The big budget, highly anticipated “Justice League” film has finally arrived.
Following in the wake of the apparent death of the Man of Steel in “Batman
v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016), “Justice League” finds Batman and his new
ally Wonder Woman facing a sinister threat: Steppenwolf and his army of
Parademons, who are searching Earth for a trio of ultra-powerful Mother Boxes.
To deal with the fiendish, otherworldly foes, the iconic duo forms a new
super team, recruiting The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg. Thus, the Justice League
To prepare for the movie (or if you want to see it again), which is the fifth installment in the DC
Extended Universe (after “Man of Steel,” “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “Suicide
Squad” and “Wonder Woman,”), check out my primer on the movie’s primary
First Appearance: Detective Comics #27 (1939)
Played in the movie by Ben Affleck
When it was announced in 2013 that Ben Affleck would play Batman in the
then-untitled Batman/Superman movie (2016’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”),
the internet couldn’t handle it, and the haters starting hating, despite Affleck
being a perfectly reasonable choice, with his square jaw, tall stature, solid
acting abilities, and classic good looks. Although it wasn’t as controversial as
casting Michael Keaton as the Dark Knight Detective in 1989’s “Batman” (and
1992’s “Batman Returns”), social media wasn’t a thing during the 1980s, so the Affleck
flack was more immediate.
Batman is the leader of the Justice League in the movie, a role he has
taken on in certain modern comic book incarnations of the super group. With his
“wonderful toys” and largely serious demeanor, he’s a good, classic, manly take
on the character, but without Affleck resorting to the growling and grumbling
of Christian Bale’s somewhat depressing (if still effective) portrayal in
Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy.
First Appearance: All Star Comics #8 (1941)
Played in the movie by Gal Gadot
Wonder Woman was the brainchild of Dr. William Moulton Marston (writing
as Charles Moulton), a psychologist known for creating a systolic blood
pressure measuring device that would play a significant role in the development
of the polygraph machine. Unlike most intellectuals of the era, Marston
embraced the comic book medium, and his creation became a feminist icon, as
evidenced by her cover appearance on the cover of Gloria Steinem’s “Ms.”
magazine #1 (1971). .
Sadly, it took more than 75 years for the Amazon Princess to get her
own live feature film—this past summer’s “Wonder Woman” starring Gal Gadot. The
Israeli actress and model absolutely nailed the part, making the wait worthwhile.
Gadot Wonder Woman, who tantalized audiences with a supporting role in “Batman
v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” doesn’t appear to be able to fly like the comic
book character (giving her something in common with Lynda Carter from the 1970s
TV show), but neither does she pilot in an invisible jet. She’s super strong
and beautiful, though, and wields a mean sword, shield and magic lasso, a.k.a.
the Lasso of Truth. In short, she’s wonderful.
First Appearance: Showcase #4 (1956)
Played in the movie by Ezra Miller
The creation of the Barry Allen version of The Flash kick-started the
Silver Age of comic books (Jay Garrick was the original Golden Age Flash,
debuting in 1940). The Scarlet Speedster of 1956 and decades after was a
blond-haired, blue-eyed, supernaturally fast, near-perfect hero whose only
fault was, ironically enough, running late. Like many superheroes, he has a
convoluted history. He died, was replaced, came back, etc. He was approximately
the same age as Superman and Batman.
In the “Justice League” movie, Barry is more like the Wally West Flash
from the “Justice League” cartoon of the early 2000s. He’s young,
impressionable and hyper, providing comic relief in contrast with the other,
more stoic heroes of the group. The dark-haired Ezra Miller is a curious choice
for the role, and many fans have complained that Grant Gustin, who plays
Barry/Flash on the current Flash TV series, wasn’t brought onboard to play the
character. Regardless, Miller Flash remains the fastest man alive, but, like
most incarnations of the hero, he’s slower than the Silver Age version.
First Appearance: More Fun Comics #73 (1941)
Played in the movie by Jason Momoa
Poor Aquaman. Even though he’s been dubbed King of the Seven Seas, and
even though he’s extremely powerful (super strength, super swimming speed, the
ability to breathe under water and communicate with sea life), he’s been the
butt of jokes for decades, from people making fun of his orange and green
costume to his oceanic powers being deemed largely useless on “Family Guy” to
Raj on “The Big Bang Theory” saying he doesn’t want to be Aquaman for Halloween
because “He sucks.”
In the “Justice League” movie, Aquaman, a.k.a. Arthur Curry, has yet to
become king (he’s heir to the throne of Atlantis), but he’s leagues above the
campy character many of us old timers remember from the classic cartoon, “The
Super Friends,” and he’s even more imposing than some of his more impressive
comic book incarnations. Covered in tattoos and muscles, clad in a regal, but
tough looking battle suit and wielding a long trident, Momoa’s Aquaman is no fish
out of water.
First Appearance: DC Comics Presents #26 (1980)
Played in the movie by Ray Fisher
Although he’s appeared in various live action and animated shows, including
“Green Arrow,” “Teen Titans,” “Smallville,” and “The Super Powers Team:
Galactic Guardians,” Cyborg is easily the least famous of the six featured
superheroes in the “Justice League” movie. The character was created as a
member of the Teen Titans, but was made a founding member of the Justice League
during a pair of modern DC Comics reboots (2011’s “The New 52” and 2016’s “DC
Fisher Cyborg appears fairly faithful to his comic book counterpart,
wearing a hoodie to obscure his half-man, half-machine appearance and using his
bionic powers to fly, manipulate technology, perform feats of super strength
and turn his arms into cannons. Cyborg looks smashing in action, despite his
relative obscurity. Some argue that Cyborg was only included in the film strictly
for racial diversity, but the John Stewart version of Green Lantern, a more
well-known character, could have filled that role.
First Appearance: Action Comics #1 (1938)
Played in the movie by Henry Cavill
Ah, Superman. The Man of Steel. The Man of Tomorrow. The Last Son of
Krypton. The Metropolis Marvel. Whatever you call him, Superman is the
prototypical superhero, fighting for truth, justice and the American way. He’s
super strong and nigh-invulnerable (among many other powers), and he’s as
willing to rescue a cat from a tree as he is to die saving the world from doom
(and Doomsday). He died (sort of) in the comics in 1992, sparking a media
frenzy, and he apparently died in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”
However, as Bruce Wayne says in the “Justice League” movie, “The world
needs Superman,” so he does return. Henry Cavill’s portrayal of Superman, which
debuted in 2013’s “Man of Steel” (the first installment in DC’s shared movie
universe), is darker and more conflicted than most versions of the character, but
he certainly looks the part and does a more than serviceable job. For longtime
fans, no one will ever replace Christopher Reeve as the definitive live action
Superman, a sentiment Cavill himself would probably understand.