“I’m Putting Together A Team Of People With Special Abilities. I Believe Enemies Are Coming…”
Whilst it may seem that we are now in a world where every month bears witness to oh yet another superhero blockbuster, with Thor: Ragnarok still making significant moves at the box office, the release of Justice League is a particularly interesting beast. With the DC Universe already significantly tarnished to say the least thanks to the likes of Suicide Squad and Batman V. Superman, the release of Wonder Woman earlier this year proved that the series was somewhat heading in the right direction, and whilst the DC universe seems to always be playing catchup to Marvel’s respective ongoing movie franchise, Justice League seems to be the real kicker in deciding the future success of the series as was The Avengers for Marvel, a film whose successes led the chance to delve deeper into the more subversive characters within Marvel’s respective comic history. Helmed once again by long-term DC collaborator, Zack Snyder and overseen for completion by the steady hand of Marvel aficionado, Joss Whedon, Justice League forges together characters both old and new in a popcorn laced team-up tackling the threat of Ciarán Hinds’ Steppenwolf, and whilst one would have hoped the latest addition to DCEU would follow the success of Patty Jenkins’ work on Wonder Woman, Justice League is an unfortunate giant explosive leap in the wrong direction, one which seems to not have learnt at all from the failings of its’ predecessors and that alone makes Snyder’s latest an agonisingly painful botch-job experience of the highest order.
With Superman gone and the world in mourning, Ben Affleck’s grizzy Bruce Wayne seeks to bring together a team of highly skilled superheroes in a bid to defeat the threat of the wholly uninteresting and lifeless Steppenwolf, who like every CGI-based villain in cinematic history, seeks to bring Earth under his apocalyptic control. Adding to the eclectic cast of characters therefore, Justice League brings Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa and Ray Fisher into the fold as The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg respectively, and whilst it is cheap and easy to compare the DCEU with the MCU everytime either has a new release, Justice League fails on a fundamental level of not having even the slightest of backstory for any of its’ leading characters before mangling them all together, resulting in a complete absence of empathy or willingness for them to succeed in their battle against evil. This of course is down primarily to the heavy handed approach of Warner Bros’ willingness to spurt out the next release as quickly as possible and completely disregard the Marvel approach of taking adequate time in developing its’ leading stars before mixing them into the bigger picture with Justice League just the icing on the cake for a universe which, aside from Wonder Woman, will be tarnished with a reputation of being the laziest big budget franchise in the history of cinema. Harsh you say? Not at all, with Justice League the type of movie which makes Suicide Squad look like The Dark Knight, with obvious weaknesses presenting them all over the place ranging from a non-existent storyline to cringe-laden chemistry between the titular team of indestructible heroes who come together simply for reasons of monetary incentives.
With a villain in the form of the poorly digitally designed Steppenwolf, a character who ironically does somewhat improve on the blood curdling awfulness of Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, Justice League’s main antagonist is the epitome of the film’s issues, with heavy plot exposition acting as the character’s only limited development for a villain who too often resorts to Viking-esque growling and cliched fight scenes to come across as anything other as sleep-inducingly dull, and for a character who seems to strike fear into the heart of many of the film’s heroic protagonists, it comes at no surprise that Snyder has once again forged a wholly forgettable leading threat which at not one point manages to match the scale of even the most camp carnival esque qualities of DC’s wacky TV show, Gotham. With too many characters and not enough script for anyone to expand out of their 2D, cardboard box cutout performances, Justice League ultimately wastes its’ extensively impressive cast, with the likes of J.K. Simmons, Jeremy Irons and the outstanding qualities of Amy Adams simply being resorted to window dressing in favour of the likes of Ray Fisher and the inevitable return of Henry Cavill who are simply not good enough in their respective superhero roles. Justice League is seethingly awful, and for a movie which features the worldwide branding of Batman and Wonder Woman, Snyder’s movie is a farce of the highest order and one which laughs in the face of its’ fans by utilising beloved characters simply for reasons of box office projections, and with not enough redeemable aspects in sight, Justice League is the movie which I would think puts the DCEU finally to bed. Thank god for Patty Jenkins.
