Justice League (2017) Review: An Epic Superfriend Mess

Justice League (2017) Review: An Epic Superfriend Mess

After months of rumours and reshoots and directorial replacements and CGI-shaved moustaches, Justice League is finally here. Given that comic book nerds have craved this movie for generations, it’s amazing how little fanfare surrounds the release. It’s clear everyone involved isn’t pleased with how this turned out, often even deriding the state of Warner Brothers’ hastily commissioned DC cinematic universe during promotional interviews. So it comes as no surprise to see that the movie is a mess and a disappointment. There’s a chance that Zack Snyder once had a plan for a decent Justice League movie to follow up Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman, movies that despite glaring flaws at least had a consistent style and vision. Whatever Justice League movie was once intended is lost, aside from the sweeping action scenes that were clearly worked on from the beginning of production. In between is a muddled movie that has so clearly gone through so many rewrites and so much rethinking that it barely even feels like a movie anymore. It’s more of a collection of scenes featuring iconic superheroes begging audiences to like at least a few moments so that the producers have some semblance of where to take their troubled superhero universe next. Well, what they really need to do is actually think through a DC blockbuster before shooting it. There’s an idea, huh?

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Justice League (2017) – image via Warner Brothers

I suppose there is a plot to the movie. It certainly moves as if there is a story. There’s a generic demonic villain from space searching for magic mechanical boxes that’ll make sense to people who know the Steppenwolf/Darkseid mythology from the comics but will confuse the hell out of everyone else. Regardless, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and Batman (Ben Affleck) figure out that the world is in danger around the same time. They wish they hadn’t watched Superman die in the last movie so that they can form a superteam, but fortunately old Bats kept tabs on a few other potential Superfriends. There’s Aquaman (Jason Mamoa) who is an ancient warrior or whatever. Batman finds him in a bar that conveniently has his origin story painted on the wall. So that helps. The Flash (Ezra Miller) is wisecracking kid with a costume and powers, so he’s ready to go without much pesky characterization. Cyborg (Ray Fisher) eventually finds everyone else. It’s unclear who he is as a hero or why he’s on the team, likely because he was only shoved into Justice League as a corporate decision after that Green Lantern movie failed. They don’t want to be a team at first, but Steppenwolf’s shenanigans prove that they have to be one. Ho-hum. Plus, Superman rises from the grave to unite the team, which would be a spoiler were it not for the fact that WB announced he’d be in the movie before Batman v Superman revealed that he died. Good thinking there, folks.

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Justice League (2017) – image via Warner Brothers

So, the plotting of Justice League is perfunctory at best and useless at worse. Presumably there was some sort of brooding “what does it mean to be a hero” subtext to Snyder’s initial vision for the project, but that’s long gone. In its place are a bunch of hastily compiled hero shots of characters begging you to like them enough to star in their own movies (plus Cyborg, who is just kind of there). Jason Mamoa and Ezra Miller don’t get enough screen time to show depth, but at least create amusing enough presences to suggest that they could carry a decent solo super blockbuster if anyone bothered to write them a script. Gal Gadot is predictably strong as Wonder Woman, it’s just tough to tell how much of that is the result of good will carried over from her excellent summer blockbuster since in this film she does little other than strike heroic poses. Ben Affleck seems completely disinterested as he shrugs off a series of wisecracks in search of a performance. There’s an intriguing story to be told here about his aging human hero feeling increasingly irrelevant while surrounded by a super-powered support system, but the movie is too concerned with cracking quips and one-liners to delve into it. Affleck barely feels present, which is a shame given that he was one of the best parts of the troubled Batman v Superman. Other popular DC heroes and villains pop up in cameo roles for fan service, but are barely worth discussing given that they are there purely to pander.

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Justice League (2017) – image via Warner Brothers

Is there a charm to seeing the Justice League unite on the big screen for the first time? Well sure, it’s just a shame that no one came up with a decent reason for it to happen. Without the groundwork laid in solo origin outings like there was for The Avengers, everyone feels like they are making cameos in their own movie with little to do and less to care about. It certainly doesn’t help that the movie lurches awkwardly between the bad one-liners of the initial script and crammed-in Joss Whedon-isms that feel like another movie. It’s hard to think of another blockbuster that is so clearly the result of competing directors vying for control. The Snyder stuff is either rushed or big boom-boom (which he admittedly does well), while Whedon sneaks in quips and characterizations in hastily shot scenes that often look awkwardly cheap despite this being one of the most expensive movies ever made. It’s clear that the only thing remaining from the initial vision for this movie are the action scenes and basic structure, while everything else has been reshot and rethought so many times that it barely feels like a movie and more like a feature length work of crowd-sourcing begging for positive blogs about certain scenes so that the producers know where to take the franchise in the future. Even the special effects get rough in the reshot footage that clearly didn’t get the necessary care. Cyborg’s CGI suit varies wildly in quality from scene-to-scene and Henry Cavil’s CGI moustache shave job should inspire giggles. For such a massive and expensive movie, Justice League sure can look half assed and cheap at times.

