Is Justice League Really That Bad?

By Liv Armstrong (@starcadet96)

DC seemed to be on a bit of a winning streak for a while. Despite the DCEU getting off a rocky start with critics and audiences with the likes of Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, their reputation seemed to be on the up. With the Lego Batman movie being both a hilarious parody and a surprisingly genuine good Batman movie and Wonder Woman defying everyone’s expectations with the talent of Patty Jenkins as director and a much brighter, optimistic tone as well as better writing, many were cautious yet optimistic when the trailers for Justice League were released. After all, DC had been doing pretty well. Would they keep up the streak or take a giant step backwards?

A giant step backwards.

There are so many articles and reports online detailing the troubled and rushed production of this film and to say it shows onscreen is a gross understatement. It serves as a directing collaboration between Zack Snyder (who had to leave the project for personal reasons) and Joss Whedon, who took over direction in his place. The result feels like two halves of an incomplete whole, battling between over-editing and exposition combined with humour that comes as thoroughly stale at this stage for comic book movies and a group of heroes with so little chemistry, you’d prefer watching grass grow. Which results in a final identity as a bland, over-edited pile of nothing that eats up two hours of your life that you could’ve spent doing something else.

For as much as both critics and myself have criticised Snyder in the past, I’ll be the first to admit he does have a genuine amount of visual talent. He has done a lot of work in his early career with music videos and it shows in the majority of his films. But a lot of that style just doesn’t transfer very well to these films – the overuse of slow and fast-motion would look impressive in a three-minute MV (which the opening credits scene closely resembles) but becomes extremely distracting in a two-hour film when it happens every five minutes, even in scenes that aren’t action scenes.

It doesn’t help that the CGI used is some of the worst ever seen in the DCEU. Some of it is so bad, it’s actively distracting. The entire internet has made its jokes about the digital removal of Henry Cavill’s moustache and while it doesn’t look too bad from a distance or when his face is neutral, every time he smiles it looks like his entire top lip has morphed into his nose. It’s fairly jarring at best and unintentionally hilarious when he has a zoom-in confrontation with Batman after being resurrected by the Justice League (because he’s a metaphor for Jesus. Get it? GET IT?!) with one of the three glowing Rubix cubes that serve as the MacGuffin for the movie.

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The main villain Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarán Hinds) wants these three boxes for evil reasons that include destroying the earth. Aside from the fact that he looks like a terrible D&D character, that is all you need to know about him. This film also serves as the official introductions of Aquaman (played by Jason Momoa), The Flash (played by Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (played by Ray Fisher). While some of them had made cameos in previous DCEU films, this film serves as their official debuts and yet the film itself seems bizarrely uninterested in them. We learn almost nothing about them personality-wise and the bits of backstory we get are all shoved in to be awkwardly explained by other characters, so much so that Cyborg’s entire conflict with his father is dropped in the first third, as if even the film itself just gave up on it.

The saddest thing about this film is its waste of a genuinely talented cast. Aside from Henry Cavill’s Superman, whose acting range is still on par with a soggy piece of toast, the rest of the cast fit their roles rather well but are given almost no good material to work with. Most of their dialogue consists of either clunky exposition or awkward humour. The only actor who comes out of it fairly well is Ezra Miller as The Flash, as he’s mostly relegated to comic relief and manages to walk the line between funny and annoying fairly well without crossing it.

Gal Gadot has made her mark as a great Wonder Woman in her solo movie but here, she is woefully underused and it’s easy to tell where Joss Whedon’s influence rears it’s ugly head when it features not one, but two of the male main characters drooling over her, including a scene where The Flash ends up on top of her and face-planting into her breasts (which bears an eerie resemblance to a similar scene in Age of Ultron between Black Widow and Bruce Banner). Also, the Amazon’s new costumes are terrible. I won’t dwell on that too much as many on the internet have already expressed their opinions clearly but seriously, they suck.

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Ben Affleck’s Batman stands out for being arguably the most useless character in the entire movie, as the grand majority of what he does consists of brief action scenes (that are rendered so badly they look like trailers for the Arkham video games), brooding to Alfred (Jeremy Irons) and asking people to fight with him. Despite having probably the most screen time of the whole group, the focus on him is so minimal he might as well not be there.

By the time the final act drags its heels to a stop, it becomes actively difficult to stay invested when Superman finally appears at the end and basically solves the whole problem himself (which begs the question, what is even the point of the Justice League if Superman is so much more powerful than any of them? And more importantly, what reason do we have to care?).

So, how does Justice League rank in the current string of DC movie blunders? It’s hard to say. Whereas Man of Steel and Batman v Superman were miserable yet reasonably competent films and Suicide Squad sets out to assault as many of your senses as possible, the biggest crime of Justice League is how it leaves little to no impact. It feels like watching two hours of explosion-y nothing. Aside from an occasional giggle at the awful effects and one or two lines that work (The Flash asks what powers Batman has. He responds with “I’m rich.” I’ll admit that gets a laugh), there’s almost no reason to see it. It doesn’t feel big, it’s not exciting and it just feels a fart in an elevator – it happens, it’s mildly unpleasant but you forget about it five minutes later.

