Thursday, November 30, 2017

It Came From The Cineplex: Justice League

I am WAY behind on my movie reviews lately, so I'm gonna skip over a few and hurry and cover the new Justice League movie (don't worry, I'll get to the others eventually). If I don't do it now, it's not gonna get posted until after Xmas, long after everyone's forgotten about it.

Justice League was written by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, and directed by... wait a minute, something's wrong here.

Justice League was written by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, and... Dammit! That's still not right!

Justice League was written by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, and directed by Zack Snyder. There. That's better.

Terrio is a VERY uneven writer who previously wrote Heights, Damages, Argo (which was quite good) and his magnum opus, Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, for which he should be publicly flogged.

Whedon's a prolific writer, producer and director, who's beloved by fanboys across the land. He started his career on Roseanne of all places (!), then went on to create fan favorite series such as Buffy The Vampire SlayerAngel and Firefly, as well as working in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He previously wrote the theatrical version of Buffy The Vampire SlayerToy Story (!), ALIEN: ResurrectionTitan: AEThe Cabin In The Woods, and wrote AND directed SerenityThe Avengers and Avengers: Age Of Ultron.

Snyder's spent his career directing visually stunning but mediocre films, each one worse than the last. He started out with the Dawn Of The Dead remake (which was quite good), 300 (not bad), Watchmen (good), Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls Of Ga'Hoole (never saw it), Sucker Punch (meh) and Man Of Steel (miserable) and the aforementioned 
Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (insufferable). He's very good at composing shots and integrating special effects, but not so good when it comes to handling anything that has to do with coherent plots or character motivation.

Oddly enough,
Zack Snyder gets full directorial credit here, despite the fact that Joss Whedon replaced him midway through the production and reshot much of the film. We'll get into that in more detail Later.


There's a "Justice League created by Gardner Fox" credit in the film. That's nice that they gave him a shoutout, but... honestly this film has about as much to do with Garnder's creation as a Tesla does with a Model T.

So how is Justice League? I can describe it best with a single word: "Ehhhhh." It's not as infuriating as Man Of Steel, nor quite as baffling as its predecessor Batman V Superman. It's by no means good though, as it's riddled with plot holes, saddled with vaguely defined characters and a comically weak villain and can't seem to settle on a tone, which is no doubt due to its multiple directors.

It's also the best Marvel movie that DC's ever made. It's honestly amazing to see how closely Warner Bros. tried to ape Marvel's successful formula here. Unfortunately their attempt to copy The Avengers was a complete and utter fiasco. They used the exact same storyline and even poached the same goddamned director, and somehow they still managed to fail miserably! 

I know what you're thinking here. Regular readers of my blog know all too well that every time a DC movie comes out, I seemingly can't wait to review it so I can tear it a new asshole. Contrary to what you might think, I do NOT enjoy dumping on DC movies, nor do I have some sort of vendetta against them. 
In fact I liked Wonder Woman and gave it a good solid B grade despite its flaws. See? I don't automatically rush to denounce DC's films. It's just that they rarely if ever put out one that's not completely horrible. 


I truly wish Warner Bros. was as good at making superhero movies as their competition, but sadly it's clear that unlike Marvel Studios, they have absolutely NO idea what the hell they're doing. Back in 2008, Marvel slowly and deliberately began releasing a series of superhero movies starring characters such as Iron Man, Captain America and Thor. These films also introduced side characters like Hawkeye, Black Widow and Nick Fury. 

Then in 2012, they took all these characters and teamed them up in The Avengers. No studio had ever done anything like that before, and all their careful planning paid off in spades, as the movie was an instant hit with fans, as well as a huge box office success. 

It called worldbuilding. Because we'd gotten to know the Marvel characters over the years, their little shared universe felt real. It was thrilling to see them all on the screen at the same time. Their interactions felt genuine, believable and best of all, earned

Contrast this to Warner. Apparently taking the time to come up with a similar plan was way too much trouble for them. They wanted a DC Cinematic Universe, and they wanted it NOW. Forget all that costly and time-consuming worldbuilding crap! They fast-tracked their universe, giving us just three measly movies (sort of) to serve as a foundation for Justice League

Of those, Batman V Superman was the only one to really set up any future characters. It added Batman, but he was a new and unfamiliar version we'd never seen before, making him a virtual unknown. It also introduced Wonder Woman, but her brief appearance amounted to little more than a glorified cameo. Worst of all, BVS set up the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg, but in the most jaw-droppingly ridiculous way possible by having Wonder Woman literally watch YouTube videos of the three characters!

That meant that three of the League members make their first full appearance in the very movie in which they all team up! That's crazy! Since these characters are virtually unknown to the audience, their interactions in Justice League are absolutely meaningless. These characters have no history, so seeing them all posing dramatically in the same frame doesn't amount to a thing. At no time did I ever care about any of the characters or what happened to them, as they were all as flat and one dimensional as their comic book inspirations.

And THAT'S why Marvel succeeds while DC flounders and sinks.

Justice League isn't a good movie by any standards, but I can't quite bring myself to hate it. It's obvious that the filmmakers are trying their hardest to make a decent film, but they don't have a clue as to how to go about it.

Honestly the behind the scenes history of Justice League is more interesting than the film itself. After the critical and box office failure of 2006's Superman Returns, Warner Bros. lost interest in pursuing that particular franchise. Instead they commissioned a script for Justice League: Mortal in 2007, which they planned to start filming before a looming Writers Guild Strike. The movie would feature both Superman and Batman, but would not star either Brandon Routh or Christian Bale in the roles. 

