Saturday, December 2, 2017

Justice League – It Almost Works

Readers of this blog are aware that I am not a fan of director Zack Snyder’s dismal Man of Steel and the follow-up atrocity he chose to call Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. The latter film being an effort I consider the bottom of the barrel in filmmaking. In a previous post I referred to Snyder as “Ed Wood with a budget.” I’m standing by that statement. I wasn’t looking forward to Justice League, but as a lifelong fan and collector of Superman and Batman comics, I chose to form my own opinion by seeing the film. I never rely on others to tell me what to think, and nor should you.

Before we get to the heart of the matter, however, there are some preliminary considerations that need airing. It was widely reported that Snyder exited from Justice League because of a personal family tragedy. The family tragedy story is true, and verifiable. Snyder’s daughter Autumn died in March in what was believed to be a suicide. Snyder deserves a break here. Criticizing a film is one thing, but being callous about such a tragedy is another. My heartfelt condolences to Zack Snyder and his family.

Life is unfair in many ways, and it’s unfortunate I have to post a negative review in the wake of such a tragedy. Joss Whedon was brought in with Snyder’s blessing for re-writes and to direct some reshoots which the press reported were substantial. That makes sense given Whedon is responsible for Marvel’s success with the Avengers films which offer a marked contrast of optimism and brightness in comparison to Snyder’s bleak world-view.

Comic book super-heroes, and especially Superman, represent hope. Both Man of Steel and Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice were joyless exercises in drama, angst, and gritty realism. Even Superman’s once bright costume was reduced to a tight fitting armor-mesh looking thing with washed out colors. In other words, Zack Snyder doesn’t understand his source material.

Joss Whedon’s own creative slant went far in setting the tone and style of Marvel’s historic ongoing series of superhero films. He is not solely responsible for Marvel’s success, and he should not be thought of as a comic book guru for superhero films, but having him around helps.

Justice League was made better by Joss Whedon, but the film is a sloppy mess. The opening sequence makes no sense, and plot threads established in Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice are ignored. Key here is Superman’s revitalization, which was hinted at in the Batman Vs Superman conclusion where we see dirt on the coffin vibrating. This lead fans to believe Superman was being revitalized by the sun’s rays and his Kryptonian cells were regenerating as they had in the original comic book series. Instead, Superman is brought back to life by the using the Kryptonian technology Luthor used to create Doomsday in the previous film. This makes the Batman Vs Superman scene meaningless. The other such gaffes in continuity make Snyder’s Superman trilogy a standing example of wasted money, time, talent and effort.

Superman, Batman, Aquaman and Flash are nearly unrecognizable. The costumes are dull and make them look like half-ass bikers on their way to a drag Queen’s coming out party. The posters, however, were digitally altered to brighten the colors. The actors themselves are fine. I like Ben Affleck as Batman, and Henry Cavill is okay as Clark Kent/Superman. The script turns Aquaman into a Hippie loner, and Flash is a nerdy teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome. Jason Momoa and Ezra Miller do what they can with the characters, with Ezra Miller getting the better lines. Amy Adams offers nothing as Lois Lane because the script gives her nothing to do. Ditto with Jeremy Irons as Alfred. Diane Lane is also wasted as Martha Kent. Ray Fisher is Cyborg and shines here, albeit briefly. He’s the best part of the team next to Wonder Woman. In fact, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman continues to delight most of us die-hard comic book fans. I have nothing to say about the Jack Kirby inspired threat to humanity that brings this slipshod team together, other than, well, duh. What would Jack think?

There is humor here, presumably thanks to Joss Whedon who was given a screenwriting credit. I actually enjoyed moments of the film, but like so many others I wish it had been better. So close and yet so far. Ultimately, there are no sunny days in Zack Snyder’s films, no hope, and this endless parade of ho-hum blah blah. Still, Zack Snyder is responsible for casting the beautiful Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. At least he has bragging rights on that.

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