I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Justice League

(SPOILERS)

Sometimes, you know, Superman dies, so a bad guy decides to conquer the world, so you have to put together a team of other super heroes to fill in for Superman, but then you decide to bring him back to life, but he seems evil at first and fights you, but then he chills out while you fight the CGI guy, then he shows up. JUSTICE LEAGUE is a perfectly watchable, okay super hero romp, with a hefty serving of the humor everyone thought was missing in the last two Superman pictures, but no more sense, and very little of the gravity or operatic style. Goodbye worshipful awe of Superman, hello green screened-in undercutting gags.

Oh, but don’t worry, when Aqua-Man smashes through a building it’s been painstakingly established that it’s in an abandoned town. That’s the most important thing, obviously.

The invasion foreshadowed at the end of BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF THE LIVING JUSTICE is at hand. Batman knows it because a Geonosian “Parademon” flies up while he’s hanging a thief off a rooftop. I think he was using the poor guy as bait (the things smell fear), but possibly it’s just a weird thing that happens while he’s on the job. I like that when the creature appears Batman and the criminal seem to completely drop their conflict and have a conversation about how fucked up things are since Superman’s death. A little bonding between fellow humans. A nice moment.

The thief assumes this is coming from space, but Wonder Woman’s mom (Connie Nielsen, SOLDIER) knows the truth. It’s Steppenwolf (mo-cap Ciaran Hinds [GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE], a different design than the character’s appearance in the BvS director’s cut), an ancient god guy they fought off centuries ago in a LORD OF THE RINGS style truce between Amazons, Atlanteans (people from Atlantis, not Atlanta) and “the tribes of man” (could include people from Atlanta). So Bruce the Batman (Ben Affleck, SMOKIN’ ACES) and Diana Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot, CRIMINAL) decide to find the guys she had videos of on her laptop in the last movie to stop Steppenwolf from getting the three “Mother Boxes” that he will use to turn the world to fire or open a portal to Leviathan or I don’t know man they probly specified what the plan was but if not it doesn’t even make a difference because let’s not pretend anybody gives a shit have you seen what’s going on in the world today I mean jesus.

So the new guys are The Flash (Ezra Miller, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN YOU GUYS), Aqua-Man (Jason Momoa, BULLET TO THE HEAD) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher, BATMAN V SUPERMAN was his first movie). The Flash kind of steals the show. He’s a goofy awkward kid making Whedony quips and self-deprecations. His armor is very professional but seems to be strapped together with wire and he confesses that he’s “never done battle,” just pushed people over. I also enjoy Momoa’s Aqua-Man, a brilliant casting move that says “whatever you have to say about Aqua-Man, why don’t you say it to his face?” He’s like a macho hard-drinking, fun-having sort of underwater king guy, seems fun to be around and thinks Batman’s costume is pretty cool. (Also he openly talks about Bruce Wayne being Batman in front of a bunch of villagers, which seems like a breach of trust.)

Cyborg has the hardest job, as the least known character and actor, and the most questionable look. He’s mostly robot parts due to an accident, and his growing powers include mental access to all databases and security cameras, plus built-in guns that act on their own when they feel threatened. I wish he looked cooler, but I like that he’s able to hide it all under a hoodie. All except his face and the glow of his chest, anyway. I would be up for more of his character if the movies continue. I hope he doesn’t get a virus.

It would be nice if they had a villain to fight who had some sort of personality or point-of-view or interesting characteristics of some kind. And one thing about Steppenwolf is that he seems to have been summoned by the absence of Superman on Earth, yet he was around for thousands upon thousands of years before there even was a Superman. If you only wanted Earth because there was a brief Supered period where you couldn’t have it, obviously you want it for the wrong reasons. Step off, Steppenwolf.

And come to think of it, isn’t a big part of setting up the movie universe before-hand to have an ensemble of supporting characters to turn to? We see the team, Lois and Ma (Diane Lane, KILLSHOT), Alfred (Jeremy Irons, DEAD RINGERS: RISE OF THE WEIRD TWIN GYNECOLOGISTS), and the Amazons, plus a new Commissioner Gordon (J.K. Simmons, SPIDER-MAN 3) and Flash’s dad (Billy Crudup, JESUS’ SON). Why not utilize the villainous infrastructure? Captain Boomerang can’t be in on the demon invasion?

This one had a difficult production, and not all by the studio’s doing this time. Credited director Zack Snyder (300, OWL 300) stepped down due to a family tragedy, so Joss Whedon rewrote and completed the movie. On one hand it’s weird that the guy who did the two AVENGERS movies gets to also do the DC team up movie. On the other hand it makes so much sense, because before he became so well known from TV shows Whedon was a sought-after script doctor for big productions including SPEED, WATERWORLD, X-MEN, TWISTER and THE QUICK AND THE DEAD. It’s one of his specialties to take a pre-existing, not-quite-working movie and try to fix it.

Whedon’s humor is all over the thing, leaving a stronger impression than anything Snydery about it (though there are some good action moments). It does seem like you can spot some of the things that Whedon added in reshoots. I suspect the scene where Lois Lane (Amy Adams, CRUEL INTENTIONS 2) confesses that she hasn’t been herself lately is his way of criticizing her portrayal. And Cyborg’s morphing armor at the end seems to suggest “Jesus, Snyder, that was really the design you wanted to go with? Here’s what I would’ve done.”

It still doesn’t seem like as much of a sloppy mess as SUICIDE SQUAD. Its problems are more about blandness (if there is somebody out there excited to see a story about another magic guy with magic boxes getting punched around so he can’t do a magic apocalypse thing, it sure as fuck isn’t me) and playing cleanup for the last movie. Like, they killed Superman in the last one but they don’t get much out of it before hastily undoing it through the questionable method of “I’m sure this magic box thing would resurrect his corpse.” I bet that was frustrating for Whedon, who insisted on making Ripley’s revival in ALIEN RESURRECTION as torturous as humanly possible so there would still be some stakes.

(Or did Whedon change how Superman was supposed to come back? It doesn’t seem to match up with the final frames of BvS, or use certain scenes from the trailer.)

