Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Review: Justice League

This was a very nice two-hour television pilot with a lot of special effects, and a plot barely strong enough to hold the film together. If it were compared to Marvel films, I would say it was on part with Thor, the first one. This review will discuss a plot point in the review, though, I don't think I can spoil anything. In case you haven't guessed already, Superman will be coming back from the dead, and the villain will not destroy Earth--he can't, this is only the start of the franchise.

Premise: an alien threat called Steppenwolf has come to Earth after an attempt to conquer the planet in the days that time forgot. When he was driven off the planet the first time, he left three MacGuffin devices called Mother Boxes that he can use to reshape any planet to his wishes. If he gets his hands on the Mother Boxes, it's game over. Batfleck (sorry, Batman, played by Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman have to assemble the World's Mightiest Heroes (Trademark, Marvel) to find the Mother Boxes, and stop Steppenwolf.

Yes, Steppenwolf is Sauron, and the mother boxes are the Infinity Stones / One Ring / Genesis device.

For the record, that's the plot. The entire plot. Steppenwolf is a killing machine out to rule everything, and he's going to get the Mother boxes. That's his motivation, character, and arc. I literally can't even pad his appearance anymore. Unlike other people, I didn't mind his CGI form ... though I did object to the lip sync. Did anyone else think the mouth didn't match the dialogue?

But Steppenwolf is such a small part of this movie, he's barely worth talking about.

This film is ... okay, with a lot of great scenes. And the scenes are what keep this film from being a total failure.

Ezra Miller as The Flash is remarkably charming as "awkward nerd." And it's clear that he, like everyone else, is as the start of his hero career. And, no, we HAVEN'T seen all of the various and sundry good bits in the trailers.

... But you can find them on YouTube.

Jason Momoa's Aquaman had several fun parts, and they definitely don't want to go anywhere near the blond in the orange scales as seen in Superfriends. I think someone concluded that they had a show stopper here, and they let him try to stop the show. The best bit is him waxing on about how yeah, they're going to die, but it's a good cause to go out for as long as they stop Steppenwolf, etc etc, and it goes on for nearly two minutes ... before he realizes he's sitting on the lasso of truth.

Batfleck works a lot more than I thought he would. And he is definitely the "I'm getting too old for this" Batman as he gets beaten up, a lot. But you can believe he's Batman. You might even believe him as Bruce Wayne. There's exactly one line of dialogue I would have had rewritten, but otherwise, he was spot on.

Wonder Woman... Gal Gadot still surprises as Wonder Woman. She just works. I don't know why, she does. And she has good chemistry with Batfleck -- not sexual chemistry, though Alfred does make fun of Batman for being interested in her, despite no visible interest when the two are on screen together.

And I will compliment Ray Fisher's Cyborg / Victor Stone as being a great performance, acting through heavy CGI on his face.

So that's that positives in this one: the team is the strength here. The characters interacting is the main joy in this film. As for the overall film eh. There is no tension here. It's a world-ending threat, yet the biggest sense of danger in the movie was from ... Superman. Yes, went they bring Superman back from the dead, he wakes up cranky, and you genuinely believe that he's going to rip Batman's head off. But outside of that...wait, is Superman smiling? He's not allowed to smile! This is a Zack Snyder movie! I might actually believe this guy is Superman. But, again, downside: Henry Cavill's resurrection as Superman was so strange, and added so little, all I could think is "If this is the payoff, why did they kill him in the first place?"

And there is so much that's just off here. For example, Victor Stone becomes Cyborg after being in an accident that kills his mother, and his father uses the Mother Box to bring him back from the dead with machine parts. There's a lot of dramatic potential here. Victor feels like a freak and an outcast. He resents his father for keeping him alive like, this, and he hears an alien voice in his head from the mother box computer code. He's even cranky to Wonder Woman. Then, Cyborg's father is kidnapped by our villain. His father is saved, and Victor is on the team .... and he disappears from the rest of the film. Poof, he's gone. I've seen damsels in distress who have had more screen time. So much dramatic tension is drained from the film, and the character.

There's a lot of that going around. There's a scene with Wonder Woman and Batman after one battle that's just the two of them. There were several ways the scene could have gone, from "I'm too old for this" to "This is why we need the superpowered everybody: I'm breakable" to just following through on the romantic tension between the two of them that was clearly supposed to be in the movie.

I know that Justice League had reshoots, possibly even the final edits, done by Joss Whedon. He even has a writing credit here. Whedon started his career as a script doctor. The writer credited for Speed has said that Whedon rewrote most of the dialogue. So you'd think that if there were problems here, Whedon would fix it. No matter his personal issues, he doesn't suck at his job. But it's clear that there were instructions for the film to be exactly 120 minutes, and there are a lot of scenes where you can see the danging threads from where there were obvious cuts. If there's an extended edition, I'll try it.

Over all, the execution was serviceable. But it's Justice League. It should have been more than that. Technically, we didn't need dramatic, we needed grand and big, and we didn't get that. Don't get me wrong, it generally works. The main characters were likable. But there are things like plot, and tension. Hint: we shouldn't have more tension from a hero than the world-ending villain.

And why is the only person in the entire film to say "League" is Lex Luthor in the after-credits scene?

Taken together, I think this is a case where the sum is not greater than the finished product. The individual scenes and moments and little touches in this one are better than the film as a whole. And while I hate using this phrase... ahem... IF THEY'RE SMART...  this is a way for them to skip all of the origin stories in the individual movies, which is a good move, but there should have been more in this film.

I don't think you need to see this one on the big screen in order to appreciate it. Save your money, watch it on DVD. It's cheaper than evening tickets for two to the theater.

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