THOUGHTS ON: Batman VS Superman

I should have known it was too good to be true: a film where Batman and Superman brawl, right there on the big screen. It’s not like we haven’t witnessed it before, countless comic issues as well as The Dark Knight Returns were every DC fan’s wet dream, but this was gonna be a big budget, live action adaption.

We can all admit that we were excited for it. Even if you were suffering from superhero fatigue at the time, as soon as that trailer dropped you knew you had to see it. God Versus Man. Day VS Night. The Son Of Krypton vs The Bat Of Gotham. It was shaping up to be the must see film of the year, arguably the decade.

So why do I feel so disappointed?


A big

SPOILER ALERT

is needed as there’s no way I can talk about this film’s flaws without going into some detail. Oh, not that I should have to mention this but this is my opinion so if you liked the film, hell, even if you loved the film, that’s fine. I’m glad you had fun with it as the numb feeling I endured when walking out of the cinema is not something that should be envied.

Where better to start than addressing the title itself as, after all, the main reason you probably went to see this film was to see The Dark Knight take on the Man of Steel. The fight itself wasn’t actually horrible, both characters putting in an equal amount of punches though Batman undoubtedly was the victor. Or would be anyway if it weren’t for the stupid fucking reason they stop fighting.

The reason they start fighting isn’t exactly well thought out either. What should be a battle fueled by their conflicting ideologies, which isn’t so much hinted but flat out stated during the movie, is instead down to Superman having to so he can save his mother. This will be totally subjective as will everything else I list but really? It’s 2016 and we’re still using “x’s y is captured by z” as a motive to move things forward, possibly the biggest cliche in the superhero book.

Back on track however, one word will stick in your mind and possibly in any cinema staff having to stand outside the screen due to the loudness: Martha. Believe me when I say this that Batman and Superman stop fighting because their mum’s have the same name. You can try and excuse this by saying “Bruce lost his mother so he doesn’t want Clark to go through that” and I’d say good point and also how are you talking to me when I’m the one writing this?

I’d also say that Batman, with his view that Superman needs to be destroyed as he is too dangerous, wouldn’t do this. Batman straight up murders people and there’s no way to deny it as at one point he chucks a grenade into a small room with two people as well as setting a guy on fire. While I’m not overly bothered about him going against his usual moral code, it seems odd that a guy who so unempathetically murders crooks who no doubt have families of their own somehow turns a new leaf as soon as Superman mentions his mum. Not only that but they act like best buds after this revelation despite the fact Batman was about to stab Superman into something that would titled a kryptonian kebab just a few seconds ago.

Let’s change focus now and have a look at the man who set, and I use that word very lightly, this fight up: Lex Luthor. Played by Jesse Eisenberg, every moment he was on screen I was either laughing at how ridiculously over the top and absurd his performance was or cringing at the constant metaphors and quotes he was making. Those who argue that there’s no humour in BVS will tell you that Luthor gives a few good laughs and they’d be right. Unfortunately though, and bare with me because my Superman knowledge ain’t the best, this is supposed to be YOUR MAIN VILLAIN WHO IS INTIMIDATING AND A GENIUS, NOT SOME INDIE PRICK WEARING A BANKSY TOP WITH A LOT OF MONEY. Luthor didn’t feel like a cunning character and had little motive for Superman to go away as he seemed to benefit greatly from the aftermath of Man Of Steel. If he really wanted him dead, surely he would do the smart thing and just shoot him with a kryptonite missile or something?

I feel like a large amount of my gripes with BVS comes from the clunky script. We all knew that DC were lagging behind Marvel in terms of a cinematic universe but oh christ was it blatantly obvious and poorly executed. Slate Marvel films all you want but they’ve at least gradually churned these films out. DC on the other hand incorporated the other members of the justice league in the most lazy way imaginable by having Batman email Wonder Woman.Yup, you read that right: EMAIL.

Even if you ignore this, the flow of this film just feels so rough, full of subplots that just feel messy and not well thought out whatsoever. Lois Lane suffers from Amazing Spiderman syndrome here, having some sort of independence and, dare I say it, character before having it stripped away and becoming a damsel in distress who needs saved not once, not twice but THREE TIMES. The dream sequences also felt unnecessary, either telling us an origin story that’s been told countless times before or just existing so they can tease at a future villain.

I couldn’t write a spoiler review without touching upon the big shocker that was Superman’s death. This I can blame partly on the trailer that revealed Doomsday who previously has savagely murdered Kal El so as soon as I was aware he’d make an appearance, I knew this was coming. I suppose you could say I would have been like this regardless if the trailer showed me but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. DC would never be ballsy enough to kill Superman permanently and so, the very last shot is off the dirt as his grave slowly rising. So close DC, you were so close to doing one ballsy thing.