But its strengths are kind of the same as SUICIDE SQUAD: if you like the characters they’re pretty entertaining to be around. I do like them – the new guys are all fun, Wonder Woman continues to be a delight, this Superman (Henry Cavill, HELLRAISER: HELLWORLD) seems to appeal to me much more than to most people, and I’m so proud of Batman for not, like, torturing anybody or anything. He even makes jokes and I think smiles in one part. I think Affleck is pretty good as gravely-voiced macho Batman, his mask is kinda scary, and the opening with him doing his thing in Gotham did make me want to see him on his own fighting weirdo criminals instead of gods. Also I would encourage him to stop using the robot voice. Nobody is gonna recognize Bruce Wayne’s voice, dude. Even if it seems familiar it will be like when you hear a celebrity voiceover on a car commercial and you know you know it but you can’t quite place who it is.

My favorite Wonder Woman moment is near the end, she has captured some thieves for the police and then a group of children approaches her so she walks over to talk to them, beaming like they’re old friends. She’s as much a goodwill ambassador as a super hero.

Her relationship with Batman is kind of interesting. It almost seems to be going for some “let me give you a massage” bullshit, but she just puts his shoulder back into joint. I think they’re just buds. It’s weird when Batman just casually pours some scotch without having to ask her if she wants it and they have a post-battle drink. I guess they must do this alot. They left that out of Super Friends.

Controversial statement to be taken with a grain of salt because I’m a dude: the internet’s derision of side-by-side stills of the WONDER WOMAN and JUSTICE LEAGUE Amazon costumes is misguided. The idea is that the latter shows more skin because it’s designed and directed by men, so it’s good to show your outrage and then pat yourself on the back for doing such a good job spotting this stuff. But after seeing them in the movie I gotta question that take because all the main Amazons are still covered up, it’s only specific briefly-seen warriors with their bellies exposed to show six packs you could grate cheese on. I would argue that they are not more sexualized, they are more badass. I think it’s Snyder saying “that’s right, women can be Sparta too.”

The score is by Danny Elfman, and you can tell. I’m not saying it’s one of his best, but it sounds like him. You hear that old texture of those groundbreaking comic book movie of the late ’80s, early ’90s, and it’s real refreshing to hear that in this age when so many big movies kinda sound the same. I was wondering what would happen when a Batman theme was needed, and sure enough he finds two occasions to quote his work from Tim Burton’s 1989 BATMAN movie, which honestly believe is one of the most goose-bump-inducingly great pieces of movie score I know of. In my mind it’s weird to associate that theme with this Batman, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get excited when it came up. And I am not a liar so I won’t say that.

Weirdly he does not use Hans Zimmer’s outstanding MAN OF STEEL theme (the credits say he uses the track “Krypton’s Last”) but does give a second of the more famous John Williams SUPERMAN theme. Fuck it, we’re mixing up our realities. Should’ve used the ’60s Batman theme too. Or the “in her satin tights” TV Wonder Woman theme. Why isn’t that in there?

There are a few Snydery song choices too. I’m not real fond of the choice to have a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” by Sigrid, but I suppose it does kind of turn the trailer cliche of the warbly-female-singer-whispers-sad-version-of-popular-song trailer cliche on its head since no manic-pixie-song-girl voice could sound as bleak as Cohen’s. There’s also that White Stripes song (fine) and the not acceptable “Come Together” cover from the trailer, but at least they stick that on the end credits.

As much as JUSTICE LEAGUE fulfilled my low expectations, I think its mediocrity is a sad state of affairs. Consider what SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE means to so many people (if not me), and then how stunning Burton’s vision for BATMAN and BATMAN RETURNS was at the time, and how fucking great Nolan’s trilogy is. I don’t think MAN OF STEEL is on the same level but I do like it alot and I think it fits into that tradition of giving a vision of the character we didn’t expect. Certainly WONDER WOMAN has captured the imagination of the world and given us the first really iconic female super hero on screen. So it’s depressing to see them floundering with these movies that don’t have a distinct style or tone, and where the story seems like a connect-the-dots afterthought to all the other considerations – we gotta have these characters, and set up this spin-off, and we better add jokes because the internet didn’t like the serious version, and they didn’t like when such-and-such happened in the last movie so we better comment on that to show we agree with them. In my THOR RAGNAROK review I talked about the Marvel movies being a very high quality consumer product of a movie. I should appreciate that because here is more of a standard one, not as sleekly designed, not as sturdily manufactured, not as good.

Let me leave you with two points that cannot be made with words, only sounds. I want you to bask in two great pieces of music you’ve heard before, but that are worth listening to again. First, there is the aforementioned BATMAN theme by Danny Elfman. There’s a part in JUSTICE LEAGUE where Whedon jokes about the “Tell me, do you bleed?” line from BvS. Superman says it back to Batman, and then punches him, and then there’s a comical shot of Batman writhing around on the ground and grunting something like “Yep, something is definitely bleeding.”

It’s a funny joke. I laughed. But we get that same laugh dozens of times in every Marvel movie. What we never get is a hero glorified enough to have this theme song:

As much as I like laughing at the jokes and what not, I hope the DC movies forget about chasing what Marvel has already done so well, and what people think they want. The world already has plenty of great super hero movies with a likable, easygoing vibe. Is it so wrong to want a few with some fucking mood? I hope Matt Reeves or somebody can bring us one that deserves a stunning piece of music like the one above, or like this one by Hans Zimmer:

They could do it with a little more humor than MAN OF STEEL or a little less, but if they make something that can sustain the soaring emotions of that music then they’ll be doing something that none of the other comic book movies are even trying to do these days.

P.S. Could’ve been George Miller, you fucks!

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 21st, 2017 at 1:12 pm and is filed under Comic strips/Super heroes, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

52 Responses to “Justice League”

  1. Crushinator Jones

    November 21st, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    Good review, Vern. I didn’t like this movie very much – it’s bland, it’s quippy, it’s just a worse version of Avengers in a bunch of ways, it’s obviously been rushed and has painful green-screen and VFX problems all over the place.

    It’s a shame, because I loved Man of Steel, liked what Batman v Superman was trying to do (and the Ultimate Edition largely accomplished), and enjoyed the contrast between the two “house styles”.

