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 They got Snyder and decided to give him the funding to finish the movie he originally made and release on HBO’s streaming service.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 2

Details: More information can be found at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1228705/ and https://www.disneyplus.com/home

Score: 7/10

A successful sequel should simply do everything that the first movie did, but more. Iron Man 2 does that. It adds more backstory, more character development, more characters and more action and special effects.

Iron Man 2 picks up where the last movie left off. Tony Stark’s mechanized suit and it’s limitless power source is the new most powerful weapon on the planet. Because of its existence, all countries have backed down due to Tony working with the U.S. government and the United States now possessing unrivaled military supremacy because of it. When a new enemy appears who seemingly has developed a suit and power source similar to Tony’s, Tony Stark must now advance his technology even further to defeat this new enemy and maintain the peace established by him and his Iron Man suit.

The same light hearted tone from the first movie is maintained in this one and this film is all the better for it. It’s what most people loved about the last film and Robert Downey Jr.’s performance. There is also plenty of action and there are higher quality special effects and more of them.

The biggest addition to this film is the introduction of Natasha Romanov, or the Black Widow. This is Scarlett Johansson’s first appearance in the Marvel movie universe and the beginning of a long career making these Marvel movies. She’s great and I always wondered why it took so long for her to get her own superhero movie since she’s undoubtedly an A-list actor. I later learned from Bob Iger’s memoir that it was because Ike Perlmutter –a powerful figure in Marvel and then Disney– was a sexist and felt that a woman would not be successful as the lead in a superhero movie (Perlmutter was also a racist and was the reason why a Black Panther movie was not made earlier because he felt that black people –like women generally– could not carry a movie). Thank goodness, Perlmutter has since been put out to pasture.

Overall, this was a fun movie that adds more of everything fans liked in the first movie. It’s not too serious and it should not be. It’s just a fun summer movie with lots of laughs and explosions.

Movie Review: Thor

Details: More information can be found at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0800369/ and https://www.disneyplus.com/

Score: 6/10

I recently got my grubby little mitts on a Disney Plus account and it’s been a great opportunity to revisit old Marvel movies that I barely remember. Disney has conveniently laid these movies out in chronological order so that’s the order I’ve been watching them in. First was Iron Man, then Iron Man 2, now we’ve reached Thor. While Iron Man was fun and a breath of fresh air, Thor was trite and not that good.

The story focuses on Thor, the Norse god of thunder. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Asgardians are a god-like race of aliens that frequently visited Earth. Thor is the prince of Asgard, son of Odin, who is king. Through Thor’s own folly, he is banished to Earth and his powers taken away. Little do any know that a great conspiracy is under way to usurp the Asgardian throne and bring doom to all. Thor must now grow out of his immaturity and into a hero worthy of Asgard.

The story of this movie is not great. It’s all over the place. You could tell that they were attempting many things at once and ended up doing a lackluster job for most. It felt rushed and incomplete. There’s not enough time setting up all the ideas and the conflicts and their resolution felt rushed and unfulfilling.

You need to keep in mind that this movie existed solely to create a movie version of Thor to put into the first Avengers movie. At the time, this kind of big, cinematic series that culminated in a big team-up movie where the main characters in all the superhero movies would show up and do one big movie together had never been done before. They were flying by the seat of their pants and the result was mediocre bunch of movies meant to introduce characters for future movies where they can then team up for other characters. For that reason, it’s easy to see why the plot in this movie was so bad. No one cared that much about Thor in comparison to how much they cared about that first Avengers movie. Further, as was said before, this was the first time anyone tried a combined, cinematic fictional universe. There was a lack of experience here that would not be rectified until years later when the Russo brothers would come along and Kevin Feige would consolidate power and the authority to make creative decisions independently.

My biggest regret with this film is how they tried to go the dramatic route for this first film. They simply didn’t realize that Hemsworth’s talents lie in the comedic and that Thor is so strange a character that it’s hard to tell a serious story about him with a straight face. Once Thor: Ragnarok came around and we got to see just how funny Hemsworth could be, there was no turning back and the Thor franchise will now forever remain a series defined by it’s funny moments and it’s all the better for it.

Overall, this was a passable movie that exists simply to lay some ground work for Thor’s appearance in the first Avengers movie. The plot isn’t great, but isn’t horrific. The special effects are nice. It’s just an overall boring movie with little payoff for all it’s plot points. The only thing that they did right in this film was the casting. It’s no surprise that years later, Hemsworth and Hiddleston continue to make Marvel movies because of how much fans loved them.

TV Show Review: WandaVision

Details: More information can be found at https://disneyplusoriginals.disney.com/show/wandavision and https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9140560/

Score: 7/10

WandaVision is the first production from the Marvel cinematic universe after the events of Avengers: Endgame. As a long time Marvel movie fan, I was looking forward to whatever hints Marvel felt like dropping for the future of their shows and movies. In that regard, I enjoyed WandaVision mostly as a prelude for what may come in the future. By itself, it is passable. What surprised me most was how I’ve read many opinions of people who enjoyed the show who did not keep up with the movies or even never saw the movies. Personally, I watched the show with someone who never saw the movies and even they somewhat enjoyed despite having no knowledge of the events that transpired before this show.

Like all the other Marvel movies, WandaVision belongs within the Marvel cinematic universe. This means that the events that took place in all the Marvel movies also occurred in the fictional universe that WandaVision takes place in. I won’t spoil what happens in the prior movies, but in the first episode of this nine episode show, Wanda — a superpowered heroine– finds herself in a 1950’s sitcom. The rest of the show explores this idea and explains the truth about how she got here.

The first half of the series emulate the sitcom theme and in my opinion, it gets old fast. I needed more plot development and reveals a lot sooner. I understand what they were trying to achieve with these episodes, but after the first episode, it was boring.

The last few episodes turn away from the theme of emulating old sitcoms and reverts to your standard Marvel movie plot structure. That generally means more action with a big, bombastic action scene at the end filled with special effects. It was ordinary, predictable, and uneventful. At this point, I’ve seen so many Marvel movies that a big action scene at the end actually bores me. I’ve actually gotten tired of action scenes and explosions thanks to Marvel. Give me plot reveals, drama and dialogue please.

My favorite episode was the one where they reveal and explain everything, including Wanda’s past. I won’t say more than that, but that was by far the most meaningful episode and emotional one.

Overall, this was a nice prelude to the future of Marvel movies and shows, but it was just okay on it’s own. It’s interesting enough that non-Marvel fans may enjoy it, but much of the connections to the rest of the Marvel cinematic universe will be lost on them and some things might not make any sense without some internet searching or someone who can explain things.

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.