Justice League

Justice League is a 2017 American superhero film directed by both Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon at separate points in production, featuring a screenplay written by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, who, once again, came onboard much later in production, with the main story being written by Snyder and Terrio. Based upon the superhero team of the same name as created by DC Comics, Justice League is the fifth installment in the DC Extended Universe following 2013’s Man of Steel, 2016’s Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, and this year’s Wonder Woman. The film features an ensemble cast including Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, and J.K. Simmons.

Following the events of Dawn Of Justice, Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince are inspired by Superman’s sacrifice and set out to assemble a team of metahumans to fight against powerful threats to humankind. Meanwhile, the villainous Steppenwolf comes to Earth in search of the three Mother Boxes.

It is no secret that the DCEU, Warner Brothers’ answer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has been on shaky ground from the word go. While I didn’t hate Man of Steel, it was by no means remarkable, nor would I even call it “pretty good.” It was decidedly “eh.” The two efforts that followed, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, were train wrecks of the highest (or lowest, depending on perspective) order. I couldn’t even get through the first fifteen minutes of Suicide Squad it was so bad. I set out to review it knowing it was pretty much a dumpster fire of a movie, and I couldn’t even handle it knowing that. It should be telling that it took them until Wonder Woman, the fourth film in the series, to make a solid, objectively good film.

It is no secret that I am not a fan of Zack Snyder as a director and I consider him to be an absolutely atrocious screenwriter. I am not a fan of any film he has directed so far; I have nothing against him as a person. Midway through production of this film, Snyder’s daughter tragically committed suicide during production of this film, leading to Joss Whedon replacing him. Whedon edited Snyder’s screenplay and had control over reshooots and editing of the film. All of this production drama led me to expect a trainwreck on par with Suicide Squad. I was expecting it to be, at the very least, interesting in its badness.

I was ultimately disappointed by Justice League in a multitude of ways. It was not horrible, it was not a travesty of cinema, but it was also not good nor memorable in any way, shape, or form. Batman vs. Superman, as bad as it was, at least tried to do something. It tried to be a thing. Justice League is the cinematic equivalent of saltine crackers.

From the opening five minutes, I was quite bored. There’s no fun to be had here, no enjoyment to get out of this. It’s not even incompetent. It is an entirely competent, well-constructed piece of bleh.

When the DC Extended Universe was first becoming a thing, Justice League was meant to be split into two films. People are guessing that Batman vs. Superman alongside the two Justice League films were meant to comprise a trilogy, with Batman vs. Superman being a combination of the (very famous in comic book circles) stories The Dark Knight Returns and The Death of Superman. Batman v. Superman was always (probably) to end in the climactic death of the world’s best-known allegory for Jesus Christ, with the ending of the first Justice League movie being his triumphant return, and the second film being the whole team fighting together. On paper, it sounds amazing.

Obviously, it didn’t work out that way. Batman vs. Superman was a terrible mess and the death of Superman had absolutely no impact. As a result, the Powers That Be refused to take any kind of risk with this film and hacked what was on paper an excellent plan into a milquetoast bore fest that had me wanting to fall asleep in the middle of it. There’s nothing interesting about it. Superman’s Resurrection is seen as more of a practical plot point than an emotional one, and nobody in the audience felt any way about it. It’s only a big part of the movie for maybe ten minutes. Afterwards, no one seemed to care, not even Superman. It is obvious this was meant to be a much longer movie (God forbid), with emotional story beats that were supposed to be there missing throughout.

The cast is good, but they are straight up phoning it in. Ben Affleck looks fat and uninterested. Nobody in this film is really into it, and it shows. The CGI was wildly inconsistent; the last third was an entirely CGI battle that was very uninteresting and boring. I literally am not going to stop using that word, because it is a perfect descriptor. It was so boring, I’m unapologetically phoning in this review. It’s not worth expending a lot of energy talking about more minute details.

Warner Brothers was so scared of another monstrous failure that they made a film that was so factory-ready, competent, and inoffensive that it was boring. It was so very boring. It shouldn’t be boring, but it was. I can’t emphasize the boredom enough. I don’t really know what else to say.

