2017, Action Movies, Alien Invasion, Alien Technology, Ancient Evils, Artificial Intelligence, Based on Comic Book, Cinema Knife Fights, Comic Book Movies, Comic Books and Graphic Novels, Cyborgs, DC Comics, Fun Stuff!, Monsters, Super Powers, Superheroes 0
Cinema Knife Fight Presents:
JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017)
Review by LL Soares & Michael Arruda
(THE SCENE: The Hall of Justice. The building is empty as the Justice League is off fighting their latest threat. MICHAEL ARRUDA and LL SOARES enter the room where the heroes meet. A vast, round table is in the center of the room, surrounded by chairs.)
MICHAEL ARRUDA: I really don’t think this is a good idea.
LL SOARES: Why not? Haven’t you always wanted to sit in the same chair Batman does?
MA: Not really. I voted that we sneak into the Avengers Mansion instead, remember?
LS: But this is the friggin’ Hall of Justice. Look around. Looks how majestic it is.
MA: Yeah, it’s nice, but…
LS: You Marvel guys. Always gotta put down the DC heroes.
MA: Aren’t you a Marvel guy, too?
LS: Well, I grew up on Marvel Comics, and I certainly was a bigger fan of theirs, but I can appreciate the DC heroes as well. They’re such amazing archetypes!
MA: As a kid, I slightly preferred Marvel to DC, but I pretty much enjoyed them both, too.
LS: There’s hope for you yet.
MA: But in the past decade, in the movie world, Marvel’s movies have been far superior to what DC has churned out. The DC films have been largely problematic. That changed a bit earlier this year with the release of WONDER WOMAN (2017), the best DC film to hit the big screen since THE DARK KNIGHT (2008).
LS: Which brings us to today’s review. What better place to review JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017) than in the actual Hall of Justice. How cool is that?
MA: And why is the security here so lax? You’d think they’d have some kinds of defenses.
LS: They do, but a buddy of mine gave me a few tips on how to get past them. Relax. You worry too much.
(Sits down) Imagine, this is the same chair where Superman plants his butt. It’s still warm!
MA: Should we really be doing this?
LS: Relax. Sit down. Let’s get started.
MA (reluctantly sits): Okay, okay. Why don’t you start?
As I mentioned, this week’s movie is JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017), the much-anticipated follow-up to last year’s BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: THE DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016).
MA: Much anticipated? That might be pushing it. A lot of people didn’t like DAWN OF JUSTICE, me included.
LS: I actually liked it. Except for the lame-ass dream sequences and the annoying Jesse Eisenberg version of Lex Luthor. But back to today’s movie.
JUSTICE LEAGUE is a direct sequel to DAWN OF JUSTICE. And as you remember, Superman died in the last one. Which is unfortunate, because there’s a new bad guy in town named Steppenwolf (a CGI creature with the voice of actor Cirian Hinds, who was Julius Caesar on HBO’s ROME, 2005 – 2007, and also in GAME OF THRONES). He’s a big guy with a horned helmet who is popping up all over the globe, gathering three strange black cubes called mother boxes, which are extraterrestrial in origin. It turns out he was on Earth once before, eons ago, and fought the Amazons and the Atlanteans (and humans) back then. They defeated him and separated the mother boxes.
Now, Steppenwolf is back and tries to get it right this time.
Nowadays, Themyscira, the island the Amazons live on, is hidden from the outside world, and the people of Atlantis have gone underwater. So, Steppenwolf attacks them first. He doesn’t seem to have much trouble getting access, and he’s also got an army of winged bug-men called parademons, who have been hunting down the boxes and act as Steppenwolf’s henchmen.
Batman (Ben Affleck) has been aware of these aliens, and realizes there is no way he can taken them on alone, so he starts building a super team! Of course, the first person he goes to is Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), aka WONDER WOMAN, since he met her in the last movie. But they need more help, so they track down other “metahumans” Batman was cataloging in the last movie. Remember that?
MA: How could I forget.
LS: These include the lord of the sea, Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman (Jason Momoa, Khal Drogo from GAME OF THRONES and Conan in the underrated CONAN THE BARBARIAN, 2011); a really fast teenager named Barry Allen, aka The Flash (Ezra Miller, from WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, 2011, and THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, 2012); and a guy named Victor Stone (Ray Fisher) who was raised from the dead by his father, Silas (Joe Morton, star of John Sayles’ classic THE BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET, 1984), using a forgotten relic that looks an awful lot like a “mother box” and technology he stole from the abandoned Kryptionian spaceship we saw in DAWN OF JUSTICE. Victor is now the half human/half-machine hybrid, Cyborg.
