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Justice League – Review

28 Nov

The DCEU, or the DC Extended Universe, hasn’t quite had the smoothest of runs. Man of Steel was a good debut, but Batman v. Superman was a complete and utter flop and I still can’t get over how they were comfortable releasing that. Suicide Squad was super divisive, and the only one we can all agree was awesome is Wonder Woman. Now we have what is ultimately the culmination of everything we’ve seen so far (except Suicide Squad it seems), Justice League. This was DC’s chance to stand up to Marvel and show that they’re capable of making something that can challenge The Avengers. Well, all I can say is that Justice League is good. It’s a good movie. I just wish I had more of a response to it than that, but I honestly don’t.

After the death of Superman at the hands of Doomsday, the world mourns the loss of their greatest hero. Meanwhile in Gotham, Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) has an encounter with an otherworldly force that prompts him to contact the only other otherworldly force he is familiar with, Wonder Woman/Diana Prince. Diana tells Bruce about three devices called the Mother Boxes which were hidden after a grand battle with Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), who wanted them to take control of the Earth and ultimately destroy it. Now with fear at an all time high on Earth, the Mother Boxes have been reactivated which brings Steppenwolf back yet again to continue his plan. As it becomes clear that Steppenwolf can’t be brought down just by Batman and Wonder Woman, the two set out to contact other metahumans who can lend their assistance. These are the fast talking and fast moving Barry Allen, aka the Flash (Ezra Miller), the cybernetically enhanced Victor Stone aka Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and a defender of the underwater city of Atlantis Arthur Curry aka Aquaman (Jason Mamoa).

Justice League is a totally serviceable superhero film, but as many people have said, this is a time where superhero movies are judged to a certain standard. When Spawn came out in 1997, the market wasn’t saturated with so many movies to compare it to. Granted, Justice League is far and away a better movie, but I needed an extreme example. What this movie did do very well is the chemistry between the characters. While Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot and some of the other players in this story are characters we’ve seen before, we’ve only seen glimpses of the Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman. These newcomers step up to the plate with relative ease, and all of their characters are welcome additions. Mamoa, especially, had some of the best lines and coolest action sequences in the movie, which I was sort of surprised by. Unfortunately, these characters do feel very new and it takes the movie a while to set them up, and it feels very rushed. This is Zack Snyder pacing in a nutshell. Each of these heroes has a whole history that can be explored but it has to be glazed over to fit in a two hour movie. I felt it very jarring to keep jumping around and I was really itching to be let into the characters’ lives more.

Another part of the movie that is done very well is the action sequences. Yeah, the CGI is way overblown, but everything has that epic superhero feel that I’ve come to know and love. The film starts with a bang with Batman defending Gotham and then transitions to one of the best scenes in the movie of Wonder Woman preventing a terrorist attack. There is one scene on Themyscira which did look very bland and dull, which is a shame because it looked so great in Wonder Woman. Like I said, the CGI does go way overboard at times. Steppenwolf is a CGI mess and the same can be said for Cyborg’s facial features at times. There’s even a scene of Diana walking down a street that was all digitized. Did we really need that scene done in a computer? You couldn’t find a street you liked? Luckily when these effects do get started, we at least see some cool superhero action, and that’s part of what really saves this movie.

Finally, I have to talk about the plot. It’s about as generic as they come with a powerful villain returning to take over/destroy the world. How many times have we seen that one before? A lot of superhero movies do this but add something new to make it work, others don’t take the effort. Justice League does go cool places with this story, but it never feels as developed as it should. It also doesn’t help that so much time is spent introducing characters that should have probably been introduced before this movie was even released. Steppenwolf isn’t even that thrilling of a villain. He works fine, but he’s no General Zod or Ares. He does provide an insanely cool flashback, but he proves not to be all that during the finale.

It may sound like I’m giving Justice League a really hard time, but I did enjoy the movie. It’s a loud, action flick with some great superheroes, but I still expect more from a huge blockbuster like this. There was good humor in the screenplay so it never got overly dark, the action was really cool, and the chemistry between the characters was all there. Unfortunately, the story was weak, the pacing was choppy, and the villain was unremarkable. Justice League is far and away a better movie than Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad. It doesn’t quite meet Wonder Woman, so I’d stick it around where Man of Steel is. This is far from perfect, but it’s still a step in the right direction. DC can learn a thing or two from this and work to improve.

