Justice League – Review

The DC movie franchise returns to the cinemas after Wonder Woman dominated the Box Office with their second film for 2017, Justice League and it was pretty good.

Justice League is set some time after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Superman is dead and that starts to wake up three mysterious boxes. The boxes are ‘Mother Boxes’ powerful cubes from the planet Apokalips (but that isn’t really mentioned in the film). These boxes either called to or freed Steppenwolf, a New God (again not really mentioned in the film) who had tried to bring the boxes together before but failed. This time, he doesn’t plan on failing. This is where Batman realises he must bring together a team of superheroes to stop this alien threat.

While the ‘getting the team together’ scenes weren’t bad, they felt poorly paced. In usual DC Movie style they jump from scene to scene like a comic book rather than a film where usually some form of transition is required. And maybe that’s it, I’ve said in the past that these films have captured the comic book style more than other series has. So maybe these are the ‘real’ comic book adaptations? That aside, there were a few similarities to Marvel’s The Avengers but the Justice League coming together had a little more nostalgia for me (the Justice League animated series being one of my favourite cartoons as a kid) and it was good to see these characters come together on screen.

The team consists of Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg (plus – spoilers… eventually, Superman). The characters have a good dynamic with each other and it feels more like a team that actually likes each other more than a team that is forced together for a common goal. Batman (Ben Affleck) continues his gruff and grizzled persona but has lightened up a bit for this film (almost like Superman’s death actually made him happier) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is still the elegant bad-ass who appeared in the solo film earlier this year. Both of these characters are good but we know who they are, its time to meet the new guys.

Barry Allen aka ‘The Flash’ (Ezra Miller) is a socially awkward kid who after being struck by lighting can now move at incredible speeds. He is the comic relief of this film, very different to his television counterpart played by Grant Gustin, I didn’t hate him as much as I thought I would, he’s not a bad charater and Ezra Miller has done a decent job bringing him to the silver screen. Aquaman (Jason Momoa) is a man of two worlds that belongs in neither. He’s gruff and grizzled like Batman but doesn’t have the responsibility and tends to help only when he wants to. Jason Momoa does a great job cutting down the campy versions of Aquaman people are used to and I am very much looking forward to his first solo outing next year. Rounding out the team is Cyborg, after an accident that leaves Victor Stone (Ray Fisher) on death’s door, his father harnesses one of the Mother Boxes to bring him back to life. This results in the Mother Box grafting cybernetic limbs that end up taking over almost his whole body. He stays in control most of the time but on occasion the cybernetics take charge, this can put him in a little trouble. Cyborg has a good but rarely touched on character arc that I would have loved to see more on.

I wont touch on Superman but as many expected, he does return.

The villain Steppenwolf lacked a lot. I feel that he probably did have motive but it wasn’t confirmed by him, some of the characters assumed his motivations and that’s really all you have to go on. He didn’t pose much of a threat and his end goal was the same as Zod’s in Man of Steel – ‘turn Earth in to a planet like my planet’. I didn’t like him and he felt like a overcorrection to BvS where they went big with Doomsday and the Death of Superman story and the producers probably thought that using Darksied straight after might be overkill.

Like in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, there was no coherent progression in the story. It was a collection of parts of the story. There’s definitely parts missing and again that comes down to Zack Snyder’s film making style. With that its time to talk production… and oh boy what a production this was. Many script revisions, two composers, two directors and one digitally removed moustache. With $25 Million worth of reshoots the story was likely changed significantly but you really can see what scenes are directed by Joss Whedon and what scenes are Snyder’s (Zack Snyder having to step down in Post Production after the death of his daughter). The reshoots coincided with Henry Cavill’s shooting schedule for Mission: Impossible 6, for which he had grown a moustache which he was contracted to keep while filming, so Justice League’s VFX team had to resort to using special effects to digitally remove the moustache in post.

Junkie XL was originally composing the score for Justice League after working on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice but was replaced by former Batman and Batman Returns composer, Danny Elfman. What an addition to the film it was, Elfman included his original Batman theme from 1989, worked in John William’s Superman theme from 1978 and kept Wonder Woman’s new bad ass theme. I love Danny Elman scores and I think they really belong in a comic book film. I hope Warner Bros. keeps Elfman around because he can add one thing to the DC films that Marvel is missing, good and memorable music.

