Movie Review: Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Details: More information can be found at https://www.hbomax.com/feature/urn:hbo:feature:GYDAnZgCFQ8IJpQEAAAAN

Score: 6.8/10

Justice League was a film that was released a while ago. It was riddled with problems. Reshoots, a lower quality of films compared to Marvel’s superhero movies, and the director bowing out due to a personal tragedy all knee-capped this movie. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is meant to be everything the originally released movie was meant to be. After watching this movie, I can easily say that this is a better movie than the version of this movie released a few years ago. By itself, this is a passable movie that I would say is on the same level as the first Avengers superhero movie that Marvel put out. I did not love that first Avengers movie and I don’t hold any passion for this one.

The background story behind this film is that back when this movie was released, Zack Snyder pretty much shot the entire movie and was about to start post production (editing, special effects, etc.). Then his daughter killed herself and he understandably bowed out of the movie. Joss Whedon took over directorial duties and reshot a bunch of things, changed the story around and changed the entire tone of the film to something more lighthearted. Some of the more noteworthy problems with the film include a badly digitally removed mustache on Henry Cavill (he was filming Mission Impossible at the time and was contracted to keep his mustache… or so the rumor goes). There’s some cheesy lines and odd editing. Basically, Whedon made substantial changes to a film that had already finished shooting, creating this very disjointed feeling film.

Since the release of that movie, whispers of a Snyder cut that holds all the original intent of Zack Snyder was floating around the internets. Whedon’s Justice League was poorly received and DC Comics fans wanted a decent Justice League movie. No one knows if Snyder’s original vision would yield a good movie or not, but Whedon’s Justice League was so bad that most fans wanted to take that chance.

Then came the pandemic and everyone stuck at home. Streaming entertainment became essential and Warner Brothers decided to capitulate to fans. They got Snyder and decided to give him the funding to finish the movie he originally made and release on HBO’s streaming service.

So how is the film? It’s definitely better than Whendon’s version, but only by a little bit. It’s not a huge leap forward. The film still retains most of the major plot points and the problems with those plot points. The tone of the film is darker and it’s a gorier film with more blood and violence.

One of the dumber things about this film and the quintessential thing that makes this movie a Zack Snyder film is the overuse of slow motion. Seriously, after years of Zack Snyder films, it seems clear he has no idea how to make a movie at normal speed. The movie either speeds up, then slows down, then freezes, then speed up again, then slows down, ad infinitum. It’s stupid. The movie is over four hours long. No film needs to be that long. I feel like if Snyder could just run the camera at normal speed, we’d actually have a movie with a tolerable run time.

The biggest addition was an additional scene near the end where Jared Leto reprises his role as the Joker. This was a mostly meaningless scene, had little or nothing to do with the overall plot, and was simply meant as fan service.

Overall, this movie is fine. Its existence– I feel– is largely unnecessary. It’s pretty much the same film as Whedon’s version except with a lot of minor improvements. You can tell that Warner Brothers wanted this to be the start of its own superhero movie franchise, but it was so unsuccessful that this plan clearly fell to the wayside.

Movie Review: Iron Man

Details: More information can be found at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0371746/ and https://www.disneyplus.com/movies/marvel-studios-iron-man/6aM2a8mZATiu

Score: 7/10

I recently got access to Disney Plus, which means I now have access to all the Marvel movies. Disney has conveniently laid out of these movies in their intended watching order and I’ve decided to give them all a watch through. First on the list is Iron Man, a movie so successful that it spawned the entirety of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Tony Stark is technological genius. He is the head of Stark Industries, a weapons manufacturer who sells weapons to the United States military. After getting kidnapped by terrorists in the middle east, Tony realizes that his business may cause more harm than good. He then constructs the most technologically advanced weapon on the planet, a high tech suit of armor powered by a nearly limitless power source. With this new weapon, he seeks to rectify the mistakes his company has committed.

Much of what I liked about this movie are the same thing I enjoyed in Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man movie. It’s the perfect balance of comedy and drama, which is a high dose of comedy with a little drama. The action is very good and the special effects — which were amazing at the time– still hold up surprisingly well.

The main attraction of this movie is Robert Downey Jr., who plays our protagonist Tony Stark. Downey does a great job portraying a charismatic jerk. His dialogue flies fast and loose. Part of that may be because much of film is flying by the seat of its pants. I watched some behind the scenes for this movie and much of the dialogue was not finalized until the day of shooting. Production simply moved too fast to slow down (probably due to financial restraints) and the actors adapted accordingly. Somehow, the dialogue and performances still felt natural and fun, though you can see a little bit of that improvisational energy that you’d see in your local improv troupe.

Overall, this was a fun movie. It doesn’t get too dark like Batman Begins nor does it get too campy like the old Fantastic Four movies. It’s the right balance of funny, action and special effects. Iron Man stands the test of time as an ideal summer blockbuster movie.

Comic Book Review: Wonder Woman: Spirit of Truth

Details: Written by Paul Dini and Alex Ross with art by Alex Ross. More information can be found at https://www.dccomics.com/graphic-novels/the-worlds-greatest-super-heroes-2005/wonder-woman-spirit-of-truth

Score: 7.6/10

Wonder Woman: Spirit of Truth is a graphic novel from Alex Ross. He’s also worked on a Batman and Superman book in the same vein as this book. All were fantastic exhibitions of his art.

