Justice League Movie Review

For fans of the DC Extended Universe DC film universe, the ride through films like Man of Steel, Suicide Squad, BVS and Wonder Woman has been one filled with twists, turns, ups, downs, and enough fanboy trash talk to make you want to quit the internet.

Despite poor critical reactions from the first three efforts in Man of Steel (55% Rotten Tomatoes score), Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (27% Rotten Tomatoes score) and Suicide Squad (26 % Rotten Tomatoes score), 2017 has been a solid year for the studio that also brought us Shaquille O’Neal as Steel and Ryan Reynolds as the Green Lantern in the past. Wonder Woman busted through to the joy of fans and critics alike (92% Rotten Tomatoes score) and seemingly changed the outlook for DC’s future on the big screen. With the backdrop of DC’s past out of the way, let’s get into Justice League. I’m going to get into my likes, dislikes, and my thoughts moving forward.

Likes

Bringing together heroes like Batman, Superman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg and The Flash presents a bevy of problems in terms of screen time and usage, but the combination of Zack Snyder & Joss Whedon did a masterful job of showcasing each hero in this film. I loved seeing Bruce Wayne doing his damnedest to wrangle everyone together for the greater good, as each character had their own situations going on in the background. Whether it was Barry’s struggle to find a way to free his father from prison, Cyborg’s struggle to cope with existing in his new form, or Aquaman’s reluctance to even join the team, each character was very well fleshed out on a personal level.

There were so many moving parts to this film in terms of the plot. The main arc saw the villainous Steppenwolf on his quest to claim the three motherboxes, but the film was about more than just that. It opened up so many other avenues for future films in such a positive way that leaves me very excited for the future of these franchises. Since I mentioned Steppenwolf, let’s talk about him for a minute. I enjoyed about 95% of Steppenwolf’s inclusion in this film. He was an extremely formidable foe, continuously wreaking havoc at-will.

The scene on Themyscira as he is attempting to steal the motherbox from the Amazons was incredibly well done. The intense action sequences and ensuing carnage brought upon by this New God was an adrenaline-filled thrill ride. Seeing the mighty Amazons struggle (and fail) to protect their motherbox set the tone for the rest of the film.

Keeping in the realm of the action sequences, they were all pretty incredible. Watching these heroes work together was pure joy. While some people may complain about the overuse of CG, I thought everything looked really great for the most part, but I’ll come back to this again later. One other sequence that really stood out for me was the Atlantis portion of the film. The speculation about how underwater scenes would look in the upcoming Aquaman film has been a hot-button issue, but seeing it for the first time dispelled any negative thinking from my mind. The underwater sequences, to me, were flawless and really elevated my expectations for Aquaman.

Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman took an even bigger step forward in this film. Batman, in his own way, helped her to realize that she’d hidden herself away from the world for long enough. She becomes such a great leader in this film that makes me believe she could eventually serve as the overall “leader” of the Justice League down the line. She was smart, powerful and beautiful all at the same time.

 

Jason Momoa’s Aquaman is certainly NOT the same character that comic readers grew up with. Gone are the days when the cast of Entourage can make fun of him. He was very complex; hesitant to be enlisted by Bruce until Steppenwolf stole the motherbox from Atlantis. His conversation with Mera really seemed to push him over the edge in terms of joining the rest of the heroes.

Admittedly, Cyborg is the character I knew the least about, but after seeing Ray Fisher’s portrayal of the character, I’m definitely a fan. His emotional turmoil paired with his need to save both his father and the world was really moving. Seeing him not in control of his own body and learning to use his “powers” was a fun ride.

As I am a big fan of The Flash both from the comics and the series on The CW, I was probably the most nervous about seeing him on the big screen. Grant Gustin does such an amazing job as the Scarlet Speedster on TV, but Ezra Miller’s take on him was so much fun. I think he really nailed the character, coming off as youthful, naive, scared, but ultimately a hero in his own right. His interactions with each of the other heroes was a lot of fun. His use of nervous humor brought levity to this film without detracting from the overall tone of the film.

What else can be said about Ben Affleck’s Batman? I’ve seen them all: Keaton, Kilmer, Clooney, Bale. None of them hold a candle to what Ben Affleck brings to the table as the Dark Knight. He’s a bona-fide ass-kicker, a legitimate detective, an incredible tactician, and he even played nice with others. Despite the rumors that he may not continue to carry on the role, I remain hopeful that he will, especially after seeing him in this film.