With all the criticisms and all the praise I have with this film I find that there are parts that I loved and parts that I absolutely did not. It’s rare to have a movie this polarising. However I feel that the pros just narrowly outweigh the cons. It’s great to see this team together on screen finally and I would love to see more. Justice League is a step in the right direction and tonally the future of the franchise should exist somewhere between this film and Wonder Woman. I want to see Warner Bros. ramp up production in this area so we never have to wait more than a year (Justice League in November 2017 to Aquaman in December 2018) ever again.

Justice League: Average

Advertisements

Wonder Woman – Review

An action-adventure film that is worthy of the praise it’s getting, Wonder Woman is a excellent example of what we could hope to see from more DC films.

Wonder Woman tells the story of Princess Diana of Themyscira, an island paradise secluded from the rest of the world, who yearns to see the world of man. One day, Steve Trevor, an spy for the Allies crash lands just off the island and the world of man comes to Themyscira along with news of the ‘War to end all Wars’. Diana travels to Europe with Steve in an attempt to find the god Ares, who she believes is behind this War.

In a way, unfortunately some what foreign to the previous DC Films, Wonder Woman features a coherent story line that follows the hero’s journey’s three act structure. Which worked so well for this film. A lot exposition was required to set up this world, and it was mostly worked in to dialogue between characters which is never something I’m a huge fan of. For example, Amazons saying to each other, “We have not had to fight in a war for 2000 years.”, they already know this, stuff like that wouldn’t naturally come up in conversation. Some of the exposition was delivered as a story told to Diana as a child – this, I enjoyed.

More unnecessary dialogue was worked in between Diana and Steve in attempt to set up their relationship, it wasn’t bad but it slowed down the pacing of the film a little.

Parts of Wonder Woman felt like your ‘swords and sandals’ movie, while others give off a good War movie vibe. The contrast between Themyscira and World War I was noticeable and featured similar dull tones and muted colour palate that the ‘world of man’ has had in previous DC films. It makes me think that the image of Mera from Aquaman that is full of vibrant colours, will be in Atlantis making these two magical locations the most interesting parts of the DC universe.
Gal Gadot really brings it as Diana. The former soldier, turned model now actress might not have the strongest acting ability but her physicality makes up for any minor short falls there were, though I think her delivery of dialogue and facial expressions were good. Chris Pine was great as the almost-sidekick to Diana and key to her transition to the world of man. The supporting characters worked well and I don’t think anyone necessarily phoned it in.

Patty Jenkins directed this film very well. It’s so focused and it sticks to the narrative. There’s great action scenes that were also paired with some good dialogue and character driven scenes she also added a little slow-mo, unassumingly to fit in to the DC mould.

With out going into too much detail in to the film, in order to avoid spoilers, I’ll say that the film was a good action-adventure film that served as a ‘coming of age’ for Diana, its a way to show how she became the fierce warrior we see at the end of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Her character progression and development is such an important part of this film and its one of the key elements of this film.

Wonder Woman is an excellent example of what we could hope to see from more DC films. It is a near-perfect story of Diana’s first steps in to the world of man, and a nice origin story in a day and age where ‘origin stories are over-rated’. Wonder Woman is a character I want to see more of in the coming DC universe films. She is, so far anyway, the best character they currently have and I hope Justice League will continue to show her in the light that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Wonder Woman has.

Wonder Woman: Above Average

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Review

Zack Snyder’s attempt at the movie we’ve wanted to see for decades fell short of expectations.

In anticipation to Wonder Woman, I watched Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice again, so here’s the review. PLEASE BE WARNED! While I will try not to go into specifics, there could be some spoiled plot points. While this is a review, it will include some analysis and ‘ways I would do it better’.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice never had the excitement around it that the idea of a Superman/Batman film had. That came from the divisiveness of 2013’s Man of Steel, which I enjoyed for the most part.