George Miller, director of the Mad Max films, was chosen to helm Justice League: Mortal. Miller wanted to cast younger actors in the film, so they could "grow into" their roles over the course of several movies and many years. D.J. Cotrona (whoever that is) was cast as Superman, Armie Hammer (oy!) as Batman and Megan Gale (?) as Wonder Woman. Hip hop star Common was cast as Green Lantern, Adam Brody as the Flash and Jay Baruchel as villain Maxwell Lord.

Unfortunately the writer's strike hit, delaying the film for several months. Miller, a native Australian, wanted to film the movie there, but a dispute over tax credits eventually caused the entire production to fall apart, and he left the project. 

After Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy ended, the studio forgot about the Justice League and focused on the Superman reboot Man Of Steel in 2011. For some reason Warners chose Zack Snyder to direct the dark and gritty take on Superman, intending the film to set the tone for the future of the DC movie universe.

After Man Of Steel debuted in 2013, David S. Goyer was hired to write a sequel, as well as a new Justice League script. When Man Of Steel's box office gross fell far short of expectations, Warner revised their plans. They revamped their Superman sequel, adding Batman to the story which would ultimately morph into Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice. Once again, Zack Snyder directed. The film was intended to lead directly into an epic two part Justice League movie.

Sadly, the public rejected Warner's dark and depressing superhero film, and Batman V Superman severely underperformed at the box office. This sent the studio into a panic, as Justice League Part 1 was due to begin filming in just a couple of weeks. They quickly scrapped their plans for a two part Justice League film, and hurriedly retooled the story into a single movie.

Still stinging from near-universal criticism of BVS's grim tone, Warner Bros. did what they do best and started interfering with the film, demanding that Snyder lighten the tone. He apparently had no idea how to go about something like that, so he brought it fanboy favorite Joss Whedon to help inject some much-needed humor into the movie. That's right— contrary to popular opinion, Whedon was working on the film far earlier than most fans realize. 

Filming on Justice League wrapped on October 14, 2016, and Snyder began working on post production. He left the project in May of 2017, following the untimely death of his daughter. Whedon then stepped up to complete the film as well as write and direct reshoots. 

According to the Official Warner Bros. Publicity Machine, Whedon's reshoots were minimal, making up just 10% to 15% of the final film. This is a bald faced lie, as it's patently obvious to even a casual observer that he reshot much, much more of the film than that. In fact, anonymous sources at the studio claim that Whedon reshot at least 85% to 90% of the film, virtually remaking the entire thing.

Of course this results in a Franken-film that features scenes consisting of wildly different framing, lighting and most of all, tone. It's pretty easy to tell which scenes are Snyder's and which are Whedon's. Any scenes that take place in daylight instead of a dark, blue-lit twilight are no doubt his. Any time a superhero makes a wisecrack instead of snapping a neck is also likely a Whedon scene.

Of course this results in a Franken-film that stitches together scenes from two very different movies. On the one hand there's Snyder's version, which is grim, gritty and dark, full of violent but well-choreographed action, tons of CGI and "trailer shots" of characters posing heroically. 

Then there's Whedon's version, which is light, breezy and full of color, filled with heroes standing around cracking wise and uttering his patented quippy dialogue that the fanboys all love.

To say these two completely different approaches clash with one another is the understatement of the year. The tonal shifts are so abrupt and severe the audience is in danger of developing whiplash.

Multiple directors are nearly always a bad, bad idea. Not in every case though— after all, The Wizard Of Oz had 4, count 'em four directors. But generally speaking, it's a recipe for complete and utter disaster. To quote Oscar from The Office" "Look it doesn't take a genius to know that every organization thrives when it has two leaders. Go ahead, name a country that doesn't have two presidents. A boat that sets sail without two captains. Where would Catholicism be, without the popes?"

Supposedly there's a contingent of fans out there who aren't happy with all these reshoots, and have started a petition demanding that Warner Bros. release Zack Snyder's original cut. I honestly don't understand this. Based on how both Man Of Steel and Batman V Superman, why the hell would anyone want to see Snyder's Justice League? It's like burning your toast, having someone scrape off all the blackened parts, eating what's left and then demanding to have the charred bits back.

The film's massive reshoots caused the budget to balloon to at least $300 million (and more than likely more), making it the most expensive movie ever made. Money well spent indeed (that was, I say, that was sarcasm, son)!

To add further insult to injury, Warner Bros. demanded that Justice League absolutely, positively had to clock in at under two hours. It's painfully obvious that this seemingly arbitrary requirement resulted in whole swathes of the film being cut out. The characters are shallow, they have little or no motivation, and plot points appear without being set up and disappear with no resolution. 

Warner claims they demanded a two hour cut due to complaints over the lengthy run time of previous movies. Nice try, guys. The REAL reason they wanted a shorter runtime is so they could show the film as many times per day as possible, in order to try and recoup the massive amount of money they spent on it.

Not surprisingly, Justice League's struggling at the box office. It's only managed to scrape up a disappointing $176 million here in the States, against its massive $300 million plus budget. It's done better overseas, where it's racked up $311 million, for a worldwide total of $487 million. 


That sounds like a nice chunk of change, but due to marketing and other costs, it'll likely have to gross at least $600 million just to BREAK EVEN. It's possible it could still reach that amount, but I don't see it making much more than that. This could very well be the movie that kills the DCEU.

SPOILERS, I GUESS!

The Plot:

It's a long'un, so get comfortable. 

Right off the bat we start with an obvious Joss Whedon scene. The film opens with a flashback to some point when Superman was still alive, on a rare day when he wasn't snapping the necks of those who oppose him. We glimpse this new and improved "Friendly Superman" via cell phone camera footage, as he's being "interviewed" by a couple of small kids. They couldn't be more excited to meet him, which of course is a huge retcon, as everyone was terrified of Superman in the previous film. 