 

There’s only one hero left to talk about, and that’s Superman. The Last Son of Krypton was given new life after being imbued with the power of a motherbox, returning to seemingly want to kill everyone. The first scene where Clark returns was something special. Seeing the look of pure rage and hatred on his face as he began to dismantle each JL member was something that I certainly didn’t expect. And when he finally sees Batman and grips him up and asks him if he also bleeds (a call back from BVS), it literally sent chills down my spine. Though Clark would eventually come to his senses after Lois arrives, I had the thought that this might not be the last time we see Superman behave in this manner. Could an Injustice storyline be used in the future where Superman turns evil? After seeing him behave this way, if only for a few short minutes, would be really cool if expanded upon.

Dislikes

Though I enjoyed what Steppenwolf brought to the table as a villain, his backstory could have been given more development. We’re not really told too much in terms of who he really is or what his goals are besides destroying worlds. I understand why he wasn’t more developed, though, as WB mandated a strict 2-hour runtime for this film. Getting into the mythology of the New Gods is something that I’m eager to explore; hopefully this is something that comes to fruition by the time Darkseid joins the fray. There were also a few times where I thought he was giving too much exposition in terms of revealing his plan.

I mentioned that while I enjoyed the use of humor in this film, there were definitely a few times where maybe it could have been toned down just a bit, but these instances weren’t a distraction for me. I also could have done without the red backdrop of scenery during the final battle, but if you’ve seen anything Zack Snyder has directed in the past, it’s just kind of his thing. I also said that I thought the CG was mostly very good, but I think Steppenwolf looked just a little bit off.

There were only a few other dislikes I had, chiefly with Aquaman’s and Mera’s conversation after Steppenwolf stole the Atlantean motherbox. Mera started going on about his relationship with his mother and it just didn’t feel like the right time or place. It also felt like they didn’t really seem all that upset about losing the motherbox. I also could have done without the inclusion of the Russian family seen towards the end of the film. They added nothing to the film at all except for the opportunity for Superman to save people, which momentarily took him out of the fight against Steppenwolf.

Final Thoughts

There were so many awesome things about this movie that I really enjoyed, especially with how little I’ve liked the majority of the DC films to this point. The future of the DC film universe certainly looks bright with how great each of the main characters were as they head into their own solo films. Hopefully DC and Warner Bros. can stop the behind the scenes antics that are killing said hope: losing directors, announcing too many films at once, potentially losing Ben Affleck as Batman, etc.

Easter Eggs

  • Steppenwolf mentions Darkseid (who is his nephew in the comics)
  • Steppenwolf also mentions the New Gods
  • Cyborg is shown to have a version of his costume seen in the comics at the end of the film
  • A Green Lantern is shown fighting Steppenwolf in the beginning of the film along with the Old Gods
  • The term ‘Doomsday Clock’ is mentioned, which is a nod to a comic arc.
  • While inside Wayne Manor at the end of the film, Bruce mentions adding a large table to the giant empty room, possibly laying the groundwork for the Hall of Justice.
  • Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor appears in a post-credit scene having escaped prison with the help of Deathstroke. Luthor also mentions forming his own Injustice League
  • In another post-credit scene, The Flash races Superman, which is a call-back to an earlier scene in the film and a famous storyline from the comics

I’m sure there are plenty of others that I missed after my first screening of the film, but feel free to comment further if you pick up on anything else.

Now that the League has been united, what are your thoughts on the film? Where do you see this film universe going? What characters did you like or dislike? Leave your thoughts in the comments section!

 

What’s The Deal With?…Cinematic Universes

Cinematic universes, or shared universes, are not a new thing when it comes to the film world.

Dating back to 1931, the Universal Monster Universe featuring characters like Dracula, Frankenstein and The Wolf Man have all shown up in each other’s films to create a cohesive world that saw familiar characters interact with each other. Having these characters being portrayed by the same actor or actress adds that extra bit of connective tissue that can make “standalone” films blend together in a much bigger way.

While universes like the Universal Monsters, Planet of the Apes, or James Bond (to a certain degree), have been around for decades, the modern version of this trend is one that has some fans voicing their displeasure. There seems to be a line being drawn in the sand when it comes to incorporating multiple characters and films under one roof in terms of how fans are reacting, but why?

As a kid, I loved seeing my favorite superheroes working together in comics and TV shows. Spider-Man got to hang out with the X-Men, Batman and Superman had their own cartoon, and even the Power Rangers got to meet up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Though the bulk of these crossovers I enjoyed came in the form of cartoons and TV shows, I always longed to see them together on the silver screen.