    Looks like that’s over, we’re now going to get jokey power fantasies with the morality of a Saturday morning cartoon. So goodbye, Interesting Superman. Goodbye, Interesting Batman. Hello, cartoon characters for 90s kids.

  2. I forgot Amy Adams was in Cruel Intentions 2!

  3. I’ll leave my honest opinion hot-take as to not distract but overall I liked it. I was dismayed going in about them dumping what I thought made the DC movies interesting (but flawed) for a more Marvel (lite) vibe but I came out really enjoying it. Looking/reading around, it seems I’m in the minority of having a good time with this one though. I thought it got the job done and did what I wanted a superhero movie to do. I’ll miss the overachieving themes of what they set out to do. For me the best part of the movie was the opening cell phone interview with Superman and then the credits montage, I thought was legit beautiful and moving and emotional and it never really comes up again in the movie. Makes me wonder what the original full-Snyder version was like before BvS came out.

    I hope that everyone who wanted the DCEU to be more like Marvel Studio movies are happy though.

  4. Also I second the loss of the George Miller JL that most everyone was convinced was going to be a disaster of epic proportions. Then MAD MAX: FURY ROAD came out and suddenly everyone pretended they always knew Miller still had it in him. Also they insisted that it was going to be mocapped even though not a single official source said it would be.

    Typing that makes me realize we missed out on both a potentially great JL movie (the Miller one) and a potentially interesting one (the original Snyder one).

  5. I’m bummed to hear that this movie is mediocre. I thought BvS was an interesting mess, and I absolutely hated Suicide Squad, but the problem with those movies had nothing to do with the fundamental approach DC had towards these movies. I actually think Man of Steel is Snyder’s best film, and he made it while switching up his usual style. And Wonder Woman is a good film, but it’s not as full of quips as Marvel’s movies. It also deals with some pretty dark themes that seem consistent with the previous DC movies. It’s just better executed than BvS and Suicide Squad.

    So the argument that these movies need to be bright and funny seem fundamentally wrongheaded. It’s just a lazy argument you see repeated ad nauseam online. But the fact that WB are falling over themselves to please whiny fanboys goes to show you that they really have no clue what they’re doing.

  6. I would have enjoyed Miller’s version. However again I would like to say again I prefer good movies over ambitious failures.

    Also I don’t like the Nolan Batman movies so what the fuck do I know.

  7. I am not gonna pay money to see this. I spent my money elsewhere, re-newing my Netflix subscription so I could watch THE PUNISHER series. I think I made a wise choice, because that show was amazing!

  8. Steppenwolf was in the BVS ultimate cut? I did not track that at all, mainly because the ultimate cut was just more of the stuff that didn’t work.

    I think this is worse than any perceived problems with MOS and BVS because it just has no personality. We never got to see Snyder’s complete trilogy, and that’s because they retooled it before he started filming Justice League, not because he had to bow out near the end.

    Love Your addendum to We Need to Talk About Kevin too!

  9. Shoot I only saw about 3 episodes and while I really dislike the direction they took with Billy Russo I have enjoyed what I’ve seen. I don’t think that guy looks like The Punisher one bit but what works is that he and the writers know how to tap into the character’s core.

    This is miles ahead of that Thomas Jane garbage. I was genuinely surprised cause I’ve hated all those netflix marvel things. Couldn’t make it past 15 minutes with any of it. Even DAREDEVIL. Until now. I’ll probably see JUSTICE LEAGUE in a couple of weeks but I don’t care. It’s weird as hell for me to see myself a lifelong DC guy even type that out about the first ever JL movie but it’s true.

    I loathed THE AVENGERS. The fact that WB poached it’s writer/director to blatanly try to ape that nonsense instead of sticking to a true blue JL story tone is quite off putting.

    That I was on the right side of justice it seems back when I was one of the few who stuck up for Dr. Miller’s version when it mattered (2008 – 2009) just makes me sad. I hope everyone that helped kill that more ambitious and JL like project feels better now. Great going.

  10. I´ll go on record in saying that Jon Bernthal is my favourite THEPUNISHER/FRANK CASTLE(Tm). He humanizes what could easily turn into an action hero testosterone one dimensional walking machine gun.

    I am quite disturbed by some of the lesser reactions to this series. Like he should be some sort of second amendmant apology or propaganda poster boy for the NRA. I am glad that this show adressess issues that actually needs addressing

  11. Say what you will about MOS and BvS but at least they stuck to their convictions for better or worse. They didn’t really add anything that wasn’t already there SUICIDE SQUAD style. This sounds worse than SS though because it seems like it’s a much more glaringly obvious waving of a white flag. The stinger is even after all that internet pandering everyone on the internet still hates it.

  12. Shoot – The Punisher’s psychological dilemma and internal battle with himself over his fading humanity is something that only the Dolph movie kinda tried to tap into before prematurely abandoning it. Thomas Jane on the other hand was just a broken pussy. While Ray Stevenson was too far gone in his very fun movie.

    I’m glad the series is exploring it and how that affects his interactions with people (ie: Karen Page). I think people who dislike that need to read some Chuck Dixon Punisher comics before calling themselves fans of the “real” version. Or actually give the WAR ZONE movie a fair shot.

  13. It goes beyond Frank Castle, which I applaud the series for trying out. The PTSD, the gun control. I know the Leslie story line might from a narrative standpoint might not make sense, but thematically it does.

    It makes a tasteless subject matter somehow seem tasteful. The bad guys are REALLY bad, in a way I never see the big Marvel tentpole features do. Because there they are just Skeletor´s in disguise. Paul Schulze ( from 24) is such a horrificlly real character and when he gets his comeuppance…..yeah! You get that violent satisfaction! At the same time you have opportunistic characters like that Stan guy , the anti-gun legislator who may make more harm than good. But without the discourse of gun control where would he be? I get the impression that you guys can´t win this battle. Guns will be with you forever.As horrible that sounds

  14. Also, I am working throug some of The Punisher comic books by Garth Ennis. I know very little of them and feel Ennis´s work is the best place to start.

  15. I haven’t gotten that far into it. Left it at Frank finally meeting Microchip. Paul Schulze does have a habit of picking projects that question the uncomfortable reality of gun violence’s place in our society though. Word to RAMBO.