I wanted to like this film so badly. Despite all of the negative reviews I had read, I still wanted to see it and enjoy it so for fans to dismiss criticism as critics being “marvel fanboys” is absurd. The film isn’t the worst thing ever. Ben Affleck gives an amazing performance, there’s the expected spectacular Snyder visuals and the action that I mentioned was a joy to behold. I have my hopes that future films, such as The Flash, will be an improvement and that DC will learn their lesson. Unfortunately though, as it stands, the gif down below sums up perfectly how I felt about Batman Vs Superman.

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4/10

~

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Batman: Arkham Knight review

“Remove yourself from the piece.” This is a piece of advice, well not so much a piece of advice rather than a rule, that I got repeatedly told during my first year of journalism. While it’s easy enough to stick to this rule while writing about the news or something miscellaneous, it proves to be far more difficult when it comes to something you’ve got a great interest in. I’m sure anyone who’s read any of my pieces about Biffy Clyro can see what I mean though I never was subtle about my love for the band.

When I got Arkham Knight, the final chapter in the Batman videogame trilogy by Rocksteady, I knew I’d face this same issue again. However this wasn’t due to the fact that I’ve been a fan of the Caped Crusader since I was a child. Although I’ve followed the superhero through the majority of my life, watching the Christopher Nolan film trilogy countless times and religiously viewing the 90’s animated series, there’s something about the Arkham games that’s unlike anything I’ve experienced before.

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I can confidently say that this pure disbelief at how immersive a game can be is not only still part of this explosive finale but it’s been somehow improved beyond my expectations. The first thing you’ll notice as soon as you start up the game and create a new save file is the absolute scale of Gotham, standing on a radio tower and seeing how much area you have to traverse. As cliche as it sounds, Gotham is a character in itself, gothic architecture perfectly matching the dark atmosphere that shrouds every inch of the city. From the grand buildings of Founders Island to the conveniently named Bleake Island’s broken down homes and abandoned buildings, there’s a real sense of variety that helps each part of Gotham stand out.

This variety is well needed though seeing as you’ll be spending countless hours gliding over and driving through the gritty streets fighting some of the batman’s most notorious villains. The main story will take up a large chunk of your time and will have you tackling the Scarecrow’s nefarious plans to pollute Gotham full of his fear toxin which, if you didn’t already guess, transforms its victims into violent individuals tortured by their worst fears.Despite the fact there’s not any scenes as creative as the nightmare levels from Arkham Asylum, the story is still interesting and once you’re inevitably inflicted with the toxin yourself, the plot becomes even more interesting.

The main campaign is far from terrible but a few things hold it back from being truly exceptional. Arkham Asylum was called so because of the Asylum it was set in, Arkham City was called so because of the city it was set in and unsurprisingly enough Arkham Knight is called so because of the name of the main villain. After the amount of hype the character received in previews, it disappointed me how Rocksteady treated him. Anyone with a reasonable knowledge in Batman will know who he is and even if you don’t, you’ll be able to guess who it is if you remember the most important rule in entertainment: if you don’t see them die then they’re not dead.

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One of the game’s major selling points also suffers some flaws. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved the Batmobile in this game. The driving was perfect, making light work of any trees, fragile structures and bins that got in your way and I’ll even back up battle mode which has been criticised by a lot of reviewers. It was consistently challenging and as long as you go into the settings so that you can toggle the mode, the controls are near enough flawless. However this battle mode brings with it something that I just can’t let slide by and that is stealth sections in a tank. Yeah I said it. Stealth sections. In a tank. Now I know that this might have seemed like a fun wee idea by some developer at the time but so did communism and look what that lead to it.

Fortunately the plot does hold your interest and you really do feel like this is the endgame. In past games you felt like, yes, you were at risk but Rocksteady never really took any punches at your feels until the end of Arkham City. Now every character you come across, regardless if they’re a villain or ally, is just as vulnerable as you are. You might have your batmobile and your belt full of gadgets but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel like I was outnumbered and on the brink of failing. It’s not an easy game either with some sections even at normal difficulty forcing you to prove your worth. It might be the weakest story in the series but it’s like saying Return of the Jedi has the weakest story in the Star Wars trilogy.

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Despite these problems I had with the game, I had an amazing time with Arkham Knight. The combat is as flawless as past iterations and has had some tweaks such as environmental takedowns and better animations, you can even get the batmobile involved and fight alongside Nightwing, Catwoman and Robin. The side missions are also a blast to play through, providing some of the game’s best moments including an appearance from one of batman’s lesser known antagonists. Of course there’s the riddler challenges as well which are just as difficult before and will be a challenge to get through but will be essential for you getting that 100% completion rating and the real ending to the game

Overall Arkham Knight is one of the most entertaining games I’ve played in years and is the first game I’ve played on PS4 that’s felt like a truly next gen title, utilising the console’s specifications to deliver an immersive experience that makes you feel like the Batman, finally allowing you to relive those childhood dreams.