REVIEW: ‘Justice League’ starts slow, ends heroic

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Let’s get it out of the way right from the jump: The first 45 minutes or so “Justice League” may put you to sleep. But if you can hang on through that, “League” ends up being surprisingly entertaining, funny and thrilling.

“League”, the latest entry in the D.C. Comics movie universe, finds the world under the threat of Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciaran Hinds), an otherworldly demon bent on wiping out all life on Earth. His motivations are a little murky. But he’d a bad dude wanting to do some bad stuff.

To defend the planet, Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) gather a superteam that includes Aquaman (Jason Mamoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and The Flash (Ezra Miller). They need to kick Steppenwolf’s booty, but first they have to figure out how to get along and work together.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s basically the same plot we got in the first “Avengers” movie. It’s a well-worn scenario, basically a comic book version of “Seven Samurai”. But the plot of this kind of movie isn’t as important as watching the characters together. We want to see them interact, bicker and learn to coexist.

Unfortunately, “Justice League” makes us wait to get to the good stuff, and the wait is pretty bumpy. The movie needs to establish Cyborg, Aquaman and The Flash as characters while we watch Batman and Wonder Woman assemble the team.

Along with that, “League” also has to introduce the villain and set up what he’s trying to accomplish. That means we get a bunch of scenes that jump from location to location, sometimes in jarring fashion. It goes without saying that a lot of this setup could have been taken care of if the new characters had been given solo movies leasing into “League”. But DC chose cram all that stuff into one movie, and “League” suffers for it.

Still, once Batman and Wonder Woman pull their team together, things really take off. And that’s where the acting shines, too. Gadot is once again excellent as Wonder Woman, and her role takes on more maternal qualities this time around. Gadot pulls it all off while also fostering a friendly back and forth with Batman. Affleck’s take on Batman is a lot less angry this time around, but he’s also more guilt-ridden, which is a nice touch.

Miller has several very funny moment, although he plays Flash as a nerdy twerp which gets old. It’s always nice to see J.K. Simmons, Billy Crudup and Joe Morton on screen. But if I’m honest, Mamoa steals this movie. He plays Aquaman as a gruff, brusque loner who drinks hard and fights harder. He also gets most of the funniest lines. Now, I can’t wait for the Aquaman movie. Thank you, Jason Mamoa!

There are other chinks in this movie’s armor. Steppenwolf is a fairly forgettable villain and the computer-generated effects used to bring him to life look phony. It’s also well-known that director Zack Snyder dropped out back in March, replaced by Joss Whedon, and a lot of the scenes that Whedon filmed really stick out. And the musical score is fairly unimpressive, although there are a couple of moments where composer Danny Elfman nicks a few few highlights from his past work that really stand out. And the less that’s said about how Cyborg looks in the movie, the better.

In spite of all that, “Justice League” is a pretty good time and worth seeing on a big screen. It’s a blast watching these iconic D.C. characters fight together. It left me excited to see these characters together again. It took its time hooking me, but by the end I was smiling.

3 ½ Indy Fedoras out of 5

MPAA Rating: PG-13

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