  16. BVS worked for me as an unintentional arthouse film. A big weird mess of a film that is so strange and hallucinatory that it’s a kind of singular filmatic experience. With that having been said, it’s not a well-constructed, or conventionally good film. The dialogue, characterization, pacing, and tone are all pretty bad. It’s choppy, disjointed, vacuous, and full of laughably unearned delusions of profundity. It’s almost never conventionally fun or winning, yet it’s chock full of beautiful, famous, bankable actors who either don’t realize or don’t care that they are performing in a massively budgeted Ed Wood-esque B-movie. It’s just such a bizarre mess that it is interesting in spite of itself

    I have not watched SUICIDE SQUAD, mostly because of the horrible reviews, and because it looked like too weird of a mash-up of colorful circus characters and a dour sepia-noir vibe–CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR meets SE7EN. I have not watched WONDER
    WOMAN, though I will sooner or later. I thought MAN OF STEEL was a mixed bag–great casting and generally pretty well-done, but almost fatally undercut by some really terrible dialogue and direction and a visually impeccable, masturbatory, CGI disaster porn slog of a third act.

    JUSTICE LEAGUE has never had any appeal for me. The universe seems utterly un-rooted and un-earned, and seeing the characters share the screen, even in the trailers, evokes unintentional amusement. The whole JL film event comes across as self-serious, clunky, and slipshod.

    I also don’t understand where all this love for Ben Affleck as Batman comes from. In BVS I found him to be so ridiculously over-the-top, trying so hard to be serious, and acting on motivations that were so arbitrary and volatile, that I could only regard him as a kind of goofball idiot of a character. I don’t get how anyone could find that Batman cool. He’s like an SNL parody of Batman.

  17. Fred – At the end of BvS extended version when the police come to arrest Luthor in the Kryptonian ship they walk in on him communicating with a more alien version of Steppenwolf holding the three mother boxes. I appreciated the addition because it added a little WTF!? to the proceedings.

    https://youtu.be/_uNzDY5Pz2o

  18. I might consider lifting my Zack Snyder ban* for this one, once it hits pay TV. Because while it does look super generic and at times like an Asylum Mockbuster version of THE AVENGERS, I’m just too excited to see Supey, Batty, Wondy and the other guys work together on screen and…do I dare to say it? It looks like fun!

    I don’t expect it to be good, but it seems by removing everything from Zack Snyder that makes him, as even I have to admit, interesting, they also found a way to make him watchable.

    *He still holds the record of the fastest landing on my shitlist, just because of one movie (300). Even Tarantino didn’t land on it till KILL BILL 2!

  19. I liked this one. I thought it was fun. I’m not really a Zack Snyder fan. I love MOS and like BVS okay. Those are the only Snyder movies I’ve liked though, so I was okay with this not being stamped in his style too much. I really didn’t see a blatant Whedon stamp, either, though. Yes, there was a lot more humor, which is Whedon’s style, but the type of humor didn’t have much of his voice, I thought.

    I thought they did a great job in introducing the new characters. They gave us enough to get an understanding of them without turning it into their origin stories. I am definitely intrigued to see more of them. I would’ve like some more badass moments from Aquaman, but I also would be happy with more scenes of him just standing around tossing his hair, amirite? I like how they took the Flash’s trait of being funny/smart assy and turned it into him being socially awkward. I thought it was a perfect moment when he was going on and on about brunch. Yes, it was supposed to be funny, but the actor and director used it as a real snapshot of his character. It was clear that he was genuinely confused about people, but then he came to a stop, both because he didn’t know how to put into words his confusion, but it also seemed like he came to realize his rant was not a normal social interaction. I love little moments like this better than the over the top mega that Snyder uses so frequently.

    I thought there was just the right amount of Superman being confused, angry and perhaps it was a bad idea to bring him back. SPOILER. It was fun to see them battle, but it didn’t go on so long as to become tiresome. This wasn’t supposed to be Saving Superman. I also really liked Wonder Woman stepping up to take leadership. The opening scene of her saving the people in the bank, or museum, or whatever it was made me so happy. The shot of her crouched down, holding her bracelet horizontal in front of her face with her eyes peering over the top actually made chills run up my back.

    Yeah, the villain was not very good, but overall, I really liked the movie.

  20. Since AVClub posted up an article reminding me… did anyone notice the mythical shoddy CGI covering Superman’s upper lip? I kept looking for it (even watched it on a larger than normal screen) and I didn’t notice it but according to the sea of awful reviews and comments it’s super (HA!) noticeable and distracting.

    CJ: Doubt it will change your mind but I used to be very anti-Snyder back when the Internet loved him. Then I saw his Owl movie and SUCKER PUNCH and finally understood why they loved him and even went back and re-watched 300 (which I hated) and learned I was way too hard on it. Naturally by the time I learned to love Snyder the Internet caught up with my prior opinion and believe him to be the anti-Christ now and everyone (on the Internet) pretends they didn’t go crazy for 300 and WATCHMEN (or even argue that his DAWN OF THE DEAD was superior to the original). You’re crazy re: KILL BILL though.

  21. Maggie, Bruce Wayne’s dialogue with Barry Allen and Arthur Curry felt very much like Whedon deconstructing their superhero mythos.

    Geoffreyjar, it’s mos noticeable in the opening cell phone footage, but there are now lots of stills floating around with wonky expressions too.

  22. Wow, this was terrible.

    I don’t blame Whedon for this at all – he did the job he was hired to do, with little time to do it in, by all accounts – but rather WB, who happily mandated all sorts of silly shit like making sure the running time was 100 minutes or something.

    I’d love to see Snyder’s original cut one day, as it supposedly exists, and the film I’ve just seen in the cinema is clearly not what was shown in the trailers.

    Can I sue for false advertising?

    Entitled Fanboy Karlos OUT.

  23. I know you have to account for a lot of variables including the sidebar issues, but I think comparing the number of comments this has received to the previous DCEU films, or even the Schumacher retrospectives, is quite revealing. I enjoyed it (put in a pin in that) but there’s really not much to say about it, which is why I think most of the coverage since its release has been about trying to guess which footage was Whedon’s and the practical non-issue of “The Moustache of Cavill”.

