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Movie Review – Justice League (2017)

Well, it only took two years and four films, but Warner Brothers has finally figured out a winning formula.

BQB here with a review of “Justice League.”

Character development.  It’s what the Marvel Cinematic Universe excelled at and what Warner Brothers failed at, even though the winning formula was clear – make a bunch of films starring the individual heroes, then make films starring the heroes working together…repeat.

Warner Brothers went a different way in March of 2016 with the pathetic flop that was “Batman vs. Superman.”  Technically, they started with “Man of Steel” years back, though at the time it didn’t appear as though there was an intention for that particular version of Superman to stick around…as far as I know anyway.

In B v S, we were flashed quick versions of Batman and Wonder Woman.  The plot was hacky, like Man of Steel, it was riddled with product placement, and Lex Luthor, greatest villain of all time, was turned into a nerdy wiener played by Jesse Eisenberg.

While critics despised “Suicide Squad,” I enjoyed it, though looking back on it, I’m not sure it really capitalized on its main asset – Harley Quinn.  A Joker and Harley movie is long overdue.

Bottomline – Marvel’s characters weren’t as well known to general audiences.  Thus, Marvel/Disney was able to make an Iron Man flick, a Hulk flick, a Captain America flick, a Thor flick, an Avengers flick, then press repeat, minus the Hulk flick because the green guy just can’t carry a film on his own, sadly.

But the character development in the individual flicks always paid off in the Avengers flicks.  We would see the individual characters suffer and face their demons and  then come together as a team.

DC’s cross to bear was that prior to this attempt to copy Marvel, Batman and Superman had been done umpteen million times.  However, while I still maintain that audiences didn’t need another origin  story for Batman or Superman, there could have been a film to introduce us to this grittier, older, depressed version of Batman starring Ben Affleck.  We didn’t need to see Bruce Wayne’s parents get capped after a night at the theater for the 1000th time, but it would have been nice to have seen a film where we jump into the new Batman’s world and see what he’s all about.  For example, a Batman vs. Joker and Harley film could have done just that.

Meanwhile, “Man of Steel” was yet another Superman origin film and as Supes and Zod punched their way through 7-11 signs and IHOP restaurants, the whole thing felt very forgettable.

June of this year’s “Wonder Woman” was Warner’s first critically acclaimed hit.  Wonder Woman has appeared in TV form before in the 1970s, but generally, she wasn’t as well known as Bats and Supes, so Warner had a chance to introduce her and tell us what she’s about.

Thus, in “Justice League,” the main continuity payoffs come from references to the earlier “Wonder Woman” film whereas references to B v S made me want to hurl, as I’m still doing all I can to forget that epic fail of a film.

Honestly, I feared that character development was not Warner’s forte.  It felt like they were rushing these films out, not taking their time, that we were a bunch of chimps who would put our butts into the seats no matter what so they just cared about money and not plot or telling us what made the characters tick.

Thus, it felt to me like “Justice League” was destined to fail.  We were introduced to new Batman and new Superman, albeit poorly, and we were introduced to Wonder Woman well, but introducing us to the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg all in the same film and somehow making us care about them seemed like a tall order and yet…they pulled it off.

Ray Fisher plays Cyborg/Victor Stone with just the right amounts of anger and sadness.  Cyborg, a young man rebuilt as part-man but mostly machine by his scientist father, views himself as an abomination, subject to the will of the technology that controls him, tech that he has little control over himself.  He must overcome self-hatred to serve a higher purpose.

Ezra Miller provides much needed comic relief as The Flash/Barry Allen.  The Flash has appeared on TV in the 1990s to not so great results, though a more recent return to TV faired better.  There were a variety of ways the film could have gone with Flash but here, they decided to go with an accidental bumbler.  Hit by lightning, the kid can now run really fast.  At the time of this film, he’s foiled a few petty crooks with his feet of fury, but he’s never gone toe to toe with a big bad and that leaves him scared shitless.  He devours entire pizzas in one sitting without gaining weight because his top speeds leave his body depleted and a scene where he thinks he’s about to shine only to realize Superman can run as fast as he can is the highlight of the film.

