Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Justice League

Movin' right along on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  I watch a movie I own, and blog about it.  That's how it goes.  Today, we get to Justice League.  This is in my notes at March 24, 2018.

Well, it's finally here.  All our favourite DC heroes together!  For the first time!  And, much like Suicide Squad, my  main complaint is how overwhelmingly average it is. 

DC's attempts to create a cinematic universe have been mixed at best.  As I've said before, the problem with this cinematic universe building is they seem to focus so much on cramming in loose plot threads and teasing better movies down the line that they never focus on the story they're telling.  To borrow Yoda's line from Empire Strikes Back, "Always have you looked away.  Never your mind on where you are.  What you're doing." 

Which is why I have no desire and am singing no fan petitions for the release of the fabled Zack Snyder cut.  For those who don't know, Zack Snyder, the director of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman is the credited director of Justice League.  But, in early 2017, he had to bow out due to a death in the family.  Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy and Firefly and director of the first two Avengers films, was brought in to finish up the film and oversee some reshoots.  I mean, you can tell what scenes are Joss Whedon's, because the characters suddenly get more chipper and fire off a lot more quips.  And Superman has a weird CGI lip. 

yeah, that was one of the more infamous parts of the reshoots.  Henry Cavill, who played Superman, had to grow a mustache for his next film, the new Mission: Impossible.  When he was brought back for the Justice League reshoots, he was contractually obligated to NOT shave off his mustache.  So they digitally removed it and gave Cavill a computer animated upper lip.  Forget the Snyder cut, I wanna see the "Superman with a mustache" cut!

Anyway, from some of the breakdowns I've read online, Snyder's original version got a lot more into the origin stories of the Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg.  I really don't think we needed that.  I mean, we're familiar enough with the Flash and Cyborg these days, thanks to The Flash and Teen Titans Go! on TV that we didn't need to rehash it.  And Aquaman's getting his own movie later this year.  So, yeah.  I think we're familiar enough with those characters these days. 

But let's not talk about the movie that may exist, let's talk about the movie we got.  It's some time since Batman v Superman, and there's still a bit of a cloud hanging over the entire world following the death of Superman.  Batman, however, is already on another case.  Those weird bug-like demon creatures he saw in his Batman v Superman vision have come to Gotham City, and he's tracking them down.  An attack on the Amazon homeland of Thymiscera causes Queen Hipolytta to light an ancient signal fire in Greece, alerting Wonder Woman.  Wonder Woman soon meets up with Batman and delivers the exposition. 

The creatures are called Parademons, and they're in the service of the New God Steppenwolf.  Centuries ago, Steppenwolf tried to conquer the Earth for his master Darkseid, but was driven off planet by the combined forces of the Amazons, Atlanteans, and the human race.  The three components of Steppenwolf's ultimate weapon, the Mother Boxes, were given to the Amazons, Atlanteans, and the human race for safekeeping,  The attack on the Amazons was Steppenwolf's return, where he stole the Amazons' Mother Box.  A war is coming, and it's time to recruit a team. 

Batman already struck out trying to recruit Aquaman, so next he moves on to the Flash.  I will admit, this scene was one of the first ones I heard about online, and was in the first footage released.  It's just so perfect.  Bruce Wayne surprised Barry Allen in his lair.  Bruce starts laying out all this evidence that Barry has superspeed.  Barry does his best to deflect it and brush it off.  Frustrated, Bruce pulls out a Batarang and hurls it at Barry.  Everything goes to "Flashtime" (everything moving in slow motion while the Flash moves at regular speed, to give us a glimpse at how the Flash sees the world), and Barry studies the Batarang, seemingly suspended in midair.  Barry calmly snatches the Batarang out of the air, and everything returns to normal.

Barry:  You're the Batman!

Bruce:  You're fast. 

Barry:  I feel like that's an understatement. 

The Flash is on the team!  But Wonder Woman's attempt to recruit Cyborg doesn't go as well, as Cyborg is still very very overwhelmed at his new cybernetic body.  Anyway, when Bruce and Barry return to Gotham, the Bat-signal is lit, and Batman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash meet Commissioner Gordon.  Parademons have been abducting STARLab scientists.  Cyborg soon joins them, as his father is the latest STARLabs scientist to be abducted.  They figure out the where the Parademon lab is, and go to rescue the scientists.  And this scene ends with a great riff on the now cliched "Batman takes off while Gordon has his back turned" bit.  Gordon turns his back to our heroes, turns around, and all the heroes are gone...except for the Flash. 