The late 90s/early 2000s ushered in a new age of comic book movies with films like X-Men, Blade, Spider-Man and the Dark Knight series, but something was missing. How come our heroes couldn’t meet up with each other? How come Batman didn’t have any help from the rest of the Justice League? Where are the other Avengers in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films?

One of the largest obstacles to overcome when crafting these cinematic universes has been the issue of film rights. When Marvel had to sell off a huge portion of their character film rights just to stay afloat, the prospect of ever seeing their champions together onscreen became nearly impossible. As Marvel had eventually been bought by Disney and gained financial stability, Kevin Feige had begun crafting what we now know and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. At the time, he only had a small roster of lesser characters to choose from, though subsequent deals to re-acquire characters like Blade, Ghost Rider and Daredevil would be made. After the Sony hacks back in 2015, word began spreading about their uncertain financial future and an agreement to allow Marvel include Spider-Man in their universe was eventually made, as Spider-Man: Homecoming was released earlier this year and he appeared in Captain America: Civil War.

2008 saw Iron Man make his debut with then-shamed actor Robert Downey Jr donning the iron suit. Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury would meet with Stark, where he referenced the Avengers Initiative in a post-credits scene for the film. The Incredible Hulk would follow just a month later after a post-credit scene saw Tony Stark conversing with Thunderbolt Ross, who would also appear later in Captain America: Civil War. Since that time, we’ve seen characters like Captain America, Thor, The Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man and Doctor Strange get their own standalone films, sequels, and teamups in this shared universe. Though these heroes have had their own origin stories and adventures, Feige & Co. have carefully developed (for the most part) an all-encompassing world that sees these characters, plots and storylines woven together in a way that tells an overall story across the current 16-film epic with no end in sight. In the coming years we’re getting new characters added in with Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and the huge number of characters set to appear in next year’s Avengers: Infinity War.

Moving on to the DC front, the Joel Schumacher Batman films had all but killed the World’s Greatest Detective until Christopher Nolan resurrected him with 2005’s Batman Begins. Gone were the days of neon lights, bat nipples and “cool” puns, as Christian Bale portrayed Batman in a grounded, gritty way. Though completing his trilogy, Nolan had no inclusion of any of the other heroes in the DC pantheon, nor did we see any connection from Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns in 2006. It wasn’t until 2013’s Man of Steel did we see seeds being planted for a cinematic universe consisting of the DC gods.

Three years would go by until we finally got the crossover we’d all been waiting for when Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hit theatres and showed us glimpses of the upcoming Justice League. We finally got to see The Flash, Aquaman, Batman, Superman and Cyborg share screen time, though many fans didn’t quite get what they expected. We also got a Suicide Squad film that was not well-received at all, consisting of DC‘s villains in a weird teamup. Wonder Woman made her solo debut earlier this year and Aquaman is coming next year after Justice League hits this November.

Though DC is developing their own cinematic universe, it had been riddled in turmoil nearly from the start. They began having numerous issues with directors leaving projects, script rewrites, and speculation of Ben Affleck leaving his role of Batman. Most recently, director Matt Reeves made waves when he said that Batman would be a complete standalone film outside of the DCEU, only to recant his statements a day later. DC has also had an issue, in this writer’s opinion, of announcing too many upcoming projects before really having any concrete plan laid out. This week alone we had two different Joker films announced, with one reportedly recasting Jared Leto as the Clown Prince of Crime.

The state of disarray that seems to be taking place in the DCEU has led to rampant rumors and speculation of problems throughout the entire universe. It’s disheartening to have things announced only to have things being shifted, changed or scrapped. Why can’t DC just relax a bit and focus on making a few good films before going crazy and announcing so many other projects? The majority of their currently released films have been divisive at best and we really haven’t seen anything spectacular, in my opinion, though Wonder Woman was probably the best-received film to-date. Hopefully DC can figure out their issues and build something great, something that the fans can fully love and embrace. We’ve waited long enough to see these heroes be portrayed in a way that is both faithful and entertaining.

The debate over which of these two studios is doing a better job is not the topic of discussion here. Though I thoroughly enjoy most of the MCU, I have plenty of issues with some of their films that I won’t get into here. Feel free to spout out your “fanboy favoritism” in the comments, but know that I want all of these properties to be good and do well.

