Bro-Reviews: Justice League

Injustice for all.

The DC Extended Universe, or DCEU, has never quite found its footing. Man of Steel experienced mixed results at best, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice was an unmitigated disaster, and Suicide Squad was a dumpster fire. The only one of the DCEU’s films to be legitimately good is Wonder Woman, which is universally regarded as one of the top films in the comic book movie genre and a potential awards contender. Many had hopes with the success of Wonder Woman, the DCEU could be salvaged with the arrival of Justice League, which promised to be the epic universe building film DC fans were waiting for. The only question remains, does Justice League deliver justice for the wrongs of its previous failures?

Justice League sees Bruce Wayne/ Batman (Ben Affleck) discovering an other worldly enemy arriving after the demise of Superman (Henry Cavill). This other worldly presence reveals itself to be Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), who along with his Parademons seeks the three Mother Boxes in order to unleash an even more powerful cosmic figure to destroy the world and rule it. To stop Steppenwolf, Bruce calls upon the help of Diana Prince/ Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Barry Allen/ The Flash (Ezra Miller), Victor Stone/ Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Arthur Curry/ Aquaman (Jason Momoa), to help defeat Steppenwolf and deliver justice to the world.

It’s hard not to hold the wrongs of previous DCEU entries against Justice League, but Justice League doesn’t do itself any favors by having many of the same flaws that plagued the universe’s previous films. Most of those flaws point to the director and architect of what now most be classified a failed universe, Zack Synder. The man continues to use slow motion ad nauseam, even for insignificant happenings such as an angry man knocking over fruit baskets outside of a corner liquor store. Synder does have an eye for visual effects and action sequences, but most of those end up looking cheap despite its big budget and hard to follow due to the studio going into full blown panic mode after the film that was supposed to kick everything off wet the bed.

Other trademark Synderism include setting up scenes with no background at all, using exposition to explain away whatever confusion you may have had with those scenes that weren’t set up properly, and a total lack of characterization for most, if not all the characters involved. Why does Steppenwolf want to take over the world? Why does Synder insist on Amy Adam’s Lois Lane being the emotional crux of this universe just to give her something to do even though she’s terrible? Why did Joss Whedon of Marvel fame decide to get involved in this mess and change the already awfully dark color pallet to an even more off-putting colorful one?

We learn next to nothing regarding the new characters introduced to the universe, particularly Ezra Miller’s Flash and Jason Momoa’s Aquaman. Miller’s Flash is an encapsulation of millennial stereotypes, and is unfunny and annoying throughout. Despite his impressive physique and stature, Jason Momoa lacks any sort of screen presence, and Aquaman’s rebellious surfer-dude demeanor feels out of place entirely. Henry Cavill somewhat suffers the same fate as Momoa’s Aquaman, and it’s clear Synder and the filmmakers don’t have a clear understanding of the Superman mythos. Even Ben Affleck, whose older and battle-worn Batman/ Bruce Wayne is a welcome change for the character, seems disinterested, and turning him and Jeremy Iron’s Alfred into wise crackers feels out of sync.

It’s only Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and Ray Fisher’s Cyborg who get anything out of what clearly was a heavily re-edited script to fit everything into one film instead of making a two part film and to ensure a run time of under two hours. Gadot’s Wonder Woman continues to be the only beacon of hope in an otherwise lost universe, but even she can’t save the movie. Ray Fisher definitely commands the screen whenever he’s on and his brooding makes for an interesting backstory, but it’s all cut short instead of being explored further so we can get back to a hacked to the bone film that lacks any sort of substance.

There are moments where Justice League does deliver, particularly when you can actually see the action clearly. The final sequences continues the DC tradition of CGI infested climaxes, but I’d be lying if I said my inner 10 year-old didn’t admire all of the classic DC heroes posing in their action shots while doing battle with the insignificant flies that were the Parademons. But for a film that was so supposed to be an epic team-up and a response to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Justice League felt like a throwaway obligation instead of an epic, universe building answer to The Avengers. If anything, the film is a processed version of that superior film, and tries to mimic Marvel to the point that its during and after the credits scenes feel like cheap imitators threatening us with more bad movies rather than significant, anticipated reveals.

Justice League is yet another chore in the DC Extended Universe that seems to be our punishment for enjoying the gluttony of great comic book movies Marvel has released for nearly the last decade or so. It’s a soulless bore that could’ve been something great had it not been altered due to its predecessor’s failures and to resemble an already far better product. In the end, Justice League not only fails to do its source material and universe justice, it should be categorized as something no fan would want its beloved source material to be: an injustice.

Rating: 2/4 Stars. Rent it.

Justice League stars Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J.K. Simmons, Amber Heard, Billy Crudup, and Ciarán Hinds. It is in theaters November 17th.

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Bro-Reviews: Wonder Woman

Wait… DC made a good movie?

The DC Extended Universe, created by Warner Bros. to rival Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe, has yielded less than stellar results since it began in 2013. Man of Steel received lukewarm reception at best, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice was an incoherent hindenburgian catastrophe of epic proportions, and Suicide Squad, while marginally better than Batman V. Superman, was a dumpster fire. However, a beacon of hope emerged with the release of trailers for DC’s latest attempt at catching-up with Marvel, Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman was the best aspect of the otherwise abysmal Batman V. Superman, but many including myself took pause with how good the trailers looked considering how we got suckered into thinking Suicide Squad would save the DC Extended Universe after Batman V. Superman. We asked ourselves, would Wonder Woman leave us with the same bad taste in our mouths as the other DC Extended Universe films did?

Wonder Woman stars Gal Gadot as Dianna, Princess of of the Themyscira, an Amazonian woman who trains to become the greatest warrior her people have ever seen much to the displeasure of her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielson). After British spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) washes ashore on the island and reveals the war to end all wars, World War I, is occurring, Diana believes it is the work of the God of War, Ares. Diana takes it upon herself to accompany Steve Trevor back to the Western Front in an effort end the war, which she believes will not only save the world, but mankind as well.

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As stated earlier, Gal Gadot’s turn as the Amazonian warrior princess was the one facet of Batman V. Superman that was done well, and she continues to prove she is a perfect fit for the character despite the initial backlash to her casting as Wonder Woman. Gadot gives the character a level of depth not even the iconic Lynda Carter could provide when she portrayed the character from 1975-1979 on television. Diana at first is naïve to the overall depressingly disappointing world, and seeing her realize all of humanity can be corrupted and be just plain evil is something we’ve seen done before. However, there’s something refreshing about Gadot’s strong female presence and her progression through overcoming her naiveté that she portrays expertly. And while some may have worried about the comedic fish-out-of-water scenes in the trailers, while a bit overlong, they do work well here, also proving Gadot has comedic acting-chops as well.

Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor is also a nice touch to the film, as his charisma and comedic timing also gives the film some much needed lightheartedness that was lacking in Man of Steel, Batman V. Superman, and Suicide Squad. He’s essentially a World War I incarnation of his famous role of Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek, but it works well within the confines of the film/ universe. As for the villains in the film (*without spoiling anything*), although Danny Hutson’s General Erich Ludenroff and Elena Anaya’s Doctor Poison of the German Army are disposable, they get the job done only to make way for the real villain at the climax of the film.

The action sequences of the film are also quite thrilling, including a battle sequence on Themyscira in which Diana and the rest of the Amazonian army battle the German Army. Although there’s a bit of overkill with the use of slow-motion and stylized action, these women kick-butt and provide for one of the best action scenes in the film. The sequence where Diana springs into action on the Western Front is also as exhilarating  as it looked in the trailer, and the unique setting of World War I ups the ante in terms of the danger Diana and the rest of the good guys are facing. However, the final battle sequence, while filmed better than the ones in Batman V. Superman and Suicide Squad, is a glorified fireworks show. The added twist in the battle doesn’t help matters either, and for some reason DC just can’t help themselves in these sequences and go to town on the use of CGI and special effects to make the last battle stick out like a sore thumb.

While one can’t help but compare this film to its incompetent predecessors and mark it as a step in the right direction for the DC Extended Universe, Wonder Woman is a good enough movie to stand on its own merits. And something that needs to be highlighted is the fact that DC made the first well-done superhero movie with a female heroine, a feat that not even Marvel can say they’ve accomplished yet. It’s a welcome change in the superhero movie genre, and proves women are just as good if not better heroes as the male ones that have been done to death for nearly 20 years.

Wonder Woman is a victory for the DC Extended Universe, and somehow they’ve managed to prove they can indeed make a coherent, capable, and electrifying superhero film. While I wouldn’t get my hopes up for Justice League just yet, Wonder Woman, while flawed, is a trailblazing, sensational superhero film.

Rating: 3/4 Stars. Pay Full Price.