Justice League (2017) – Movie Review

justiceleague

I went into Justice League, DC’S most recent grab at Marvel’s success, with trepidation. Other than Wonder Woman, each DCEU film has left me somewhere between “meh” and “ugh”. Even when Joss Whedon (Avengers) came in to help a grieving Snyder finish the movie, their exponentially different styles worried me, and that worry was mostly justified. Yes, Whedon’s wit does bring a welcome shine to the gloomy proceedings and, unlike Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad, keeps this movie from being an all-out slog. Still, it’s an awkward epic that can’t overcome the franchise’s dark doldrums. Just like every other superhero movie ever made, a charisma-less and bland villain with limitless power appears, bent on destroying Earth because of “reasons”. Superman still dead, the world must depend on lesser heroes to save them. Affleck is still a pretty good Batman, Flash is light-hearted fun, Aquaman is kinda cool, Cyborg is dull and dour, and Wonder Woman is still the standout. There are still certainly some interesting moments between the characters, but they’re mostly overshadowed by superhero-ethic clichés, stupid drama, bad CGI, and nonsensical logic (why are these guys such quick allies?) There really is just so much that doesn’t work: specific jokes, bad visuals, interpersonal relationships, muddy action, plot predictability. The main problem, though, is that DC and Warner Bros. think, through their previous films, they’ve given us enough reasons to care about this universe, and they haven’t. The positives here, mainly just seeing these heroes together on-screen, have left me mildly curious about the future of the franchise, but only barely. Otherwise, Justice League is easily the worst superhero movie of the year.

 

2 out of 5 stars

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) – Movie Review

batman v superman

Director Zack Snyder has proved to be the Kryptonite of this new DC universe. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is classic Snyder: visually adept yet narratively and thematically senseless. With two of the most compelling and popular characters in the world, numerous questions about purpose and responsibility are aimlessly wasted. Throw in resplendent amounts of religious and political imagery, and way too many dream sequences, and what we’re left with is a sad mishandling of what should be a powerful and (ahem) entertaining film. The opening is fantastic, as we watch Bruce Wayne and others reel from the disasters perpetrated by Superman in Man of Steel. Unfortunately from there, things go downhill fairly quickly, as story clichés (Kryptonite) and lame coincidences (Bruce and Clark’s mom have the same name! Wow!) fill a convoluted plot. Worst yet, this “action” film is overstuffed with unending amounts of ethical speeches and monologues in place of actual character connections. DC’s desperation to right their own wrongs in the destruction in Man of Steel becomes embarrassing (“Luckily that island was deserted”). Even when we aren’t being lazily spoken at or having our emotions ineffectively manipulated, the set-pieces are largely insipid and boring. As for the pluses, Affleck is great as Batman, giving a unique turn as a sloppier, older, and angrier Dark Knight. Also, for the very little we see of Gadot’s Wonder Woman, it creates an excited eagerness for her stand-alone film. However, BvS as a whole has less in common with its positives than with Eisenberg’s poorly-casted Lex Luthor: frantic, ill-thought, desperate, and truly awful.

 

2 out of 5 stars

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Man of Steel (2013) – Movie Review

man of steel

I was afraid that this movie would be crushed by the weight of the marketing effort from Warner Brothers and the resultant raised expectations. I mean 3 trailers and 9 TV spots which contained approximately 15 minutes of the film, plus the Gillette, Twizzler and Mr Clean commercials, and OKAY I get it Warner Brothers! You want us to see your movie!!

Fortunately, it doesn’t disappoint. The marriage between David Goyer’s character driven storytelling and Zach Snyder’s signature visual style works perfectly, as I hoped it would. I thought Snyder in particular out did himself with rich visuals that carried through the muted tones and darker colour palette of the film. Goyer’s story can almost be described as ‘Superman Begins’ as it uses the same approach and story structure as Batman Begins, but ultimately finds its own voice and tone which prevents it from feeling too much like the first Nolan Batman film. As a result, a lot of time is spent exploring the journey of Clark/Kal-el with the supporting characters present only to inform the audience of the protagonist, which also means they are not fully developed and therefore come across as one dimensional. This is not meant as criticism, and I’m not surprised that other reviewers found character development to be lacking because of this. The story is not designed to have rich supporting characters, it’s about Clark’s character, his journey and growth, and that’s it. The exception to this is Lois Lane who is present enough in the film to give us a good feel for the character, which is a true reflection of the comic book, and I’m really looking forward to her being developed even further in future installments.

The acting itself is solid which is what you would expect from a cast of this caliber, yet no one performance outshines the other and there was never a moment for me where I thought the actor cast for a particular role was the wrong choice. Henry Cavill, in particular, IS Superman. This film, however, is not perfect. There are a few head-scratching and perhaps WTF moments, BUT the good parts in the movie far, far outweigh the bad, so I’m willing to turn a blind eye to these bad moments and embrace this film in aggregate as a brilliant, outstanding effort. My nipples stiffen just thinking about it.

All that being said, if you are of the opinion that the Christopher Reeve films, and Bryan Singer’s love letter to Donner, is the true version of Superman, then you’ll likely have a hard time embracing this version. Also, if you are one of those who habitually “multi-task” and split your attention between a psychoactive mobile device and what’s happening on the big screen (and unfortunately there were many of you in the theatre last night), I’m afraid you aren’t going to enjoy it very much either. This film has just enough story that if you miss a bit while held hostage to your devices’ virtual delights, you’ll become lost and all that will remain are the film’s action sequences. But, maybe that’s all you want.

 

10 out of 10