Justice League – Review

“You can’t save the world alone.” Great tagline. You might not be able to save the world alone, but you can destroy the universe (in this case, the DC Extended) by not having a singular vision.

DC’s problem with this shared movie experiment has been having the confidence to stick to its guns. Batman v Superman wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Fine, that’s what makes the world go ‘round – differences.

Marvel has its successful onscreen identify, DC used to have one too.

Justice League begins with the promise that Zack Snyder has mastered the darker but deeper roots of his characters. The Batman scenes work especially well and when the team are finally assembled there’s a Watchmen feel, which is no bad thing.

But there’s no getting away from the cut-and-shut feel of having two directors helm the movie. It’d be unfair to assume Joss Whedon tried to shoehorn his Avengers style on a near-finished product. The meddling obviously came from the studio.

We’re left with an opening that retains the best parts of Dawn of Justice, with the new members adding the correct amount of light. Ezra Miller’s Flash being the standout find. His humour is always on point, his quirkiness the balance the squad needs. Wonder Woman has been the world’s favourite new hero this year – Flash is the best.

It all starts well, from recruiting a reluctant Cyborg (Ray Fisher has his work cut out bringing this character to life), to the grisly and instantly at ease Aquaman. His backstory is teased in preparation for the solo movie and Jason Momoa looks more than capable of carrying that flick.

Gal Gadot is excellent again and acts as the light to Batman’s darkness (a role usually reserved for Superman). She’s the heart in what becomes a big soulless action mess.

The plot is Wonder Woman in style. We’re dealing with hidden boxes of godlike power that are being targeted by intergalactic CGI-baddie Steppenwolf. It’s pretty weak and lacking depth for a DC movie, and the CGI is terrible, but it’s okay. It’s all okay, until…

Superman returns. This is when a great movie with seeds planted in Batman v Superman (remember that Bruce Wayne/Flash “dream” sequence where he saw the world run by an evil Superman?) absolutely bottles it.

A hint of the Superman befitting with the plot is quickly discarded, the rewrites harder to hide than the poor CGI.

Cinematographer Fabian Wagner has admitted he even filmed shots with Henry Cavill in the famous black Supes outfit. It should have been a different return to the blue suit than a quick tantrum and a creepy scene with Lois Lane in a field.

If Superman was unlikable compared to Ben Affleck’s Batman in the previous meeting, he’s a complete turnoff now. The movie sinks the second he appears.

After a good build, fans are left with a sham of a movie. Neither taking the best of the previous instalments or becoming a copy of its rival.

This should have been a part one of two and was silently cut down to one movie. At this rate, Warner Bros. will call time on the whole botched affair and return to making successful and critically acclaimed stand-alone movies.

That’s if there’s any justice in the world.

5/10

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The Lego Batman Movie – Review

After 2016’s flurry of superhero films, this year promises to keep up the trend. Before the world feels burnt out with them, Warner Bros. hand over their prime property to The Lego franchise. Before we get more of the Ben Affleck Dark Knight, we get Will Arnett’s light-hearted brick version.

Criticism Marvel fanboys aim at their DC counterparts is they are too serious and dark, that comic books should be fun. It’ll be interesting to see how they deal with The Lego Batman Movie. Sure, it’s not a canon entry. It’s aimed at the kids’ market (some would say, this is Marvel’s core audience) but if you need the exact opposite of “serious and dark” then this is it.

Like the best of modern animation movies – looking at you Toy Story – there’s action for the kids and jokes for the parents. Lego Batman pleases the children with explosive action sequences, Lego being used and reshaped to create unique outcomes, and behaviour they can relate to. When The Joker fires his weapon, he makes little shooting sounds just like kids playing with Lego need to do.

The Lego Gotham City does feel authentic. You can tell what world we’re in. All the rogues are here too, proving that a good film can survive with an overflow of enemies. It’s clear from the start the movie’s makers are willing to point fun at the source material, and at first, having nearly every conceivable Batman villain on screen seems like a quick pun. But they stick around and The Joker manages to recruit even more bad guys.

Thanks to the Lego tie in, anyone that can be made from the little bricks appears. Even the Daleks show up, although never referenced by name.