Overall Score: 2/10
“You Have Been My Greatest Love. Be Careful, Diana. They Do Not Deserve You…”
Whilst many audiences could be forgiven for experiencing a somewhat turgid time at the cinema within the summer period, suffering from a duo hit of remakes and sequels amidst an air of superhero fatigue, particularly within a year in which the two major forces in the form of DC and Marvel Comics are warring face to face in a contest which rivals the Battle of Helms Deep for sheer epic eventfulness, with more films than ever being released which focus on big-screen adaptations of everyone’s favourite literary heroes. Whilst Marvel waits on hold for the time being, with Spider-Man: Homecoming set for release next month, the ball is currently in DC’s court this week with the release of Wonder Woman, the fourth entry in the so-far much maligned DC Universe, but more importantly, the first real big-screen adaptation of the Amazonian Queen and the first superhero film since Elektra to be solely focused on a leading female character. Adding to the winning formula, Patty Jenkins, director of the Oscar winning serial killer drama Monster, takes the lead of a movie which holds so much in attempting to add a sense of integrity into a franchise which has been slowly dwindling in the shadow of Marvel’s many successes. Thankfully, Wonder Woman is indeed a winning return to form for DC, taking a brilliantly cast leading star and working with a script which adds an element of fun and adventure back into a series which has been sinking into the shallow depths of despair.
Whilst her introduction within the mighty mess of Batman V. Superman was overly rushed and ineffective, Wonder Woman perfectly crafts a backstory for a character who to most audiences may be completely alien, with WW possibly being the first time understanding the nature and background of such an infamous leading comic character. With Gal Gadot in the leading role, the DC Universe has finally hit the first mark in terms of casting, putting to shame recent debacles such as Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luther and Jared Leto’s overly wasted Joker, with her physical ability and enviable natural screen presence adding organic depth to a character who is represented more than adequately in Gadot’s shoes. Pairing up with the always reliable Chris Pine, the narrative does reek somewhat of similarity at times however, using the first half of the movie to generate backstory whilst using the latter as a chance to once again conclude with a staggeringly dull CGI boss battle, yet the comedic element which rips throughout the dialogue is effective enough to combat a two hour plus running length, a decision perhaps primarily based upon Marvel’s successes in mixing action, drama and comedy within most of their many releases. If Wonder Woman is the direction in which the DC Universe is heading, sign me up for more, and whilst Jenkins doesn’t really offer anything particularly new to the superhero scene, the brilliance of Gadot in the leading role is the best thing DC has done since Nolan was around. No, it’s not The Dark Knight by a long shot, but Wonder Woman is still a success.
Overall Score: 7/10
“Seriously, What The Hell Is Wrong With You People…?”
Whilst we bask in the sweltering heat of the British summer, where anything over 10 degrees celsius encourages everyone to take their tops off and bathe in layers upon layers of sun protector, there still remains the favoured few who would much rather sink into the dark, cool surroundings of the cinema and escape into the minds of filmmakers for two hours or so, away from the pain-inducing sight of the sun and away from the sweaty masses of the general public and vast displays of chest hair. Anyhow, with Batman v Superman still sitting in my mind as perhaps one of the biggest cinematic comic flops of recent years (Fantastic Four included) the DC Extended Universe rolls on and this week gives us the hotly anticipated Suicide Squad, yeah, that’s right, that film with the strange looking Joker and the one that has been plastered on every single screen for about two months continuously in some Nazi-esque propaganda fashion in order to not allow us to go without seeing some form of advertisement for at least 24 hours. With Batman v Superman still ringing through my mind like a hot poker, surely Suicide Squad is exceedingly better? Well, sort of, but not much, with Suicide Squad being a much more enjoyable experience in some sense but one that still contains a rafter of issues, some of which bear similarities to Batman v Superman and some that are brought upon itself from the latest offering of DC live-action mehness.
If you’re finely tuned into the world of comics, surely everyone is aware of the notion of the Suicide Squad in some form or the other. Although not strictly a fan of the literature form of such, I was first introduced to the team within Arrow in which we see one of the first live-action portrayals in one measly episode which gave the run-down on what the SS do and simply, how they do it. Now hitting the big time, the first major live-action display of the SS has been helmed by David Ayer, writer of the Oscar winning Training Day and director of movies such as End of Watch and Fury. So in terms of directorial choice, you would think Ayer would be the correct choice; a director attributed to dark, nihilistic action movies with a knack of not being swayed by the aspect of the twisted sense of togetherness of a team through sins of violence and crime, yet too many times through the film it felt as if we were back in the land of Zak Snyder. Limited characterisation followed by action set pieces with unbelievably cringey dialogue and a final act in which laughable CGI is meant to make the film include some sense of epic conclusion. Does it work? Not at all, yet the fault cannot be left solely at the feet of Ayer, with studio interference surely playing a part somehow. I mean a film this messy cannot be made without prodding and poking from a range of different areas, no more so than those throwing the money at it in order to see it succeed in one way or another.