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman is a 2017 superheroine action film, based upon the DC Comics character of the same name, directed by Patty Jenkins. It is the fourth film in the DC Extended Universe following Man Of SteelBatman v. Superman, and Suicide Squad., and features a script and story by Allan Heinberg, a comic book writer who spent some time as the lead writer on several DC Comics properties. The film stars former Israeli soldier turned fashion model and actor Gal Gadot as the hero, Diana, Princess of Themyscira, a member of the Amazon people, a society of powerful female warriors, of which she is the only child.

Diana is the daughter of Queen Hippolyta and was given life by Zeus. Diana dreams of one day becoming a warrior like so many other Amazons, but her mother forbids it. She is instead secretly trained by her Aunt Antiope, general of the Amazon Army. It is discovered she possesses impressive powers. In 1918, British intelligence officer and pilot Steve Trevor, played by Chris Pine, is pursued by German forces, crashes on the shores of Themyscira, and is rescued by the Amazons, which results in Antiope’s death. Trevor, the first man Diana has ever seen in person, is understandably fascinated. Suspecting the mastermind behind the war may be Ares, The God of War, who has long been predicted to return after his defeat by Zeus, Diana decides to accompany Trevor to London to assist in the war effort.

The DC Extended Universe, Warner Brothers’ answer to Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe, has been off to a pretty horrible start, I’m not going to lie. Although I got some enjoyment out of Man Of Steel, it certainly wasn’t anything above passable; the following effort, Batman v. Superman, was a complete mess. To be honest, I was going to review Suicide Squad after it was released on video, but I couldn’t even get through the first twenty minutes. I was beginning to wonder if the DCEU would ever produce a legitimately good feature.

Thankfully, Wonder Woman wins the prize of being the only good DCEU feature worth anyone’s time. Patty Jenkins, director of 2003’s Monster, is, in my opinion, the only director DC has hired worth her paycheck; I have long-maintained that Zack Snyder is an overrated director and a huge problem for DC properties in both the long and short run of things, mainly due to his overwhelming focus on style over substance, which I find to be the downfall of the majority of his films. Thankfully, Snyder stayed away from this property and now we have finally been given a film with a cohesive narrative, likable characters, and well-planned action sequences. Though I felt the 2 hour and 21 minute film was slightly overly long, it is ultimately solid entertainment.

I feel the film owes a lot to Heinberg’s script, which finally injects levity into the brooding wormhole that has so far been the DC Extended Universe. There are finally some solid laughs. A veteran of the comics industry, Heinberg is a writer who finally understood Batman should be the only one allowed to brood and mope like a heartless cynic. Indeed, Diana is, dare I say refreshingly, naive and idealistic. I believe I enjoyed this film because it is the only DCEU film I didn’t come out of confused and/or sad, usually both. Wonder Woman, for once, was actually hopeful.

For me, the standout of Wonder Woman was Star Trek’s Chris Pine as Steve Trevor. He has a lot of charisma and hits a lot of the film’s comedic and more lighthearted notes, as well as the more serious, important moments. Gal Gadot is pretty good as Wonder Woman,  but I felt she faltered at points when trying to adequately express emotion, though not so much so that I would count her performance as negative in any way.

There were some confusing plot holes in this film, mainly Aries’ plan to cause the end of humanity with the Armistice, which he pushes for throughout the film. It is never explained why he does this. Also, the film’s climax, the final fight between Diana and Ares, falls into cliche and is uninspired. It could have easily been remedied by Heinberg.

I found it interesting (and good) that the DCEU finally made a mainly self-contained narrative without mentioning Superman, The Justice League, or anything else. The narrative does start out in present day with a picture of Diana and Trevor circa 1918 being delivered to her by Wayne Enterprises on behalf of the man himself, but as it is a larger universe, I can see how that very minor plot point would be a necessity.

Ultimately, Wonder Woman is finally a solid film from the DCEU. With a solid script from someone who actually knows what they’re doing, a good director who also knows what they are doing, and good actors, I am very happy to see an actual good DC film, although the fact that it took four tries to actually make a good film is still very worrying to me, maybe the franchise has finally found it’s footing.