The main story is how Batman is too withdrawn and refuses help. Cue Robin and new Commissioner and soon to be Batgirl, Barbara Gordon. Alongside this is how he breaks The Joker’s heart by denying him the title of main villain. He says he fights around, that there isn’t an “us.” It’s great humour that will probably fly over the heads of younger members of the audience.

To make Batman appreciate him, Joker hands himself – and all the villains in Gotham – over to new Commissioner Gordon. Batman, easily manipulated by his nemesis, doesn’t sit tight and starts a sequence of events that sees Joker release all the baddies from Superman’s Phantom Zone.

Suddenly Gotham needs Batman again but he can’t do it alone.

Usually kiddies’ films like this are big on the moral message and speed up the slower adult scenes. Here, even though the ideas it’s trying to tell are plainly obvious, they blend into the background. Early on the plot building will lose some younger viewers. Even when having fun, Batman has to be moody.

The Easter eggs, often in the form of one-liners, come thick and fast, and clearly are designed for older ears. The fun is bright and outlandish, satisfying the kids. The flashy sequences aren’t to cover any deficiencies in the cast either.

Ralph Fiennes does a great turn as Alfred, Michael Cera is back to form as Robin, and it’s a compliment to say you won’t realise (although, you will now) Rosario Dawson plays Barbara Gordon. Even the cameos go to big names.

It doesn’t pull on heartstrings like some animation movies nor is it a film made just for children. It’s not perfect but it works well and Bat-fans and kids alike will enjoy it.

7/10

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Review

Finally, the gloves are off and we get the big showdown. Not the fight between Supes and The Bat. This is the start of DC v Marvel. And the early reaction hasn’t been good for Kent or Wayne.

The problem affecting Batman v Superman is this exterior pressure. Because the Marvel movies have been such a success everyone expects all superhero films to follow this formula. Well, this movie doesn’t. It follows the Zack Snyder method.

So if you’re reading this wondering whether Batman v Superman is for you, just ask yourself: Did you enjoy Man of Steel and Watchmen? If you did, you’ll love this. If you didn’t, then wait for other productions in the DC Extended Universe (not made by Snyder) before jumping in.

Personally, I don’t mind at bit of Snyder action. To put this into context, and give an idea of where this movie sits, it surpasses Man of Steel in terms of ambition but isn’t as tightly told overall. It is better than Avengers: Age of Ultron and the two Iron Man sequels. So the Marvel fanboys taunting DC should get their own house in order first.

The movie gives us a good Batman. Yes, Batfleck actually works. All that fan hatred has been channelled in a fitting angst. His plot is well laid out and worthy of its own flick. That’s part of the problem with the film – it’s too crammed.

Bruce Wayne is on a mission to steal info from Lex Luthor in order to locate, what turns out to be, a transport ship. This ties him back into the larger scheme of things. On his way he briefly meets Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) and decides that Superman is a dangerous threat that he intends to take out.

Everyone else has their doubts about the Man of Steel too. Reviews and courts are being convened and he’s not helping matters by swooping to rescue Lois in Africa which results in villagers being gunned down.

Batman is the vigilante in the dark, mostly under the radar except for the tabloid press. Superman is the outlaw causing government debate.

So far so good. All the ingredients are there for a great final act. Instead it kind of all gets lost in the mix. By the credits it feels more of a relief than a jubilant celebration. DC isn’t trying to be “fun” like Marvel but it does lack any trace of humour.

You can make your own though. For example, one of the cops in a scene where Batman is hiding in the corner of an unlit room, sounds exactly like Alexander Knox from 1989’s Batman. He was barrel of laughs (honest).

Or during the preview of Cyborg (a character that will form part of the Justice League) you see that the scientist handling his human remains and the technology that attaches to him is none other than Terminator 2’s Miles Dyson. We all know how well that ends when he meddles with cyborgs.

Mixed reviews aside, Batman v Superman is on course to make a ton of money. The safe bet is Warner Bros. will hope Suicide Squad gets strong feedback and they can carry on with their phase one plans.

They should include a Batman film, sharpish. And maybe leave Superman in the dark place he finds himself. He’s about as popular as Zack Snyder right now.

Score: 7/10