So we’ve established problems with Suicide Squad that have been seen in previous DC Universe entries, yet one major problem that was extremely evident that I cannot say to have seen before is the unforgivable crass nature of the treatment of Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn in the movie. Although Robbie herself is one of the few saving graces of the movie, with her kooky, crazy and yet sympathetic portrayal giving the first cinematic appearance of the character some form of justice, the way in which she is portrayed and wooed upon through costume design and camera angles is downright creepy. I can understand that the fundamentals of the character within the comics is one of a femme fetale nature, but to portray her in this fashion is just wrong on so many levels. Adding to the displeasure of the film is Jared Leto’s Joker, a character in which had so much exposure over the films’ tiresome advertisement campaign and then ultimately is in the film no more than five minutes, a decision so utterly stupid giving how much anticipation there was for the character that you don’t even get a full sense of Leto’s portrayal. Because of which, the jury is out when it comes to Leto. Who knows, if we get more than 5 minutes with him next time maybe he will be the definitive Joker? Doubt it.
Overall, Suicide Squad is a slightly more enjoyable DC flick than Batman v Superman, but one that still has a wide range of problems inherent in the extended universe so far. Although Robbie is the standout, Smith also gives a good interpretation of Floyd Lawton/Deadshot, yet acting talent alone cannot prevent Suicide Squad from being yet another achingly poor showing from Warner Bros. With a soundtrack so bipolar following throughout and a sense of absence when it comes to a directorial stamping, Suicide Squad may indeed do well at the box office like its’ predecessors, but it still isn’t the film I, and probably many others, were indeed looking for. Marvel, it’s your batting next. Cumberbatch is calling.
Overall Score: 4/10
After the ridiculous amount of cash Marvel’s Deadpool has taken since it’s release date all the way back in February, the world’s fixation on live-action comic book blockbusters clearly has hit an all-time high with it being only a mere month before the release of the latest superhero cash-cow, DC’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a film which not only has a hell lot of future investment riding on it, with it essentially being a stepping stone for the creation of the DC Universe in which films like Wonder Woman and Justice League can exist, but also suffers fundamentally from an extreme amount of hype and expectation deriding not only from hardcore fans but from the head executives at Warner who know if Dawn of Justice goes down the pan, the optimistic future, one in which is obviously a frivolous attempt at rivalling the overly addictive and highly successful Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, may start to look as dark and murky as the colour palette that embraces Zak Snyder’s behemoth of a blockbuster. With The Dark Knight trilogy’s Christopher Nolan to help him out, Snyder clearly had the blueprint of Man of Steel to follow on from with Dawn of Justice yet the sad and underlying truth of Dawn of Justice brings with it a deep sense of disappointment, with Batman v Superman being a incoherent and bloated CGI-fuelled mess, something of which doesn’t come across as the tent-pole of the future it was indeed meant to become.
Let’s start with the good shall we? The set-up of the underlying plot behind Dawn of Justice, one in which the ambiguity of Superman’s capabilities forces Batman to engage in means to stop him, urged by the Iago-esque doings of Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor and the chaos that occurred during the final act of Man of Steel in which Metropolis was well and truly given a hammering by our Krypton visitors, is definitely an interesting concept, one which gets to introduce the newest incarnation of Batman, with Ben Affleck’s take on the caped crusader being a riveting success. Where Affleck succeeds is unfortunately where Cavill fails, with his performance as Clark Kent being one of dire and utter dullness. Wet fish anyone? Cavill aside, Dawn of Justice only lessens in quality throughout it’s 150 minute run-time, a run-time which in itself results in a film bloated with extreme plot lines, plot lines that either make no sense whatsoever, with endless dream sequences set to leave many scratching their heads, or plot lines that seem to be there only for dramatic effect rather than any real purpose or meaning, with the scene in which Lois Lane discards and then attempts to get back the Kryptonite spear being rife with utter stupidity to say the least.
Where Man of Steel eventually began to lose steam was indeed during it’s final climactic act, one in which attempted to use as much CGI as possible in order to come across as epic but ultimately resulted in a 40 minute period of intense boredom and brain-melting digital effects. Well if Man of Steel was painful to watch at times, that has nothing on Dawn of Justice, a film so reliant on CGI effects to portray its’ action, you simply beg for for George Miller to come in and beg for proper real-life thrills, thrills that were evident within Nolan’s The Dark Night trilogy yet remain completely absent throughout the entirety of Snyder’s snooze-fest. When we finally arrive at the titular battle at around the two-hour mark, its’ sheer laziness and sleep-inducing reliance on CGI is just poor and wholly underwhelming. Oh yeah, and we then have an extra 30 minute fight scene featuring a CGI monster. Wow. What else is poor? Wonder Woman is on-screen for all of 5 minutes, whilst both Jeremy Irons and Diane Lane are criminally underused, yet the real crime is the sense of Nolan having no say on this film whatsoever as producer and the film being controlled completely by the effects ridden mind of Snyder, a man who simply cannot continue as the spearhead of DC’s project of the future. Batman v Superman is not exactly Fantastic Four, it just seems like it is for now, with the heavy sense of disappointment leaving me with a strange sense of pessimism regarding the future of live-action DC movies, a genre which still has the credence to declare The Dark Knight as the best of the best. As for Marvel, they are most definitely still in control. Let’s see what Captain America: Civil War brings. Excellence, I can only hope.
