Saturday, 18 November 2017

#90, #91, #92: JUSTICE LEAGUE



Starring: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Ezra Miler, Henry Cavill, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, ConnieNielsen, J.K. Simmons and Ciarán Hinds. Written by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon from a story by Chris Terrio and Zack Snyder. Directed by Zack Snyder and a little help for Joss Whedon. Budget $300 million. Running time 120 minutes.

"That wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be." - movie punter after leaving preview.

Good news everybody! This wasn't as terrible as Batman vs Superman, or Man of Steel or Suicide Squad! Although admittedly it wasn't as good as Wonder Woman. Or Thor: Ragnarok - but then it's not fair to compare DC movies to Marvel ones, so I won't mention Captain America: Winter Solider, Civil War or Guardians of the Galaxy.

Maybe I should end the review there?

Doing away with the need of having one of the dreary plots that so drag down modern films these days, Zack and the gang wisely opt for just throwing 120 minutes worth of incidents at us in rapid succession in the hope that we don't notice this film has less depth than a saucer's worth of spilt tea.

The 'story' sees Batman - Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) putting together a band to fight against Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) in an upcoming 'Battle of the Bands' tournament to be held in a disused Russian nuclear power station. Off Bats goes traveling the world and recruiting newbies Flash (Ezra Miler), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and Aqua Man (Jason Momoa) to join him and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) before literally resurrecting Superman's career just in time for the final showdown against Stephenwolf and His Flying Beetles. And that's the 'plot'. Indeed it's basically the trailer but stretched out for an additional 117 minutes. Oh plus two of those unbiquitous post credits stings, if you're counting.

This film had a troubled production, it's original director and co writer Zach Synder had to leave the project due to personal tragedy leading to Joss Wheddon to step in to finish the film, it's rumoured that he shot approximately 15 - 20% of the film, so this is still primarily a Zach Synder film. Joss can be credited with helping Marvel to cement it's cinematic approach and is responsible for writing and directing the first Avengers movie. He's also credited with co-writing the screenplay on this and it's safe to guess that he's the man responsible for injecting the much needed humour into Justice League. Zach Synder in comparison is the 'creative genius' behind Batman Vs Superman and Superman: Man of Steel, two of the most crushingly tedious and poe-faced superhero dirges ever made, indeed it's him who single handedly hamstrung the DC Universe by making the films laughter free zones in the first place. A quality that Marvel realised early on is needed if you're going to make a film about groups of people in outlandish costumes hitting other groups of garishly dressed people in the face. Zach's also the man responsible for the decision to all but do away with the use of colour. An odd choice for films featuring characters dressed in a variety of primary colours.

But enough back ground waffle is this film any good?

Well, here's the thing. It's not a terrible film, it's certainly not another Superman or Suicide Squad, indeed it's actually rather entertaining, thanks mainly to the casting of the League who are all great choices, and this film remains entertaining right up until the arrival of the third act and the huge elephant in the room, Steven Wolf. He and his utterly generic band of cannon fodder the Parademons are pointless, tedious and rubbish. That coupled with the studio's demand that the film's running time be a very brisk 120 minutes meaning they can shoe horn in an extra screening per day thus making more money, at the expense of any depth, characterisation, or back story. And certainly no time at all for any origin stories for some of these new heroes.

Steve Vulf's quest is to uncover three 'Mother' boxes hidden somewhere on the planet and combine them to create a Trinity device that will then transform the Earth into his home world and all its population into more Parademons. Luckily the three boxes have been cunning hidden to prevent Steve Wolfie from, you know, combining them. The Amazonians built a huge keep to hide theirs in and have posted an elite guard of warriors to guard it for all eternity. The Atlantans have done the same but at the bottom of the deepest ocean on the planet and the Humans, tasked with protecting the third ultimate weapon just dropped theirs in a ditch at the bottom of the garden. Stevie Wulf turns up and finds them all no problem at all, just pops right up next to them and steals them, bold as brass. In fact, so generic and bland is his 'quest' that as a result the outcome of the movie is never, not even for one iota in doubt. We know how this is going to play out, we know the beats, we know everything, we even know who's going to turn up and save the day.

It seems unfair to judge the film as a whole, far better to review it on the fun part, the 'putting the band' together part of the film and it's that part that's really entertaining. The interplay between our heroes is fun, the Flash in particular is a great laugh and there's a real sense of camaraderie between them all. There's a great scene early on that sees the League working together for the first time to rescue abducted humans from the Parademons that is the highlight of the film.

I've now seen this film twice, I have to see it once more and that'll mean I'll have seen it three times in the space of four days. As such its flaws come to light and are amplified to the Nth degree. On the first screening I was left feeling utterly ambivalent, puzzled that I didn't feel polarised by the film, I neither hated it nor loved it. The second time round I found myself niggled by plot holes, of which there are many! But it seems churlish to list them all now, but there are two that I have to flag.

1. There is a distinct lack of threat to humanity in this film, apart from three police men, a shop keeper and her son, a beggar, a strange Icelandic community and a single family living next door to the nuclear power station humanity is totally missing from this film. Surely Superheroes sole purpose is to save people?

2. What the hell is going on with this cinematic Batman? he likes to kill living beings with a variety of guns, machine guns, cannons and weapons capable of firing projectiles. Yes, a biggie really but this one really narks me. Bruce Wayne aka the Batman, whose parent's death at the hands of a gun welding mugger lead him to become the masked vigilante in the first place seems to have no aversion to using guns to kill his opponents. In fact I'd say he positively relishes the opportunity. THIS IS WRONG. Hollywood. Sort it out.

Overall, this just about does justice to its source material, or at the least isn't leagues away from doing so. It's fun and rather entertaining but sadly let down by a truly generic and boring villain. Well done for DC in not totally fucking it up. Let's hope the punters decide to give you another chance.

Still nowhere near as good as Marvel but showing signs of some improvement, hopefully not too little too late.

6/10

P.S.
Best of all there's no spinning vortex of doom! Instead, there's a sort of burrowing tentacle crystal thingie.


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