    Now I said I enjoyed it, and I did, but I can’t honestly say it’s good, or even an admirable mess. Acting is strong, characterisation is mostly solid, dialogue agreeable and humour is mostly (mostly!) on point, but plot, structure and pacing are completely lacking. It starts well, dips and when it gets going again you realise its leading up to the climax. While the opening three scenes (barring the credit montage), have a pleasing Burton/Donner (Schmacher? Beatty?) popmp to them, I can’t say the action is anything to write home about. It feels kind of cheap and under-designed for a $300million film with three of the most popular characters of the last 100 years in it (and two pretty popular ones), and, inevitable or not, it feels like two, even three films pushed together. In the UK this has earned 2/5 reviews from some notoriously generous publication and I can’t honestly say those reviews are harsh.

    I’ve never been Whedon’s biggest fan, but to his credit while its fairly easy to assume some lines are his, he (or his editor) has at least understand you can’t just AVENGERS these characters and assume everyone will like it just as much now. The humour is his, but it feels different from that in the Marvel films (for the most part, the lasso Aquaman bit is something of an exception)

    RE: the uninhabited area stuff, the gag with Superman one-upping the Flash by flying a housing block out of the way while Flash rescues a car is cute, but it would have worked a lot better if they had ever established there were anyone in the building or even surrounding area.

    In summary, there was enough I liked to hope they do more, but it’s just not cohesive or interesting enough to be a satisfying film.

  24. Vern, just FYI, Elfman used his Batman theme a good deal throughout the Justice League film, but it was almost completely wiped out in the film’s sound mix, which I don’t think Whedon was invited to.

    In the track below at 1:15, Whedon requested that Elfman bring in the classic Batman march for the moment when the batmobile bursts out of the aircraft. D.C. buried it, but I think it would have made that part pretty exciting.

  25. I feel the same way about this one as I do the last few DC movies. I saw the trailer and it looked a steaming pile of garbage that I will never watch. Which sucks because I love DC comics. I might not like all the Marvel movies but at least the people making them seem to have actually read the comics and understand what people like about them. And it drives my crazy that people are trying to say Affleck is a good Batman. The DC tv shows are way better than the movies but it’s tough to stick with them for like 100 hours or whatever. I wish they would do shorter seasons and space them out more like the Marvel Netflix shows.

    Maybe I will see Wonder Woman at some point since it seems to have good reviews but I really don’t care if I do or don’t. I was actually excited for Man of Steel because Snyder made pretty great movies up to then but MOS was fucking painful to watch. I don’t know what the people above are talking about with the Snyder hate. I have never ever heard anyone in real life say that they did not love 300 now or at any time in the past. If I did, I would immediately think less of them.

    Anyway, I’m just jumping in this thread to ask Shoot which Punisher comics he is starting with and what he thought. I would highly recommend reading Ennis’ Marvel Knights series first. The MAX series is much more grim and serious but still good. The MK series are much funnier and cartoonish but still violent as Hell. Punisher: Born is a pretty good origin story and pretty brutal. If you enjoy those, I would also recommend Ennis’ Hitman series very highly as well as Preacher (which Seth Rogen made into a terrible tv show) and The Boys (which Seth Rogen is about to make into a terrible tv show). I don’t read many new comics these days but I always look out for new stuff from Garth Ennis and Ed Brubaker.

  26. I started with MAXm because I heard good stuff about it and that is what people seem to recommend. Thanks for the recommendations. i used to read PREACHER twenty years ago as they were published in a monthly magazine. I thought it was so goddamn wild and crazy. As a teenage I loved it.

  27. Yeah, Preacher is great. His earlier Punisher run is much more like that (not nearly as insane) and has the same artist too.

  28. “Geonosian”

    – Never change, Vern.

  29. WELCOME BACK FRANK is a classic modern Punisher story for sure. I anticipated every issue quite greatly every month back when it was first published and it has held up as the best example of what The Punisher means to his modern day fans. I grew up on the Mike Baron and Chuck Dixon which probably won’t resonate as well with today’s readers but that is MY Punisher and ironically this show follows the tone and language of that era of the comics quite faithfully. More so than anything by Ennis. The WAR ZONE movie is more Ennis flavored and not just cause it featured some of his characters in it. When I checked out the MAX stuff it was a bit too far gone for my taste. I appreciated that it aged Frank in real time. He was still the vietnam vet and everything. But it did get too sensationalized and try hard for my tastes pretty early on. I think I only read like the first 2 arcs.

    PREACHER was indeed pretty great though. I refuse to watch the show on principle. No way they’d nail even 40% of what PREACHER is really all about. It looks like a very superficial adaptation.

  30. I never read the PREACHER comics, but I really enjoyed the first season, which was, from what I’ve been told, a prequel to the comics. But the season 2 premiere, that fans praised for “finally being like the comics”, was so awful that it turned me away from the show completely. As if it was made for 12 year olds, who have never heard of anything that came out in the 90s and now totally lose their mind over their first encounter with “funny” sex and violence.

  31. I’ve been meaning to watch PREACHER (the first comic book I ever loved but I’m worried how I’d feel about it now) but what’s this prequel nonsense? All the characters get together in the first issue. He gets his powers in the first, like, three pages. THERE IS NO STORY BEFORE THAT. What’s the prequel about? Three people sitting around alone, wondering if any crazy supernatural shit’ll ever happen to them?

    Fuckin’ TV, man. They could take a dirty limerick and stretch it out into the fucking Iliad.

  32. What, the first season is a prequel?! Well fuck that then.

  33. I couldn’t finish the first season it was so boring. The second season was much better but still has a lot of problems. My biggest beef is that the actors playing Jesse and Tulip are awful. Why can’t they get American actors to play American characters any more?

    It’s a very frustrating show to watch. Sometimes it seems for a while that it’s finally going to be awesome but then it just fizzles out, mostly due to stupid changes from the comic. I get that they need to make changes but I don’t understand just changing things for no reason.

  34. Like, Ennis brings us into the narrative at the natural starting point. Jesse is doing his thing, living his normal existence, and BAM some crazy shit happens that sends him off on an unexpected adventure. It’s Storytelling One Oh Fucking One. But you can’t do that on TV. Oh no. People might accidentally understand what’s going on immediately and then not binge for 13 straight hours just to see the basic premise of the show get established.

