JUSTICE LEAGUE” EXCITES FANS 2017

SUPERHERO “JUSTICE LEAGUE” EXCITES FANS; “S.W.A.T.” ON TV

A Film and TV Review by Tim Riley

 

JUSTICE LEAGUE (Rated PG-13) The best news about the new DC Comics superhero film “Justice League” is that it’s a contrast to the disappointing “Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice,” which failed in large measure to excite the fan base.

Will this assembly of superheroes answer the question of whether Superman is resurrected, maybe in the manner of Patrick Duffy’s Bobby Ewing in the “Dallas” television series?  To avoid spoilers, the answer is not found here. On the other hand, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) remains perpetually gloomy, and that’s likely the result of having to work with a squad of superhero metahumans, like Aquaman, The Flash, Cyborg and, of course, last but not least the enchanting Wonder Woman.

 Gal Galdot’s Diana Prince/Wonder Woman is a welcome presence, as she’s the character who has fared best lately in her own stand-alone “Wonder Woman” film that arrived to great acclaim last year. Planet Earth is now faced with a most malevolent force that looks to be indestructible.  The eight-foot tall alien warrior Steppenwolf (heavily disguised Ciaran Hands), wearing an oversized anvil-shaped helmet, has an army of parademons, which are winged creatures flying around like a biology experiment gone wrong.

Steppenwolf’s evil plan involves a chase for three magical boxes that look like discarded air conditioners found in a landfill, which when assembled in one piece drive some power source to annihilate the planet. Knowing they are up against difficult odds, Batman and Wonder Woman enlist help from Aquaman (Jason Momoa), an imposing figure more willing to remain in his Icelandic fishing village but turns out to be welcome addition, at least for some sarcasm and overall cockiness.

Also holding up well is Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen/The Flash, the youngest member who admits that his experience with fighting is limited to pushing people and running away.  He, too, offers some nice banter with the others. Cyborg (Ray Fisher) was once college quarterback Victor Stone until a horrific accident turned him into a half-man, half-machine science experiment seems unsure of his role and is not that consequential.

The cast is full of supporting players, from J.K. Simmons’ Commissioner Gordon to Connie Nielsen’s Queen Hippolyta, but only Diane Lane’s Martha Kent and Amy Adams’ Lois Lane register with notable scenes. “Justice League” is certain to excite the DC Comics fan base, as this confederation of superheroes works well together, albeit with some hiccups, for plenty of violent action against the alien invaders.

“S.W.A.T.” ON CBS NETWORK

The CBS network must love police procedurals because they’ve done so many of them to satisfy an audience base craving action.  To cite “Hawaii Five-O” as a current example, they are okay with revamping an old formula. What’s more, the network is just fine with reaching deep into the memory bank to revive old shows even if they originally ran on a competing network.  That would be the case with “S.W.A.T.,” first airing on the ABC network back in 1975.  “S.W.A.T.,” starring Steve Forrest as S.W.A.T. leader Hondo Harrelson, was notable for its action, and as a side benefit it set the stage for a young Robert Urich to spring into his own popular TV detective series with “Vega$.”

The Hondo of today’s “S.W.A.T.” is a different sort, perhaps the result of CBS tapping into the diversity theme, at least as a partial reason to cast the charismatic Shemar Moore as the former Marine soon elevated to leading a Los Angeles S.W.A.T. team in his role of Hondo Harrelson. If anything, Moore’s Hondo would be a nice face as the representative of an elite squad that is called into action for the most egregious crimes.  But as an African-American, the new Hondo is afforded the opportunity to grapple with issues that roil the minority community.

In the first episode, the shooting of an unarmed black kid sets up that racial divide dynamic.  During the summer TV press tour, Shemar Moore touched on Black Lives Matter and diversity, noting that the show is “taking on the Trump years” yet insisting he was not going “to get political.” Yet, even with tensions riding high, by the second episode, “S.W.A.T.” has moved on from confrontations in the predominantly black South Los Angeles, to take on dangerous escapees from a prison break terrorizing Latino families.

There is enough tension in the police department, what with Hondo up against rigid brass that would prefer someone else to run his unit.  And then, there’s the competitive drama of Hondo’s unit trying not to be outdone by the squad under the command of Mumford (Peter Onorati). To complicate matters, Hondo is also in an affair with his superior officer, Jessica Cortez (Stephanie Sigman), who frets that her status as young, female and immigrant puts her in the three strikes zone with the brass.

` “S.W.A.T.” is not the kind of show destined for critical acclaim, but my guess is that CBS may have wisely gambled that it fits with the network’s love of action shows appealing to its core audience.