Final Grade: B-

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Wonder Woman – Review

5 Jun

The DC Extended Universe has had a bit of a hard time. Man of Steel was a cool movie, even though it suffered from some terrible pacing. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is a complete catastrophe after having sat through it more than once. Finally, Suicide Squad was, to me, fine but only as an action movie where you could switch off and just watch it without the use of any brain cells. Now we have Patty Jenkins’ newest edition to the franchise, Wonder Woman. For a while I had high hopes for this movie, but in the back of my mind I was really worried it was going to be another bomb for DC. I really had no reason to be worried. I know that now, because Wonder Woman knocked it out of the park as both a superhero film, and just as a well made movie in and of itself.

After the events of Batman v. Superman, Diana Prince, also known as Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), is working in France at the Louvre. She receives a package from Bruce Wayne one day which shows her with a group of soldiers during World War I. Flashback to the Themyscira, the hidden island of Amazon warriors where Diana was born and raised by her mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and trained to fight by her aunt, Antiope (Robin Wright). Things change for Diana when an Alllied pilot, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes within the borders of the island, bringing with him German soldiers that were in close pursuit of his plane. After a battle, Diana decides she must go with Steve to find and stop Ares, the God of War and enemy of the Amazons, who is responsible for the Great War and its continuation. Soon Diane and Steve are off and embattled in the trenches of World War I, where Diana shows who she really is, the Amazonian warrior now known as Wonder Woman.

I’m so pleased that the DCEU finally has a movie that really feels like it’s deeper than the most shallow aspects of its story telling. Wonder Woman is a movie filled with three dimensional characters, clear motivations, conflict, and actual themes that branch out from the singular idea of war. The character of Diana is wonderfully realized. We see her grow up on Themyscira, so by the time she’s an adult, we know who she is and what drives her. The same can be said about Steve Trevor. His explanations to Diana about the world and the brutal war that plagues it shows what his true intentions are. Gal Gadot is excellent as Wonder Woman and brings both a sense of naïvety and strength. This is Diana’s first taste of the outside world, and it’s interesting to see her character in this as opposed to who she was in Batman v. Superman. Chris Pine is also really good as Steve Trevor, and supplies a lot of laughs and a lot of character.

So, with the movie taking place during World War I, it would have been easy to make this a very somber and dark movie. That hasn’t stopped the DCEU film makers before, since they seem to want to make all these movies darker than they really need to be. Wonder Woman doesn’t take that route, which was a nice surprise. There’s plenty of drama in the film both on Themyscira and during the war in Europe, but it never gets too bogged down in melodrama. It’s all very appropriately placed. There’s also plenty of humor to be had as well, and it’s pretty good humor for the most part. The main complaint I do have for this movie is that it does seem to try to hard to have more moments than necessary of humor. Some jokes are stretched too long or could have been completely cut altogether. Many of the jokes do hit, but when the whole movie takes a break just to turn into a comedy routine, I kind of switched off. Luckily, there’s only a few instances of this, which is not nearly enough to be stressed too much.

With this being a superhero movie, the action better be good. That’s one thing I think the DCEU has had going for it. A lot of people disagree with me on this, but I think the action in all three of the franchise’s movies leading up to this one had good action. Wonder Woman also has great action set pieces that are combined with some really over the top special effects, which may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Some of the CGI is noticeably CGI, but it creates an almost otherworldy visual flair which works for some of the most over the top action sequences. Slow motion and tricky camera work is also utilized to show just how powerful Wonder Woman is, and it’s a blast to watch. All I’ve seen by Patty Jenkins before this is Monster, so I had no idea she could create action scenes this well. They really are a treat to watch.

Wonder Woman is exactly what I wanted it to be and more. This was a swashbuckling, heartfelt super hero movie with brains, brawn, and wonderfully realized characters that are believable, even in a movie about Wonder Woman. The DCEU better look at this movie and see that this is how their movies need to be made. Superhero films just can’t rely on crazy action and recognizable names and faces. They need way more than that, and Wonder Woman delivers. In a world where Hollywood is oversaturated with superhero film, Wonder Woman is a reminder of just how well these movies can be done.