    Every fucking incident gets a scene. Every fucking scene gets a subplot. Every fucking subplot gets a setup and a payoff. Every fucking setup gets repeated in case the viewer forgot. Every fucking payoff gets interrupted by a cliffhanger. Every fucking cliffhanger gets a twist. Every fucking twist leads to more incidents. Every fucking incident gets a scene….

    I swear, these people think in media res is what happens when Netflix starts buffering in the middle of an episode.

  35. Well fuck that first season. I might actually just start on the second one if I ever.

    Majestyk is right. The viewer needs to be cradled like a baby into the story and that seems awful. The story in the comicbook sets up perfectly and then the story can carefully be grafted through occasonal regressions when needed. But no , you have to have In medias res. To get someones attention.

  36. There’s one kinda cool part in season 1 but Sony has apparently made it completely unavailable outside the US so I won’t even post a link. I mean, god forbid you allow people to actually get interested in watching your terrible show.

    The most impressive part of the Preacher show is that they actually have Arseface and made it look basically the same as the comic. I really never thought I would ever see that.

  37. I’m about halfway through the Punisher series and I gotta be honest, it’s mostly lousy. I didn’t think it was possible for me not to enjoy the Punisher, I’ve enjoyed every previous live action version, including the same version on the Daredevil show, but here we are.

    I get that the writers are probably upstanding citizens who don’t want to inspire the next mass shooting, but the Punisher doesn’t really have any point to exist except as a violent, macho power fantasy. The old comics that I used to read were essentially Death Wish 3 reinterpreted for 12-year-olds who like to torture cats, and by the time it got to the Ennis years it was more like a slightly knowing, intentionally funny version of the same thing. So I don’t really get this brooding, morally ambiguous version of the character who seems conflicted about his actions. I’m sure there have been many interpretations over the years closer to this one, but to me the Punisher is a true believer in his own cause, sees no grey area, has no qualms about killing any criminal and, point in fact, really enjoys it. I get how that might be a morally reprehensible TV show to make, but if you’re not comfortable making that show, why bother? Maybe that’s a sign that a Punisher series shouldn’t exist.

    So yeah, sorry to be that guy, but #NotMyPunisher, etc etc, I’ll watch the rest of the season because I’m incapable of not watching it, but it’s not good.

    It has other problems, too, like a slow pace, too many subplots and terrible side characters, and not enough action. I think it’s biggest problem it shares with the Hensleigh/Jane version of Punisher: turning it into a revenge story instead of a vigilante story. That’s even worse for this critical take on the character, since it makes his actions more justified (by action movie logic).

    I guess it’s interesting that the show is being thematically ambitious, and maybe trying to say something about white male anger and disenfranchised veterans, but is this really the right show for that? Shouldn’t this show be, you know, kinda fun, it being based on a stupid comic and all? Shouldn’t we at least be able to enjoy the action scenes and not have to ponder the human cost of the actions of a man who lives in a silly comic book universe and is friends with a magic blind crime fighter? I’d rather have the fun version of the Punisher but, barring that, this could at least stand to be significantly more badass. But the show is too dedicated to not glorifying Frank to do that.

    I had to quit the Preacher TV series after 2 episodes for the exact reasons Majestyk is speculating about. It teases out the premise of the show as a mystery instead of, you know, utilizing what’s a really great, fun premise. It’s nice that it sounds like the show eventually became about a magic Preacher, a criminal and a vampire tracking down God to hold him accountable for his actions, but I’m not sure I need to sit through 8 more episodes or whatever to get to the good part.

  38. Until the Defenders, I started watching every Marvel Netflix show the weekend it premiered. But I eventually became so burned by these series that I’m really questioning whether they’re following any longer. With the exception of Jessica Jones, they mostly take a nosedive halfway through the season. I’m not even sure if I’ll watch Punisher, despite liking the character in Daredevil.

    I’m actually near the end of reading the Preacher series, which can be a lot of fun, but it’s also very, very 90s. I would have probably liked it much more if I had started it twenty years ago. I watched the first season of the show, and I also found it to be kind of a slog with a few great moments sprinkled throughout.

    I’ve been watching the last season of Longmire, however, and I actually appreciate that show’s ability to tell a mystery within an hour while balancing out the season long arc. This kind of writing is a lost art these days on TV. So I guess what I’m trying to say is, everyone should watch Longmire.

  39. I keep hearing good stuff about LONGMIRE from really disparate sources. I really need to check it out.

    One thing I’ve noticed about these Netflix shows is every scene past the half-hour mark feels like it could be the end-of-episode cliffhanger.

  40. Boy am I glad my wife resisted my repeated attempts to watch this overseas on our honeymoon, because to be honest the whole thing left me pretty bummed out. It’s not a bad movie, it’s certainly “better” and more coherent than BvS, but it’s also a bland, flaccid movie entirely devoid of those Zack Snydery painterly flourishes, and also the first Snyder movie without any rewindable action sequences (the opening Wonder Woman one does come close).

    None of this would be a problem if the script made up for it, but it’s just the typical random/arbitrary crystals and doomsday clock plot that the Marvel Movies made everyone sick of, populated by characters and performances that just don’t spark. It’s half-baked and underwritten, a little like the Dark Tower movie where they’re trying to cram in a bunch of stuff in too little time so they end up paring things down so thin that the attempts at conflict just don’t work – the whole thing feels weirdly cheap and small, like those Robert Rodriguez movies where the cast is filmed separately on green screens. Any of the dream sequences in Sucker Punch has more action and content than the climax to this movie, which is insane. Gadot’s charisma has been cut in half from Wonder Woman, Miller tries his best but is saddled with the unenviable task of having every single line he says be a joke. Affleck has a few moments to be interesting but it’s just not enough.

