Mission Lab 2018

REVIEW: Is ‘Justice League’ family-friendly?

December 1st, 2017 / By: Michael Foust / comments

REVIEW: Is ‘Justice League’ family-friendly?

Superman is dead, and the world is mourning – desperately looking for heroes.

Batman, of course, is still fighting crime, but even he can’t stop the imminent threat to Earth: an invasion from a monstrous creature known as Steppenwolf and his army of scary-looking Parademons.

Never fear, though; our caped crusader has a plan.

“I’m putting together a team of people with special abilities,” he says.

That team will include Wonder Woman but also a motley group of other superheroes--Aquaman, Cyborg and Flash. Together, they will repel Steppenwolf and save humanity from yet another deadly threat. They will be unstoppable … right?

The much-anticipated Justice League (PG-13) is now in theaters, giving us DC Comics’ answer to Marvel’s Avengers series. It stars Ben Affleck as Batman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Ezra Miller as Flash, Jason Momoa as Aquaman and Ray Fisher as Cyborg.

I’m a big fan of superhero films. DC’s Man of Steel was solid, and its Wonder Woman was even better. But Justice League doesn’t belong in the same universe with those films. The plot is confusing – believe me, it’s far more complicated than I made it seem – and its characters not as likeable as the ones in the Avengers series (minus Wonder Woman – but only because she’s a carryover from a stand-alone film). Many of its funny moments fall flat, too.

Warning: spoilers!

Violence/Disturbing

Moderate/excessive. Most of the violence is bloodless, but there’s still a lot of it. The film opens with a villain shooting at Batman. They then get into a fight. Later, we see villains shoot machine guns. The evil Steppenwolf is a large demonic-looking creature with horns, and his Parademons (they have wings) are even more frightening-looking. We see bad guys hold several people (including children) hostage. The good guys and the bad guys punch one another throughout the film. The film concludes with a massive battle scene.  

Sexuality/Sensuality/Nudity

Minimal. Wonder Woman’s costume is quite skimpy, and the camera ogles her figure more than was the case in the stand-alone Wonder Woman film. A male and female character share a kiss in a field. Aquaman is shirtless throughout the film. Batman/Bruce Wayne tells Alfred of Wonder Woman, “I’m only interested in her skill set.” Alfred replies, “I’m sure you are.”

Coarse Language

Moderate. I counted 10 words: h-ll (3), s--t (2), a--(2), misuse of “Jesus” (2), SOB (1). (If you’re curious, Batman is the one who abuses Jesus’ name twice.) We also hear a partially bleeped F-word.

Other Positive Elements

Our heroes put their lives and safety on the line throughout the movie. Wonder Woman even blocks multiples rounds of machine-gun fire to protect a group of hostages. Later, a father and a son who had an estranged relationship reconcile.  

Other Negative Elements

Batman and Wonderful Woman drink liquor and make a toast. Aquaman drinks alcohol straight out of the bottle before diving back into the sea.

Life Lessons

We see examples of self-sacrifice (Wonder Woman, Batman, and the others), forgiveness (two main characters late in the film) and reconciliation (a father and son).

Worldview

Justice League gives us a mixture of superheroes. Cyborg and Flash were regular folks who were changed by a strange event. Batman is a rich man with cool tools. Aquaman’s origins are unclear. And Wonder Woman comes from the universe of Greek gods and goddesses.

But whatever the background, it’s worth considering why moviegoers so attracted to superhero films. Sure, we enjoy the entertainment value, but I think it goes much deeper. Here’s what I think: We have a natural attraction to things that are otherworldly and even miraculous. We want to believe that a being from outside our world can come and rescue use – and hand out justice, too. We want a being to come save the world.

Of course, that can be accomplished only by Christ. And nearly all superhero narratives – whether intended or unintended – point to him.  

Partners

For children, Dave & Buster’s is the most well-known partner.

Family-Friendly?

Justice League – like most superhero movies – includes tons of violence. For that reason alone, I can’t consider it family-friendly for young children. But for discerning teens, it’s likely family-friendly.  

What I Liked

The music. The relationship between the father (who is in jail) and the son (who becomes Flash).

What I Didn’t Like

The plot. A successful superhero film doesn’t get bogged down in the minutia – the comic book nerd talk -- of the superhero universe. Unfortunately, Justice League fails to keep it simple. Instead of good vs. evil, we’re left trying to piece together the meaning of three “Mother Boxes” that form a key part of the plot. A mid-movie voiceover from Wonder Woman, explaining the boxes, can’t even save it.    

Thumbs Up … Or Down?

Sadly, thumbs down.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is our society so attracted to superhero films?
  2. Which superhero is your favorite? Why?
  3. Do you agree with Wonder Woman’s movie-ending monologue about light and dark?
  4. Do you think Batman was humbler in this movie than previous films? Why or why not?

Entertainment rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Justice League is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action.