The kids pepper him with a few inane questions, then end their mock interview by asking, "What's your favorite thing about Earth?" Superman looks wistfully into the sky, indicating he's either thinking of his main squeeze Lois Lane or trying to remember if he paid this month's electric bill.

Cut to the present day, where we see the world mourning the recent (I guess?) untimely death of Superman. We see a few scenes of his funeral, as well as a montage of grim-faced citizens shuffling through their now gray, joyless days. This is accompanied by a slowed-down, atonal cover of Everybody Knows, sung by either a creepy child or a waif-like young ingenue. 
We spot a discarded newspaper whose headline blares, "WORLD WITHOUT HOPE," which is perfectly timed to the lyric, "Everybody knows the good guys lost." Oy. Hear that high-pitched whirring sound? It's the late Leonard Cohen, spinning like a lathe inside his grave!

There's also a discarded Enquirer-like newspaper that reads, "Prince, Superman And David Bowie Dead. Did They Return To Their Home Planets?" Sigh... You know what? F*ck you movie! Right up your celluloid ass!

We then see a bank robber running across the rooftops of what I have to assume is Gotham City. Honestly your guess is as good as mine, as there's absolutely ZERO geography or sense of place in this film (other than maybe the Smallville scenes). Suddenly Batman (played by Ben Affleck) appears and captures the robber. Oddly enough he doesn't brand him with a white hot Bat-symbol like he did in the previous film. Instead he simply ties him up with a Bat-Rope or something. He then dangles the hapless crook off the side of the building, using him as bait for... something.

Just then a Parademon from the planet Apokalips (which you'd likely never know unless you're a comic fan) appears, lured by the criminal's fear. Batman and the Parademon then engage in an epic, hand-to-hand battle. Eventually Batman has enough and shoots a Bat-Net at the demon, trapping it against the side of the building. He tries to question it by growling, "WHY DID YOU SAY THAT NAME?" er, I mean "WHAT ARE YOU?" Unfortunately the Demon self-destructs, leaving a little symbol (consisting of three linked squares) burned into the wall for some reason. The terrified crook asks what the hell he just saw, and Batman rumbles, "A scout."

Cut to another hastily-inserted Joss Whedon scene, as a group of terrorists infiltrate a bank (I think?) in London, or possibly Paris. They take a group of citizens hostage, including a gaggle of wailing school kids. One of the terrorists opens a briefcase and activates a bomb inside it. He says something about destroying filthy capitalists or something, and claims the bomb will destroy four city blocks. 

We then see Wonder Woman (played by Gal Gadot) observing all this from atop a statue of Lady Justice (subtlety, thy name is Justice League!). Oddly enough, Wonder Woman's seen here in full costume, despite the fact that she supposedly retreated from Man's World after the death of Steve Trevor at the end of her own film. Huh. I guess the writers forgot about that.

Anyhoo, Wonder Woman rushes into the bank and efficiently kicks the collective asses of the terrorists. It's one of the better scenes in the film, but I can't help but notice she seems notably stronger here than she did last time we saw her. She notices the bomb's about to explode, so she grabs the briefcase, jumps straight up through the ceiling and several hundred feet into the air. She flings the briefcase straight up, and it explodes with an underwhelming poof, that couldn't possibly have taken out half a block, much less four.

Wonder Woman, aka Diana Prince, then meets with Batman, aka Bruce Wayne at his home. As they walk along the grounds of Wayne Manor, we we get sort of a replay of the scene we saw at the end of BVS, as Brucesays something huge is coming. Diana says she feels it too. 

Diana then tells Bruce the story of the Mother Boxes. Apparently there are three of them, and when combined into one they form an all-powerful super weapon, capable of unimaginable destruction. Thousands of years ago, an alien named Steppenwolf came to Earth with a merged Box, intending to win out the planet or something. 

An alliance formed between Amazons, Atlanteans and Men, who fought back against Steppenwolf. Eventually the Green Lantern Corp got involved in the fight, and even the Old Gods (such as Zeus, Ares and Hercules) joined the battle, in a brief, but totally awesome scene.

Steppenwolf was defeated and ran back to his home planet of Apokalips with his tail between his legs. The Mother Boxes were then somehow separated, and one was given to each group to hide and protect, so Steppenwolf could never find them again. The Amazons hid their Box in a fortified citadel on Themyscira. The Atlanteans placed theirs in a guarded fortress under the sea in Atlantis. And what about Mankind? Eh, Men dug a shallow hole and tossed their box into it, where I'm sure no one would ever find it.

For some reason, Superman's death has caused the three long-dormant Boxes to reactivate. Why this would happen when Superman is from a completely unrelated planet is apparently none of our concern. Steppenwolf has apparently sensed the Boxes, and has come to Earth to collect them. He plans to merge the Boxes and use them to transform Earth into Apokalips II, which he hopes will impress his boss, the evil alien warlord Darkseid. Sure, why not.

While Diana's telling this story, a mysterious figure eavesdrops in the bushes. It turns out it's Cyborg (played by Ray Fisher), but we're not supposed to know it's him just yet. Why he's at Wayne Manor spying on two is never explained, and left to our imaginations. 

Diana then says she's stayed out of mankind's affairs for too long, and it may be time to get involved again. Apparently this is what passes for her story arc in the film.

Meanwhile Silas Stone (played by Miles Dyson, er, I mean Joe Morton) is working late at STAR Labs, which is located in... Metropolis? Gotham? Central City? Honestly, your guess is as good as mine. Silas is the father of Victor Stone, aka Cyborg, who was apparently gravely injured in some sort of accident and is presumed dead. As Silas goes home for the night, Howard the Janitor offers his heartfelt condolences for the recent death ofVictor. Silas thanks him and goes on his way. 