    This is a giant tentpole movie that literally ends in a sitcommy homage to one of the greatest endings of all time (Rocky III), and yet I still sat there with a face of stone, unamused. It’s not just the feeling that DC “sold out” in trying to make a Marvel Movie, I think they just kinda forgot that their entire “brand” wasn’t necessarily “grimdark” like the nerds keep claiming it is. Wonder Woman was a cultural phenomenon bigger than most Marvel movies, and the most popular scene (the No Man’s Land scene) isn’t grimdark at all. It’s also unlike anything in the MCU (there SHOULD have been a scene like that in Captain America 1, but that movie’s barely-there workmanlike execution is one of the reasons people keep harping on MCU movies for having no style). Is it too much to ask for THAT to be DC’s template instead of Avenger-y one-liners? I mean, let’s be honest- the best thing out of the DCEU is still the Man of Steel Trailer. Big and moving and emotional, with eye-popping visuals and that crazy good theme song. So of course lets jettison that song and bring in Danny Elfman to sorta/kinda use his Tim Burton theme (reminiscent of that awful Rogue One theme that sounded like a kid messing up trying to learn the Star Wars Theme). Either use the damn theme or don’t. And don’t use the John Williams Superman theme randomly for 2 seconds while Superman is evil and punching a monument. It’s not rocket science guys.

    Anyways, rant over – it’s a sad state of affairs that a Justice League movie came and went and nobody cared, especially the people who made it. The fact that there’s only 40 comments here, and only maybe a quarter of them even pertain to the movie says a whole lot about the movie.

  41. Congratulations, Neal!

  42. Thanks Vern! Hopefully married life will not get in the way of me watching movies or striving for excellence, and the only change you guys should notice is me saying “my wife fell asleep during this movie” as opposed to “my ladyfriend fell asleep during this movie”.

    Speaking of falling asleep, I finally made it through all 3 hours of the BvS Ultimate Edition. Not much else to report except I guess you could say it’s “better” in that it adds tons of extraneous bullshit to make the extraneous bullshit in the Theatrical Version make more sense and not feel like hanging plot threads. It’s still extraneous bullshit though, and this cut still doesn’t explain the biggest questions like how Luthor knew Superman was Clark Kent or what anybody’s motivation is in anything. It’s still not very good but not bad for watching on the couch on an afternoon when you have a cold, and those action sequences are still pretty badass and better than anything in Justice League.

    It is kinda funny watching BvS now that JL has come and gone, as obviously we’ll never get resolution to the whole “Knightmare” plot points they set up in BvS. I mean, Bruce never once asks the Flash in JL about the dream within a dream, and there’s no mention made of the weird Superman-worshipping SWAT guys or the Mad Max post apocalypse setting. I mean, shouldn’t Bruce be MORE wary of bringing Superman back from the dead since he had that psychic dream where he’s pure evil? Instead he seems to be the only one who thinks it’s a good idea. It’s like the movie wants you to disregard events of the last movie as non-canon even though it came out ONE YEAR AGO. Also funny that Wonder Woman says to Victor “We need you! Nobody can do what you can do!” when as far as she knows the only thing he can do is get strapped to a board and scream. (I also like how Cyborg says the mother boxes came alive the night Superman died and turned him into a Cyborg when that clearly happened way before Superman died in BvS).

    Oh, final thought – I really think they should have doubled down and brought Leto back for that end credits teaser. I think the Joker teaming up with Luthor is more exciting and newsworthy than Luthor teaming up with a character 95% of people won’t recognize, played by an actor made to look unrecognizable. My wife is a huge Joe Manganiello fan and still totally thought that was Kevin Nash in a Deadpool knockoff costume.

  43. Crushinator Jones

    December 7th, 2017 at 11:39 am

    If you’re asking “How does Lex Luthor, a super-genius guy with a shitload of military and nsa contacts, know Clark Kent is Superman?” then you’re beyond hope.

  44. Congrats, Neal! I hope the RECENT COMMENTS thing will work soon, so that more people hear about your marriage.

  45. That’s funny, I forgot all about the Flash thing in BvS. He was the one who suggested the contingency plan of how to calm Superman. But how did he specifically know that, and when did he travel back in time? Is the dream an actual future that they lived through and then he traveled back in time to warn Bruce? You’re right, it must not be what Snyder intended. (Or he didn’t plan it very well.)

    And I agree, that’s so weird that they didn’t do the Joker. The worst Lex Luthor of all time teamed with a mercenary guy hardly seems like a super villain team worth announcing publicly. But if they get that Darth Vader helmet shaped base that rises up out of the swamp I will accept them.

    I was thinking about these rumors that Affleck might leave, and his quote about finding a “cool way” to do it, which has caused speculation that the Flash movie would create an alternate timeline/dimensional rift type deal that would be a way of doing this. That seems weird to me though because that seems like a gimmick you use to change the *entire* cast. Replacing Wonder Woman would end the entire franchise, replacing Aqua Man would make no sense (unless everybody hates his movie), and I would be severely disappointed if they replaced Superman. And if they did NOT use the opportunity to replace Lex Luthor that would seem like a huge waste.

    Anyway I kind of like Affleck in the role but this series is so flawed it seems best to let Matt Reeves have a fresh start with his movie. Whatever he does I trust him.

  46. Crushinator Jones

    December 7th, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    Well, this movie is flawed. Batman V Superman theatrical cut wasn’t great, but the Ultimate Edition largely accomplishes what Snyder was going for. Having to cut a half hour compromised the movie.

    I’m not giving up and throwing away one-and-three-quarters good movies because some dumbshit studio execs wanted to please the Devin Farracis of the world (surprise! They all hated it anyway)

  47. Thanks CJ! Yeah, I hope the recent comments are fixed soon, I love the fresh discussions that pop up here about older movies when people comment on them.

    Re: The Knightmare thing, what makes JL even weirder is that 1) Evil Superman says to chained-up Batman in the dream “You took her away from me” or something like that, insinuating Lois died and he blames Batman. Guess we’ll never see that happen. 2) The Flash, right after saying “Lois is the key!” also tells Batman. “You were right about him! Fear him!” which I guess gives Batman more motivation for BvS but less motivation for being the main proponent of bringing him back to life in JL. Especially because, let’s be honest – they could have totally beaten Steppenwolf without him- he was a weaker villain than Doomsday and I’m pretty sure Wonder Woman did most of the work anyway.

