Posts Tagged ‘Cyborg’

Justice League Review: It Was Fine, I Guess? Not Good, But Not Awful

November 17, 2017

HAR_DM_FIRST LOOK RND F04

Justice League isn’t a terrible movie, and that in itself is a major achievement. Director Zack Snyder’s past two superhero outings were dour, unwieldy affairs that fundamentally misunderstood almost every character who appeared in them. Justice League is a much more conventional movie, leaner and even fun at times. It’s not great by any means. I wouldn’t even say it was good. But I didn’t leave the theater angry, so that’s a plus.

Everyone seems to have learned a few lessons from Wonder Woman, which is the far superior film by leaps and bounds. Justice League is lighter and funnier than its predecessors, though since those films weren’t light or funny in the slightest it really wouldn’t have taken much. But Snyder and his uncredited co-director Joss Whedon appear to be actively trying to set a new tone. There are jokes this time, and considerably less brooding and angst. The team bickers which each other instead of trying to kill each other. People smile sometimes. The success of this new approach is hit and miss, with a lot of corny dialogue and quips, but it’s a far better direction to move the franchise toward than the dark, miserable drama of the past.

In terms of plot, Justice League is a little bit thin. Steppenwolf and his evil plan to terraform the Earth and turn it into a hellscape is pretty standard stuff, and neither he nor his nondescript legion of Parademon minions bring much personality to the movie. Luckily, the good guys are far more endearing and enjoyable to watch. Jason Momoa’s gruff Aquaman is a good time, Ezra Miller’s socially awkward Flash is amusing, and the complicated interpersonal dynamics of bringing a group of very different heroes together for a common cause made for some decent scenes. Everyone is new at this team thing, and several members were new to their powers, so watching them all find their way together makes for an interesting angle. That’s really what the movie is about more so than the possible destruction of the world or how to bring back Superman (SPOILER ALERT: They bring back Superman! I know, I was shocked too).

Between assembling the League and Steppenwolf’s nefarious activities, we get a tour of the franchise as a whole and a peek at where things are going. We stop by Themyscira again, and I missed Patty Jenkins so much. The scenes there highlight that this was a film written, directed, and generally designed by men, as do many of Wonder Woman’s scenes. Nonetheless, the scene is a good reminder of the larger superhero world at play here. As is the visit to Atlantis, peeks into the backstories of the Flash and Cyborg (who was particularly cool; I’m excited to see more of Ray Fisher’s take on him moving forward), and a fun cameo that I won’t spoil. All of this will be fleshed out in solo films to come, and this is a franchise that could grow in interesting ways.

Watching the film, I realized that my main issue above all else was characterization. Having grown up on DC comic books and researched them extensively in my professional life, I feel like I know these characters very well. And as much as Momoa was fun, that wasn’t Aquaman. Ditto for Miller and the Flash. Affleck’s Batman and Cavill’s Superman have been off for multiple films now. No one feels right to me in the way that Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman does. She captures the spirit and legacy of Diana so well, in ways that the boys just don’t with their characters. It felt like I was watching Wonder Woman plus a bunch of alternate universe impostors.

In short, while they’ve made an okay movie with the characterizations they’ve decided to go with, it just doesn’t feel like the real Justice League to me. That’s 100% my personal taste, of course. But by not being true to the characters, I found this turn toward the light to be a little bit underwhelming. Composer Danny Elfman even integrated iconic bits of his own 1989 Batman score and John Williams’ Superman theme, which was super clever and cool, and it still didn’t move me because these versions of the characters don’t fit the iconic mold for me. For example, there’s a mid-credits scene with Superman and the Flash that is classic comic book fare and I should have loved it, but because the personalities are so different from my experience of the characters it fell flat. While I appreciated what they were trying to do, it just didn’t land for me in any emotionally resonant way. Meanwhile, I wanted to cheer every time Wonder Woman did anything rad because Gadot’s take on her connects with me so well. With everyone else, I felt a disconnect.