Just then we're introduced to the film's villain Steppenwolf, who's realized through the magic of circa 1997 CGI.  He orders his army of Parademons to capture Howard, apparently because he thinks he has one of the Mother Boxes. Actually it's not quite clear why he does it. Anyway, they all disappear in a Boom Tube, the preferred method of travel on the planet Apokalips. 

Cut to the secret island of Themyscira, home to Wonder Woman and the Amazon (Amazonian?) race. Wonder Woman's mom, Queen Hippolyta (played by Connie Nielsen) is summoned to a large citadel surrounded by dozens of guards. The citadel contains one of the Mother Boxes, which has started glowing for some reason. This alarms Hippolyta, who orders the guards to take the Box and hide it. Just then a Boom Tube opens and Steppenwolf and more Parademons appear.

The Amazons then play a rousing game of keepaway with Steppenwolf, doing their best to prevent him from recovering the Box, in what is arguably the best part of the movie. Eventually he manages to nab the Box and teleport away. Queen Hippolyta tells her guards to light the signal fires (?) to warn Wonder Woman of what's happened.

Meanwhile, Barry Allen, aka the Flash (played by Ezra Miller) visits a Central City (I think?) prison. He's there to see his father Henry (played by Billy Crudup), who's been wrongly imprisoned for killing his wife Nora. Barry's trying to become a detective or CSI or something, so he can prove his father's innocence. Henry tells him to forget it, and do something more practical with his life. Way to encourage your kid, Henry!

Bruce Wayne goes to Iceland (possibly?) to look for the mysterious "Aquaman" he's heard about, and ask him to join his team of Super Friends. He meets Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman (played by Jason Mamoa) in a local pub. Aquaman says he's not interested in playing with others, and tells Batnan to piss off. Batman notices the linked squares symbol that are painted on the wall of the pub for some reason, and asks what they mean. Aquaman tells him, "You don't wanna know." He then strips off his shirt to give the ladies in the audience something to gawk at, wades into the icy ocean waters and swims off.

Batman and Wonder Woman decide to do some more recruiting. In Central City (maybe?), Barry Allen (played by Ezra Miller) comes home to his secret warehouse headquarters, which is packed full of computer monitors and equipment he can somehow afford. He's surprised to see Bruce Wayne there waiting for him. Bruce says he knows Barry's the Flash, and asks him to join the Super Friends. A flustered Barry tries to act like he doesn't know what he's talking about, so Bruce throws a Batarang at him. Barry's superspeed kicks in, and he effortlessly plucks the slow-moving (to him) weapon out of the air. He tells Bruce he's in, because he "needs friends." By the way, this is about as close as the movie ever gets to explaining the Flash's powers and how he got them.

Wonder Woman gets an email from a metahuman, saying to meet him in an alley somewhere. She goes to the rendezvous point, where she sees Cyborg, aka Victor Stone. He's the son of Silas Stone, and is presumed to be dead. Victor was seriously injured in some sort of accident (just what happened is apparently none of our business), and his father rebuilt his body with humanity's Mother Box, that he somehow acquired. Wonder Woman asks Cyborg to join the team, but he declines.

Sometime later Steppenwolf abducts Cyborg's father, Silas Stone, demanding he give him the Mother Box. This event causes Cyborg to change his mind and join up with Batman and his Super Friends.

Steppenwolf teleports to Atlantis to retrieve their Box. The Atlanteans, including Aquaman, but up a brave fight, but Steppenwolf eventually grabs their highly guarded Mother Box and makes off with it. Naturally this doesn't sit well with Aquaman, and he vows to get it back or die trying.

In Gotham City, Commissioner Gordon (played by J.K. Simmons, for some reason) activates the Batsignal. Minutes later Batman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg and the Flash appear on the rooftop behind him. Gordon tells Batman he has intel that the Parademons are holed up in an abandoned underground facility under Gotham Harbor. 

Batman and the others infiltrate the facility and find Steppenwolf there, along with his Parademon army AND the captured STAR Lab personnel. There's another expensive set piece battle that goes on way too long, as the heroes repeatedly punch Steppenwolf and the Demons. Batman trundles around in the Nightcrawler, an awkward and impractical spider-like vehicle (?) that was obviously designed to sell toys. 

Eventually the heroes get their asses handed to them, and Steppenwolf floods the facility. Luckily Aquaman picks that exact moment to appear and join the team. He rescues the others from a watery death, and starts skewering Parademons with his five pronged trident (?). The team has now officially become the Justice League!

Cyborg uses his interfacing powers to take over the Nightcrawler and soup it up, using it to attack the villains. Eventually the heroes rally and Steppenwolf and the Parademons teleport away again. I'm starting to think Steppenwolf's main power is his ability to scamper away from danger.

Back in the Batcave, Cyborg suddenly produces the last remaining Mother Box, revealing he hid it to keep it from Steppenwolf. He hands it over to Batman so he can analyze it. 

After seeing firsthand how powerful Steppenwolf and his minions are, Batman realizes his team is massively outgunned. He proposes an idea that's so crazy, it just might work— he wants to use the power of the Mother Box to resurrect Superman. You know, the guy he just tried to kill in the previous movie. The others are shocked and appalled, but eventually go along with his insane plan.

Cyborg and the Flash then travel to Smallville and exhume Clark Kent's body. They then bring it to the wrecked Kryptonian ship that crashed back in Man Of Steel (I think?) and is still lying in the middle of downtown Metropolis for some reason.

They take Clark's corpse, which is somehow still fresh, and dunk it into the soupy pool in the bottom of the ship. They then toss the Mother Box into the water, right as the Flash charges it with his Speed Force lightning. There's a massive energy discharge, and Superman is miraculously resurrected.