I was on the fence with Jason Mamoa’s “Aquaman.”  Aquaman, long panned as the lamest Justice League member due to his power of talking to fish, has always been a long haul to bring home.  After all, the cartoon version featured Aquaman riding two dolphins under his feet as if they were water skis.  Here, Aquaman is portrayed as a gritty merman, unsure of why he was cast out of Atlantis and left to protect a seaside community.  This Aquaman is very “Point Break-ish,” an extreme adventurer type, enjoying badassery, boastful of his manliness and so on.  I had mixed feelings about him throughout the film until a humorous scene with Wonder Woman won me over.

As in any film, there are flaws.  Bruce Wayne doesn’t seem to give a shit about revealing himself as Batman to every new team member he meets, though I suppose if he’s going to work with these people, he has to.  Also, the plot revolves around finding three boxes that hold the power to global destruction before the villain Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) can.  Something about those boxes made me think about Marvel’s tesseract, though I suppose similarities between comic worlds are inevitable.  There’s only so much of this shit that can be done before it all seems to mold together.

Ultimately, it’s a good ride.  Would independent Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman films helped?  Maybe…maybe not.  Honestly, I worried about that going into the film but somehow the movie manages to give us just the right amount of back story for these three heroes – not too much, not too little – perhaps independent films would have been overkill.  Now that we’ve given small doses of them to see what makes them tick, we might root for them more independently.

Amazingly, the movie finally even gets Superman right.  Superman has always been a tough one.  He’s the ultimate boy scout who does no wrong and basically has no flaws, so its hard to relate to him.  Further, even though he can fight like anything and survive, Hollywood rarely pits him against foes worth his time.  Superman shines here, though I think long term, the franchise will suffer because of the earlier decision to let Eisenberg play a geeky version of Lex Luthor rather than go with the traditional comic book version were Lex is the ultimate cunning badass.

Good story.  Good plot.  Good characters.  It had heart and humor.  I finally care about these characters.  It took awhile, but WB finally got it right.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Universal’s Dark Universe Series

Hey 3.5 readers.

Did you all hear about this?  I did not until I caught the Mummy today.  Check out my review if you haven’t already.

Apparently, Universal is trying to bring its treasure trove of monster flicks back into the modern age, kicking it off with “The Mummy” with Dracula, Frankenstein, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Bride of Frankenstein, Phantom of the Opera, the Wolfman and so on  to come later.

One can only assume they’re trying to compete with Disney’s Marvel universe and Warner Brothers attempt to recreate the Disney/Marvel success with their Justice League films.

Do you think “Dark Universe” will be a hit for Universal?  Will other studios try to cash in on the expanded universe phenomenon?

My one caveat might be that while Marvel and DC appeal to kids, i.e., the viewers that will most likely nag their parents into buying Marvel and DC merchandise, I’m not sure there’s a huge market for a Mummy lunch box.  Then again, maybe Universal can pave the way for cinematic universe films for a more sophisticated audience.  The Mummy was actually a good, solid first installment.  It didn’t knock my socks off but it didn’t disappoint me either.  It left me curious as to what Universal has in store for us next.

Discuss, 3.5 readers.

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Movie Review – Wonder Woman (2017)

Amazon warrior babes!  Evil Germans!  The best female superhero ever!

BQB here with a review of Wonder Woman.

Let me just say it right off the bat, 3.5 readers.  This is a great movie – a really great movie.

It was a high stakes film for DC and Warner Brothers, a make or break film in their quest to create a Justice League franchise that would rival the success of Marvel’s Avengers.

The first attempt, last year’s Batman vs. Superman was an economy sized stink burger with extra poop cheese.  The second attempt, Suicide Squad, was not a critical success, though I liked it personally.

Luckily, WB/DC not only avoided a third strike with Wonder Woman – they knocked it out of the park.

Princess Diana (Gal Gadot) lives an idyllic, peaceful life on a secret island filled with super hot, boner-inducing Amazon warrior babes.  For years, she’s been told a tale by her mother, Queen Hippolyta and aunt, Antiope (Robin Wright) of how men were once kind and noble but alas, their minds were poisoned by Aries, the God of War, to fight one another.

The Amazons found safety on an island paradise but that is disturbed when WWI pilot Steve Trevor crash lands on their territory.  When Steve informs the super hot warrior babes that World War One (or just, the World War at that time) has broken out, Diana is convinced that this is the handiwork of Aries and teams of with Steve to save the day.

Great action, amazing special effects and plenty of humor as Diana adjusts to life in the early 1900s, a time when women were expected to be obedient to men and only speak when spoken to. (Ah, those were the days!  Wait, who said that?  Surely, not me.  Crap.  I’m going to get complaint letters now.)

