In the end, perhaps the most striking thing about Justice League is its briskness. Clocking in at just under two hours and sprinting like a muscle-bound gazelle, this latest entry in the DC Cinematic Universe -- that lumbering, patchwork corporate beast -- seems less invested in portent and mood, and more in movement. The joints show, and the cuts are sometimes awkward -- there was clearly a longer, more d-r-a-w-n o-u-t version of this at some point -- but what's here is fun and engaging, and it's all anchored by terrific lead performances. There were even times when (gasp) it moved me.
The new film picks up where last year's Batman v Superman left off, with the world reeling from the death of Superman (Henry Cavill) and Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) back to his brooding, swole, guilt-ridden self. We see a bank foreclosing on Martha Kent's house, while anti-immigrant thugs harass a hijab-wearing grocer. The despairing collapse of a post-Superman world, in other words, feels quite a bit like our own.
The good news is that there are superheroes still standing, and they're working together. Much of Justice League follows Bruce Wayne's and Wonder Woman/Diana Prince's attempts to assemble a team of heroes -- including manly, gruff loner Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa), wide-eyed and lightning fast uber-nerd Barry Allen/Flash (Ezra Miller), and constantly changing cybernetic teenager Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher) -- in time to battle the ancient evil Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds), a Satanic figure who commands an army of winged, fear-seeking parademons, and … oh, who cares. What matters: The actors actually look like they're having fun.