As the members of the Justice League get together, they do a lot of arguing on the road to becoming allies. Meanwhile, Steppenwolf and his bug men search for the final mother box, which isn’t as easy to find as the other two. His goal: to take over the world (of course).
Okay, so let’s go through some of the things this movie gets right. Unlike BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: THE DAWN OF JUSTICE, JUSTICE LEAGUE doesn’t have any god-awful dream sequences that go nowhere, and we don’t have to put up with Jesse Eisenberg. Those are two big pluses.
MA: I completely agree with you there.
LS: The acting is overall pretty good. I liked these characters a lot, and their gathering together was interesting enough. I want to see more of these characters.
MA: Again, I agree. I really enjoyed the characters here.
LS: The bad stuff, though, includes a boring villain (yet again! So many of these superhero movies can’t give us a villain as compelling as the heroes!), who has a very simplistic goal, and not much of a personality.
MA: True, but like with the Marvel movies, that didn’t bother me too much here, mostly because I really liked the superheroes in this one.
LS: I also found the bug men annoying. They looked okay, but I hate it when characters have tons of nameless helpers who are just a reason for the good guys to go around smashing them up. They’re just a distraction from the storyline, and since they don’t have any kind of personality, they’re even more boring than Steppenwolf.
(Suddenly a horde of bug men crash into the Hall and start flying around LS & MA)
LS: Get out of here! The damn things are even more annoying in person!
MA: You know, they were kind of annoying in the movie, but sitting here seeing them get in your face, it’s all rather amusing!
LS: It is, it? (Grabs a bug man and hurls it at MA, knocking him out of his seat.) How’s that for annoying?
MA (getting back up): Since when did you become so strong you can hurl a bug man across the room?
LS: It’s Cinema Knife Fight land, where anything is possible!
(LS suddenly has a huge can of BLACK FLAG bug spray, which he uses to get rid of all the bug men. As he sprays them, the song “My War” by the band Black Flag plays on the soundtrack)
MA: Show off. Let’s get back to the review.
LS: Sure, Steppenwolf is super strong and power-hungry. But why does he want to take over the Earth? Why does he want to destroy it? Why does he care? And why should we care about these mother boxes which just look like giant black cubes – albeit charged with unlimited power? But, so what?
The heroes in this one run the gamut of great to meh.
MA: Hmm. I may have liked them more than you did. Continue.
LS: Ben Affleck is actually okay as Batman, although he’s kind of stiff throughout the film, and only seems to lighten up in some of the scenes he shares with Wonder Woman.
MA: I agree. His best scenes are with Wonder Woman.
LS: I liked Jason Momoa’s Aquaman a lot, but thought he’d have a stronger personality. He seems a bit snobby and guarded, and we never really get to know him very well (hopefully that will be corrected in the upcoming James Wan AQUAMAN movie).
MA: I really liked Momoa as Aquaman. I thought he had the best lines in the film, and he was my second favorite character, after Wonder Woman, of course.
LS: I liked Aquaman, too. But I wanted him to be even cooler.
Ezra Miller is okay as The Flash, he’s another wise-cracking teenager like Spider-Man, but he does get a bit tiresome over the long run, especially since he keeps pointing out that he’s not a fighter (why not?). Although he can be annoying at times, he’s still much less annoying than Jesse Eisenberg in the last movie.
MA: I would have to agree. Miller was fun, but at times was tiresome.
LS: Ray Fisher’s Cyborg is the most mysterious of the bunch, as he’s finding out who and what he is the same time we are. I liked him, but once again, wanted more insight into the machinations of his brain. But he had a lot of potential.
MA: Again, I agree.
LS: And, of course, Gal Gadot dominates the screen every time she’s in a scene, because Wonder Woman remains the coolest of them all.
MA: Absolutely! Gal Gadot is awesome as Wonder Woman, and by far, she’s the best part of JUSTICE LEAGUE.
LS: It’s not a spoiler to mention that Henry Cavill’s Superman eventually comes back, too, since it’s made quite obvious in the movie’s marketing.
MA: Not only that, but his name is featured prominently in the opening credits. I thought the movie might play it coy and hide his name until the end credits, but not so!
