DC’s stable of superheroes needs something to get happy about

DC’s stable of superheroes needs something to get happy about

Why do all the Marvel Comics super guys and gals seem to be having a much better time than this dreary bunch assembled to for this DC Comics latest “save the world” episode? The recent “Thor” installment proved that it was possible to ward of the evil forces of the universe and still have fun doing it.

DC Comics is home to quite a legion of stars — Superman, Batman, Wonder Women — and add The Flash, Cyborg and Aqua-Man to the mix for “JL.” It’s an impressive lineup, but everyone is so, so glum. For one reason, they all think Superman (Henry Cavill) is dead after the last feature, “Batman vs. Superman.” Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) blames himself and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) tries to comfort him, but he’s morose and feeling his age with every crime-fighting escapade.

But there is little time to feel sorry for yourself when the demon god Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarin Hinds) breaks free from his prison on a galaxy far, far away and lands on earth seeking what else but our world’s destruction. It’s the ultimate power trip that forces Batman to try and assemble those with special powers to help him. With help from butler and now tech wizard Alfred (Jeremy Irons), he locates young Flash (Ezra Miller) who can hardly believe he’s being asked to hook up with Batman. Flash provides some much needed levity to this ensemble, just as Jamie Bell did as Spider-Man.

He’s flippant and very, very fast, which leads to some of the feature’s best CG stunts where everything is slowed to almost still motion to show how fast he’s moving. Cyborg, the meld of human and robot (Ray Fisher), is hiding in plain sight when Bruce finds him, and the other welcome addition is Jason Momoa (from Game of Thrones) as Aqua-Man, Atlantis’s favorite son. This guy is not the blonde merman of the old comic books. He’s sporting a Samson-like mane of hair and he’s got a devil-may-care-attitude that confounds Batman’s attempts to bring him into the fold, but eventually he shows up and wields his trident for the forces of good.

So what of Superman? Let’s just say, he’s not so dead that he can’t make his way back to join the “League.” It requires a bit of creative problem solving, some advanced physics, and a lightning storm, but you will see the big “S” guy again.

Because the two comic book studios are rivals, these movies invite comparison. Marvel seems to have found the magic formula to making audiences happy. It’s a balance of action, humor and great stunts. DC has all of this too, they just haven’t quite figured out how to put it all together. This feature gets way too hung up on Superman’s adjustment to being in the here and now again. After he has reunited with his loved ones — his aunt (Diane Lane) and Amy Adams as Lois Lane – he disappears for a third of the movie until Steppenwolf steps up his campaign of annihilation.

Right now, the favorite and top box office draw in the DC universe is Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. Her stand-alone feature earlier this year topped earnings for the summer season and the movie was a solid hit driven by a great story and Gadot’s take on the character.

Rumors leading to the release of “JL” revolved around her ability to create magic again, but this time for the whole team. This movie doesn’t have to rest on her shoulders – it’s not nearly as bad as that – but it could have been better. And the writers get credit for not turning her into a love match with the first available super guy in the League.

 

No, it’s that balance thing — humor, for that this gets a B-; action, a B+ (it would have scored higher if the editing wasn’t so hectic); and stunts A- and this is mostly due to the flash of The Flash. Had the release of this not come so quickly after the huge success of “Thor: Ragnarok,” it might have enjoyed a better reception. But it seems there is no justice for the “League.”

shadow