Flash:  Wow.  They all just left.  That was rude.  (Flash takes off in a burst of lightening) 

I should mention that while all this was going on, Steppenwolf swiped the Atlantean Mother Box, which finally gets Aquaman on the team.  Steppenwolf is torturing the STAR Labs scientists, because Steppenwolf believes that they are in possession of the humans' Mother Box.  Our heroes manage to save the scientists, but Steppenwolf gets away.  In the fight, Cyborg figures out that the humans' Mother Box is the "change engine" that his father used to turn him into a cyborg, and goes and gets it from STAR Labs. 

Now with a Mother Box, Batman hatches a very dangerous plan to fill out their ranks:  use it to resurrect Superman.  I have to agree with one pundit, the way Batman describes the need for Superman is a bit of twist I'd never considered before.  When Alfred points out how they shouldn't play God like this, and how building a team shouldn't be about getting the most powerful, Batman counters by pointing out that Superman "is more human than us.  He walked among us, got a job, fell in love, despite all his power.  The world needs Superman." 

We're then treated to a slightly macabre scene of the Flash and Cyborg digging up Superman's grave.  There's some good dialogue between them, so it's slightly forgivable.  They manage to bring back Superman, but needless to say, dying and being brought back is rather traumatic, so Superman goes off on a berserker rage, with our Justice League trying to stop him.  Superman first speaks when he recognizes Batman.  I dunno...I like this exchange.  It's a nice callback to Batman v Sueprman

Superman grabs Batman by the throat and they hover about 50 feet in the air.

Superman:  You won't let me live.  You won't let me die.  What do you want from me?

Batman:  The world needs you.

Superman:  But it doesn't need you.  Tell me something.  Do YOU bleed? 

Of course, it's turned into a joke by how the scene ends.  Lois Lane arrives, Superman tosses Batman aside, and Superman and Lois Lane fly off to Kansas, where Lois Lane helps Superman come back to his senses with the power of love.  Batman, lying on the ground, goes, "Oh, yeah.  Something's definitely bleeding."  And they don't put the Batman voice modulator on that line, so it sounds like pure, Armageddon-era Ben Affleck. 

And in all the commotion, Steppenwolf made off with the third Mother Box. 

Our heroes regroup, they take a moment to have some dramatic in-fighting, but they make amends, and find Steppenwolf's lair in Russia.  The stage is set for our CGI-filled action climax where our heroes come together.  Our fully recovered Superman returns to deliver the final blow, and before long, the Parademons drag Steppenwolf back to Apokalypse in chains. 

I seem to say this about a lot of superhero films in there.  I mean, there are parts of a good movie in there, but they don't add up to a good movie.  For the first grouping of DC's epic supergroup, I hoped it woudn't have been so overwhelmingly average. 

There are some good Easter eggs, though.  A brief Green Lantern cameo.  But the best is Danny Elfman's score.  It's so nice to hear him work in Hans Zimmer's standout Wonder Woman theme, a little bit of John Williams' Superman theme, and, of course, his own 1989 Batman theme.  Every time I hear that theme in the score, I smile the biggest smile.  It's best usage is at the start of our final battle.  Batman takes their transport plane on a kamikaze run, but Batman manages to escape just in time in the Batmobile.  When the Batmobile starts charging through the streets, we hear that 1989 theme loud and proud, and it is just the best. 

I do like some of the original stuff that Elfman whipped up, though. His Flash theme is actually vaguely reminiscent of the theme for the current TV show, kinda blended with his 2003 Hulk theme.

Some of the characterizations are nice.  I don't what this desire is to turn the Flash into the DCU's answer to Spider-Man.  In personality and tone, this Flash is a lot like the Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War.  His relationship with Batman is very similar to Spidey and Iron Man in Spider-Man: Homecoming.  But you know what?  I'm fine with that. 

Aquaman, as always, is interesting.  They've spent the past 20 years or so trying to make him super-gritty, ever since the "he's the one who talks to fish" jokes started becoming rampant.  This incarnation is more of a dude-bro who's down to get drunk and start fights.  It's an interesting way to go, and definitely made him amusing. 

We were expecting a whole lot more out of the first pairing of the Justice League on the big screen.  And well, they tried hard.  That's the best I can say.

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