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Movie Review

Superman's dead, and his adopted planet is missing him something fierce.

Crime is up. Hope is down. Batman's doing his best to keep Gotham in line, but he's only one guy in a cape.

Then one night, as Batman takes down yet another petty, unrepentant thief, something else crashes the party—a winged, toothy, interloper. And when Batman corrals him with his handy-dandy utility-belt net, the thing just … melts?

The criminal—temporarily forgotten—pipes up.

"They know he's dead, right?" he asks. "Where does that leave us?"

Where indeed. Batman, for all his nifty gadgets and crime-fighting gizmos and honed combat skills, is just a guy, and a guy getting more gray hairs by the minute. If this flying monster is the beginning of an invasion, batarangs won't be enough to stop it. This is a job for Superman, surely. Or it would be, if Supes wasn't so dead.

Batman chats the matter over with Wonder Woman, who tells him a rather disturbing story.

In an age long past, a bad 'un named Steppenwolf harnessed the massive power of three mysterious boxes to nearly destroy and remake the world. Only an alliance of pretty much every human, god and demigod of the time stopped Steppenwolf, slapped him on a metaphorical magic carpet and sent him far, far away.

But the boxes weren't so easy to get rid of. Now, it seems, they've mysteriously begun waking up, and Steppenwolf seems to have returned as well.

With no Man of Steel to rely on, Batman and Wonder Woman put a team together—a team of super-powered humans who just might be able to slow Steppenwolf's roll. But the folks Batman has in mind keep pretty much to themselves.

Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman, spends most of his time not just undercover, but underwater. Barry Allen, soon to be called The Flash, stays out of sight most of the time, too, the only exceptions being when he goes to visit his incarcerated father. As for Victor Stone—well, most everyone just thinks the kid's dead. Only those with access to a Bat Computer know he's not only alive, but half machine, skulking and pouting around his dad's apartment.

No, they're not a particularly sociable lot—which makes them a lot like Batman himself. But the Dark Knight knows that if they hope to save the world, they'll need to work together. After all, it's not like the guy in the red cape can save the planet this time.

[Note: Spoilers are contained in the following sections.]

Positive Elements

Much ink has been spilled on the previous missteps in the DC Extended Universe: How Batman was so bitter and bloodthirsty in Batman v. Superman. How Supes was so angsty in Man of Steel (and that he committed a definite Superman no-no in killing a guy). How the franchise has sometimes shown a complete disregard for civilian casualties.

Justice League corrects some of those missteps. Our heroes work overtime and risk their own lives to save those of innocents. And while Batman may still brood a bit (he is Batman, after all), he's far more the sort of hero we'd be apt to root for here: He's determined to do his part to save civilization, and he works diligently to bring this makeshift team of augmented humanity together to accomplish that noble purpose. "You can't save the world alone," the movie's posters read. It's a lesson Batman learned in his last movie appearance, and he tries to convey that conviction to his new antisocial partners.

Batman even calls out Wonder Woman, accusing her of disappearing for a century (between the events of Wonder Woman and Batman v. Superman). "Superman was a beacon to the world," he tells her. "Why weren't you?"

Batman—who spent most of his last movie trying to kill Superman—has now come to better appreciate his many virtues: honesty, decency, morality and, most importantly, the example he set.

Superman's spirit is everywhere in this movie, exhorting and inspiring our heroes even when he's not with them. But let's face it: It'd be a strange Justice League movie indeed without a real, flesh-and-blood Supes doing battle with baddies, and he indeed returns. And after a tense readjustment period, the Man of Steel comes back as good, decent and incorruptible as ever.

Spiritual Content

Steppenwolf is pretty full of himself. He calls himself a "new god" at least once (and his powers are indeed quite impressive), and he recognizes that Wonder Woman has the blood of the "old gods" running through her (a lineage previously established in Wonder Woman). From Wonder Woman, we hear about Steppenwolf's previous invasion, wherein the world was rescued (in part) by some of the lowercase gods from Mount Olympus.

The underlying spirituality of the film goes deeper, however. Much of Justice League is predicated on D.C.'s Fourth World series by Jack Kirby, which featured a panoply of "new" and "old" gods who hail from the worlds of "New Genesis" (the good place) and "Apokolips" (the bad place). Uproxx describes the series as "another pass at Norse mythology, with a heavy dose of everything from Greco-Roman myth to the Old Testament thrown in." Anyone choosing to explore the movie's mythos in more detail may be in for some spiritual sifting.

Barry Allen (The Flash) calls himself a good-looking Jewish kid. We see a woman wearing a head covering, perhaps indicating her Muslim faith. We see churches and ancient Grecian temples.

Overruling Wonder Woman, Batman decides to use one of the mysterious cubes to raise Superman from the dead. Cyborg and the Flash dig the body up: "Do you get a sense that we're doing something horribly wrong and macabre here?" Flash wonders. Still, it should be noted that Superman always—and especially in director Zack Snyder's DC Extended Universe movies—embodies a certain Christlike quality, and the fact that he was raised from the dead doesn't exactly diminish that symbolic connection. He's depicted in salvific terms, and we hear plenty of references of how Superman, by his example, helped make people better and gave them hope.

