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The "book" on the DC movies, to date, has been that Warner Bros. and its creative partners -- be it Zack Snyder (Man of Steel) or David Ayer (Suicide Squad) -- went darker and more mature than their counterparts at Marvel Studios. DC likely would tell you that they weren't competing with Marvel. They were making their own movies. But when backlash swirled around a Superman (Henry Cavill) who snapped his enemy's neck, and a Batman (Ben Affleck) who kills people, a change was due to come.
That change started with Wonder Woman, the Patty Jenkins-led solo adventure for Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) that started to infuse hope and heroism into the superhero genre films at Warner Bros. That was the first DC movie I felt that parents could bring their kids to... heck, I encouraged it. And Justice League -- the new Frankenstein monster of ideas from both Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon -- is the second movie I'm going to say is good for kids. In fact, it's aimed at kids.
Every once in a while, I get comments on this column that poke fun. "You mean a superhero movie is acceptable for children?" But the comic book genre is versatile. Would you take your kids to the foul-mouthed Deadpool or the physically draining Logan? (I mean, you might, but it'd be a horrible parenting decision.) Just because a story focuses on comic-book characters doesn't mean it's automatically accessible for young audiences.
Justice League is. As a matter of fact, in an effort to pivot away from the brooding darkness of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Justice League is downright cartoonish, having more in common with an animated episode of Super Friends than it does the live-action DC movies of recent years. And it's not just the addition of humor -- though the movie shoe horns in joke after joke in its effort to lighten the mood. It's the style of the action, the overuse of CGI effects, and the large scale (but hollow) action set pieces that will have young audiences staring at the screen with saucer eyes, marveling at the might of DC's top heroes.
Does this make it a good movie? No. Justice League is not very good. Arguably, in its effort to appeal to a broader and happier audience, it panders to the crowd and dumbs down its approach. Thor: Ragnarok showed us (just a few weeks ago) how comedy could successfully be mined from the character traits of a traditional superhero. Justice League just peppers its patrons with punchlines. Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), the world's fastest man, is told to "Hurry up" by a man standing behind him in line. Bruce Wayne jokes about his wealth being his superpower. True fans who love the characters might roll our eyes at the corniness of the jokes -- particularly when true animated movies like The LEGO Batman Movie are doing a much better job finding the humor in these DC icons -- but kids will neither notice nor care.
Now, Justice League isn't G rated. It isn't even PG. And there are reasons. There are a few swear words -- nothing too major. There's a joke about Lois Lane (Amy Adams) being "thirsty" that's surprisingly inappropriate, but kids won't get it. The violence, as you'd imagine, is basically comic-book level, and the villain is no more terrifying than any standard CGI video game character. He's rarely intimidating. There is ONE scene where Steppenwolf's henchmen, the Parademons, threaten a little girl, and there's a mild jump scare when the creature appears in a window. But the thrills in Justice League are kept safe and comfortable for the broadest possible audience.
With that in mind, I'd say Justice League is suitable for kids 6 and up. I'm not kidding. This is an animated film in live-action form. It's a total 180 from the previous DC films. If you are an adult reading this, that knowledge might disappoint you. (It disappointed me.) But families who want to give their kids their first taste of Batman and Superman squaring off alongside Wonder Woman, the Flash and Cyborg, your movie is finally here.
As always, parents, if you have specific questions, drop them in the comments below. Or shoot me an email at [email protected]. I'm happy to help in any way!
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