Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Justice League review

I'm betting that executives with Marvel Studios are happy that they got most of their cinematic universe out years before DC Comics and Warner put out this month's Justice League. That's because Marvel's Avengers (2012) movie and Justice League basically have the same plot. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the franchise that the studio calls it, there are these things called Infinity Stones which are magical and of course, bad guys want them. Not to be outdone, Justice League has magical boxes?!

Justice League takes place after the events in Batman v. Superman: The Dawn of Justice (2016). While busting a criminal, Batman aka Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) runs into an alien scout. Sensing this is the start of an invasion as told to him by Lex Luthor in Batman v. Superman, Wayne starts to recruit superheroes to defend the planet. Wonder Women aka Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) receives a warning from her mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) that Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds' voice) has come back to earth to retrieve the three magic boxes on earth and use their power to perform "Born to be Wild." Um... sorry. That's from the rock band Stepppenwolf. he wants to conquer the universe.

Bruce Wayne meanwhile goes around the planet to recruit his team. Wonder Woman tells Wayne of the threat. She joins. He wants to get Flash aka Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), Aquaman aka the man who sleeps with the fishes. Er... okay, that's Aquaman (Jason Momoa) aka Arthur Curry as the man who talks to the fishes and Cyborg aka Victor Stone (Ray Fisher). The band forms and they set off to tour the country doing Steppenwolf covers. Um... no. They set off to stop Steppenwolf from getting the magic boxes.

This should all sound familiar. It's pretty much the plot to Marvel's The Avengers. (2012) Both had super villains seeking magic "MacGuffins". The super villain uses said MacGuffin to conquer the world along with his army of cute, yellow minions. Sorry, they're supposed to be evil minions not the cute ones. So,  this movie Justice League has to be as good as its competitors, the Avengers. Unfortunately, it's not. And stop rejoicing Marvel comic book fans. Need I remind you of Iron Man 2 and Iron Man 3?

There are problems with this film. The screenplay by Chris Terrio, and Joss Whedon is uneven in how it does the backstories of the superheroes. That was a problem with Suicide Squad. (2016) Sometimes, these forays are contrived or they stop the drama. There's no reason to have Wonder Woman still "pining" after the late Steve Trevor. (Chris Pine in this year's Wonder Woman) Bad pun, I know. But really, Trevor has been dead for about one hundred years. Through the decades, I mean Prince could have had dates with Clark Gable, John Wayne, or Rock Hudson. Strike the date with Rock Hudson. Speaking of gay, she could have become a lesbian and then we could have a scene that would satisfy the radical feminist criteria for the Bechdel Test which requires a scene where two women are talking to each other and the subject cannot be about men. God forbid. Do aliens count in a conversation? Anyway, we already know about Wonder Woman's past from the earlier movie.

But I digress. Cyborg's origin was not compelling. Maybe we needed to see the tragic accident that killed his mother. We know very little of Aquaman or why he's so grouchy. Well, actually we do know why he's pissed off. He never gets respect. I mean he's seen in  cartoons  riding seahorses and of course, he talks to fishes. That's kind of goofy.   And it doesn't help that the show Family Guy skewers him as being lame when he can't really do anything out of the water. (Video below.)

I guess that's why they cast Jason Momoa as Aquaman. Rather than an Aryan looking blonde, he's like a Polynesian biker.

Then there are the plot holes, villain development and exposition problems. Other than he wants to take over the universe, we don't have a lot of motivation for Steppenwolf. That makes him a black and white character. It's not very interesting. And as the trailer shows, Superman (Henry Cavill) makes an appearance. Okay, but if you watched Batman v. Superman, the last scene indicates Superman is not dead but perhaps is in a dormant state. Okay. So how the movie shows the appearance of Superman doesn't jibe with it. Plus Superman's behavior when he appears is not explained. Then without spoiling the movie, let me just say that Steppenwolf's minions aren't happiest of employees. Yet, their motivations are not explained.

Another problem is Danny Elfman's musical score. I'm not usually a fan of Elfman. I find his melodies in other films to be musical mcnuggets. No long melodies. Perhaps it's his rock and roll background. But in this movie, I can't remember any original melodies. That doesn't help. For example, there is a scene where Aquaman saves the team. It badly needed a strong original theme for inspiration. Elfman does use his 1989 Batman theme and the legendary 1978 Superman theme by John Williams. That's good but then he uses them as whispers rather then heroic statements that would give you goose bumps when you hear them.

As for the cast, they're all good. But one performance stands out. It's Ezra Miller's Flash. He steals the movie or should I say he runs off with the film. He's got that awkward, geeky delivery that demonstrates superhero worship and naivete. Kudos to him and the writers for creating a likable and funny character.

It should be noted that  Joss Whedon also directed  The Avengers.   In Justice League, he has crafted a movie with exciting and heroic set pieces but the weaknesses of the script makes a shallow film. Justice League is just a big budget, live action Saturday morning cartoon. The grade is B.

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