    I guess one day we’ll hear what the original script of Justice League was all about. I THINK it was still planned to be a two-parter when they were shooting BvS, so I’m guessing the first part would have been about bringing Superman back (probably actually had something to do with the levitating dirt) and the second would have been about Darkseid since apparently his symbol is all over the Knightmare scene. I’ve also heard the rumors that they were going to use Flashpoint to reboot the whole DCEU, but not only can they not jettison Wonder Woman, what about the 5,000 Harley Quinn movies that they’ve supposedly got going? I bet right now Warners wishes they didn’t get into this shared universe business so they could just go ahead and reboot Superman like Sony did with the Amazing Spider-Man series.

  48. Crushinator Jones

    December 7th, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    The details of Snyder’s original 2-Parter Justice League are:

    In the first movie, Superman would have come back evil (or “confused into being evil” by Steppenwolf, who tells him that Batman killed Lois among other things) and fought the League and beat their asses. The movie would have ended with them licking their wounds and trying to figure out how to beat a Kryptonian + Steppenwolf.

    In the second movie, Superman would have been turned back into a good guy in a dramatic scene where Batman apologized to him and revealed that Lois was still alive. They then all go on to kick Steppenwolf’s ass and throw him off-world. He gets killed by Darkseid.

    After BvS got critically slammo’d they combined both these movies into one script. That was the first revision of Justice League, that Snyder shot his rough cut of.

    Afterwards there was another revision, first helmed by Snyder + Whedon but later just by Whedon after Snyder left. So what we all endured is actually seeing is the third retooling of Justice League.

  49. One can make an argument for it being the 4th iteration due to Whedon being under orders to deliver a movie under two hours.

    Yeah you hit the nail on the head of wanting to please the audience who was never even going to bother to see this one anyway. I have a friend who likes to give me hard time over the DC movies (he’s a Marvel fan from birth) and when I told him this one was was much lighter in tone and more Marvel-like, something he’s been demanding these movies be since MAN OF STEEL (like Faraci and others), he said he had no intention of seeing it still. So I hope that Warner Bros is happy bowing to the the demands of an audience who weren’t going to see it anyway.

    Not sure I feel about a reboot. I like the cast they arranged and I seem to be in the minority of enjoying JL (though I still like the gravitas of MOS and BvS and even WW more (I keep forgetting SS exists) and feel they have potential to make fun polar-opposite movies with them going forward. More likely they’ll dump everyone not Gal Gadot (which I hope they don’t).

    Also hope Snyder’s career doesn’t suffer too bad from this. Bad enough Gore Verbinski might direct a fucking GAMBIT movie (to say nothing of David Goyer might do fucking HE-MAN), I’d hate to lose Snyder’s voice too.

  50. Oh yeah, and I feel terrible for neglecting to post this first, congrats Neal. I hope it all works out for you and you and your spouse are remain happy or mostly happy.

  51. Thanks Geoffrey! You guys here are the best.

    Thanks too Crush for the JL v1.0 details. I also want to reiterate that I didn’t really hate BvS UE – saying it adds alot of “extraneous bullshit” was probably harsher than I meant to say – I guess a nice way to phrase it is “it completes and closes off dangling threads that maybe could have been excised altogether”. But those dangling threads were part of the charm this time to be honest – I still haven’t seen Shin Godzilla, but BvS UE really reminded me of Vern’s review – it almost feels like a procedural take on the genre, full of weird bureaucracies and characters you don’t expect (and may not particularly want) in your superhero movies. I mean, the African witness, Holly Hunter’s senator, and Scoot McNairy’s character all don’t belong in a movie like this in their current form. In another movie, McNairy would become the supervillain, or Hunter would end up being a Gary Shandling-type subvillain or becoming a Commissioner Gordon type ally, but nope, all three have very little to do with the main conflict and are jettisoned from the movie without much consequence. It’s messy and weird but definitely interesting. Also interesting – I really like the scene with the sex trafficker’s wife talking to Clark Kent – what other comic book movie shows a low-level henchman having a wife and kid and asks us to mourn his death? (It would have been nice if Batman learned any of this information; instead he turns a corner offscreen and just spares Luthor for no reason at all despite the fact that Luthor will most certainly kill again in the future).

    I also rewatched Wonder Woman (yes, that’s how excited for Justice League I was) and actually noticed an interesting thematic throughline with it and BvS – that being a hero may feel hopeless and pointless and thankless, but you have to just keep doing it. Chris Pine knows the whole movie that mankind is (mostly) corrupt and evil and violent, and we can’t be redeemed simply by just killing one guy, but he keeps fighting the good fight, even knowing his efforts are a mere drop in the bucket, and Diana learns from his sacrifice instead of just agreeing with Ares and being like, “Yeah screw mankind, I’m out” (which yep, I would have done). In Man of Steel, Clark saves every single person on the entire planet, and he’s repaid by everyone (including the audience!) complaining about how he did it, including whining about breaking the neck of the guy trying to kill us. In BvS, most of the people are seen protesting and complaining about his existence on TV, or burning him in effigy. The media seems mostly out to get him. His dad tells him in a dream/flashback that every action has an unintended consequence, even heroic deeds can cause even more damage to others. His mom tells him he doesn’t owe our world a thing and she basically doesn’t blame him for peacing out either. (It’s all incredibly dour and no wonder Devin Faraci said the moral of Man of Steel and BvS seems to be “don’t be a hero”). But like Wonder Woman and Pine, instead of packing up his shit and peacing out to Mars like Dr. Manhattan, Clark ends up sacrificing himself, and through his death, people realize how much they took him for granted, and how they need to follow his lead, be better to one another and “take their place in the sun” or whatever Jor-El said in the Man of Steel Trailer. “If you seek his monument, look around you”, etc.. That’s actually some powerful stuff, and unlike anything else in modern superhero movies.

    So of course Justice League negates all of that from frame one, by retconning Superman into a figure beloved by kids, and an opening montage of people not being inspired by Superman and being generally shitty to each other (which is especially pointless since the movie’s threat is external, and the mood of the people has no bearing on the plot and is never really addressed again). It would have been nice if the DCEU kept this theme of perseverance going throughout its series, kinda like how most of the Dirty Harry movies aren’t just cop movies but are really about the fine line between cops and vigilantes. Zack Snyder said himself his films were about Superman in a world where he saves a cat out of a tree, but then people complain about damaging the tree or cat overpopulation. Justice League says goodbye to all that highfalutin business and promises us more CGI battles in ABANDONED factories. Yippee.

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