The main problem Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, is the Dawn of Justice part. This is two movies. The first involves Batman and Superman both being manipulated in to hating each other, they both had their reasons but they were played upon and had their perspective skewed. The story would involve the main characters investigating what seem to be separate leads that all end up being part of the one plan. That plan, was to have Superman kill Batman and that this scenario would have one of two outcomes:

1. To show the world either that Superman would kill someone – God can’t be all good. Or,

2. To show the world that Batman killed Superman – God can’t be all powerful.

Now to me, that sounds like a good story. A little bit of action sprinkled in at certain points, some mystery and intrigue, all culminating in a finale that pits the two DC Comics greats in a battle of Brains (and money) vs. Brawn. Naturally, of course before killing one another they realise they are actually on the same side and they go after the real threat that has been influencing them from the start. We put that threat in jail, while he is in there he plots something bigger, upon his eventual escape, which will be the story of the next film. 2 hours and 10 minutes, simple story, easy to follow, everybody forgets their so-so reaction to Man of Steel, bring on the next film, ‘Dawn of Justice’.

Except that didn’t happen. Instead, that story more or less ends around the 2 hour mark and the remaining 30 minutes of its run time resulted in a ridiculous mess that features an overpowered enemy that came out of nowhere, with very little set up or reason for being there, a character that while awesome (spoilers: it’s Wonder Woman), probably shouldn’t have been in a movie called ‘Batman v Superman’ and particular plot point that probably shouldn’t have seen the light of a projector til ‘Man of Steel 3’. Some shots from the last 30 minutes looked good, but a lot of them were just so cluttered by lighting bolts and laser beams that it lost all meaning. Some of the shots were harder to determine what was going on than being able to determine who’s fighting who in a Transformers movie.

There are more issues with the film, including pacing, writing and editing etc. But I don’t want to be so negative on this film, because there is something there. There’s a movie in here, I have ever since I saw this film believed that. All I need to do it sit down in front of my computer one day and maybe make a cut of my own to prove it. (I don’t want to alarm you but the writers and editor from BvS:DoJ are doing the same jobs on Justice League.)

I very much enjoyed Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne and Batman. He gave the older, gruffer character that the story asked for and we were looking for. That said, I like most of the acting in this film. Henry Cavill and Amy Adams have a shallow dynamic, dialogue-wise but their body language and the look in their eyes said more than the script could. Gal Gadot did a pretty decent job as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and delivered in my favourite shot of the entire film – a small smile during the big fight at the end, a little thing that said so much about the character, it said: “This is fun.”, “I’ve missed this” and “So you want a fight, huh?” all at the same time.

Jeremy Irons brought a new side to Alfred Pennyworth that we hadn’t seen before and I didn’t mind Holly Hunter’s role as a senator leading an enquiry in to Superman. Lawrence Fishburne brought nothing to the role as Perry White and Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor left a lot to be desired… there were moments of proper evil to his character but sadly it was overshadowed by his ‘no one comprehends my genius’ shtick mixed with a fair amount of overacting.

The first 2 hours of the movie weren’t bad, it probably could have been done with being an hour and 40, but the story was enjoyable and could be followed somewhat. That being said, this is a comic book movie, and yes, the characters are from comic books, I know. I mean this movie paces like a comic book, it could even do with the odd “Meanwhile” tags in the top left corner in a few scenes, if this film was adapted in to a comic book – it would work. I think that is what sets the current DC films and the Marvel Cinematic Universe apart, Marvel makes movies based on its characters, they have adapted story lines, DC, or at least Zack Snyder seems to adapt the panels. Which is why 300 and Watchmen worked for the fans of those movies, its what they were expecting. It’s not what fans were expecting after Marvel had completed its ‘Phase One’. I think the culture had changed.

After all this though, I like parts of this movie, so it doesn’t fail completely in my opinion. I see this movie for it’s merits and what it tried to do. Don’t get me wrong, I have ideas about how you can fix this and effectively write this movie off – which in the DC Universe at least can be done very easily.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Well Below Average

Early Reviews for Wonder Woman are wonderfully positive!

The embargo has lifted and the reviews are in. Wonder Woman has got the internet in a whirl.

Rotten Tomatoes has the current rating at 97% with 64 out of 66 positive reviews and the 2 ‘rotten’ reviews still talk about the many upsides of the film giving a 2/5 and a 2.5/5 each.

Naturally, with more screenings still to come and more reviews coming out the score will go down a little. But I’m looking forward to see this film so much. I plan to see it on Thursday night and will have a review up on Friday.

The excitement will continue to build over the next few days. Without seeing this film yet, I encourage everyone to go out and support this movie. Show Warner Bros. that this is the kind of superhero movie we want.