People said the Age of Heroes would never come again

People said the Age of Heroes would never come again

 

When we were little, we looked to the pages of colourful books and saw what we were not. We saw speed where we were slow…strength where we were weak…hope where we faced challenge.

We saw whatever it was we wanted to see most. As we’ve grown-up, we still look at iconic characters and see what we want to see.

Not much time has passed since the fateful fight in Metropolis Harbour that concluded DAWN OF JUSTICE. A few things have happened in that time. Wonder Woman has taken up her mantle as Earth’s protector after sitting on the sidelines for the better part of the century that followed The Great War. The death of Superman, meanwhile, has created a beacon for all would-be evil doers. Without an S that “Means Hope” to believe in, the darkness seems to be creeping in.

One such source of darkness is an ancient warlord named Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds). Many centuries ago, Steppenwolf was vanquished by the Earth’s greatest protectors. The source of his power – three Mother Boxes were scattered across the globe and hidden from sight. Not hidden well enough though, because when he returns to our big blue marble, he’s able to retrieve two of them from The Amazonians and The Atlantians in short order.

Between Steppenwolf and the final Mother Box? The Justice League…only they don’t actually call themselves that. Not yet, anyway.

This team is founded by “The Batman”, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and “Wonder Woman” Diana Prince (Gal Gadot. They learn of Steppenwolf’s power-grab and know that they need to prevent him from taking over. They also know they can’t do it alone, so they go about recruiting re-enforcements.

There’s Arthur Curry, “The Aquaman” (Jason Momoa), a warrior from Atlantis who can harness the power of the tides. There’s Barry Allen, “The Flash” (Ezra Miller), a metahuman with lightning-quick speed. And there’s Victor Stone, “The Cyborg” (Ray Fisher) half man/half machine with an amazing talent for all things tech.

If Bruce and Diana can convince them all to come together, they may have a shot at vanquishing Steppenwolf. Before long though, the quintet realize that they don’t have all the firepower required…and with that they head to Kansas, the exhume The Superman (Henry Cavill), and hopefully reincarnate a hero that can help them protect the planet.

 

Bruce Wayne and Arthur Curry

 

The story of JUSTICE LEAGUE is nothing new: a motley crew of gifted individuals come together and discover that their egos clash, as does their approach to the crisis at-hand. That crisis by the way? A megalomaniac wants to take over an entire world to rule it as they see fit. Have we seen this before? You bet – several times.

It’s not a “Marvel vs. DC Thing”, it’s a hero thing, and perhaps the ultimate hindrance to the genre at-large on the silver screen. There are dozens and dozens of stories that step away from this structure; stories that include real human struggles for these superhuman characters. There are stories where they confront their own limitations and personal demons. However, those aren’t the sorts of narratives that will bring in hundreds of millions of dollars. So, we get this formula: super-good versus super-evil from all studios. To fault the film for that is to fault the whole genre for that.

When we look beyond the skinny version of the story, we get to the bit about wanting to undo a mistake. We see that even heroes want to hit the reset button and course-correct. In a few ways, it’s comforting. So many of us have our own “what if” moment. “What if” we didn’t turn down that job? “What if” we’d gone to a different school? “What if” we hadn’t broken up with that certain someone? In the world of JUSTICE LEAGUE, earth’s mightiest heroes have one of their own: “what if” we could bring Superman back?

Every film of this ilk is chaos, but this is the quiet in the middle of the chaos that makes things interesting. It has this collection of warriors put down their swords and spears for a moment and actually express what’s going on inside of their heads. As they do, they become a little more relatable. They too want to rewrite the past. They too have moments of doubt. They too believe that there is someone out there who brings out the best in them.

They may not agree on whether they should go back or move forward, but with just that second of hesitation they are just like the rest of us. So in getting beyond that hesitation, perhaps they can inspire us to do the same.

Perhaps what’s more inspiring about this collection of superheroes is that they’ve had their little playground fight and are now all on the same side. They are six completely different personalities, with six different levels of maturity…so they will continue to differ in approach for however long these movies keep coming. But one gets the impression that the smackdowns are over; that we have heard “Do you bleed?” for the last time. They still know how to get under each-other’s skin and make surprisingly cutting remarks…but now they are doing it behind closed doors, while all challengers see only a united front.

In an age of splintered nations and “us-versus-them”, it’s actually refreshing to witness unity.

Ultimately, what one takes away from JUSTICE LEAGUE will depend on what they bring in. If they sit down with brand loyalties, they will find ways to have those loyalties reinforced. If they come in with genre weariness, they will leave just as weary. If they come wanting to be entertained and amused, they will most likely walk away happy.

We all want to pretend we are something else. Be it as badass as The Dark Knight, as quick as The Scarlett Speedster, as mighty as The Goddess of Truth, or as inspiring as The Man of Steel. No matter which one speaks to our higher ideals and deepest desires, we hope to see them at their biggest and most iconic…and they only ever seem that way when they are protecting life as we know it.

 

What did you think? Please leave comments with your thoughts and reactions on JUSTICE LEAGUE.