With all of these examples being laid out, let’s finally get into the topic at hand. What’s the deal with these cinematic universes? How is it that fans have gotten exactly what they’ve wanted for so long, only to start complaining about it? We’re getting huge tent pole teamup films, yet people complain that “not everything has to be connected” or “why can’t we just have standalone films? or “why didn’t this guy show up to help the other guy in that movie?”

Honestly, I’m not sure what people want. When we get Matt Reeves‘ standalone Batman, according to him now, it will be purely a Batman film with no inclusion of the other DC heroes. That’s fine, I have no problem with that. There’s nothing wrong with doing standalone films within a larger universe. Not every hero has to cameo in each other’s films. As long as there is connective tissue bringing them together in subtle ways without beating audiences over the head, I don’t see an issue.

In my opinion, I’m a fan of these cinematic universes and crossovers. I feel it adds gravitas and flavor to these films in a way that keeps me coming back for more. It’s certainly a challenge for these directors and bigwigs to paint such a large picture years in advance, which ultimately leads to plot holes and inconsistencies, which is understandable. I believe a level of caution needs to be exercised before announcing a slate of film years in advance, as there are so many moving parts.

Now I want to hear from you. Where do you stand on cinematic universes? Are they a good thing? What are some of your favorite ones? What films or characters would you like to see be crossed over into something new? Leave your thoughts in the comments section!

 

 

 

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition Review

If you read my original review of ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’,  you’ll know that while I overall enjoyed the film, its glaring problems were enough to take me out of the movie at times.

Even after a second viewing, the issues with pacing, story-swapping, and logic were still enough to leave me a bit disappointed in what the film could have been.

Without getting too much into the theatrical cut, I’m writing to discuss the blu-ray release of the “Ultimate Edition”, featuring a rated-R rating and 30 minutes of deleted scenes added into the film. While the added footage didn’t reveal anything too shocking (though the Steppenwolf scene added a lot). While the new individual scenes themselves aren’t anything special, they add depth to a film that had theatrically failed to tie story lines together in a logical way.

These new scenes make the film, now sporting a 3-hour run time, flow much more smoothly and fills in a lot of “plot holes” from the original cut. It was great seeing Bruce Wayne/Batman be more of a detective in investigating both Clark/Superman and Lex Luthor.

We also got to see much more of Clark and his personal relationships. Adding scenes to gain a sense of depth for Clark’s character made him much more relate-able. Building more background on all of the characters made them more believable this time around, and I even liked Lex Luthor much more in this version.

I still believe that the other Justice League characters in Aquaman and Cyborg could have played more of a role in the film. The first half of the movie is still a bit slow, and in adding the other Justice League characters in, the film could’ve created much more buzz for the upcoming slate of films over at Warner Bros/DC.

If you didn’t enjoy the original cut but really wanted to, do yourself a favor and check this version out. You just may enjoy it a bit more than you liked the first cut.

My rating: 8 out of 10

Suicide Squad Review

Since the first trailer was shown last summer at San Diego Comic Con, ‘Suicide Squad’ has been one of the most buzzed about super hero films in recent memory. This past year, we were inundated with trailers, clips, TV spots, set photos and tons of other marketing materials. Finally, the film has hit theaters, so let’s get into it.

Centering around a team of super villains that are forced into a mission to save the world, ‘Suicide Squad’ was, for me, an incredibly disappointing film. As I’m thinking about it more, this film was pretty bad.

At no point did I feel connected to any of the characters, story lines, or action scenes. The whole thing felt awkward and out of place, tonally. The gross misuse of music and flashbacks really took me out of the film multiple times. The overall story just didn’t really resonate with me and seemed pretty pointless once the mid-credit scene was shown.

I disliked the exaggerated dramatic moments that some of the characters, namely Will Smith’s “Deadshot”, had. The dark nature of the characters mixed with unfunny comedic moments and the aforementioned dramatic moments really threw off the tone of the film, making it feel like a schizophrenic version of something that had the potential to be really awesome.

There were times where I was flat-out bored. Not caring for the characters was one thing, but the ridiculous villain(s) were so bad and cartoony that I just couldn’t take this film seriously. The CGI in the film was atrocious and left me begging to see “Doomsday” from ‘Batman v Superman’ again instead.

Without getting too into detail about “Enchantress”, I will say her character, played by Cara Delevingne, was hands down the worst in the movie. She was so bad and ridiculous that I truly just didn’t care about the entire third act.