Speaking of Wonder Woman, I enjoyed her role in Justice League for the most part. The franchise painted itself into a corner by having her stay out of the public eye for a century in Batman v Superman, so trying to reconcile that with the engaged, inspirational character we saw in Wonder Woman was a bit awkward but narratively necessary. Her action scenes were excellent, especially her solo outing busting up an attempted bombing; there’s so much bullet deflecting, and it’s glorious. What I enjoyed the most, though, is that she’s the heart and soul of the team. No one particularly likes or trusts each other as the League comes together, but they all respect and admire Wonder Woman. There’s a scene where she and Batman are arguing in front of everyone and she gives him a forceful shove, and the Flash says something along the lines of “If she’d killed you, we would have covered for her.” As much as Batman is the one who works to assemble the team and Superman is set up as some sort of great, inspiring unifier, it’s Wonder Woman who brings them all together.

Another of my favourite ladies, Lois Lane, is in the mix as well, and although she isn’t given much to do, she does have a couple of amazing scenes. When SPOILER ALERT Superman comes back (I still can’t believe it! They pulled the wool over our eyes on that one!), Lois plays a pivotal role in what was the only really emotionally impactful moment in the entire film. Her connection with Superman is shown beautifully, and Adams and Cavill have great chemistry together that really makes for a powerful reunion. I wish that Lois could have had a bigger role, perhaps tracking down a big story or some such, but Adams make the most of the limited screen time she’s given.

Overall, Justice League isn’t awful and I’m glad about that. It’s not good either, and this cinematic universe really isn’t for me apart from Wonder Woman, but there was nothing egregious or terrible about it. I mean, the Amazons should have beaten the hell out of Steppenwolf; they screwed up there. But other than that, it is a run of the mill superhero film that isn’t entirely unpleasant to watch. It’s easily the second best movie from DC’s current superhero line. It’s just far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far behind the first best.

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Justice League: Doom Review OR It Was Okay, But Wonder Woman Was Pretty Fantastic

March 20, 2012

I don’t usually review DC’s animated movies, but this one had Wonder Woman in it and it’s not like my blog has rules or anything, so let’s give it a go.  Also, I’m a bit late since it came out about three weeks ago now, but still… I have things to say!!

Justice League: Doom was written by the late Dwayne McDuffie and directed by Lauren Montgomery, and is a loose adaptation of Mark Waid and Howard Porter’s JLA: Tower of Babel.  The basic story is that Batman’s developed contingency plans to take down the Justice League should they ever go rogue or get mind-controlled.  The Legion of Doom, led by Vandal Savage, steals these plans and uses them against the League.  Ultimately (and this is a huge spoiler but if you’re at all familiar with how superhero stories tend to go then you know how it’s going to end anyway) the League is momentarily incapacitated but gets it together in the end to defeat all the bad guys and save the world.

It’s a decent movie, and generally enjoyable.  The DC animated line has been hit and miss for me, but I’d say that Justice League: Doom was one of the better ones.  This was quite a pleasant surprise actually… I just watched it on a lark.  It’s always fun to have the Justice League TV show voice team back together, and I just can’t say no to some Kevin Conroy Batman.  Plus villain team-ups are always fun.  It was a good, standard superhero movie that could have easily been a solid Justice League TV show two or three-parter if that show still existed.  Man, I wish that show still existed.

There were some weird bits, though.  First off, it was the Justice League TV show voice team, but Michael Rosenbaum’s Flash was Barry Allen instead of Wally West.  I mean, a) it was Wally in the comic, b) they don’t even change the characterization at all so it still feels like Wally, and c) if you’re going to make it a different guy, get a different voice.

Similarly, Phil Lamarr’s John Stewart Green Lantern was swapped out for Nathan Fillion’s Hal Jordan.  It was actually Kyle Rayner in the comic, so I don’t see why it had to be Hal.  Other then everyone loves Nathan Fillion, of course.  And yes, I know he played Hal in the Green Lantern animated movie, but Keri Russell was Diana in Wonder Woman and she’s not here.  So that was weird.