Final Grade: A-

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Review

27 Mar

Well, here we are. I’ve been waiting a very long time for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to be released, as I’m sure many other people have been as well. Before this film we got Man of Steel which I thought was a pretty cool movie despite the pacing to be way off, which made the whole movie feel overly long and slightly disjointed. Going into this movie, I had these problems in mind while I was gauging my expectations. It is a Zack Snyder movie, after all. You really have to approach his films with caution. Now that I’ve seen Batman v Superman I can say that all of my worries and suspicions about the pacing have come true, but in much worse ways than I ever imagined. That being said, there are still some rewarding elements to this movie that made it worth seeing.

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While Superman (Henry Cavill) can easily be called a hero in many regards, it may be hard to say that while watching him destroy a city in order to defeat fellow Kryptonian General Zod (Michael Shannon). This is the conflict suffered by Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), a billionaire playboy who just so happens to be the masked vigilante of Gotham City, Batman. Bruce is very uncomfortable with seeing the power Superman can wield go on without any repercussions, so he makes it his mission to find a way to put that power in check and ultimately get rid of the Man of Steel. Meanwhile, criminal mastermind Lex Luthor (Jessie Eisenberg) begins working on a way to use kryptonite as a deterrent against Superman and other super powerful beings in case the need should arise that the human rase needs protection from the so called protectors. What happens next is a clash of super heroic titans that will pave the way for heroes and villains of the future (at least in terms of the DC cinematic universe).

Where do I even begin? Throughout Snyder’s filmography, it has become quite clear that the pacing of his movies slows them down so much, it literally feels like the plot is stuck in the mud. I knew this was going to be the case in Batman v Superman, so I went into the movie ready for that. Little did I know that it was going to be this horrendously overstuffed, paced out, and edited. Like, honestly, how did this movie get a pass? It has such a sloppy structure that at times makes the story incoherent, which is a huge problem considering that this movie is the start of a much bigger DC universe. Not to mention that there are so many scenes and story arcs that only seemed to be in there so the movie can be over two and a half hours long. There’s one story arc about Lois Lane investigating a prototype bullet being sold to radicals that was SO INSANELY STUPID I couldn’t even handle it.

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While this movie is absolutely infuriating at times, when Batman v Superman gets good, it gets great. The entire political game that Luthor and Senator Finch are involved in along with Superman facing up to the damage he’s caused is very interesting. Bruce Wayne also has some really dark scenes where you can almost see his past excursions as the Dark Knight and how they’ve so negatively affected him. These are the scenes that really stand out, but the action sequences in this movie are also very memorable and exciting. Wether it’s Batman careening through the streets of Gotham in his Batmobile, the duel between Batman and Superman, or the overwhelmingly destructive showdown with Doomsday, this movie has some seriously great looking action that almost makes all the scenes that shouldn’t have existed worth it.

When it was first released that Ben Affleck was cast as Batman/Bruce Wayne, many people seemed to be outraged. I, personally, was more curious to see how he’d play it. Turns out, he gives one of the best performances of the character, and certainly is the darkest Bruce Wayne has ever been on the silver screen. Henry Cavill continues to be fine as Superman/Clark Kent, and pretty much gives the same performance he did in Man of Steel. Jeremy Irons, unsurprisingly, is great as Alfred, who appears just as world weary as his troubled bat companion. Gal Gadot, while not in the movie all that much, was totally badass as Wonder Woman, and I can’t wait to see more of her in future installments. Now we come to Jessie Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, a casting choice that shows that a bunch of lunatics were working on this movie. Oddly enough, I didn’t hate Eisenberg as much as I thought I was going to. He played an obsessive compulsive psychopath very well, but really it wasn’t Lex Luthor I was watching. I more so hate what they did to the character, while Eisenberg seemed to play it as best he could.

Calling Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice a disappointment is a completely valid and accurate statement. That being said, it isn’t an awful movie. I can’t really say it’s all that good of a movie, either. All I can say is that it’s ok, and I really wish it was more than that. The worst part of it is that I can see a great movie somewhere, but it’s covered by so much garbage and stupid plot arcs and unnecessary scenes. It’s devastating to see a movie with so many great scenes get dragged into mediocrity because of poor directorial choices and a screenplay that doesn’t make much sense. DC certainly has some work to do.