Justice League (2017)

DC just doesn’t get it. That much is obvious, at this point. They’ve been tripping over themselves ever since they decided to leap onto Marvel’s coat-tails and fire up their own shared cinematic universe, but they’ve been impatient…and it shows. Last night, my girlfriend and I were out at a St. Paddy’s Day house party shindig and I found myself drunkenly engaged in a very geek-friendly conversation with a fellow reveller, weighing the merits of how Marvel has so far succeeded beautifully, while DC’s efforts fall on their face. One side-effect of this tipsy chat was being reminded that ‘Justice League’ had just hit the Home Market and that, despite morbid curiosity and an appreciation for several of director Zack Snyder’s earlier films, I’d missed it in the theatre when it hit The Big Screen. So having managed to dodge the Saint Patrick’s Day hang-over (thank gawd!), I got up with the intention of finding a copy of ‘JL’, so that I can scribble my lil scribbles about it and actually see if it’s the jumbled shit-show mess that it was rumored to be. So I headed out into the misty drizzle to score a Blu ray copy from…somewhere. I finally found one…for more $ than I normally pay…and scurried home with it.
Before I get into my notes from this flick, I have to acknowledge the dysfunction that went on behind the scenes, especially when Zack and Deborah Snyder, as co-writer / director and producer, left the project about 3/4’s of the way through production due to grief over their daughter’s recent suicide, all though it’s also strongly rumoured that they were actually shit-canned from the production, as Snyder had somehow incurred the wrath of the fanboys and WB / DC just bent over and spread em. Also, former Marvel director Joss Whedon (‘The Avengers’) came in to guide the rest of the movie to fruition….with some changes. Then there was The Mustache. By now, everyone probably knows that ‘Superman’ actor Henry Cavill was deep into production on ‘Mission Impossible: Fallout’ when extensive reshoots for ‘JL’, now under Whedon’s direction, were fired up. His character in ‘Fallout’ sports a handsome pornstache, that he was contractually obligated to keep, even when going back to shoot new material for a different film that was almost already complete. SO…they tried to work around it. Digitally. And…well…you’ll see below. The point is, is that there was some more-hectic-than-usual bullshit going on with this one and I was genuinely curious to see what the end result would be. So I brewed up a massive mug of lemon tea, at 11am on a grey Sunday morning and slid the brand-new disc into our player…and got scribbling!

-Marvel wannabe DC logo. Marvel Studios has a very eye-catching and distinct studio logo, that incorporates cool shots of many of the characters featured in the MCU. It’s undeniable that DC is keen to follow the ‘Marvel’ example, right down to the logo style.

-SO fake Superman face! The Stache! Whoop! There it is!! Right off the bat, we get a hilarious example of the piss-poor CG cover-up used to erase The Stache…and it fucks Henry Cavill’s gorgeous man-face up! Just looked awful.

-Decent first fight. Holt! I tend to like actor Holt McCallany (‘Fight Club’) whenever he pops up in a project and this little cameo, in a rooftop fight scene that was entirely dreamed up and added when Whedon took over the production. It was a fun little bit that set a tone…that the movie didn’t keep.

-Heavy-handed melodrama of an intro. Shitty music choice. The overly dramatic images / credits set to a terrible cover of a great Leonard Cohen track (‘Everybody Knows’) was not a good start. Right away, I could tell that, again, they were going for a relentlessly brooding vibe, a vibe that many ‘fans’ have taken issue with, and have largely, and probably rightfully, placed blame at the feet of Zack Snyder. As I mentioned, I love several of Snyder’s films, notably ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (2004), ‘300’ (2006), ‘Watchmen’ (2009) and yes, even ‘Sucker Punch’ (2011). It was when he took on ‘Man of Steel’, where his aesthetic felt like he was trying something new, something drab-looking, something Nolan-ish, for his corporate overlords at Warner Bros. and DC, that I began to falter in my devotion to his work.

-Hilarious WW intro. Lady Justice! This just made me laugh out loud, with Wonder Woman appearing onscreen for the first time standing aloft on the shoulder of a ‘justice is blind’-type statue. No subtlety at all.