Dan’s Score: 4/10
So we know Dan hated it. I however felt it lived up to my very minimal expectations. I really enjoyed Man of Steel but Zak Snyder is as constant as a broken clock and he really did a number on this one. So let’s rattle off what is good about BvS. Firstly, Batfleck. His structure, costume and general portrayal was one of the more true to life Batmen that I’ve personally seen and he doesn’t sound like he needs a lozenge and some honey tea (Apart from the laughable bat scene). Gal Gadot was a brilliant Wonder Woman, albeit for only a short period, and she really did kick ass with her costume really being on point, unlike her back story, which wasn’t so much whilst, as we are all aware, Doomsday makes an appearance, one that is once again fantastic one that looked pretty damn good. I could sit here and rattle off a few more characters and names of those I’ve enjoyed as there is very little else that really made the movie. Sure, the action was good but the story was a mess of comic book Meta with events that are left unexplained and severely confusing for those out of the loop.
For instance (COMIC BOOK SPOILERS AHEAD), we know that Robin is dead, killed by the Joker. Or so we thought. The reality is that the recent Arkham Knight game reveals all and its’ main villain is actually Robin himself who felt betrayed by Batman and seeks revenge. So his appearance bursting out of a screen in a dream sequence in a costume that looks like Red Hood/Arkham Knight was jarring to say the least (Turns out it was The Flash for some fucking bizarre and ridiculous reason but I preferred my view). Everyone knows of the Joker and a lot may know of the Injustice series. The fighting game illustrates this series well as the Joker blows up Metropolis with a nuclear bomb killing many of the Justice League and Lois Lane. Superman goes ape shit and takes over the world and puts it under martial law while Batman leads a resistance against him, thus explaining the desert scene and all of the crazy costumes and military tech. Without rattling on more, you see that Zack isn’t looking at the typical consumer. He was targeting the followers of the comics which in a way is great but financially, is not viable and still requires prior knowledge to a film that is launching a new series.
As a general consumer, what else are the issues? My biggest gripe sits with Hans Zimmer. A fantastic composer who has done some astonishing pieces of work but his work on BvS was awful. It felt like cheese was leaking from the speakers, with a corny guitar rift ruining the atmosphere of what should have been an incredibly tense and violent action sequence. Visually, the movie was alright, Doomsday looked bad-ass and his special effects were pretty good but Batman’s movements didn’t look human in the slightest and looked more like Spider-man with a permanent blur across him whenever he had to make any semblance of haste. Also, why does have to approach people in desperate need of help in an overly dramatic and incredibly slow fashion? Alright, Clark. Pack it in you prick. This house is about to float down the river. I can’t quite understand the need to constantly portray yourself as a god but complain when people see you as just that. But Clarky boy has nothing on the particularly annoying Lex Luthor. Sure, it may have been a decent performance but I’d like to clarify that I don’t ever remember seeing Lex Luthor act so bizarre. Perhaps he was doing his best impression of the Riddler and was trying to reinvent himself as a clown without make-up. The sharp, slick and calculated psychopath that I remember has become a crazy Joker goon with incoherent babbling at the top of his agenda.
Thus we come to the story; A convoluted mess with links so frail, a fart from the most petite of butterflies would send them careening through the museum of very expensive, fragile artefacts of a long lost world with the discretion of Russia in the Ukraine. Think of it as an origin movie. Something to whet the appetite for the future stories within the universe and yes, it does set that ground well but for 150 minutes, it sure did drag on. I look forward to seeing Jason Mamoa tackle Aquaman and finally (hopefully) give the character justice for the years of ridicule and watching Gal Gadot’s take on Wonder Women in what will be a very important milestone in her career. Not to say I didn’t enjoy it, it was a fun movie and hopefully it’s just a minor hiccup that will give the next instalment a bump in motivation to produce a better, more flowing piece. But this is Snyder, so piss in a bucket and call it Granny’s peach tea for all he cares.
PS – If anyone has that damn sexy note the Batmobile makes I want it now. Kthxbye.