Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Justice League (2017) review


    Unfortunately, due to my wife breaking her leg, I wasn't able to see the JUSTICE LEAGUE movie in it's initial movie release. This is because I'm generally more of a DC rather than Marvel man. As much as the Marvel movies tend to be more my style (humor, light-hearted, and consistent), the iconic characters of the DCU are my jam. Sadly, most of us have been disappointed with the offerings since Man of Steel. Why is this? Well, the simple answer is the one we know: it's warmed over Marvel comics.

    Warner Brothers desperately wants their own Marvel Cinematic Universe and you can tell it's an attempt to be like them. There's also the fact Zach Snyder either was told to make "movies identical to Watchmen in tone" or he just naturally prefers that take on the subject. As such, the two Superman movies felt like Batman movies and somehow a movie set in WORLD WAR ONE ended up being the most lighthearted of the three. The Suicide Squad movie was generally better because of the humor but you could tell it was originally darker.

There's more of you?
    So, what about Justice League? I went into the movie with average expectations of, "Am I going to be entertained?" It generally exceeded these expectations but I'm going to admit it wasn't by much. This is probably because I'm actually not a huge fan of the big blockbuster-esque team up movies which Warner Brothers is copying (I didn't think the Avengers was all that great). I'm more a fan of movies which focus tightly on characters and their characterization. This movie, simply put, doesn't have enough room to do that.

    The premise is a pretty paint by the numbers video game plot. There's three Mother Boxes on Earth wanted by Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) and the Justice League needs to assemble to get them before our villain invariably does. This is a really-really lazy plot and uncomfortably too close to The Avengers, so the derivativeness of the plot is doubly problematic. It's not only derivative of The Avengers but it's also the same plot of the new 52 Justice League origin where "Darkseid invaders, the JLA stops him." That wouldn't be a problem if not for the fact the new 52 Justice League origin is ALREADY a movie and wasn't great. In fact, I hated Justice League: War.

He looks more like Magog than Steppenwolf.
    I don't want to harp on what the movie is not but the big issue here is that DC comics has an array of countless villains who would have served as excellent villains to get the Justice League to team up against: 1. Vandal Savage. 2. Ra's Al Ghul. 3. White Martians. 4. Brainiac. 5. Darkseid. I'll come back to Darkseid in a bit but Steppenwolf is a doubly weird choice because he's been turned into a Generic Doomsday Villain (see TV tropes) and that's not something DC has any shortage of either (Mongul, Despero, Krona, Imperiax, the Anti-Monitor, and probably others I'm forgetting).

    The problem with Steppenwolf being the main bad guy is that its not just that he's a supporting character in the New Gods and not Darkseid himself (who would have been a real crowd-pleaser) but that the evil New Gods AREN'T generic villains. Steppenwolf has a lot of personality as a flamboyant alien super-hunter--just like all of the Apokolips bad guys do. They're cartoonish bad guys but they're certainly entertaining and have broad loud characters which translate well to the silver screen. If you're going to invade the Earth then use Desaad, Kalibak, Granny Goodness, and Darkseid. Hell, the Furies too. I mean, in what universe does a bad guy have an army of colorful female supersoldiers and you DON'T use them?

Gal Gadot looks like she's having fun.
    Yeah, I've heard the argument they don't want to blow Darkseid too soon but it seems like saving money when you are having your house foreclosed on. Either way, it means the majority of the story is on the heroes rather than the villains. Unfortunately, we don't have the build-up we needed for this movie and it doesn't follow up the events of Dawn of Justice very well. We introduce Cyborg, Aquaman, and the Flash with three sets of separate origins as well as throw in the resurrection of Superman. In short, the movie is a hot mess with no time to breathe and only a few truly good scenes.

    That doesn't mean it's not entertaining, though. I never expected Aquaman (Jason Momoa) to be as hilarious or entertaining as he is. The Flash (Ezra Miller) is a bit too similar to the show version but adds a Spiderman-esque dorkability to the story. Gal Godot's Wonder Woman and Ben Affleck's Batman both do a tremendous job and have tremendous onscreen chemistry. There's also a lot of unexpected moments in the film like J.K. Simmon's Commissioner Gordon and the touching scenes with Amy Adams' Lois Lane and Henry Cavil's Superman.

Old Bruce is a fascinating idea. It needs its own movie.
    Weirdly, my favorite part of the movie is Ben Affleck's performance as "Old Batman." Which is something that is very evident on screen. Normally, older superheroes are never portrayed as losing their edge with Sean Connery and Roger Moore playing the role well past their sell date. Here, it's very clear Ben Affleck is the senior member of the group and doesn't have his usual Bat-invincibility going for him even above and beyond the fact he's a mere mortal in a team of gods. I would be very interested in having that explored more in the story but think they kind of need to cast a Nightwing to compliment the character on that.

    The only character I feel like was a complete failure was Victor Stone (Ray Fisher) who suffers from the fact the original comic book Cyborg has a very ableist origin. Yes, it's bad to have 90% of your body destroyed but it's good to be able to walk around and enjoy life too. The fact he's another brooding character in a sea of them is also troubling. John Stewart as a Green Lantern would have worked better, I think. Probably still played by Ray Fisher who is certainly capable enough for the role. I admit to also being a bit perplexed by the fact we have the Flash on television as well as in the movies.

    In conclusion, it's not bad. It's not great but it's certainly entertaining and I hope they make an expanded addition with additional footage. This isn't the movie I wanted but I think they've reached the point where I'm happy to see the blockbusters every time they come out, even if it's only once.

7.5/10

1 comment:

  1. Wow, nailed my thoughts exactly. I actually like The Flash the best out of these characters, and felt he was criminally underutilized. Steppenwolf as Villain was such a weird choice. Very vanilla indeed. Well, we'll see where they go from here.

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