Sexual Content

During a melee, The Flash finds himself on top of Wonder Woman, but swiftly gets up before she realizes he was even on her.

When Batman tells Alfred that he's interested in Wonder Woman's "skill set," Alfred turns it into a double entendre: "I bet you are," he says.

We see women in revealing outfits and a guy go shirtless. Superman and Lois Lane share a long kiss, hold each other tight and apparently spend some (unspecified amount of) time at Superman's childhood home.

Violent Content

Yes, there is violent content here.

This is not to say that the violence we find is particularly bloody. In many respects, it's restrained compared to some of Zack Snyder's other DC offerings. Count all the unseen-but-presumed casualties in Man of Steel and you might have a six-figure body count. Casualties here are much lower.

We do see several Amazon warriors (living on Wonder Woman's all-female island home) fall to a Steppenwolf invasion; they sacrifice themselves to try to prevent one of the mysterious cubes from falling into his hands. We only see one of them actually in the clutches of death, though, a warrior lying with her dead horse. The Amazonian queen walks over to mourn her. Some Atlanteans (the underwater people that Aquaman is apart of) succumb to Steppenwolf's fearsome onslaught, too, and we see a couple of their bodies.

The movie is less squeamish about dispatching parademons—those flying, toothy creatures I mentioned in the introduction. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, are shot, stabbed and severed; several are seemingly cut in half. One (as detailed in the intro) self-destructs. The parademons also carry off a hollering victim whom, it's insinuated, is being eaten.

Superman awakens from death in a super-foul mood: When Victor's cyborg arm engages automatically and takes a pot shot at Supes, the recently dead superhero takes on the rest of the Justice League singlehandedly—throwing people against walls and cars, exchanging head-butts with Wonder Woman and nearly choking Batman to death.

Bombs explode. Bullets are deflected. Cars are strafed with heat rays. Superheroes are roughly handled elsewhere, being thrown about and crushed and tripped and nearly blown up. Victor (also known as Cyborg) has his mechanical shoulder cut into and his robotic leg ripped off.

Several heroes groan in pain, and Batman sports some pretty bad bruises on his briefly exposed midsection. "You can't do this forever," Wonder Woman tells him. "I can barely do it now," Batman says with a grimace.

Crude or Profane Language

Three s-words and a peppering of other profanities, including "a--," "b--ch," "d--n" and "h---." God's name is misused once, and Jesus' name is abused twice.

During a television interview, a woman spouts off several presumed profanities that are bleeped in the telecast. From context, we can assume that at least two of the censored vulgarities were f-words.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Batman's alter ego, Bruce Wayne, quaffs some whiskey. Aquaman drains a bottle of booze dry.

Other Negative Elements

The Flash appears to vomit at the sight of parademon blood. (They resemble insects to him, and he has a serious problem with insects.)

Conclusion

Aesthetically, Justice League has its problems. In a year filled with top-flight superhero movies, DC's answer to Marvel's Avengers barely gets off the ground. You could call the movie a "cash grab," as one of my colleagues called it as we left the theater. You could characterize it as a little desperate—a movie that really, really wants to succeed but doesn't quite know how. I'd call it the Spruce Goose of superhero flicks: big, bloated and ultimately unnecessary.

But Justice League has its merits, too. Among them is the DC Extended Universe's continuing pivot toward showcasing superheroes who act, y'know, heroically. The costumed characters we find here may be one-dimensional, truncated versions of who they could be, given a little more time and patience by the franchise. But at least they're worthy of being plastered on a lunchbox.

These heroes care not only about humanity, but individual humans, too. They'll do whatever they can to save them, even if it means exposing themselves to danger. They care about each other as well. In all of that, Justice League is, at its core, the story of some talented individuals discovering the beauty of teamwork. And even if the story misfires at times, the message is still worthwhile.

Justice League feels very much like your typical superhero movie in terms of its content, and maybe even a half-step better: Lots of violence but not much blood. That said, it has more language than many parents would like, but not enough to cause many of those same parents to say no.

The one extra caveat that Justice League carries is its hinky spirituality. But even that element has been significantly trimmed down from its source material. And when you hold this movie up next to the boisterous, sometimes bawdy Thor: Ragnarok; the occasionally sexually charged Wonder Woman; or, especially, the brutal, R-rated Logan, Justice League looks pretty mild, content-wise.

Justice League could've been better. I'd argue that it should've been better. But this Spruce Goose of a superhero flick still carries its own set of charms. And while it may not exactly soar, it floats just fine.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman; Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman; Ezra Miller as Barry Allen/The Flash; Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Superman; Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry/Aquaman; Ray Fisher as Victor Stone/Cyborg; Amy Adams as Lois Lane; Diane Lane as Martha Kent; Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth; J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon

Director

Zack Snyder ( )

Distributor

Warner Bros.

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

November 17, 2017

On Video

March 13, 2018

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults
We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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