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Much of the fun in Justice League comes from the getting-to-know-you phase, when the superheroes find out about how to interact with each other and together as a team.

Good old back-to-basics superhero story

Justice League is a fun superhero flick where good is expected to triumph over evil, in a franchise heading in the right direction.
Nov 17, 2017 5:50 AM

IT'S curtains this time. Planet Earth is under siege, criminals are running rampant and superheroes are in short supply.

Superman isn't around to save the day. He died - along with viewer expectations - in Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016), a stinker that did more to hurt the DC Extended Universe than any villain ever did.

Justice League signals a new dawn, so to speak. Metropolis is mourning Superman's death and over in Gotham City the Caped Crusader is dealing with a severe case of survivor guilt. Things are so bad that even a song in the opening scene informs us: "Everybody knows the good guys lost."

But help is on the way because this instalment, directed by Zach Snyder with a screenplay by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, serves as a sort of recruitment poster for superheroes - a kinder, more upbeat serving of comic book cinema whose main purpose is to lift the gloom that its predecessor inflicted.

The film focuses on the forming of the so-called league - a fancy-dressed ensemble with special skill-sets. To some extent, it also compensates for the loss of Superman and allows viewers to root for the good guys - which was harder to do in Batman v Superman when the protagonists spent a lot of time beating each other up.

This time around, the battle lines are clearly drawn. A new threat in the form of megalomaniacal alien-du-jour Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) is on the attack, keen to obliterate humanity. All he needs is to recover three cube-like Mother Boxes - the keys to unlimited power in the universe - from their protectors. And he has a fearsome force of winged metallic warriors, called Parademons, to complete the task.

Aware that he needs all the help he can get, Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) scours the planet for fellow heroes. He and Wonder Woman/Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) are already acquainted (they met in the previous film) and they boost their prospects by rounding up Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller). They all have a vested interest in harnessing the power of the boxes.

Much of the fun in Justice League comes from the getting-to-know-you phase, when the superheroes find out about how to interact with each other and together as a team.

Unlike Aquaman and Wonder Woman, The Flash and Cyborg don't come from other worlds - they're altered humans, the result of experiments gone wrong. "We're the accidents," mutters the lightning-fast Flash to the techno-human Cyborg.

Each of them has a necessary skill but when Bruce is asked what his special power is, he simply says: "I'm rich." Which is why he has a range of highest-tech gadgets (and an endorsement by Mercedes-Benz, apparently) to go along with his batarangs (ninja-style projectiles).

Even as a team, they're finding it tough to defeat Steppenwolf, but there's still one more piece of the puzzle to come.

In many ways, Justice League is a back-to-basics superhero story, where good is expected to triumph over evil - and love will definitely conquer all. In between, there's room for humour, good-natured banter and special effects.

Can the Man of Steel (Henry Cavill) be far behind? Batman himself is still a bit of a bore, carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.

But there are signs that the franchise is heading in the right direction. Bring on Justice League 2.

Rating: C+