the movie being fairly useless among his powerful friends) from, but takes time out for the origins of new heroes Aquaman, Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Flash (Ezra Miller). All three will get their own movies in the next few years, but they are new to this DC Cinematic Universe, and "Justice League" has to take time to introduce all three from scratch.

The process is clunky, stealing time away from the save the world narrative while missing opportunities to understand the team dynamic. DC would have been better served properly introducing Aquaman, Cyborg, and Flash in separate movies ahead of this one, as almost a third of this movie is devoted to introducing those three.

Cutting down on the new character introduction would then provide more time to focus on the aforementioned save the world story audiences came out to see. "Justice League" would benefit from additional time to flesh out an uninspiring, rote plot. Part of the issue is from the choice of villains - the alien Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarán Hinds) is not a major DC villain, certainly not as intimidating as Darkseid or even a deranged Lex Luthor.

Once the team of beings with godlike powers (and Batman) assembles, Steppenwolf's inevitable defeat becomes clear and anticlimactic. The build up of a grand battle to save the earth ends in an blase fashion, concluded with neither of the movie's two proud warriors, Wonder Woman and Aquaman, ending the battle with the killing blow.

If the plot feels a little familiar, that's because Marvel already did it in The Avengers, although Marvel did a much more competent job. And it doesn't take too close of a look to see where Snyder and crew lifted from other sources with small to no traces of shame. A flashback to a previous battle with Steppenwolf is formatted like a Lord of the Rings rip off. The bits about Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and the world losing hope after Superman's death (Henry Cavill) has elements of Ghostbusters II to it, and there's a rather blatant rip off of Frankenstein.

Throwing these elements together just makes the story feel weak, as if the writers weren't confident in the path they chose for their superhero team.

The overarching vibe for "Justice League" is disappoint. Is this all DC has to offer for the most memorable superhero team of all time? A recycled plot with poor characterization is the best this company has to offer fans who've already been stuck with Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad and murderous interpretations of otherwise pacifistic heroes? None of this bodes well for the impending "Justice League" sequel and the rest of the onslaught of DC movies, so strap in for a bumpy ride.

Rating: Two out of Five Stars

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Target audience: People who love DC Comics.

Take the whole family?: There's a lot of violence with minimal amounts of human blood, so for parents who are good with that this won't be too much for kiddos.

Theater or Netflix?: Really, really don't pay the extra money to see it.

What about the little things?: What irked me the most was how the little things kept getting messed up. Most notably is how every superhero calls each other by their real first names, no matter how close they are to, say, a group of cops or Bruce Wayne's employees. These heroes hide their identities for many, many reasons, and there's no way Batman would allow anyone to call him Bruce in open quarters.

Watch this instead?: Wonder Woman is the best of the recent DC Comics movie adaptation, although it still isn't that great. The "Justice League" cartoon from the 2000s is excellent, and the ongoing "Justice League" Action is pretty fun. If you do want to go out, just hit up Thor: Ragnarok and enjoy the madness that ensues.

Rating: PG-13 Run time: 120 minutes