Also, the animation was bizarre.  It was sort of anime but sort of not, and seemed to flip back and forth between an anime style and something resembling Young Justice.  The inconsistency was odd, and the anime influence made everything disproportionate.  Faces were out of whack (eyes go in the middle of the head, dammit!!) and people tended to look vaguely Asian sporadically.  It was a weird stylistic choice, especially when the voice actors are so associated with a certain art style for the characters.

So all of that was distracting and a little weird, but on to the main point: Wonder Woman was pretty awesome!!  She was played by Susan Eisenberg, who did a great Wonder Woman for years on the Justice League TV show, and throughout the entire movie Wonder Woman always looked strong and capable while all of the other heroes floundered.  With the anime influence, she looked like this sometimes:

But still, she was pretty kick ass.

When the Legion of Doom took down the Justice League, almost everyone was rendered powerless or entirely ineffective.  Let’s go through them:

  • Bane beat up Bruce Wayne and buried him alive in his parents’ grave, trapping him.
  • Metallo shot Superman through the heart with a kryptonite bullet, and he fell to the ground unconscious.
  • Ma’alefa’ak lit the Martian Manhunter on fire and he flailed about wildly for quite some time.
  • Star Sapphire (with a little Scarecrow gas) made Green Lantern feel bad, take off his ring, and basically lay down in a cave to die.
  • Mirror Master attached a bomb to the Flash and he had to keep running and not slow down or else he’d blow up.

Everybody was trapped.  They were useless and ineffective, and couldn’t fight back.  Wonder Woman, however, had a different sort of problem.  The Cheetah injected Wonder Woman with nanites so she thought that EVERYONE was the Cheetah.  She set about beating up everyone she saw, and ended up mowing through a SWAT team.  The plan was to make Wonder Woman fight so hard and so long that she exhausted herself beyond recovery.  Literally, it made her TOO kick ass.  Now, she was as ineffective as everyone else, but she was active and fighting at least.  It’s a slight difference, but an interesting one when you look at the end of the movie too.

In the big climactic battle, all of the heroes faced their villains again.  Because it’s a superhero movie, they all had an “Oh no, the villain is going to win!!” moment during their fights:

  • Bane flung Batman around by his cape, and then started to choke the life out of him.
  • Metallo blasted Superman with kryptonite and beat the hell out of the weakened Man of Steel.
  • Ma’alefa’ak and the Martian Manhunter had a shapeshifting battle and Martian Manhunter was choked and losing as well.
  • Star Sapphire had Green Lantern wrapped up tight in some sort of binding ring construct.
  • The Flash was surrounded by hundreds of armed Mirror Masters.
  • Cyborg had tagged along, and he got stabbed in the back by Vandal Savage.

Of course, everyone got their acts together and beat the bad guys in the end, but it was looking pretty bad for a while.  All of these moments ran back to back, painting a pretty dire picture.

And what was Wonder Woman’s “Oh no!!” cliffhanger?  The Cheetah, running away into another room.  Wonder Woman had the drop on her the ENTIRE time.  There was no dramatic scene where the Cheetah had the upper hand.  The worst was when Wonder Woman threw the Cheetah across a room into a gun cabinet and Cheetah blasted a laser at her, but Wonder Woman just blocked it with her bracelet with one arm and then lassoed Cheetah with the other arm.  Easy peasy.  At most, the Cheetah landed three or four punches.  Wonder Woman OWNED her, while everyone else was very nearly defeated.

So yeah, Wonder Woman was kind of great in Justice League: Doom.  She almost died kicking too much ass, and then she easily kicked ass when the world was on the line.  Everyone else was all flailing or trapped, and then almost lost again later, but not Wonder Woman.  She was the only lady superhero in the movie and obviously was the best one!! 

Too bad they didn’t work in Hawkgirl (which they should have!!).  That whole Legion of Doom crisis would have been handled in half the time.

Justice League #1 Review (Midnight Releases Are Kind Of Awesome!!)