LS: I still think Cavill is my favorite version of Superman. He has just enough edge to him to keep from being a total Boy Scout, like in previous incarnations, and you believe this guy is a completely different level power-wise than anyone else in the film. His “comeback” is dramatic and worth the wait.
MA: I still prefer Christopher Reeve, but that being said, for me, this is Cavill’s best turn as Superman yet. I really liked him here, and I think part of it is there wasn’t time in this one for him to lament his place in the world and wonder why people thought he was so dangerous. It turned out death was kind to the Man of Steel, as people seem to have missed him. Batman certainly did, as his attitude in this movie is far removed from the hatred he showed him in BATMAN V SUPERMAN.
(The door opens, and George Reeves as Superman enters.)
GEORGE REEVES: What? No votes for me?
MA: Hey, I loved the 1950s Superman TV show, and you were fun, but it is a bit dated today.
LS: Great Caesar’s Ghost, what are you doing here? I thought your old show ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN (1952-1958) was a lot of fun, but it is dated, and seems more like a comedy now. Fun fact – Ben Affleck played you in the movie HOLLYWOODLAND (2006)!
GEORGE REEVES: Tell me something I don’t know.
Oh well. I think I hear Jimmy Olsen whining that he and Lois Lane need my help. Good evening, gentlemen. (Runs and then takes a flying leap)
MA: Yeah, Affleck played George Reeves in HOLLYWOODLAND. It would have been pretty funny if Affleck had landed the role of Superman rather than Batman.
LS: But he didn’t, so it’s not funny.
MA: I’m going to call those bug men back in a minute. Continue.
LS: We also get more of Amy Adams as Lois Lane (she’s good, but I still think it’s a pretty thankless role as Superman’s love interest), Diane Lane as Martha Kent, J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon, and Jeremy Irons as Alfred, who seems more like the “tech guy” this time around, providing the computerized eyes and ears to the group.
MA: Any time we get to have more of Amy Adams in a role, that’s a good thing, and yes, you’re right, Lois Lane is a rather thankless role, but Adams makes the most of her brief scenes.
LS: Yeah, I have a soft spot for her, too.
Well, I went into this one not sure what to expect. I really wanted this movie to be good and to succeed, and I definitely wanted it to be better than DAWN OF JUSTICE, which it is. Overall, I mostly enjoyed this one, and it left me wanting more. It feels like the DC heroes are getting back on track, even if I thought it was dumb that the team didn’t include Green Lantern (this would have been the perfect time to “rehabilitate” his image) and J’onn J’onzz the Martian Manhunter (who is such a cool character from the comics, he’s overdue to get the live-action treatment). At least Aquaman is a lot cooler and more formidable here than back when he wore an orange shirt in THE SUPER FRIENDS.
In imitation of Marvel, there are also two “post-credits” scenes in this movie, if you feel like hanging around. The first is early in the credits and is kind of funny. The second appears all the way at the end of the credits and sets things up for a future plot development, that is kind of interesting.
MA: I loved the first end credit scene, but the second one, since it involves a certain character played by a certain actor that I have no interest in seeing again, did nothing for me.
LS: I hear ya, but it also includes a new, very cool character.
Anyway, I enjoyed this one a lot, and I give it three knives.
What did you think, Michael?
MA: I’m pretty much in complete agreement with you on this one.
I really enjoyed JUSTICE LEAGUE. The two best parts for me were the characters and the script.
The script by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon works mostly because it keeps things simple. The story is not overly ambitious and therefore avoids being overdone and complicated, as was the case with the recent BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016) which try as it might failed to build its case for the hatred being Batman and Superman convincingly.
LS: Which reminds me that the plot of SUICIDE SQUAD (2016) was pretty convoluted and dumb, too. It’s nice to see a more coherent storyline in JUSTICE LEAGUE.
And you could actually make the case that the story here is rather stupid, but in this case, that doesn’t really matter because the strength of JUSTICE LEAGUE is its superhero characters, and the actors playing these roles all acquit themselves rather nicely.
Joss Whedon of course both wrote and directed THE AVENGERS movies, and his influence is apparent in this movie when the super friends here bicker and take jabs at each other.
LS: Yeah, JUSTICE LEAGUE is credited to director Zack Snyder, who also did DAWN OF JUSTICE, but he had a family emergency and had to leave before it was completed. Joss Whedon stepped in to finish it. And while you can see his influence, I think it’s amazing that the movie is pretty seamless, despite the fact that two directors worked on it.
