This American superhero movie is a sequel to “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016). After the apparent death of Superman, a villain called Steppenwolf emerges to conquer the earth.
The evolution of Superheroes in the film world is an interesting one. First, we had heroes, like Superman and Batman, who pledged strength and virtue to fight nobly, but singly, for goodness and justice. They and other superheroes, started to show vulnerability that was human-like to draw attention to weaknesses which ordinary people could see and share. Some of them, like Batman and Superman, came to be pItched against each other in rivalry to see who could win.
Other options remained. One of them was to show multiple superheroes joining forces together, suggesting that nobility required numbers. This film is in this category, and six superheroes (the Justice League) are united in a common cause to overcome the evil of Steppenwolf. The days of single superheroism, however, are not yet ended. “Aquaman” is scheduled for release in 2018, and “Wonder Woman 2” in 2019. This film jumps the gun on Acquaman and puts him, as well as Wonder Woman (“Shall we?”), into the action.
What has emerged as important over the passage of time is the metaphorical, or allegorical enticement of superhero plots. The Thor series established an elaborate plot line which has endured, and “Wonder Woman” borrows from ancient mythology to promise the same. The “evil” villain of this film, Steppenwolf, is a lieutenant of the DC Comic villain, Darkseid, and he is on the hunt for three Mother Boxes, each associated with ancient factions and leaders. Ownership of the boxes promises absolute power, if they are joined together. The lure of the metaphorical, and the anticipation of sci-fi themes ahead – involving perhaps Mother Boxes with alien, demon-insects guarding them, or in them – ensures that further sequels to this film will probably follow.
In this particular sequel, Batman (Ben Affleck), Flash (Ezra Miller), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) ), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) all honour Superman, following his assumed death. When Steppenwolf’s (Ciarán Hinds) army of insect-cyborg invaders arrive, Batman and Wonder Woman form a team to cope with the threat. But by their very nature, superheroes are hard to extinguish. This film brings Superman (Henry Cavill) back very late in the action, and he joins the Justice League team to fight and eventually conquer Steppenwolf.
Part and parcel of finding multiple heroes in the Superhero realm, is to set the stage for spectacular special effects. Each Superhero is associated with special action effects, and this film aims to deliver the goods. Its special effects are in abundance. Flash moves with amazing speed; Wonder Woman avoids bullets in flawless slow-motion style; Aquaman shows meta-human, aquatic super-abilities; and Cyborg (half man, half robot) turns his arms into terrible weapons. The effects occur almost simultaneously, and the technology of Performance Motion Capture is used to dramatically heighten the impact of many of them.
The film is an example of a continuing genre. There are going to be more Superhero films like this one, competing with each other to demonstrate team effects that fit some kind of evolutionary, mythological, DC Comics, or Marvel Comics plot line. As far as this film is concerned, however, it is a pastiche of special effects running riot. One begins to question how justice, nobility, and goodness – that highlighted the appeal of “virtue” way back in time – have managed to be caught up in the group-mix of it all. Where can a multiple Superhero franchise like “Justice League” go? For group effort, this sequel self-consciously points the way, but there is limited appeal for sequels of this kind to be the certain path of the future in the superhero cinematic universe. This movie’s marketing byline is “You can’t save the world alone”, but the three Mother Boxes are still out there, which implies, of course, that six superheroes were not enough.
Peter W. Sheehan is Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting
Review by the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting