Tag: Superhero

Justice League review

Director: Zack Snyder

Writers: Chris Terrio, Joss Whedon

Cast: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Mamoa, Henry Cavill, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Ciaran Hinds

Released: November 17, 2017

Justice-League-SDCC-Poster

Warning: Spoilers for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League

The DC Extended Universe (DCEU) hasn’t had an easy time. While I consider Man of Steel to be decent, it’s far from the great movie that this cinematic universe needed to start with. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a clear attempt to get to the hyped up Justice League movie as quickly as possible and sacrificed a lot of its potential along the way, even with the also hyped director’s cut that added some context to scenes but still had too many flaws for its own good. Suicide Squad is a dumpster fire Guardians of the Galaxy ripoff and one of the worst DC films ever. Then Wonder Woman came earlier this year and it was so good it looked like Warner Bros. had finally learned from their mistakes and the DCEU could fully realize its ambitions. Now we have Justice League and it feels like they threw the baby out with the bathwater.

Justice League directly continues off from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, with the world and Batman still reeling from the death of Superman. To make matters worse, an alien invasion led by the conqueror Steppenwolf is on the horizon that threatens all life on Earth, causing Batman and Wonder Woman to find the world’s greatest heroes so that they can join up and save the world, but they need Superman’s help and have to find a way to bring him back.

Justice League is the most meh and disposable movie I’ve seen this year. Let’s just get it out of the way and mention the notoriously troubled production and discussed reshoots because the movie actively suffers because of them. The scenes that Zack Snyder directed and Joss Whedon reshot can be clearly told apart and never mesh together into a coherent whole. The worst part being the CGI on Henry Cavill’s moustache. Maybe others didn’t notice, but to me it stuck out like a sore thumb. That and scenes of humor that were clearly put in at the absolute last minute by Whedon to bring some humor to the film make the whole thing feel chopped up and stitched together. Some of them are genuinely funny and fit in the rest of the movie fine, but others just don’t work.

The characters and plot are nothing to write home about. The main villain Steppenwolf needs three cubes called the “Mother Boxes” so that he can terraform Earth into a hellish wasteland like his own planet Apokolips is. He’s the most generic comic book movie villain ever, both in motivation and visual design. The heroes fare better, but the character arcs of the newcomers suffer from the lack of solo movies to establish them. Origin stories are just mentioned in passing without being shown, not even in flashbacks. We’re just told for example, how Flash got his powers and the accident Cyborg was in, and that Aquaman was abandoned by his mother at birth. These stories would’ve been really interesting to see, especially in their own movies that would’ve helped flesh out this cinematic universe. The characters that work best are the ones who’ve had their own movies, those being Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. However, even those three are questionably handled since Batman talks about Superman like he was best friends with him (even though he tried to straight up murder Superman out of paranoia in BvS), and is never called out for his callous disregard of life in that same movie. Also, for all that Superman is spoken about as a beacon of hope for the world that inspired people to do good, he was feared and reviled by at least 50% of the world in BvS, and people only came around his way when he sacrificed himself at the end of that movie. It’s possible that’s what they were referring to, but I don’t think it was.

All this said, I do have good things to say. The movie is smart enough not to let Batman off the hook for trying to kill Superman, and multiple characters call him out for being so cruel to him in BvS. On a spectacle level there are some pretty good action scenes. The ones that stood out to me are the scenes with the Amazons in Themiscyria when Steppenwolf arrives, and when Superman finally returns from the dead and the rest of the Justice League has to get some sense back into him. It shows off just how powerful Superman really is, and he has some great moments with The Flash that I’m not going to spoil. For the music they bring back Danny Elfman’s Batman and John Williams’s Superman themes. Pandering? Yes. Awesome? Also yes. The actors and actresses for the most part do a really good job with the material they’re given. Henry Cavill feels like the Superman fans know and love after two movies of Snyder’s more brooding portrayal, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is still the best part of the DCEU, Affleck makes the best film Batman in terms of faithfulness to the comics, Ezra Miller is really entertaining as Barry Allen/The Flash, Jason Mamoa as Aquaman is clearly having a blast, and as much as I rag on Steppenwolf, Ciaran Hinds’s voice acting is very good. The one actor I didn’t like was Ray Fisher. He was just so boring as Cyborg, a character who I don’t even think fits as a Justice League member to begin with. He was dull and felt like he wanted to be somewhere else the whole movie. Cyborg’s awful design and CGI didn’t help at all, looking like he came from Michael Bay’s Transformers movies. Other than him though I thought the special effects were fine, and whenever The Flash uses his super speed you got a good sense of just how insanely fast he was really going. Lastly, if you do go see this movie, the mid-credits and end credits scenes provide some nice fanservice to go crazy over. As dull as the movie usually is, there are some truly outstanding moments in between the long stretches of averageness, but it never manages to take those moments and run with them.

I’m coming down hard on this movie because you can see the glimpses of potential that it has, but never fully realizes. Unless a cut of the movie that realizes Snyder’s original vision is released, we’ll never know what the movie was originally going to be like and if it was better or even worse than what we’ve gotten. I love these characters and wanted Justice League to be the epic super hero blockbuster that it deserved to be, but as it stands now it’s just a lower tier meh. Go see Thor: Ragnarok instead, or buy and watch the animated Justice League cartoon series that aired on Cartoon Network in the early 2000’s.

Score: 4/10

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Spider-Man Homecoming review

Director: Jon Watts

Writers: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers

Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Zendaya, Laura Harrier, Robert Downey Jr., Marissa Tomei

Released: July 7, 2017spiderman-homecoming-highwaysignposter

Spider-Man Homecoming is in most ways the Spider-Man movie fans have been waiting for since the first Sam Raimi film in 2002. It captures the comic book feel, the awkward nerd Peter Parker and the cocky hero Spider-Man and standing on its own for the most part while still feeling like a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After the large scale blockbusters of Captain America: Civil War and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, this Marvel movie is refreshingly much more small scale, with the stakes being more personal than involving entire countries or even the whole galaxy. I’d even go as far to call it “blue collar”, and that’s not an insult in any way. Spider-Man is a working class hero with even a working class villain. It’s just about a high school student from Queens fighting basically a high tech bank robber.

Homecoming thankfully decides not to retell the origin of Spider-Man, since it’s already been told in the first Raimi film and The Amazing Spider-Man in 2013. It’s instead set just a little while after Captain America: Civil War, where Peter Parker is trying to impress Tony Stark so he can become part of The Avengers. The main antagonist is The Vulture, played by Michael Keaton who leads a group of robbers trying to earn a living. At the same time Peter has to juggle his school life and personal crush on Liz Allen. Homecoming has the tone of a lighthearted high school comedy, with homages to movies such as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Breakfast Club. This also sort of works against it as at 2 hours and 13 minutes long, Homecoming’s pacing includes a couple of filler moments that don’t feel necessary. Now, filler moments in movies, books, anime etc. can be a chance to give characters some breathing time and show more of their humanity. And to Homecoming’s credit its slower scenes some of the time do just that. But, there are others that feel you can do without, and would’ve been better if they added more emotion to the film. For example, Uncle Ben isn’t mentioned a single time in Homecoming. Not once. Now as I said before skipping the origin story was a good idea, but not even mentioning him feels like a step too far. It would’ve been completely reasonable for a teen who just lost his father figure mere months ago like Peter to perhaps visit his grave, forlorn after making a mistake. Overall, it wasn’t necessary to just completely sidestep the “Uncle Ben issue” altogether, as it also makes Aunt May’s completely light hearted attitude a bit out of place.

For anyone wondering how he does, Tom Holland is great in the starring role. While Andrew Garfield will always be my favorite film Spider-Man, Holland manages to be the first to capture both the awkward nerd of Peter Parker, and the confident trash talking web-slinger Spider-Man. If Civil War was a great first impression, Homecoming manages to stick the landing and live up to that promise shown. Peter is always very sympathetic, flawed, and admirable throughout the film. His drive to prove himself as a hero leads him to making some irresponsible decisions and utterly screwing up, but he suffers the consequences of his decisions and strives to not make the same mistakes again. He’s already learned the lesson of being responsible, but the movie is about that lesson sticking and Peter interpreting it correctly.

But a hero is only as strong as their villain, and one of the MCU’s biggest flaws has been its weak villains. Homecoming manages not to fall prey to that trap, and in fact has probably the MCU’s strongest villain in Michael Keaton’s The Vulture. The film in fact begins with the origin of The Vulture, where we see what drove him into crime. He was once a normal working man who got screwed by forces beyond his control. He’s a criminal because he wants his family to be financially secure, can’t bear to let them find out his secret life, and even has a code of morals that make you almost forget he’s the bad guy. Key word being almost, as easily Homecoming’s most tense, nail biting scene comes from a confrontation between Vulture and Spider-Man in the movie’s third act. Seriously, it’s the kind of scene you go to movies to witness. Unfortunately, Homecoming’s side characters are not as strong. Marissa Tomei as Aunt May has very little going for her and I still think she’s too young to be Aunt May, and Peter’s best friend Ned really got on my nerves early in the movie, but looking back this might have been intentional on the movie’s part. He later becomes much better and actually proves to be a valuable partner to Peter regardless. Love interest Liz Allen is also rather unremarkable until around later in the movie, and it has less to do with her and more the people around her. Lastly on a more positive note, Tony Stark has a very small part in the movie despite the marketing suggesting otherwise. He’s in it for ten minutes at most and doesn’t outlast his welcome.

Homecoming as a smaller scale Marvel movie, doesn’t have the grand action sequences like the more epic Marvel movies do, but this only serves to further the movie’s down to earth feel. Everything is well shot, directed, with some nice special effects but it never gets too big or grandstanding. The only parts that really clash with this are some of Peter’s high tech gadgetry loaned to him by Tony Stark which he got during Civil War. When the movie’s action and heart really shined was when Peter can no longer rely on those tools, and must simply use his wits and pure determination to win. They all range from good to very good, but I don’t think they quite reach greatness.

Where does this Spider-Man movie rank for me on my personal list? It’s above the Raimi trilogy and The Amazing Spider Man 2, but I still rank the first The Amazing Spider-Man movie as higher for better pacing, more exciting action scenes, cast, side characters, romance between Peter and Gwen Stacy, and of course Andrew Garfield’s performance as the web slinger, even if his portrayal of Peter Parker had holes. I know some people reading that paragraph might be surprised or even disgusted that I like the reboot film from 2012 the most, and at some point in the future, I intend to do a retrospective series of reviews of every Spider-Man movie save for this one to fully give my thoughts on the movies.

On that note all end with saying Spider-Man Homecoming is good, in fact it’s one of the MCU’s better movies flaws and all. It’s not the best superhero or even Marvel movie released so far this year, in fact I think Logan, Wonder Woman, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 have it beat in terms of humanity and risk taking, it’s still a movie worth your time.