-Aquaman=total brodude. Pretty much all right there. ‘Arthur Curry’ / ‘Aquaman’, as played by a huge and ripped Jason Momoa, is a total bro-dude type, through and through.

-Crudup!Another actor I generally like is Billy Crudup and seeing him pop up for a couple of short scenes was ok with me. Since he’s was in this one, I’m guessing that he and Snyder were still tight from their ‘Watchmen’ days.

-Hokey dialogue. Ouch! I initially hoped that I was only going to get a couple of line readings that sounded goofy, but that was not to be. There was some shit dialogue and some shit acting to go with it.

-Cool intro for ‘Cyborg’.The ‘Cyborg’ character , as played by Ray Fisher, was one of the things from the marketing campaign that didn’t exactly blow my skirt up. I thought the effects on the robot body looked bad, though admitted that they MAY have just been incomplete at the time of the trailer and they still MAY turn out great. Nope.  The character didn’t do all that much for me, since we’ve all seen similar technology-run-amok Frankenstein stories before. But, I was surprised at how much I liked the first scene setting him up. I thought it worked.

-Cool Amazons / Motherbox scene. There’s a sprawling battle scene where Wonder Woman’s Amazonian elite engage in a desperate and energetic fight / chase, with new baddie ‘Steppenwolf’ (Ciaran Hinds) and his winged minions in hot pursuit as they try to flee with an all powerful ‘motherbox’.

-Ha! Green Lantern!!This was more of just a DC-universe Easter Egg, but during a flashback to a large battle, a member of the Green Lantern Corps. goes flying through the background, fighting off several flying enemies.

-Gal Gadot looks like she’s about to crack up, with Cyborg. There are several shots that pop up in which I swear that Gadot is about to break out in gales of laughter. Seriously…those were the best takes? To me, it’s either Snyder was so inwardly distraught over the death of his kid that he just didn’t care enough anymore to hone the performance the movie needed, OR these sequences were shot by Whedon, who maybe ran a production with a lighter tone that unprofessionally carried over in some of the takes they wound up with.

-Subtlety means nothing to this movie. That sentence sums up much of this flick, as it’s really heavy-handed and ‘in your face’ about everything…to near Michael Bay levels.

-Fully exposed, ‘Cyborg’ looks weak. CG issues. When ‘Cyborg’ is partially concealed by his loose sweats and hoodie, it worked for me. When he was ‘naked’, it looked…’off’. It looked like the CG that it was…and that CG seemed unfinished. And he wasn’t the only one…there’s a surprisingly amount of lame CG peppered throughout the 2 hour run-time.

-Damn! Some garbage CG! Yep, there it is again. There was so much unfinished-looking digital effects that it was shocking that a huge, expensive release like this, with as much on the line as there was, would’ve allowed this to hit the theatres looking this way. Seems lazy and cheap.

-Nice. Hints of the 1989 Batman theme. After Snyder left the project, Whedon somewhat dick-headedly also removed the original composer, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’s Junkie XL and replaced him with one of the admittedly best composers in Hollywood, Danny Elfman. Say what you will about firing Junkie XL, but Elfman has been one of the best film score composers for 30 something years. His score for Tim Burton’s classic 1989 adaptation of ‘Batman’ is terrific, and I will admit to getting a little thrill out of hearing it pop through his other music here.

-I can tell Snyder’s heart and mind weren’t into this project. I don’t know what it is but there something…lacking, with this production. Many of the performances and line deliveries would be just fine as rehearsal material, but this is content that wound up in the final product. I suspect that would be due to distraction and a lack of cohesive vision as well as The Snyder’s just pushing through the process of mechanically getting the material the script called for.

-Why would Superman be just buried in some local cemetery?!Given that Supes got wasted at the end of ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ and was planted, you’d think that SOMEONE (maybe even ‘Lois’?) would recognize that having this incredibly powerful alien body just left as worm food, where anyone can get to it, is maybe not the best of ideas.