MA: And while Christ Terrio wrote BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, a movie I didn’t like, he also wrote ARGO (2012), a film I definitely did like. There is a lot of smart dialogue in this film, which helps lift it above its very standard plot, like when Batman criticizes Wonder Woman for not having ever taking a leadership role. He correctly points out that Superman has been a beacon for the world, but he adds, he had never even heard of Wonder Woman until recently, and he accuses of her hiding in the shadows during the past century.
It’s safe to say that after the success of WONDER WOMAN, one of the biggest draws of JUSTICE LEAGUE is not Batman or Superman, but Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. Gadot does not disappoint. She was clearly my favorite part of this movie, and when she is on screen, the film is at its best. She possesses such a strong screen presence, she’s astonishingly beautiful, and is completely believable as an unstoppable warrior princess.
But Wonder Woman alone wouldn’t be enough to save a movie called JUSTICE LEAGUE, and thankfully, her superhero counterparts are also quite good.
While I didn’t really like the look of Batman’s cowl and costume, Ben Affleck is quite effective as the caped crusader. It’s a convincing performance, and I liked Affleck even better here as Batman than in BATMAN V SUPERMAN. There are also plenty of potshots made by his friends at his lack of super powers. At one point, he’s asked just what his superpowers are, and he answers, “I’m rich.”
LS: But he delivers the line in kind of a monotone. I had mixed feelings about Affleck here. He wasn’t awful, but he did seem a little stiff at times.
MA: Strangely, when Affleck appears as Bruce Wayne, he seemed a bit fleshy in the face which works against the idea that Batman is a fit fighting machine. There’s also a neat nod to the Michael Keaton BATMAN movies here, as composer Danny Elman incorporates his original BATMAN theme from that 1989 flick into some of the Batman scenes here.
LS: And I always love it when they play Hans Zimmer’s theme for Wonder Woman when she first appears. I love that she has her own theme music!
MA: Likewise, Henry Cavill scores high as Superman. In fact, as I said, it’s probably my favorite Cavill performance as the Man of Steel.
LS: I’m a huge Cavill fan. As I said, I think he’s a terrific Superman. The guy rocks.
MA: Director Zack Snyder achieved better results than he did with both BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE and MAN OF STEEL (2013). One of the ways that JUSTICE LEAGUE is superior is Snyder controlled himself and didn’t film action scenes that went on for too long. They are generally quick, efficient, and well done.
I thought the pacing was especially good. The film runs for just about two hours, but it flew by for me and felt more like 90 minutes.
The film also opens with a curious bit featuring Superman, which was enjoyable enough, but I thought at some point in the movie the story would return to this moment, but it never does.
JUSTICE LEAGUE features a straightforward and rather simple if not predictable story, but in this case, it seems to be just what these DC films have needed. The DC films have often been bogged down with plot points that didn’t work and action scenes that went on for far too long. It truly seemed as if they were struggling to find their identity.
WONDER WOMAN established its identity right away, and while JUSTICE LEAGUE isn’t quite as successful as WONDER WOMAN, it too establishes itself right away. It sacrifices plot for characterization, using most of the screen time to establish its Justice League personalities, and the film is better for it. The superheroes here not only save the world, but the movie.
I also give it three knives.
Voice: What are you two doing in here?
(MA and LS turn to see SUPERMAN and BATMAN entering the room)
SUPERMAN (to Batman): I thought you said this was state-of-the-art security?
BATMAN: Looking at those two, I can’t imagine they were smart enough to override it. Something’s fishy here.
LS: Actually, we got help getting in here. Does the name Mxyzptlk ring a bell.
SUPERMAN: Is that so? Well, we’ll be more than happy to escort you off the premises.
BATMAN: You can say that again. I hope they put up a fight, too, because I could use a work-out.
SUPERMAN: A work-out? These two won’t even raise our blood pressures.
BATMAN (laughs): I guess you’re right, they’re just a couple of geeks.
MA: Looks like we’ll be signing off now. Join us next time for another edition of Cinema Knife Fight.
(LS and MA run like hell as SUPERMAN and BATMAN chase them around the building)
© Copyright 2017 by LL Soares & Michael Arruda
LL Soares gives JUSTICE LEAGUE ~ three knives!
Michael Arruda gives JUSTICE LEAGUE ~three knives, too.