Gal Gadot was the perfect choice for this role and she can wrap me up in her lasso of truth anytime.  Alas, I just wish I had more interesting stories to tell her.

The story is great, a real blend of history and fiction to come up with something unique on its own.

Frankly, I wish this film had been the start of WB/DC’s foray into Justice League territory. Marvel has been making bank for nearly a decade with a tried and true formula, namely, give each hero their own movie, then put all the heroes into one movie, then give each hero their follow up movies, then do another movie where all the heroes get together and repeat.

Admittedly, DC had a higher mountain to climb.  Batman and Superman are so well known that no one needed another movie where little Bruce Wayne sees his parents get shot or another movie where baby Kal-El crash lands in an Iowa cornfield.

Still, there could have been some standalone films where we are introduced to the latest incarnations of Batman and Superman.  True, we did get that with Man of Steel, but otherwise, Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman were all tossed into a big crap sandwich in the super sucky Batman vs. Superman before we ever got to learn what makes any of them tick.

And really, Wonder Woman was the only part of B vs. S that did not suck the super big one.

This is the first critical success for the Justice League franchise and what I hope will be the beginning of a winning streak.  Unfortunately, from the trailer of this November’s Justice League, I fear the winning streak won’t last long, as characters like Cyborg, Aqua Man and the Flash are all lumped together before we get movies that tell us who these characters are and what they are all about.

At least, no matter what, we can say we know what makes Wonder Woman tick, thanks to this film.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.  Best film of the year thus far.  Get off your butts and see it in the theater, 3.5.  You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

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Justice League – San Diego Comic Con Trailer

Holy Crap. Is it SDCC already?

Here’s the Justice League trailer they released.

It looks good.  Honestly, I’m very skeptical after that whole Batman vs. Superman turd fest so we’ll see.

Aquaman has always been a hard sell. Of all the superpowers, “talking to fish” has got to be the worst.

I mean, seriously, WTF? All the villain needs to do to beat you is bring you inland.  Aquaman is entirely useless in the desert.

This will be where some nerd corrects me and is all like, “Well in Issue 200, Aquaman actually wandered into the desert with some angry carp in his pants pockets and…”

No. Stop it, nerds.

What do you think about this trailer, 3.5 readers?

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Movie Review: Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Batman vs. Superman.

The winner?  My eyeballs.

BQB here with a review of Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

SUPER SPOILERS AHEAD.

Have you seen this yet, 3.5 readers?

I want to avoid spoiling too much but this movie has brought to my mind a number ideas about comic movies, Marvel vs. DC, the direction DC is taking, etc.  So I’ll probably come back in a week or two (once people have had a chance to see it) and get all spoilery.

For now, let me say this: I don’t think the critics and I saw the same movie.

The critics are up this movie’s butt.  It’s too long.  It’s got too much going on.  It’s too confusing.

I’ll agree there is a lot going on and at times it was confusing…but come on, a lot of movies are.  Half the time I go to movies and I’m like “I…uh…wait what just happened?  I don’t know.  Me shove popcorn into face now and enjoy pretty colors.”

The most efficient thing to do is to respond to the criticisms one by one:

THE PLOT ISN’T THAT HARD TO BELIEVE

We’re humans.  We’re suspicious bastards who screw things up early and often due to our paranoia.  It isn’t that far fetched to think that if someone like Superman showed up to save us, that we’d immediately suspect he was up to some shit and ruin everything by looking the ultimate gift horse in the mouth.

BEN AFFLECK AS BATMAN

He was a worthy Batman.  He’s an older, world weary, tired of the bullshit Batman in this one.  Affleck allowed himself to be shown with a little touch of gray.  That’s commitment for any pretty boy actor.

JESSE EISENBERG SUCKS

Jesse Eisenberg did not suck.  He played the part he was hired to play and he did it well. His character was just incredibly annoying, so much so that you wonder why Batman or Superman don’t just bitch slap him into next Tuesday and be done with it.

Sadly, Hollywood has never been able to provide us with a good Lex Luthor.  The comics do.  In the comics, he’s big, strong, menacing his power comes from his cunning and cruelty.

Here, they basically just had Eisenberg take a spritz of the Mark Zuckerberg role that made him famous and then kick it up a notch.  At times his voice is screechy and almost Joker-like, which is a bad idea, as this world already has a Joker.

