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.

Captain America: Civil War REVIEW

When news got out that Civil War got greenlit due to Batman Vs Superman, a film that was as dull as it was messy, it wasn’t a surprise that many grew worried about the reality of this massive clash of clans. Not only is the film a sequel to the Marvel magnum opus Winter Soldier but it’s also a successor to the rather disappointing Age Of Ultron.

In addition to this, there’s also the film’s duty to introduce new characters as well as set things up for future installments in the MCU and somehow, whether it’s due to some infinity gem or the Russo brothers natural talent, Civil War manages to do all of this and more, managing to be just as enthralling as its predecessors and then some.

Having the Avengers fight amongst themselves isn’t anything new but it’s never been on this kind of scale. With The Avengers now being seen as dangerous whilst ungoverned, due to events in previous films as well as those in Civil War, the team is now split into two: Team Cap which feels that the Avengers should stay independent and Team Iron Man who supports the government oversight.

The story, for what it’s trying to achieve, isn’t overly complex and has a surprisingly good flow despite the 2hr 27 min run time, managing to establish the motivations of both teams superbly. Often you’ll find your allegiance fluctuating, despite tweeting how you were #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan religiously beforehand, making the film just as engaging as you’d have expected.

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Thankfully there’s no MacGuffin, an issue that I covered in my rant on the MCU, though the “villain” isn’t much of an improvement. While he has some well established motivation rather than just being evil, unlike Lex Luthor in BVS, it feels like the character of Zemo, one with a very interesting backstory, could have been best kept for a future installment due to his minimal involvement in the film.

Civil War is also full of emotion due to the conflict ignited by Bucky Barnes whose past is the catalyst for a lot of action which this film does perfectly. The big clash at an Airport Terminal is undoubtedly the best set piece ever conceived in the MCU which I refuse to spoil due to some pretty surprising elements. Just make sure to pick your jaw up from off the floor afterwards.

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The highlight of the film for me were the introduction of two major characters, the first being Black Panther. Having never made a big screen appearance before, he didn’t disappoint on his debut and left the audience desperate for his big solo venture in 2018. No doubt we’ll get some more info about his origins which may or may not differ from the comics but regardless, the Prince of Wakanda looked badass as fuck.

Then there’s the elephant or, rather, Spider in the room. Yes, the web slinger makes his MCU debut and oh my god. Never before has there been such a faithful adaptation of Spiderman before now as Tom Holland manages to manifest the awkward, teen charisma for his time as Peter Parker but then hits out with his quick witted jibes that had the whole cinema laughing out loud.

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Surprisingly he has a lot more screen time than I expected and may have even had more lines of dialogue than Superman in BVS! Marvel may have messed with beloved characters before but this iteration of Spiderman more than makes up for that.

While the film isn’t perfect by any means, the first half feels a bit sluggish from time to time, Civil War goes some way in combating the fatigue many face when it comes to superhero films. What we have here is a film that asks questions but doesn’t forget what should be the main focus of these films: having fun.

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Captain America: Civil War trailer reaction 

 

It’s been four months since the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase 2 ended with an ironic big bang as Ant-Man managed to make the ridiculously named superhero somehow cool, in no small part to Paul Rudd playing the titular character. We’ve had plenty time since then to reminisce about how all the movies in this act played out with some greats (Guardians Of The Galaxy), some meh’s (Avengers: Age Of Ultron) and some that we’d much rather forget, or probably already have in the case of Thor 2.

However, the stand out film of Phase 2 was Captain America: Winter Soldier. I will admit that Cap’s first entry all those years ago was a bit of a mixed bag but it was still an enjoyable flick and was still far from being bad whereas Winter Soldier just completely blew it out the park. Full of conspiracy, amazing characters such as the eponymously named Winter Soldier and some incredible action scenes, all backed up by arguably the best MCU story I’ve seen, the Russo brothers directed film sticks out in my mind as being the best Marvel film to date.

And just when I thought Marvel had out done themselves this year by providing two of the best TV shows I’ve witnessed in quite some time, they dropped this beauty.

Before you start shaking your head and stating the obvious, yes, I know we got told about Civil War more than a year ago but this is first time (second if you count the after credit scene from Ant Man) that we’ve seen actual footage of the film which, I hate to add to the already out of control hype train, will be the most important film in the MCU so far.

The first reason for this is unsurprising if you’ve seen the trailer, posters or have read the comic that it’s loosely based on: Captain America vs Iron Man. We’ve seen fights between heroes before like Thor and Iron Man at the start of The Avengers but nothing quite as big or as divisive as this. After a disaster caused by the newly led Avengers causes collateral damage to the city, politicians want a governing body to be made so that they can decide whether or not the Avengers will be called in. This divides the heroes of the MCU into two: one camp lead by good ol’ Cap America who believe there should be no government interference and another lead by Iron Man who want there to be governmental oversight. With how cataclysmic the fight in the comic was and if the beautiful wide shot scene we saw near the end of the trailer between Iron Man, Captain America and Bucky is anything to go by, we’re in for a treat.

Every Hint and Clue Hidden in the Captain America: Civil War Trailer

Secondly, we’ve got some exciting new characters getting involved with this phase 3 entry. There’s T’Challa, best known by his hero name Black Panther, who we saw kick ass in the trailer, more specifically Bucky’s meaning he’ll be on Tony Stark’s side for this. Not surprising seeing as he’s the ruler of an African nation who will no doubt want Bucky to pay for his crimes while he was brainwashed by Hydra meaning we’ll no doubt get some confrontation between Black Panther and Captain America as well which has got me feeling light headed.

Every Hint and Clue Hidden in the Captain America: Civil War Trailer

Although we never saw him in the trailer, Spider-man will also be making his arrival into the MCU with this entry though unfortunately we never got to see him at at all during the trailer. With a new actor playing him this time round, 19 year old Tom Holland, here’s hoping it’ll be third time lucky for Spidey fans since I know all I want is Holland to provide the naturally shy and geeky Peter Parker that we saw portrayed by Toby McGuire and the witty, sarcastic Spider-man that Andrew Garfield pulled off so perfectly.

The only gripe I have with Civil War at the moment is that it feels far smaller in scale in comparison to the source material which would obviously be the case due to Fox owning the rights to certain characters as well as the justifiable worry of a Spiderman 3 scenario happening where there’s too many characters all at once. Once I’ve seen the film for myself I’m sure that the smaller cast of characters will make up for it with some crucial character development as well as setting up what we can expect to see throughout the rest of Phase 3.

Every Hint and Clue Hidden in the Captain America: Civil War Trailer
“I’m sorry, Tony. You know I wouldn’t do this if I had another choice. But he’s my friend.” “So was I.” Them chills.

Civil War could very well fall under the pressure of the films it follows. It could be as underwhelming and predictable as Age of Ultron. It could get Phase 3 off to a horrendous start. The way I see it is that it won’t succumb to any of this. Civil War, and you can hold me to it, is going to be the biggest and best MCU film yet.

It might bring the question of choosing if you’re Team Captain America or Team Iron Man but at the end of it all, the winner will hopefully be the fans.

So what are your thoughts about the Civil War trailer? Excited? Dissapointed? What’s your favourite moment? 2016 is undoubtedly going to be the biggest year for comic books ever with Batman vs Superman, Suicide Squad, Deadpool, X-Men: Apocalypse, Civil War and more so let me know what your favourite is down in the comments below and I’ll see you tomorrow for more fanboying goodness.

Big love, Liam x

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