Unfortunately this isn't the friendly, happy-go-lucky Superman who patted kids on the head in the prologue. This is the sullen, resentful and dangerous alien god we saw at the end of Batman V Superman. He immediately begins attacking the other heroes, who do their best to try and calm him without being killed. Even the Flash is no match for him, as Superman has superspeed as well.

Just as Superman's about to go ballistic and start snapping necks again, Batman brings out his "big gun"— Lois Lane (played by Amy Adams). The instant Superman sees her, his memories return and he calms down. He then grabs Lois and flies off with her. 

Hilariously, while all this is going on Steppenwolf sneaks into the Kryptonian ship, grabs the unattended Mother Box with a "Yoink!" and teleports away! D'oh! The Justice League, ladies and gentlemen!

For some reason, Steppenwolf travels to a remote, barely populated Russian village, where he plans to unite his three Mother Boxes and transform Earth into Apokalips II or something. Apparently the only people around for miles are a lone Russian family, who we see huddling inside their tiny home as their town's invaded by aliens. Get used to these people, as the film inexplicably keeps cutting back to them periodically for the rest of the film.

Meanwhile, Clark returns to his childhood home with Lois. They chat for a while as he gets used to being among the living again, and for no reason at all, she tells him he "smells good." Just then Martha ("WHY DID YOU SAY THAT NAME?") Kent arrives, overcome with joy to see her resurrected alien foster son.

Back in Russia, Steppenwolf merges the three Mother Boxes, and they begin terraforming the landscape, causing bizarre plant life and formations to spring from the ground. The Justice League tracks Steppenwolf to Russia, and does their best to stop him. There's yet another massive (and frankly tedious) superhero battle, that was almost certainly reshot by Joss Whedon. 

The League tries to distract Steppenwolf long enough for Cyborg to separate the Boxes, but they're overcome by hordes of Parademons. Just when it looks like all hope is gone, a fully restored— and now heroic— Superman appears. He starts punching Steppenwolf into next Tuesday, in yet another battle that goes on for way too long. Amazingly the Man Of Steel doesn't snap the villain's neck.

Through the power of teamwork, the League helps Cyborg separate the Boxes, which stops the terraforming process. For some reason this fills Steppenwolf with fear. The Parademons, who feed on fear or something, sense his panic and actually turn on him, despite the fact that he's their boss. They carry him screaming into a Boom Tube and all teleport away.

Best of all, the Russian family we don't really know is safe and sound! Hooray!

Back home, Batman tells Wonder Woman he's going to rebuild Wayne Manor and use it as a base of operations for the Justice League, which I'm sure will have many, many more cinematic adventures (barring something unseen like a lower-than-expected boss office gross, of course).

Wonder Woman decides she's been on the sidelines long enough and begin fighting crime again, so she can inspire little girls and forty-something divorcees everywhere. Batman helps Barry Allen get a job with the Central City Police Department, which gives his jailbird father hope. 

Cyborg finally accepts his creepy robotic body by altering the way it looks, which makes perfect sense in a way I don't quite understand. Aquaman returns to Atlantis to film his upcoming solo film. Superman resumes his life as reporter Clark Kent, which I'm sure none of his coworkers find the least bit odd, considering he was dead and buried for several weeks (months?). 

But wait, we're not done! In the first of the Marvel mid-credit scenes, the Flash challenges Superman to a cross country race (literally!). We don't get to see who wins though (I vote for the Flash, since speed is his only power). 

In the second scene, we see that the annoying and insane elfin man-child Lex Luthor has somehow escaped from prison. He meets with an impressive-looking Slade Wilson, aka the Terminator, and says it's time they formed their own Legion Of Doom.

Thoughts:
• In the interest of good will, I'm going to begin here by listing all the things I actually liked about Justice League. Don't worry, this won't take long.

I thought the scene of Wonder Woman rescuing the hostages at the beginning of the film was pretty darned cool. Even if it was hastily inserted into the film by the studio in a blatant attempt to cash in on the massive and unexpected success of their Wonder Woman film. There's no doubt in my mind this was a Joss Whedon addition.

I also enjoyed the Amazons' brawl with Steppenwolf in Themyscira, in which they play keep away with a Mother Box. It was a nice reminder that everyone on Paradise Island is a kickass hero, even if they don't have superpowers like Wonder Woman. Based on the fact that the scene takes place in broad daylight, and the effects looked a bit underdone, I'm guessing this was another Joss Whedon addition.

The best scene in the film was undoubtedly the Earth vs. Steppenwolf flashback. Seeing the Amazons, Atlanteans, Mankind and even the Old Gods team up against him was amazingly cool. And we even got a brief cameo by the Green Lantern Corps! Awesome! As I sat there watching this brief scene, all I could think was, "THAT'S the movie I want to see!"

Danny Elfman wrote the film's score, which used a bit of John Williams' iconic Superman: The Movie theme when the Man Of Steel appeared onscreen. He also sampled the theme from his own 1988 Batman score a couple of times. Using these brief refrains was a nice touch, but unfortunately it just made me think of much better superhero films I could have been watching.

Lastly, I appreciated the fact that Whedon attempted to lighten up Superman bit, and make him a bit friendlier and more approachable. He was definitely better than Snyder's brooding, neck-snapping god who resents his powers and his role as Earth's savior. It looked like Whedon even physically lightened Supes as well, as his costume was less drab and noticeably more colorful in this film.

OK, that's all I got! On to the complaining!

• In order for Justice League to work, it was necessary for it to massively retcon the films that came before it, specifically Batman V Superman. Nowhere is this retconning more obvious than with Superman.

Back in BVS, we saw dozens of public protests against Superman, as the general public feared and even hated him. There was even a scene where someone was burning him in effigy! People saw Superman as a dangerous and capricious god who thought he was above humanity, and wouldn't hesitate to snap a few necks when he wasn't knocking down buildings.