Alex Ross’ art in the comic book world is famous and revered. He uses a painterly style and portrays superheroes in a unique, almost mythological way. Heroes aren’t drawn to look like professional body builders. They look more like ordinary people, yet they don’t due to how Ross portrays them. They look… mythical.

Like the Batman and Superman books, this book seeks to tell a short story about what Wonder Woman is all about. There are many iterations of Wonder Woman, but this one goes back to a more ridiculous version, invisible jet and all. And yet, it is all more believable due to how awesome Ross’ art is. The story is decent though. It’s written by the legendary Paul Dini of Batman: The Animated series fame. It tells a decent, contemporary story about how Wonder Woman fits in a modern world. While the story is fine, it all comes back to the art.

The art is fantastic. Instead of a bunch of squares where each one contains it’s own image, it’s clear that Ross was given free reign to just draw to his hearts content. Every image in this book is a two page spread showcasing Ross’s art. There is very little separation. It’s just splash page after splash page. You could frame every image in this book. This is really more of an art book than a story.

Overall, this was a great book that showcases Ross’ art. The story isn’t bad, but I mostly got my enjoyment just from looking at the pretty pictures.

Comic Book Review: Batman: Three Jokers

Details: This is a three issue miniseries that has ended. More information can be found at https://www.dccomics.com/comics/batman-three-jokers-2020/batman-three-jokers-1

Score: 7/10

Batman: Three Jokers is a story that fans looked forward to at some point, but was delayed by years. This story was pushed so far back that any hype and anticipation you may have had for this story died years ago. The story itself isn’t bad and seeks to replicate the tone from classic Joker stories like The Killing Joke. It somewhat succeeds, but largely fails in that regard due to how short this miniseries is and how little the plot develops.

Years ago in the Justice League comic book, Batman sat in Metron’s chair, a chair that provides one with the knowledge of everything. Sitting in the chair, he asked who the Joker’s real identity was. The chair responded by asking him which one. What fans walked away with was that there were in fact three Jokers over the years and DC teased a comic going into the explanation for that. That was years ago. Delay after delay pushed this story back until finally, this story was published.

What’s disappointing is that I was hoping to gain insight into the origins of the Joker or Jokers. This story offered the possibility of getting a definitive origin story to the character or characters. What I got instead was a retcon that deletes the possibilities offered by three Jokers and tells Batman fans there is in fact only one true Joker going forward. In some ways, Three Jokers is a lazy attempt to reconcile the wild idea of three Jokers with the reality that the story tellers at DC Comics simply have no idea what to do with that idea.

The story itself isn’t too bad. The tone is right. This is a pseudo horror story that uses the Joker for greater character development of the Batman family. Primarily, we get to see a lot of Batgirl and Jason Todd. I cringed a bit at how they talked the relationship between Todd and Batgirl though. It made me feel like I was watching a long running television show where the writers have run out of ideas and decide that all the characters should start romancing each other. Additionally, the ending directly contradicts the reveal of three Jokers in the Justice League comic (although I guess you could argue it doesn’t with some half assed argument that Batman always knows everything).

The art is great.

Overall, this was an okay story that under delivered on possibly insurmountable hype. The delays in publication also didn’t help. If you are a fan of Batman, Three Jokers (and likely the White Knight elseworlds story) is likely a story you need to read for the wrinkles it adds to the Batman mythos.

TV Show Review: The Boys, Season 2

Details: More information can be found at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08F8K3V9R/141-7787206-3615334 and https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1190634/

Score: 7/10

Like in the first season, The Boys is a violent, fun show that tries to show a darker view on superheroes as well as using superheroes as a medium to touch on real life issues. The political and action-y stuff I enjoyed in this season. I enjoyed all that stuff with Butcher’s wife not so much. Some spoilers ahead.

Season 2 picks up where the last season left off. Butcher’s found out what happened to his wife and now we got to deal with all that fall out. There’s also a new hero called Stormfront introduced and she’s a master at leading right wing, superhero sentiment.

There’s a lot of plot lines going on this season. We got the romance with Stormlight and Hughie, we got some stuff with Washington and politics, Homelander has his own plot line going on as well. There’s just a lot going on and a lot of it feels excessive.

The biggest issue I have with this show is trying to understand what motivates any of the characters. A lot of the time, it just feels like these characters are thrown into situations and then have to deal with them. There isn’t a lot of good justification for what got the characters there.

For instance, Homelander is somehow neutralized from murdering everyone constantly, even though they constantly portray him as a homicidal maniac. The reasons they come up with to prevent him from just solving all problems by murdering the primary cast are paper thing and hard to believe. The ending of this season particularly, it feels like they just chuck ideas at the audience and expect them to believe these plot points without any good reasoning. They built up Homelander into this monster, but then he exercises self control just because. It’s poor writing that does not maintain the rules of the world they’ve built. There’s also the bigger problem of how many of the characters are powerful enough to end all plotlines of the show immediately, but don’t be cause they need to fill eight episodes this season.

Overall, the show is entertaining if you don’t take it too seriously. The show is entertaining as fluff entertainment, but nothing serious. They touch upon a couple of relevant political issues like the growing popularity of right wing Nazism and Scientology-esque cults, but this show is mostly entertaining for the ridiculousness and gore. In terms of story, this whole season felt a lot more disjointed than the first season.