August 31, 2011

Tonight my local comic book shop, the spectacular Strange Adventures, had a midnight release event for Justice League #1.  We were actually among the very first people to get to buy the book in the whole world.  Hooray Atlantic time zone!!  It was a great time, with sales and food and prizes… I even won one of these:

Dave would sporadically call out trivia questions, and for this one he asked what is Wonder Woman’s mother’s name?  I called out “Hippolyta” right away and won this sweet prize!!  I was jazzed… my Wonder Woman knowledge rarely pays off so well.

So onto Justice League #1.  Short version: I liked it.  It was fun, set up a good villain, and served as a decent introduction to Batman and Green Lantern.  Now for the longer version…

Geoff Johns has never quite gotten the hang of writing Batman.  I don’t know what it is, but he just doesn’t seem to understand the character.  That being said, I think this is some of John’s best Batman writing.  Usually his Batman comes off as a total jerk, but here it’s Green Lantern who’s the jerk, arrogantly trying to handle everything himself, while Batman undermines him and shows him up at every turn, even stealing his ring at one point.  The dynamic almost reminded me of the fantastic all-yellow scene in All Star Batman, coincidentally also drawn by Jim Lee.  If that’s Johns’ Justice League inspiration, this might be a really awesome book.

The issue begins with Batman chasing a weird morphing robot bomber, who Green Lantern steps into handle because his ring alerted him that there was an alien presence in Gotham.  They bicker for a while, the robot explodes while yelling “FOR DARKSEID” (the big bad guy for this first arc) and Batman finds what might be an Apokoliptan mother box.  The duo then jets off to Metropolis to talk to Superman, who neither of them know or trust.  Superman makes short work of Green Lantern, and the issue ends with the reveal of Superman and the promise of a sweet fight with Batman next issue.

Jim Lee’s art is great, though his Batman is always killer.  There were a few pages that were a little odd, with Vic Stone playing football and getting scouted by universities.  Jim Lee, more than any other artist really, is built to draw superheroes… normal, mundane things just aren’t his scene.  They weren’t bad by any means, but Jim Lee is totally in his element when drawing dark night scenes with superheroes beating stuff up.

His Superman reveal page is particularly good.  As much as Lee’s Batman is epic, I’ve always dug his take on Superman too (seriously, you guys, “For Tomorrow” is REALLY underrated).  I’m still not sure about the no shorts and the collar, but the outfit does look kind of cool.  And he’s getting better at the “S” shield… that’s never been his forte.

We’ve seen preview images with around fifteen Justice League members, and the issue only focuses on three… two and a half really, since Superman only shows up for the last two pages.  It seems we are in for a slow reveal of the team.  And poor Vic Stone is going to have something very bad happen to him shortly… he’s perfectly healthy and non-Cyborgy here.  Aquaman, the Flash, and Wonder Woman aren’t even mentioned, much less the various side characters we’ve seen.  I’m sure they’ll show up in the weeks to come.  I wanted to see Wonder Woman, of course, but from the solicits it sounds like she may not show up until November.

Overall, I enjoyed the issue.  Justice League seems poised to be a popcorn summer movie in comic form, which isn’t a bad thing at all.  Explosions and beating stuff up and splash pages are a good time.  It certainly served as a decent introduction to the characters, and the slow build up of the team might be smart in that regard, especially since this is their flagship book.  In terms of the new DC universe, nothing felt too radically different.  The costumes are a little fancier, and there seems to be some anti-alien sentiment we’re not used to seeing in DC books, but the overall tone and depictions of the characters weren’t much of a departure from what we’re used to.  The book has a lot of hype to live up to, being our first look at the DCnU and all, and while it’s not amazing or anything, it’s a decent, fun issue and I’m excited to read more.

For those of you curious about women in comics stats, so far the DCnU is batting a big zero for ladies… there were ten credited creators on Justice League #1, and they were all dudes.  But there’s 51 books to go… maybe it’ll pick up.


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