Compare all that to Justice League. As the film opens, we get a flashback to Superman's funeral, as hundreds of weeping Metropolis residents watch his casket roll by and solemnly wipe the tears from their eyes. This is a MASSIVE retcon that goes against everything that was already established. The JL storyline needed Superman to be beloved by all though, so the writers obviously hoped we'd all forget what actually happened in BVS.

Also at the end of BVS, we saw a brief glimpse of dirt levitating on top of Clark Kent's casket, implying he wasn't quite dead yet, and that something screwy was going on with his Kryptonian physiology. This scene was also retconned into oblivion, as whatever the writers intended in that scene was abandoned, and Clark wasn't merely dead, but was really most sincerely dead.

It's as if the writers wanted to distance themselves from the grimdark Batman V Superman as much as possible, but still had to acknowledge that certain plot points happened. To that end, Justice League constantly refers to events from the previous films that never happened, or occurred in a completely different way. It literally features callbacks to a nonexistent movie.

• When we first see Batman, he catches a bank robber and uses him as human bait to draw out a Parademon. After dispatching the Demon, Batman calls Alfred and discusses the situation with him— in full earshot of the shaken robber!

That seems like sloppy superheroing to me. Now this criminal knows that Batman's someone rich enough to afford dozens of custom-made, high tech gadgets, and has an associate named Alfred. How long before he figures out who Batman really is?

Also, note that at the end of the scene, Batman swings away and leaves the robber standing there on the roof! Wha...? OK, I think this was supposed to show us that this looming alien threat is such a Big Deal that Batman doesn't have time to deal with something as mundane as a petty bank robber. I get that. But it seems reeeeeeally out of character for him. How long would it have taken to cuff the guy to a pipe on the roof? Five seconds?


• Steppenwolf, the villain of the movie, is a completely di... hold on, that's not right.

Steppenwolf, the villain of the movie, is a completely digital character who's realized through the miracle of circa 1997 CGI, and voiced by Game Of Thrones actor Cieran Hinds.

Why in the name of Stan Lee's Toupee did they do this? In every single scene, Steppenwolf looks like he stepped right out of a video game cut scene. I never once bought him as a real, living being for even one second, as he looked like a cartoon character in ever single frame in which he appeared. This results in a main villain with absolutely no sense of danger or menace, which is a big problem in a movie like this. 
Heck, The Lord Of The Rings movies managed to make Gollum look real over fifteen years ago! So what the hell went wrong here?

To make things worse, there was absolutely no reason for Steppenwolf to be a completely CGI creation. They could have easily put Hinds in some prosthetic makeup and a horned helmet, and turned him lose to start chewing the scenery. Yes, Steppenwolf was supposed to be taller than a human, but they could hav accomplished that with a real actor and some reverse Hobbit effects. 

• Whenever we see Aquaman underwater, he's zooming along at  Mach 1 like a torpedo. Thing is, we never once see him kicking his legs like he's swimming. So how's he moving through the water? Is he flying underwater, the way Superman zooms through the air? Or is he using some sort of jet propulsion, like an octopus or squid does? If so, just where do you think such a stream of propulsion would emanate from on a human body?

That's right folks! Apparently Aquaman farts his way under the sea!

• Steppenwolf steals the Atlantean Mother Box, which greatly upsets Aquaman. His wife (Girlfriend? Casual acquaintance?) Mera than uses her special water manipulating power to create a bubble of air under the sea, so the two of them can yell at one another.

So... Atlanteans can't speak underwater? Not even telepathically? That seems like it would be a huge problem for an underwater civilization. Especially if there's only one person in Atlantis who can make "speaking bubbles."

• Early in the film there's a scene set in Gotham featuring a building labeled "Janus." I'm assuming this is a shoutout to Janus Cosmetics, a company run by Black Mask, a villain from the Batman comics.

• Not that it really matters as this point, but Justice League retroactively creates a pretty big plot hole in Batman V Superman.

Back in BVS, Wonder Woman sits at a computer and watches YouTube videos of the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg (really!). In the Cyborg video, we see he's apparently been in some horrific accident, and his body consists of little more than a head and torso. Cyborg's dad then uses the power of a Mother Box (that I guess he's been studying?) to build a new body for his son. So far so good. 

In this film though, Wonder Woman says the Mother Boxes have lain dormant ever since Steppenwolf was driven off thousands of years ago. For some inexplicable reason, Superman's death somehow activated them all. Hmm...

So if the Boxes were dormant, how was one used to rebuild Cyborg's body BEFORE Superman died? Whoops!

• I am not a fan of the Flash's fussy, fiddly and overly complicated costume. It looks like a haphazard collection of mismatched pieces that have been lashed together with bailing wire (!).

Wouldn't someone who can run at near light speeds want a sleek, smooth costume without any pointless protrusions? One with little or no wind resistance? Something like, oh, I don't know, a form-fitting body suit?

• At one point Batman discusses Barry Allen with Wonder Woman. He says Allen "moves around a lot, and never stays in the same place long." Comedy ahoy!

We then see Barry come home to his secret abandoned warehouse apartment, which is filled to the brim with furniture, full bookcases and more. There are also dozens and dozens of computer monitors and hardware, which he uses to monitor crime in Central City. And of course up on a pedestal is his homemade Flash costume, which looks like it's been pieced together out of carbon fiber and other exotic materials.

For a guy who allegedly moves around a lot, he sure seems to have built himself a permanent and comfortable home here. Maybe we're supposed to think that it doesn't matter how much junk he's got in his crib, since he can move it anytime he wants... in a flash.

A better question would be how he affords all his computer equipment. And where he got the cash to build his costume.

