Nov-24-2017

Reel Snippet – Justice League

Summary: In the days following the death of Superman (Henry Cavill), the world seems devoid of hope. Even worse, people are disappearing with reports of strange bug-like creatures coming from a few witnesses. Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) take these as signs to assemble a team of heroes they’ve been keeping an eye on: The Flash (Ezra Miller) who can run at hypersonic speeds, Aquaman (Jason Momoa) who rules over Atlantis and by extension the Seven Seas, and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) who was forever transformed by a piece of alien technology. It is this tech that prompts an invasion from a powerful alien named Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) and his army of insectoid parademons to assemble all three pieces of the alien tech — known as “Motherboxes” — and exterminate all life on Earth. It’s time for the world’s greatest heroes to make sure that justice prevails.

Review: Justice League wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad, but fits somewhere in the middle. It has a very basic “bad guys collects MacGuffins for doomsday act” story, but there are some nice details that bring it higher than that. Of course, there are a number of details that bring it down too, which comes from having a good director doing reshoots and edits on a bad director’s project. Still, seeing as reports said that WB executives claimed Snyder’s original cut was “unwatchable,” we should be grateful for what we got.

There’s been a serious effort to inject humanity into a lot of the movie, which works to varying degrees. My favorite was Batman telling Flash to just focus on saving one person to boost his confidence as a hero, though Aquaman’s drunken swagger moments also felt great. As before, Gadot is amazing as Wonder Woman, though I didn’t buy the romantic chemistry between her and Batman the movie was telling was there. There’s even a bit of humorand while not all of it works, there’s more than a few laughs to be had. Granted, the Whedon and Snyder scenes are very easy to tell apart, but I’m not going to complain when the end result is enjoyment.

While the presentations of Aquaman and Cyborg are fine (the latter having an actual character arc), Flash is a tougher nut to crack. I was expecting to hate him from what I saw in the trailers, but he actually had some funny and heartwarming moments, even if some of his shtick relied a little too heavily on “doofus face.” Then again, some of his antics felt like they would fit right in with his portrayal in the Justice League animated series, so I won’t gripe too much about that. What I will gripe about are his awful run cycle* and the incredibly in-your-face lightning effects that happens whenever he runs. I pity the epileptic that gets caught unawares while watching this movie.

*I get that this is a Flash at the very beginning of his hero career, but even then he should know that you don’t flail your arms like that while running. He looks like a drunk squid! I wouldn’t mind too much, but the movie focuses on it like the crew is proud of what we’re seeing.

There are admittedly a number of things that don’t sit well with me. Batman using an alien gun to kill parademons still bugs me to death and no, don’t send me your stupid think pieces or listicles showing all the times he’s used a gun (Wow! You found seven times he’s used a gun in his 75 years of comics! Congratulations! Now kindly read the other 99% of his comics where he didn’t, dip****.). While the Amazons trading in their practical armor from Wonder Woman for glorified battle bikinis elicits a good eyeroll, people have already dissected this but good, so doing so would be beating a dead horse. But the Amazons are part of a huge problem I have: this movie leans heavily on the disposable women trope. Numerous Amazons are slaughtered by Steppenwolf and his forces to prove they are “for serious, yo” in an overly long and lifeless scene near the beginning, but his invasion of Atlantis results in two dead dudes. Later, when Steppenwolf is interrogating hostages later, he snaps a woman’s neck when she sobs about having a family, but a man doing the same thing just gets thrown to the ground. You don’t need a social sciences degree to see the huge imbalance.

That brings me to Steppenwolf himself. I can say with absolutely no hesitation that this guy is the worst comic book movie villain I’ve ever seen. That’s right, worse than Malekith from Thor: The Dark World, Doctor Doom from Fant4stic, and the weird mishmash of villains from both The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Batman and Robin. This guy has nothing going for him; his design is uninspired, his performance is boring, and his motivations have no depth whatsoever, serving only to foreshadow other DC villains. To top it off, [HOLY INCOMING SPOILER, BATMAN!] his demise is basically a ripoff of how the villain went out in Rise of the Guardians (which you could argue was stolen from We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story, but whatever). [SPOILERS HAVE GONE UP, UP, AND AWAY!] He’s just complete weak sauce and it drags down the union of these heroes.

I could go into detail about so much more that bothered me, but in the end, I’m glad I saw this and find myself with more good memories than bad. Everything negative can be boiled down to Zach Snyder trying to make all his superhero movies into Watchmen without realizing what made Watchmen good. But here, there’s no senselessly convoluted villain plot or unexplained or pointless and unexplained prophetic dreams, brooding isn’t forced to be anyone’s defining character trait, and the day isn’t saved by anything as stupid as two people’s moms sharing a name. Recent events may have colored my perception of Joss Whedon as a person, but I can’t deny that his presence here affected the movie for the better because he at least understands that the most important element of any story is its characters. The end result is the second best DC Extended Universe to date. While that might not be a high bar to clear, I’m relieved because it teases a brighter future for the the Man of Tomorrow, the Dark Knight, the Goddess of Truth, and their super friends.

Fun Tidbit: The graphic novel Watchmen by Alan Moore has been stated to be a huge influence of Snyder’s view of comic books, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that a cast member from Snyder’s own Watchmen movie. Billy Crudup, who played Doctor Manhattan, shows up as Henry Allen, the Flash’s incarcerated father.


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