-BW should be crippled or dead. ‘Bruce Wayne’ goes through some physically- trying shit in this flick, like being hurled into the side of a parked car or tossed aside from a damaging height, for example. As he points out earlier, he doesn’t have super powers…he’s just rich. Which is perfect in the event that he ends up a cripple and has to shit in a bag for the rest of his life. His personal team of purchased medics can take care of that mess. I know that these are science fiction / fantasy films…but I couldn’t overlook a couple of the hits that ‘Batman’ took…and just walked away from.
*This gripe probably stems from my own past (and occasionally current) back issues, like the pinched nerve that crippled me for a full week once. I know how goddamn’d easy it is to screw your back up, so to see a human being get blasted into the side of a sedan with enough force to damage the car, but he still gets up and trots away, is a little much to take.

-CG Supes face stands right out. And the shitty CG train just keeps on chugging along! The reshot material stands right out. I think I picked out every scene where Cavill’s face looked like he’d recently had a beating and a lobotomy, noting it as part of the Joss Whedon reshoots.

-“I’m a fan of Truth…and also Justice.” Hilarious. No bullshit…I laughed out loud when ‘Superman’ drops this line mid-drama. Again with the hokey, ham-fisted dialogue! No finesse anywhere.

-“Slow poke.” WTF?! Why is Supes dialogue SO bad?!!Seriously…when was the last time anyone referred to anyone as a ‘slow poke’? I might’ve heard that one on the playground back in the 80’s, but it would’ve been a stupid insult even back then. And ‘Superman’ tosses it at ‘The Flash’ (Ezra Miller) during what I suspect was an after-the-fact attempt at emergency levity, with a lil friendly ‘who’s faster’ competition going on between them. Almost ALL of ‘Superman’s dialogue is border-line cringe-worthy. I actually felt bad for Henry Cavill.

-Painful humor. Why is Supes all quippy n shit?!I liked Cavill’s previous stoic flavors in ‘Man of Steel’ and ‘BvS’, and this jokey ‘Superman’ just didn’t work for me at all. It felt clumsily engineered by a marketing department and further cheapened the end result. Just another tool they used to further confuse the tone…similar to the hatchet job DC’s ‘Suicide Squad’ underwent in 2016, with the shoe-horned one-liners and situational comedy scattered noticeably through the dark and cynical tone. DC tinkers with their movies too much and the wear shows.They need to pick directors they trust and just let them work. I think Snyder’s work with the DC universe has been a low point on his filmography…that still resulted in some admittedly sweet sequences in movies that, for the most part, are very competently made and often exciting. I think he gave it his all, and not all of his all stuck the landing. Now I hope he can go back to some smaller flicks over which he and his producer wife Deborah can maintain the creative control, and just go wild. Give us some crazy cool shit! But first, admit that it’s time to move on from DC, Zack.

-Another typical loud n flashy end with yet another goddamn beam of energy into the fucking sky.Right there. That. Marvel! DC! Get your shit together!! We want some creative and different endings to some of these movies…don’t just keep hitting REPEAT. At this point, if you’ve seen one…you’ve pretty much seen them all.

-Meh. Does about sum it up, unfortunately.

This was another example of why I VERY rarely buy brand new Blu rays without having seen the movie first…cuz now I feel a lil sad. I’ll still add it to the collection, completist nerd that I am, but I’m not sure under what circumstance I would toss on ‘Justice League’ again…because of its (not) awesomeness!

All in all, ‘Justice League’ was nothing special. It was merely OK. Serviceable product. There was some cool scenes and passable characterization but it was choppy, sloppy and noticeably desperate to connect to a solid fan-base. As per part of my drunken nerd conversation last night, we both felt that DC should give up on imitating Marvel, because clearly it’s not going to work and take their IPs in a different direction, again with more trust in the writers and film crew, and a more cohesive overall direction and tone. Today, this movie served its purpose and that was to burn 2 hours on a drizzly Sunday morning. If you take ‘Justice League’ on that level, you might have a good time with it. It’s not a very good movie, but it does have some cool stuff going on.

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