• As I mentioned earlier, Warner Bros. demanded that the movie absolutely had to clock in at two hours or less. This is no doubt why it feels vague and unfinished— because a good hunk of it's missing. 

Of all the characters in the movie, poor Cyborg suffers the most from these studio mandates cuts. It's obvious that large swathes of his storyline were axed, as there are several scenes of him from before his accident visible in the trailers, which aren't in the final film.

Plus he seems to sprout superpowers like weeds, as every time we see him he's seemingly developed a new one. 

This results in a Cyborg who's little more than a cipher. He has no backstory, no origin and worst of all, no personality. We know no more about him at the end of the film than we did at the beginning. He seems to be angry at his dad for saving him, except when the story says he's not, and that's about the extent of his "arc."

Maybe once the movie finishes its theatrical run, they'll put out an extended cut on home video that'll restore the scenes that were cut for time, and flesh out Cyborg and the other characters a bit.

Justice League manages to inadvertently paint Aquaman and Cyborg as assholes. When Batman and Wonder Woman try to recruit them, neither can be bothered to join the team in order to save humanity. Eventually Steppenwolf invades Atlantis and steals their Mother Box, which prompts Aquaman to change his mind. Similarly, Cyborg decides to join once Steppenwolf captures his dad.

In both cases these two "heroes" only become part of the team AFTER they've been personally affected by Steppenwolf. Doesn't sound very heroic, does it?

The Flash fares a bit better, but even his motivations are a bit sketchy. He doesn't join the team because it's the right thing to do, but solely because "he needs friends." Oy.

• At one point Barry Allen visits his dad in prison. Mark McClure has a cameo appearance as a policeman who checks Barry into the visiting area. McClure played Jimmy Olsen in the Christopher Reeve Superman movies. You know, the Jimmy Olsen who was Superman's pal, not the one who was brutally shot in the head in BVS.

Also, Billy Cruddup appears as Barry's dad, Henry Allen. Oddly enough, Cruddup was almost cast as Batman in the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight films. He also a Zack Snyder alumni, as he played Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen.

• After joining the League, Barry Allen lists his various skills, saying he knows sign language. He then nervously qualifies this statement by saying, "Gorilla sign language." I'm assuming that was a reference to Gorilla Grodd, a long-time Flash foe?

More importantly, there's no such thing as "gorilla sign language." It's just regular old sign language that you teach to apes!

• I was surprised by how... empty this movie is. No, not thematically or emotionally empty (although that's definitely true), but in terms of the cast. Apart from the main characters, we rarely see any actual people in the film! In scene after scene, the heroes battle CGI grasshopper men on completely empty streets located in cities devoid of life.

I'm wondering if Joss Whedon decided to insert the incongruous scenes of the unnamed Russian family into the film just to increase the population count a bit? There certainly wasn't any other reason to keep inexplicably check in with them ever ten minutes or so.

• In the original Justice League poster released before the film's premiere, Superman is conspicuously absent. A week or so after the film's debut, Warner Bros. released a revised version of the poster, this one featuring the Man Of Steel front & center.

I assume they did this in a lame attempt to keep his return a surprise until after the film premiered. Seriously? Was there really anyone out there anywhere who DIDN'T know he was coming back?


• By the way, take a look at this alternate Justice League poster. As Photoshopped art goes, it's actually not that bad!

That's because it's obviously based on the awesome artwork of illustrator Alex Ross, who's been drawing ultra realistic DC and Marvel heroes for decades now. There's no doubt in my mind that Warner based their poster on Ross' work. It's got the same harsh, overhead lighting, the same regal, powerful poses and the same bright colors.

If I was Alex Ross I don't know whether I'd be flattered or enraged by this homage.

• At the end of BVS, Doomsday stabs Superman through the heart and kills him. Oh, sorry. Spoilers! There's a big funeral, he's buried and the world is sad.


I assumed this meant that at some point Warner Bros. was going to do their own take on the infamous Death Of Superman storyline from the comics. Not the whole thing mind you, good lord no. They'd have to devote ten movies to adapt that mess. But I thought they might do a truncated version of it at least. Why else kill off one of the world's most famous characters? That had to be where they were going, right? 

Nope! Not even close! In Justice League, Batman suddenly realizes the world needs Superman in order to defeat Steppenwolf. To that end, Batman simply resurrects him! And does so about as easily as you'd jump start a dead car battery. 

Warner Bros. took one of the most iconic comic book events of the past twenty years and undid it in ten minutes or less, completely and utterly wasting it for all time. 

Not to mention the fact that in BVS, Batman thought Superman was a dangerous, unstable god and actively tried to eliminate him by himself, but suddenly makes a complete 180ยบ turn and brings him right back.

If all that doesn't convince you that Warners has no overall plan for these movies and has absolutely no idea what they're doing, then nothing will.

• In order to resurrect Superman, the League submerges him in the pool at the bottom of the Kryptonian ship. Cyborg then tosses the Mother Box into the pool, and orders the Flash to blast it with his speed lighting the instant it touches the water.

Um... whyyyyyyyy? Why does the Box need to be charged the second it touches the pool? Why not simply place it in the water, then step back and charge the pool? Wouldn't that get you the same result? 

Answer: Because the convoluted process was more dramatic and visually interesting, and gave all the League members something to do. 

• Speaking of a lack of plans: Why the hell is Steppenwolf in this film? He's an underling of Darkseid, a superpowerful alien warlord who's the mortal enemy of the New Gods. Since Steppenwolf showed up in this film, I assumed we'd probably get a post credits scene of Darkseid in his lair on the planet Apokalips, saying it was time to pay Earth a visit. Nope! Instead he's briefly mentioned once (I think) and never seen at all. 