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Justice League (2017) – image via Warner Brothers

Yet, while Justice League is an absolute mess that’s filled with flaws, it’s not completely irredeemable. The core characters are too good to be devoid of interest throughout the running time and the spectacle that the effects houses had enough time to work on shine brightly on the big screen. There are moments that suggest better movies for these characters that could still be made amidst all of the rubble and failure. If nothing else, the movie panders so desperately to all the comic book fan boys and girls out there that some scenes register. There’s certainly affection for the Justice League characters on display, even if no one involved with the movie could decide on a consistent way to present them. Justice League will certainly be discussed often by superhero loving nerds in the years to come, just not necessarily in ways that Warner Brothers will be happy about.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out Phil’s take on Blade Runner 2049, Happy Death Day, and It! He also had a chance to sit down with Guillermo Del Toro. Check out his interview here!

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Is The Longer Batman V. Superman Any Better?

Is The Longer Batman V. Superman Any Better?

Oh the curious case of Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice. Intended to kick off blockbuster season in 2016 as well as an entire universe of DC superhero flicks from Warner Brothers, the bloated epic was blasted by critics and ultimately underperformed at the box office by merely getting close to $1 billion (rather than crossing that mark) at the global box office. While most fans from the outside could see the failure coming from a mile away, Warner Brothers was blindsided by the outcry and disappointment. They recently flew bloggers out to the Justice League set to prove that fun and fan reverence is still part of their grand design. Now, with the summer having barely begun, the studio has already released a longer cut of the film that is promised to fix all the problems and serve up an R-rating to capitalize on Deadpool’s naughty success. Is it a marketing gimmick or the genuine salvation of a lost Zack Snyder masterpiece (snicker, snicker)? Well, the truth is probably somewhere in between. It’s hard to imagine anyone who outright despised the theatrical version suddenly changing their tone, but those who considered it an unfairly mangled “sorta-bomb” will likely enjoy it even more.

Read moreIs The Longer Batman V. Superman Any Better?

Is Tyrese Gibson The Next Green Lantern?

Is Tyrese Gibson The Next Green Lantern?

The DC Cinematic Universe may have found their next Green Lantern.

Tyrese Gibson, star of Fast & Furious 8 sat down on Larry King Live to discuss a wide range of topics from his disgust of Donald Trump, to the lack of diversity in Hollywood, and the upcoming “Fast & Furious” sequel. One surprising topic was his potential role in Zack Snyder’s upcoming Justice League film.

After a fan-made image of Gibson as Green Lantern went viral, the Fast & Furious 8 star may have an even greater shot at the role. Gibson says that a piece of fan-art (seen below) depicting him as Green Lantern started the craze.

Is Tyrese Gibson The Next Green Lantern?

“A fan did this image of me as the Green Lantern and I was like ‘Woah, that looks cool,’ and I posted it on my Instagram and it just went crazy.” Gibson said. He went on to admit that the photo “pissed the people off a little bit at Warner Brothers because they thought that I had convinced the world that I landed the role, which I didn’t.”

After seeing himself as Green Lantern, Gibson was inspired to campaign for the role in Justice League. Gibson met the film’s studio to discuss his potential as Green Lantern in Snyder’s Justice League, set for 2020.

What The Solo Ben Affleck Batman Movie Should Be About

What The Solo Ben Affleck Batman Movie Should Be About

With Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice finally out in theatres, audiences are split on the movie and critics, well… the critics almost universally hate it. There’s no denying that the film, which contains two of the world’s most iconic superheroes, is highly flawed. From the movie’s take on Lex Luthor to the jarring and sporadic editing, the scriptwriters and director have made some interesting and strange decisions. It’s not all doom and gloom though, as there is one aspect of the film that mostly everybody agrees is easily the best part: Ben Affleck’s portrayal of a more rugged and brutal Batman.