With all of the controversy surrounding Jared Leto’s version of “The Joker”, I was cautiously optimistic about his portrayal, but after seeing him, I didn’t like him at all. This version of “The Joker” does NOT fit within the current tone of the DCEU film franchise. He was too close to the classic Cesar Romero version from the 60’s TV series. His strange laughs came at times where it made no sense to be used. If he weren’t in this film at all, it wouldn’t really have made a difference.

Margot Robbie’s “Harley Quinn” was nothing more than eye candy. Her comedic moments were flat and ill-timed. Her relationship with “The Joker” really handcuffs her ability to be a stronger character and I just didn’t care for their relationship.

The rest of the “squad” were nothing to write home about. With “Diablo” being the only real exception (as I already mentioned “Deadshot”), they really didn’t get much character development. I thought “Killer Croc” looked bad and was a dumb character and the rest were forgettable.

The logic and pacing also took me out of the film at times. The reasoning for assembling the team and the way it was edited confused me. The goal was to create a team of meta humans to fight “bad” meta humans would have made more sense if the team HAD MORE META HUMANS. “Killer Croc” and “Diablo” were the only two, with the rest being regular humans.

Batman’s appearances in the film are nothing really special and wouldn’t have made much of a difference if he weren’t there, save for the mid-credit scene.

To be honest, at one point I felt myself starting to doze off. My fiance did fall asleep, as well as a friend of mine. Both were snoring, and I don’t blame them.

I feel like a film like this would have been a much better idea down the line, once the DCEU is more established and has more characters fleshed out. Seeing these villains in other films first and then bringing them together later would have been more impactful. It should not have been the third film in the new cinematic universe.

Currently riddled with controversy, film rating aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes currently shows a 28% critic rating for the film.

All in all a bad film. I was very disappointed, as I had higher expectations going in. I wanted to like this movie way more than I actually wound up. It does make me wonder if the re-shoots did drastically change the direction and tone of the film. It will be interesting to see if there is a special edition released, like ‘BvS’.

Critically, this is the third out of three DC films to be largely negative. The DC/WB execs will really have to do something special with ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Justice League’ if they want to be able to continue their film universe.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review

The movie began slowly, introducing the backstory of Bruce Wayne and quickly jumping back and forth to scenes of other characters. The theme of pacing and editing, to me, was a major pitfall of this movie. It spent so much time playing catch up by introducing so many new characters all at once that it hindered the story.

Logic would also play into my cons. There were more than a few times I was taken out of the movie  because I had to stop and think about what was happening and I was left confused by a bunch of things. The constant story shifting played into the logistical issues because of how the story was unfolding that it didn’t portray the characters in a very positive light. The action scenes are pretty fantastic. I don’t mind the over-the-top action sequences as long as they’re done in a way that is engaging and meaningful.

Batman, played perfectly by Ben Affleck, has never been so violent and brutal. Gone are the Val Kilmer/George Clooney Batmen. Affleck plays the quintessential Batman, paying homage to George Miller’s “The Dark Knight” comics from the ‘80s. Well played, sir.

Henry Cavill plays a solid Superman, and as a fan of Man of Steel, I had some issues with his character. Logic again, but I won’t get into spoilers in this post. Gal Gadot, after much controversy leading up to the release about her portrayal as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, was solid as well. The fans in my theatre gave a nice applause when she showed up in her armor, which was nice. This is a very important role for female fans and the future marketing of female-lead super hero films, and Gal did a fine job.

Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Lex Luthor was…strange. His quirks and eccentricities were bordering Batman Forever-like style but saved by his intensity. Ever-faithful butler, Alfred, played by the amazing Jeremy Irons, was a perfect casting. I don’t care too much for Amy Adams as Lois. I find her’s and Clark’s relationship annoying, personally. 

The addition of the “big bad” of the movie, Doomsday, didn’t look all that great and was shoehorned in and didn’t make a lot of sense. The fight scenes were pretty cool, though.

There were a bunch of scenes that were clearly meant to foreshadow the future DC movie universe, but they felt wholly out of place and unexplained. The quick introductions of the future Justice League members in Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman felt forced and out of place. 

The movie spent too much time planting seeds, as it has to quickly establish their cinematic universe and catch up to Marvel/Disney. Although I mostly enjoyed the film, the problems I’ve gone over and others not mentioned lowered my score. I had my expectations lowered early in the week as critic reviews from online sources I follow didn’t give overly-positive reviews. My score would be a 6 out of 10. Keep in mind that’s a pretty decent score, it means there were more things I liked about it than things I didn’t. Would I recommend anyone seeing it? Yes, absolutely. If You’re a fan of the super hero genre, go see it.