Of course Wonder Woman saves the day.
Warner Bros.' Justice League is in theaters Friday, and early reviews are...not great. The cast includes Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Ben Affleck as Batman, Henry Cavill as Superman, Billy Crudup as Henry Allen, Ray Fisher as Cyborg, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Amber Heard as Mera, Ciarán Hinds as Steppenwolf, Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, Ezra Miller as The Flash, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Joe Morton as Silas Stone, Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta, J. K. Simmons as James Gordon and Robin Wright as Antiope. Joe Manganiello (Deathstroke) and Jesse Eisenberg (Lex Luthor) also appear in a post-credits scene.
Directed by Zack Snyder (from a screenplay by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon), the movie is sure to be a financial success for the studio. And to be fair, it is getting better reviews than its predecessor, 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Still, it fails to capitalize on the success of Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman, which earned $822 million worldwide in five months.
Here is what eight prominent movie critics are saying about Justice League:
• "If this was the best DC could do in synthesizing all their lead characters together into one ensemble spectacular, after a half-decade of planning, that's pretty damning. Justice League is such a misguided mess—often feeling entirely unguided—that you want to intervene, softly saying, 'Stop, stop, you don't have to do this, stop,'" Vanity Fair's Richard Lawson writes. The film has "no real vision, no idea what the tone of these movies should be, no compelling or even coherent narrative through-line, no feel, or regard, for characterization." In short, it fails to do all the things its rival Marvel has done. "If you have no clear sense of how to build one of these franchises in a functional, let alone interesting, way," he adds, "maybe stop until you do!"
• Justice League "is better than its joylessly somber dress rehearsal, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," Entertainment Weekly's Chris Nashawaty writes, "but it also marks a pretty steep comedown from the giddy highs of Wonder Woman." The first third of the film "has a welcome breezy energy," and its pace "feels like a blessing after so much bloat in previous superhero films." The biggest issue with the movie, however, is with its laughable villain, Steppenwolf—"one of those patently phony CGI creations that gives the film a uncanny-valley shlockiness. He looks like a cross between a Viking and a billy goat. The best thing about him is that he booms threats in the menacing basso profundo of Ciarán Hinds. The worst thing is…pretty much everything else, including his world-destroying M.O. to find and unite three all-powerful, vibrating supernatural 'mother boxes' that are only slightly less ridiculous than Infinity Stones."
• "In superhero movies, sheer lively deliver-the-goods competence can be a quality you're grateful for—or one that seems awesomely innocuous. In Justice League, it's a little of both," Variety's Owen Gleiberman writes. "The film is the definition of an adequate high-spirited studio lark: no more, no less. If fans get excited about it, that may mostly be because they're excited about getting excited. Yet the movie is no cheat. It's a tasty franchise delivery system that kicks a certain series back into gear." Justice League "is never messy or bombastic," though at times, it's "almost too simple." Looking at it holistically, Justice League "is 'superior' to Batman v Superman, but it's also about as close to generic as a sharp-witted high-octane comic book movie can get," Gleiberman adds. "There's hardly a trope in it you haven't seen before."
• Justice League "is looser, goosier and certainly more watchable" than Batman v Superman, The New York Times' Manohla Dargis writes. "The superhero and villain dynamic is much the same (slayers going to slay, etc.), but there are a few fresh faces now and Wonder Woman has more to do than play backup. The story is a confusion of noise, visual clutter and murderous digital gnats, but every so often a glimmer of life flickers through." The movie "settles into a groove once it finds its gang," Dargis adds. "As Bat-Bruce moodily pushes and prods and Wonder-Diana smiles and smirks, the newbies jockey for position. The Flash gets most of the best jokes, and Mr. Miller makes most of them work, largely in the role of in-house fanboy with a touch of the Cowardly Lion. It's golly-gee stuff, but it's also human and Mr. Miller keeps you hooked, as does Mr. Momoa, who supplely shifts between gravitas and comedy." Cyborg, meanwhile, has been "partly cobbled together from scraps and a sob story that Mr. Fisher puts across with bowed head and palpable heaviness," she writes. "The hoodie he sometimes wears, which can't help but evoke Trayvon Martin, imparts a larger meaning that the movie doesn't or can't explore."
• "Garishly unattractive to look at and lacking the spirit that made Wonder Woman...the most engaging of Warner Bros.' DC Comics-derived extravaganzas to date, this hodgepodge throws a bunch of superheroes into a mix that neither congeals nor particularly makes you want to see more of them in future. Plainly put, it's simply not fun," The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy writes. "Fatigue, repetition and a laborious approach to exposition are the keynotes," which might explain why Affleck "looks like he'd rather be almost anywhere else but here; his eyes and body language make it clear that he's just not into it." Gadot is "just as kick-ass" as she was five months ago in Wonder Woman, "but in a less imaginative, one-note way." So, it's no surprise she's the only one who "pops" onscreen. "For now, her Wonder Woman looks to be the savior of Batman and Superman," but audiences may wonder "why she's wasting her time."
• "At the most climactic moments, Batman will be joking about Aquaman's 'pitchfork' (as he calls his rival superhero's trident) while Flash will be behaving like a fanboy in Batman's presence. Wonder Woman comes between them as they bicker, as if she is their nursery school teacher," The Independent's Geoffrey Macnab writes. Regardless, there is "no sign" that audiences are "falling out of love with superhero movies, whether from Marvel or the DC camp," Macnab adds. "It is to be hoped, though, that Hollywood can find some way of injecting new life into these increasingly wearisome and childish stories of caped crusaders and masked avengers."
• "Although Snyder has never shown much interest in comedy, the plan was clearly to lighten the tone in Justice League. The joke writers, though, are of lesser quality than the ones in the Marvel stable," New York's David Edelstein writes. Miller is "intense," and here, "as a juvenile irritant, he's intensely irritating." Momoa "is an overly dour, musclebound Aquaman, more Dothraki than merman," while Fisher's Cyborg "needs to get past the mopey stage." Overall, Cavill's "clear face reads better than anyone else's but Gadot's. By the way, she is very good."
Justice League is rated PG-13 and runs for 120 minutes.