Film Review: Justice League

Starring: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot and Ezra Miller
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Rated: PG-13
Running time: 2 hr 1 min
Warner Brothers

Until this season, when the NFL allowed players to celebrate after touchdowns, many referred to the game as the No Fun League. That is also how many fans referred to the DC Comic film universe. Christopher Nolan’s ultra-dark Batman trilogy, not to mention Zack Snyder’s brooding “Man of Steel” and “Batman vs Superman” gave fans their favorite characters, usually having a bad day. While they were entertaining, they missed the one thing that has made the Marvel films so appreciated: humor. Earlier this year we got a brief breath of fresh air when Wonder Woman arrived in her own film. Things continue to look upward with the arrival of “Justice League.”

The film opens with a phone image of Superman (Henry Cavil), happily agreeing to answer some children’s questions. They bombard him with queries, which he smiles at. He is then asked, “What do you like best about Earth?”

Full of action and some much needed humor, “Justice League” is an entertaining two-hour roller coaster ride. With — SPOILER ALERT— Superman having died at the end of “Batman vs Superman,” the world in general, and Metropolis in particular, have became a haven for evil doers. Even Gotham City isn’t spared. One night, while on patrol, Batman (Affleck) comes across a mechanical monster that, when destroyed, leaves a pattern of marks, similar to marks found in Lex Luthor’s papers. As things go from worse to…whatever is worse than worse…Batman decides he needs to recruit other people to help save the world. Besides Wonder Woman (Gadot), he travels north to meet the strange Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) and then hits the city to find the young and friendless Barry Allen (Miller). Finally he tracks down Victor Stone (Ray Fisher) a former athlete. Each of these people have a secret but also learn they have a common goal – to save the world.

It can’t be easy to run around on screen in your underwear, and part of the success of “Justice League” must be attributed to the actors who embody their roles completely. Affleck and Gadot have already built some chemistry with “Batman vs Superman,” and Momoa, Miller and Fisher blend easily with them as, respectively, Aquaman, the Flash and Cyborg. Miller steals every scene he’s in as the teenage Scarlett Speedster, making him as appealing here as Tom Holland was this past summer in “Spider-man: Homecoming.” As the junk food loving Barry (due to his very high metabolism, he must constantly eat), Miller gives the character a heart, a soul and a proclivity for one liners.

Director Snyder took some time off from the production of the film after his daughter passed away in March. He was replaced by Joss Whedon, the director who gave us “The Avengers” among other films. Whedon shares a screenwriting credit here, and it looks like he may have been the perfect piece to solve Snyder’s dark puzzles. If you’re looking for excitement and a few laughs this weekend, look into joining the FUN “League!”

Film Review: “Suicide Squad”

Starring: Will Smith, Jared Leto and Margot Robbie
Directed By: David Ayer
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 130 minutes
Warner Bros.

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

The Suicide Squad is a generally unheard force in the DC Universe. They’re a group of underdog villains attempting to do good, drawing comparisons from some that this is Warner Bros. attempt at their own version of “Guardians of the Galaxy”. While the comparison is fair, “Suicide Squad” is a far more sinister beast. While Marvel’s Peter Quill and Rocket Raccoon are likable thieves and thugs, the members of the Suicide Squad are a terrifying ragtag bunch of assassins, murderers and sociopaths.

The Suicide Squad is made up of the smooth talking Deadshot (Smith), Joker’s squeeze Harley Quinn (Robbie), the beer drinking Boomerang (Jai Courtney), the gang banger El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) and the hulking monster Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). They’re all led by the self-righteous Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman). The founder of this group is Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), who may as well be the villain of the movie. She’s an unsympathetic, calculating, and murderous government official who abides by her own rules.

Her basis for creating the Suicide Squad is so that the U.S. military has an controllable force that can stop the next Superman (spoilers if you didn’t see the disappointing “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice”). Waller has a working knowledge of nearly every villain on the planet, and seemingly every superhero, which gives pause as to why she thinks this would ever be a good idea. Despite the rather large nature of the cast working under Waller’s character, director and writer David Ayer wisely chose to focus the movie’s attention on the best actors, Davis, Smith and Robbie.

While the media lead-up to “Suicide Squad” has been about Leto’s disturbing antics off-screen, his on-screen Joker portrayal is underwhelming. It’s not because it comes on the heels of Ledger’s performance back in 2008, but because I still can’t imagine the Joker having the patience to get a tattoo or ever concerning himself with fashionable bling-bling. Despite the disappointment of Leto’s Joker, Robbie wows as the stunning lover of Mr. J, Harley Quinn. While we’ve never had a theatrical version of the Clown Prince of Crime’s murderous hunny, Robbie has set the bar, and it’s pretty damn high.

Robbie displays a natural ability to blend Quinn’s flirtatious, deadly, and juvenile nature seamlessly. She manages to convey her as a trashy, demented high school cheerleader most of the time, while displaying a softer, human side to the villain in brief glances. Matching her scene-by-scene is Smith, who’s back to his action movie roots as the assassin that never misses, Deadshot. Both of them provide most of the back story and emotional depth amongst the Suicide Squad, and rightfully so.

El Diablo has a heart breaking backstory, but Hernandez isn’t a strong enough actor or given enough dialogue to feed into his tragic past. Killer Croc is simply a grunting brute covered in scales and Boomerang is the wisecracking comic relief, minus the comic relief. The movie also finds time to wedge in Ben Affleck’s Batman, Ezra Miller’s Flash, and a brief nod to the future “Justice League” movie. Sometimes it’s a visual buffet that finds the right balance without making you too nauseous, as long as you know what the hell the movie’s talking about.

The characters are what make “Suicide Squad”, not the story, which clearly came second. When David Ayer needs to introduce the characters, he establishes a pecking order and focuses on the most relatable. As for the plot, it’s a mess involving the mysterious Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), who’s never explained, possibly angering those unfamiliar with comic books, and maybe even those familiar with them. The exact reasoning behind the Suicide Squad’s pact is a little iffy and the movie doesn’t find a satisfying conclusion after the bombastic finale.

“Suicide Squad” is a wham-bam action punch with enough exuberant and unique performances to help overshadow the lacking plot structure. You’ll be talking about Robbie’s Harley Quinn more than you will about Leto’s Joker. And that’s not a bad thing when DC is trying to establish some girl power. If DC wants to start working on a solo Deadshot or Harley Quinn movie, go ahead and buy my tickets right now.