By Jonathon Potochnic, E23 Reporter

Logo for film reviews by Jonathon Potochnic

Minor spoilers follow for “Justice League.”

The DC Extended Universe had a shaky start with “Man of Steel,” “Batman v Superman,” and “Suicide Squad.” As competition to Marvel’s bevy of popular hero flicks, many have longed for DC films to have a solidly crafted story with relatable characters, and these films lacked in this department.

While “Batman v Superman” decided to go in a more interesting, darker route to the hero narrative, the end result was a muddled, opportunity-missing, poorly-paced mess of a movie. “BvS” had some intriguing ideas, but the movie’s inability to deeply explore themes or characters just made the whole experience worse.

Saying the same for the music video montage “Suicide Squad” would be an understatement as well.

Some flashes of greatness have been shown in “Man of Steel” and especially “Wonder Woman,” but on the whole, longtime fans are hoping for their DC equivalent of Marvel’s “Avengers.” That is, the movie that will solidify the cinematic universe with a well-received tale of cohesive teamwork. While it may not leave as much of an impact or come together as well as a package, “Justice League” addresses previous issues of the DCEU while establishing itself as one of the better DC films to be made.

With a much publicized production, “Justice League” had several obstacles to overcome while shooting. First, there is an inherent stigma from critics now for any DC film. Second, director Zack Snyder left the project late in production to address a familial tragedy. On top of these problems, various CGI-related issues like removing Henry Cavill’s “Mission Impossible,” painter’s brush mustache have plagued the film’s creation. These complications have created a negative perception of the film leading to its launch. Some problems reside, like the inability to part from a poorly-characterized CG baddie and consistency issues in the screenplay, that hold “Justice League” back from being great, but the dark tonal directions in the plot have been improved with some strong humor and admirable levity.

The most exciting development is the character writing. While “Justice League” won’t win any awards for its screenplay (that belongs to “Blade Runner 2049”), I found the character arcs and dialogue to be mostly superb. The comedic banter between new team members is entertaining and mostly effective. Some disagreements occur as well between our heroes, and while they could’ve been explored more, it shows that the future for these in later films is something to look forward to.

Jason Momoa’s Aquaman is better than the trailer’s dude-bro representation illustrates, Gal Gadot is still an excellent, powerful character and Ben Affleck’s take on Batman is still solid.

The two welcome surprises here are Ray Fisher’s Cyborg and especially Ezra Miller’s Flash. Ezra Miller delivers a large amount of the comedy in “Justice League,” and the movie is better for it. His adolescent, outsider approach to the dark DCEU world paints a hilarious contrast at times, and I had a blast every time he was on screen. The manner in which his character’s abilities play in with Zack Snyder’s filmmaking strengths is gleefully exciting. Everytime Flash entered his “Super Speed” and utilizes “Speed Force,” I got goosebumps on my arms. Lightning crackles and fizzes around him and the score roars in, and I am reminded why, despite many criticisms, Zack Snyder is continually employed in Hollywood (see the “Watchmen” Dr. Manhattan transformation scene if you are unsure). These slow-motion sequences with the Flash reshape how many actions scenes are choreographed and experienced, and it added a fascinating layer to the chaos.

Henry Cavill’s Superman inclusion in the movie was interesting as well. Without providing spoilers, his character is given a little bit more to work with this time around, and how he is utilized down the stretch in the narrative is captivating.

Along with the previously mentioned flaws, I have some other issues to address as well. Steppenwolf worked in several scenes for me, especially earlier on in the runtime, but overall, his villainous role never really breaks new ground, and as the film continued, he became less and less intimidating. While this is to be expected as the team of heroes unites to work as a stronger unit, the overarching narrative and how it builds in the latter half isn’t always effective.

This relates to the main problem spanning over quite a bit of “Justice League”: The overarching story isn’t nearly as compelling as the characters that inhabit it. While it can be forgiven, as “Justice League” fixes many other issues in its cinematic universe, it’s something to be corrected immediately going forward. This issue, and the others described, can be attributed in some regard to the two-hour time limit placed by Warner Bros. The mandate put out by the studio is most likely the result of commercial failures in lengthier movies like “Blade Runner 2049,” or possibly so that theaters can play the movie more throughout a screening day. This is an issue DCEU films have faced in the past, and when the director’s cut comes out, it can be rightfully determined if these issues are a derivative of this situation, or just an inherent flaw.

Nonetheless, “Justice League” finally brings the pieces of the DCEU together in a fun and entertaining fashion, landing the universe an important hit. While “Wonder Woman” showed there were flashes of greatness to be had in the DCEU, “Justice League” plays a more integral role in giving the franchise legs for the future. With a strong and funny all-star cast, “Justice League” hits the right notes when it’s not bogged down by underdeveloped storytelling. While future cuts will illustrate just how good “Justice League” can be, the package provided here is more than enough to bring back viewers for future installments.

7.6/10. Good. "Justice League" sticks the landing with funny dialogue and strong protagonists.

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