This puzzles me, as I'm assuming Warner wants all these DCEU movies to lead up to an epic confrontation with ultimate villain Darkseid. So when the hell are they going to start teasing his appearance? Five seconds before he shows up on screen?

Contrast this to Marvel, who started the whole "Building Up To A Massive Battle With An Ultra Powerful Alien Warlord" plotline several years ago with Thanos. For some time now they've been casually dropping Thanos' name in their various movies, and even occasionally giving us quick glimpses of him.

THAT'S how you foreshadow a villain's appearance! You don't refuse to even mention him until the last minute. Jesus Christ, I work at a shoe company and even I know that basic tenet of screenwriting.


• Wonder Woman seem exceptionally strong in this film, much more so than she did in her own film. She even appears to have super speed now, to rival the Flash. In fact, when Superman and Flash are having their little cross country race in the mid-credits scene, I wondered (heh) why they didn't ask Wonder Woman to compete as well!

• In order to resurrect Superman, the League digs up the body of Clark Kent (!), and dips him into slimy pool inside the downed Krytonian ship from Man Of Steel. They then bring him back to life with the power of a Mother Box. A couple things here:

First of all, just when is this movie taking place? A few days after BVS? Weeks? Months? The reason I ask is that Clark's body looks completely intact. It's not a withered, dried up husk— in fact there's no evidence of any decay whatsoever. I guess maybe Kryptonian corpses don't rot? Or if they do, they do so at a much reduced rate?

Secondly, I'm guessing Martha Kent must have slipped the Smallville funeral home a few bucks to get them to bury Clark without embalming him first. She had to, right? If the mortician had tried to work on him, he wouldn't have been able to stick a needle into his indestructible Kryptonian skin, and then he'd realize Clark was Superman.

Plus, embalming involves the removal of the deceased's blood, and other unpleasant procedures. I don't think even a Mother Box could bring you back from all that! Nope, they apparently just tossed Clark into a pine box and buried him as quickly as possible.

Lastly, the process the League uses to resurrect Superman looks amazingly similar to the way Luthor reanimated Zod and mutated him into Doomsday in BVS. I guess the same thing didn't happen to Superman for reasons.


• After Clark's resurrected, he grabs Lois and flies off with her to Smallville to collect his thoughts or something. Once there, he stands in a cornfield, gazing into the distance. Lois sidles up to him, gives him a hug and says, "You smell good."

What the hell? That's gotta be the worst piece of dialogue in a superhero film since Storm's "Do you know what happens to a toad when it's struck by lightning?" line from X-Men. And why the hell would anyone smell good after they've been lying in a casket for several weeks/months?

• OK, everyone and their dog has already mentioned this, but I might as well cover it too. 

When Joss Whedon stepped in to reshoot Justice League in mid-2017, Henry Cavill, aka Superman, was hard at work over at Paramount filming Mission: Impossible 6. Warner Bros. made a deal with Paramount, which would allow Cavill to continue work on M:I6, while filming Justice League on the weekends.

Unfortunately Cavill's M:I6 Reville Smites character sported a large, bushy, walrus-like mustache. This was a problem, as Superman generally doesn't sport facial hair (and definitely wasn't in any of his previously shot scenes). 

Logic would dictate that Cavill shave his mustache for the Justice League reshoots, and wear a fake one for the remainder of the Mission: Impossible filming. In a gesture of pure spite and pettiness, Paramount forbade Cavill to shave. That meant he was sporting a full mustache while shooting the new Superman scenes for JL! One that would have to be digitally removed later!

According to Cavill, the makeup people slathered his mustache with wax, then combed it away from his upper lip as much as possible. They then covered the lower half of his face with motion capture dots, so the Warner effects crew could replace his lips and mouth with a CGI version (!).

As you might expect, the results of Cavill's CGI close shave were mixed at best. Because of the incredibly tight deadline, the effects team had just a few weeks to erase the offending 'stache. This resulted in Superman sporting a decidedly... rubbery upper lip, one that fell deep into the uncanny valley and couldn't climb back out.

Honestly I didn't think it was as bad as most people are making it out to be. It did stand out in a few scenes, but for the most part I thought it was serviceable and didn't notice it at all. It definitely wasn't Grandma Tarkin in Rogue One level bad.

Sorry, I made this image of Supe's fake mouth to post on Facebook, and had to include it here somewhere. Enjoy.

• When Superman finally shows up again at the end, he and Steppenwolf engage in an epic CGI battle that, as usual, goes on for way too long. After seeing them punch each other for a few minutes, I actually found myself saying, "C'mon, Superman! Snap his neck and get it over with!"

And that's why I will never forgive Zack Snyder or Man Of Steel for sullying the character of Superman the way they did.

By the way, where did Superman get his horrible, lizard-skin costume after he comes back to life? He was buried in a normal men's two piece suit. Did Ma Kent save his terrible Superman suit in her hope chest?

• This is some heavy duty nitpicking, but whatever. Early in the film, we see Martha Kent's been forced to sell her home, presumably because money was tight after Clark's death. At the end of the movie we see her moving back in after Bruce Wayne buys the bank and tears up the mortgage.

Really, Whedon? Couldn't he have simply paid off her mortgage and been done with it? Was it really necessary for him to buy the ENTIRE bank to get her house back? Talk about flaunting your wealth!'

Justice League is the latest DCEU movie that proves Warner Bros. doesn't understand their iconic characters and has absolutely no idea what they're doing. It's a sloppy, messy Franken-film that's the result of two different directors with wildly different styles and abilities. Despite its many, many shortcomings, oddly enough it feels like the movie's trying its level best, but failing miserably. It's like a clumsy toddler who swings over and over at a t-ball but can't seem to hit it. I give it a middling and well-deserved C.

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