IT IS TOO DARK

DC Comics are dark.  Because…Batman, damn it.  To paraphrase Ben Affleck from that other movie he was in (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back), Batman is one “morose motherf&*ker.”

Clearly, DC has seen the success that Marvel has had with The Avengers.  There is an obvious market for movies in which beloved superheroes work together.  Thus, DC is working its way toward making Justice League movies.

But this path has always been an uphill climb for DC.  DC has been making comic book movies for a lot longer.  The public knows their characters better.  Marvel, on the other hand, had the opportunity to introduce each individual member of the Avengers to the public with their own movies, building up to the Avengers movie.

But we don’t really need another Batman origin movie.  We get it.  He saw his parents get shot in front of him and became a vigilante.  (Hollywood finally gets that here…well, sort of…some suit still decided there needed to be a quick Wayne family massacre scene just in case there happened to be one jackass in the movie theater who didn’t understand why Batman became Batman.)

WONDER WOMAN WAS CROWBARRED IN

She really wasn’t.  I found her to be a good addition to the movie and am looking forward to her movie.

TOO MANY TEASERS FOR UPCOMING DC MOVIES

What should they do instead?  Make everyone wait until after the credits for a thirty second scene in which Nick Fury recruits someone new?

Although in keeping with my, “DC has the harder path than Marvel” argument…they’ve got a very big challenge in getting people to give a shit about Aqua Man.

“Hi we’re the Justice League.  We’ve got an all powerful god man, a Bat ninja, a warrior princess and oh yeah….this shit head who can control fish.”

Holy Shit you suck, Aqua Man.  If Jason Mamoa can make Aqua Man watchable he deserves an Oscar.

BATMAN AS PART OF A TEAM

He’s a loner, that’s for sure.  And he’s always been out of place in the Justice League world.

We love Batman because out of all the superheroes, he is the most plausible.  True, a mega rich buff dude who fights a crazy clown isn’t very realistic…but if you let your mind wander…it is easier to pretend to be Batman, whereas it is not as easy to pretend to be Superman, because being Superman is just totally impossible.  If you’re not from Krypton, then you should just stop pretending to be Superman.  You’ll never be Superman.

You’ll never be Batman either…but at least there’s a .00000001% chance that you could become Batman.

The Justice League fights aliens and monsters and other supernatural stuff.  Batman’s forte as a  “realistic” hero is fighting gangsters, mobsters, and psychopaths.  That’s why we loved Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, right?  Nolan did his best to provide a Batman that was plausible (again, as plausible as a story about a Bat vigilante can get.

But the comics have always addressed that by having Batman being suspicious of his super powered friends.  He works with them, but he usually makes back up plans in case they get out of line.

You have to compartmentalize.  There’s on his own Batman who uses his training, skills, and money to fight crime…and then there’s Justice League Batman who helps other heroes fight aliens and shit.

BATMAN SHOOTS GUNS

Yes.  That was unfortunate.  Batman isn’t a shooter.  Although it has always been acceptable for him to blow the shit out of people with rockets and guns attached to the Batmobile, Batman has never packed a piece.  Technically he doesn’t in this one either….but well, then at one point he does but…ahh just watch the movie.

THE PLOT TURNS TOO MUCH ON UH…TWO PEOPLE KNOWING THE SAME NAME

Shut up, stupid critics.  That part was touching as shit.

FINAL THOUGHTS

It wasn’t perfect.  But I did enjoy it.  And I think it is the start of a promising line of Justice League movies.  I can’t wait for Suicide Squad.

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Hoppy Easter

BQB here.

Hoppy Easter!  Bah ha ha…see what I did there?  I switched “happy” with “hoppy” because of the Easter bunny.  I’m so witty.

Alien Jones is taking another Sunday off.  He is fully recovered after being hit by a space bus.  However, today his planet celebrates a holiday that is similar to Easter, except it involves honoring a holy bunny who died for the planet’s sins.  To get the children involved in the holiday, they’re told a bearded human man with sandals will hide baskets and eggs around the house for them if they behave.

He hasn’t forgotten your questions and swears on a stack of space bibles that he’ll return next week.  Until then, enjoy these eggs:

Justice Legg of America

“The Justice Legg of America – Fighting Crime with a Side of Bacon” – via a Creative Commons License by Flickr User JD Hancock

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