Read moreWhat The Solo Ben Affleck Batman Movie Should Be About

300: Rise Of An Empire (Movie) Review

300: Rise Of An Empire (Movie) Review

In the ancient days of 2006, the young picture-maker Zack (son of Snyder) did see fit to honor the ancient Spartans’ homoerotic heroism. Armed with the artistically xenophobic and ultra-violent words of the sire Frank Miller, young Snyder did prove to separate the masses from their pouches of silver. An eye-tingling combination of CGI, preposterous beards, greased male bodies, and blood-spattered battle did charm the lords and maidens of the land and a hit was born. T’was thought that the tale was one-and-done, but lo’ the moneymakers at Warner Brothers did see fit to continue the saga and slay the masses with a plague of sequels. Thus, 300: Rise Of An Empire was unleashed upon this humble movie-servant’s eyes. I was pillaged by 3D limb shedding, gratuitous nudity, a wondrously campy performance from the good lady Eva Green, and needlessly grandiose dialogue like the words that flicker before your eye-holes now. The second coming of the Spartans did not prove to cleanse my soul or right my ways, but the R-rated spectacle did raise my pulse and thus I did not hate the sights I cannot unsee.

300: Rise of an Empire

So yeah, if you saw 300, you can pretty much guess what you’re getting here. Aside from some recycled footage from the first flick, Gerard Butler isn’t back and without Snyder calling the shots, the slo-mo/fast-mo action scenes are toned down considerably. Other than that, it’s more of the same (though he did write the script and it shows in all the worst ways). Our bearded, shirtless, pantless hero this time is Sullivan Stapleton, whose Australian tones fill the mouth of Themistocles Of Athens. With the Persian army still a threat, the Greek armies have united to combine their forces. They are still outnumbered of course, but they growl louder than the bad guys and grease their bodies up like pro-wrestlers, so you gotta’ love em! Sullivan’s task is to lead the Greek naval fleet into battle against the much larger Persian fleet. The evil army is led by Artemesia (Eva Green), a Greek castaway turned warrior Queen who is not only beautiful and a killing machine, but was also secretly responsible for the sexually ambiguous Persian God-king’s rise to power. There’s more plot going on than what was just described, and it’s constantly laid out in needlessly grandiose and confusingly wordy voiceover. Thankfully, it doesn’t matter much. All that matters is that you understand Frank Miller’s racially sensitive message of Greeks = good, Persians = bad and keep track of who’s who as the endless battle scenes unfold.

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First off, it has to be noted that 300: Rise Of An Empire pushes its R rating harder than any studio action film in recent memory. Director Noam Murro’s primary goal with the film seems to have been to set the Guinness World Record for most blood flung at a 3D camera. Despite the faux-profound dialogue, Murro essentially shoved any sense of historical drama self-importance aside to make a 70s exploitation movie with a 2014 Hollywood budget. When the movie hits its high points, that seems like it was a noble goal. The trouble is that as everyone who has watched their share of 70s exploitation movies knows, they are generally crap. Sure Murro stages some gorgeously disgusting violence, but the ham-fisted storytelling undercuts the gratuitous pleasures more often than not. All of the heroes are indistinguishable in personality and recognizable only by facial hair. The simple narrative feels needlessly complex thanks to clunky voiceover and needlessly stylized dialogue. Granted, these were problems with the original film as well. But at least there was strong enough narrative through-line and enough charismatic actors to make the material easy to follow/swallow. The only reason to watch this movie is for the hard-R mayhem and sadly the irritating self-serious storytelling makes that almost impossible to enjoy.

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Actually, I’m being too harsh. There is one other major pleasure beyond the violence: Eva Green. Though she’s given dialogue just as horrendous as her castmates, Green has served up a deliciously vampy female villain the likes of which is rarely seen in Hollywood and she runs with it. Green’s deliriously unhinged performance breathes life to the digitally manufactured “epic” every time she’s onscreen, and she commits fully to the role in a way that is almost hypnotic (she has one sex scene that’s shot like a fight sequence and has to be seen to be believed). If Green had a hero as compelling as her to bounce off of, 300: Rise Of An Empire might have ended up being at least as good as the original flick. Sadly, that’s not the case. This sequel is pretty mediocre in most ways, but does certainly hit some high notes whenever blood is being shed in ridiculously stylized ways, Green acts up a storm, or both. If you enjoyed 300, the flick is certainly worth a look for its gratuitous highs. However, aside from the 3D, it might be a film best enjoyed at home with a fast-forward button on hand to speed through the many rough patches. Approach with caution and under no circumstance should you consider making the film a family outing. Well, unless you want to give your children a reason to see a psychiatrist in 15 years, of course. In that case, hat’s off to ya’, family man!

Summer Movie Preview 2013

Summer Movie Preview 2013

With Iron Man 3 debuting last week to take money from your pocket on the way to earning the second biggest opening weekend gross ever, it’s safe to say that summer blockbuster season is officially upon us.

Read moreSummer Movie Preview 2013