Justice League (2017)

Justice League cover

Following on from events in Batman vs Superman, which itself requires you to have seen Man of Steel to make much sense, Justice League is DC’s attempt to ‘do an Avengers‘. I was left feeling a bit: poor old DC – always late to the party, and never quite hitting the mark.

In fairness, this is possibly the second best of the recent DC output (Wonder Woman, of course, taking the top spot!) – but, it’s hard not to add ‘not that that’s saying much’. MoS was far too downbeat, BvS was just a bit muddled, and Suicide Squad, while a lot of fun, was 90% intro with very little in the way of real story.

One of the main problems here is that half the cast are new characters – unlike Avengers, where we’d already had all of the solo movies and introductions out of the way. Origin movies are prone to being a bit ‘meh’, so having to deal with three ‘new’ characters here – Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg – does nothing great for the plot or the more established trio of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman.

I really liked Ezra Miller in the Flash role here. He’s got an endearing awkwardness that really adds to the humour of the piece. Cyborg was the opposite: he’s all dark and moody and not a character I knew anything about going in to help with finding him likeable. And as for Aquaman – aka Arthur Curry, seriously?! – well, unless you count the eye-candy of Jason Momoa taking his shirt off (zero complaints on that! 😉 ) then the character is just a bit pointless here. He does get one of the funniest lines, right enough, but still…

Then, of course, there’s the slight mismatch of two big directors having worked on this. I’m not as sure it’s as bad as some folk have suggested – the ‘everyone gets two intros’ wasn’t quite so obvious – but it can’t have helped.

On the plus side, there’s a lot more humour here that DC usually manages – I’m thinking that’d be the Joss Whedon influence – and those moments absolutely lift the movie from dull to at least a bit of fun. However, it’s nowhere near enough to make up for a very dull villain, rather meh plotline, and overall just nothing that packs enough of a punch.

I don’t regret seeing this – it’s not that awful – but in terms of hope for the DC Extended Universe, it just didn’t deliver anywhere near enough. Thank Asgardians there isn’t too long to wait for Infinity War! o_O

Released: 17th November 2017
Viewed: 6th December 2017
Running time: 120 minutes
Rated: 12A

My rating: 6/10

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Wonder Woman (2017)

The one shining light in the utter mess that was Batman vs Superman (2016) was the brief appearance of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). And with this release, she not only gets her own backstory, but also makes a bit of history with the first female-led superhero movie.

Usually I’m all about the entertainment, the story, the visuals, but I think it’s really quite important to see this movie as a bit of a Big Deal. Female superhero lead, female director – and if you think that’s not important (I just don’t think that it should be) then you only have to scratch the surface very gently to see what a difference it actually makes.

You might come away from a viewing with a sense that it was a bit different from every other action pic – not in terms of story, which is fairly run of the mill and predictable, but when you stop to ponder (or, just read any of the numerous reviews) then there is a shocking “why is this still a big deal?” feeling. Yes, 21st century, and this is possibly the first movie where the woman gets to be the hero full stop – she’s not there to be a token, she doesn’t pose with her butt facing the camera. The other Amazons are amazingly kick ass – and oh, they might actually be over 30, shock horror. It was a AMAZING!!

Now, I must admit it’s taken me a while to understand this. I came out of the cinema thinking, “Well, yes, easily the best thing DC has managed, but that was a low bar.” The lack of a ‘new’ storyline left me a little ‘meh’, but it was still rolicking good fun.

But then I started reading some of the opinion pieces. And my view changed from, “C’mon, it’s just a superhero movie!” to “Oh my god, why did I not see how much we needed this take on this flipped version of this story!?”. A woman being strong but real. Why the hell is that still such a big deal to see on screen?

Anyway. You don’t have to feel or think about any of this to enjoy the movie. It’s about an Amazon princess, Diana, getting her first glimpse of the outside world and refusing to let the injustice continue without trying to fix things. There are some brilliant action scenes. The opening location of Themyscira is something very different to what we’ve been given in these kind of movies before, which is ace.

You also don’t need to wade through the dull Superman, BvS, or Suicide Squad to see this one – a huge plus. The only link is the photo Diana is sent right at the beginning, which was used in BvS to show Bruce Wayne that Wonder Woman had been around, kicking butt, for longer than he had. The tone here is much lighter, if still not Marvel-funny, but all in all a very very welcome change, in so many respects. Absolutely recommended.

Released: 1st June 2017
Viewed: 3rd June 2017
Running time: 141 minutes
Rated: 12A

My rating: 9/10 – I can’t rave all of that above and not give it an extra point for cultural significance. From a freakin’ comic book movie o_O

Suicide Squad (2016)

The trailer looked good. The critics disagreed. The question became: how bad is Suicide Squad?

Not bad at all, in my opinion! It’s definitely flawed, but going in with such low expectations (and ice cream! Improves any movie! ;)) there was a lot of fun to be had here.

The premise: following the events in Batman v Superman (2016), the powers that be are worried that they cannot hope to survive against a meta-human (not that they have really been identified in the DCEU (expanded universe) yet, I believe?) who decides to be ‘foe’ rather than Superman friendly. Step forward shadowy government agency, Argos, and its morally dubious head, Amanda Waller, with a plan so bad it might just be good: put together a team of the worst criminals, and let them fight the battles the army can’t. Besides, if it all goes wrong, they can just “throw them under the bus.” Charming.

The first big flaw of the movie comes from the introductions to this Task Force X. It’s a looong line of intros. And the importance of the characters is spelled out by the time they get, speeding up as we go through the list. So, Will Smith’s Deadshot gets a lot of time – and the character gets a backstory and some motivation and roundness. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn also gets a lot of time, and I’d argue is the most interesting character – perhaps too interesting, as this intro barely scratches the surface of her background. And then it starts to get a little blurrier, until a couple of members just turn up, no intros at all. Hmm.

Such is the length of these introductions that the move into ‘actual plot’ is rather badly handled. I’m sure it was at least an hour of movie before I got past that feeling of still being in pre-story mode, even though the main mission had begun. Once we’re past that blip, though, SS manages to be a rather fun action movie. It’s not as dark as previous DC offerings, although much grimier than anything from Marvel. I’d read of reshoots to put more humour in, and if there was originally less than there is here (a bare minimum to lift the story and easily the highlights), I’m really glad they did!

Best character of the movie for me was easily the utterly deranged Harley Quinn. Alas, the handling of the Joker subplot is also the worst thing in the movie – this is SO iconic, a story that would easily be a whole movie, that relegating it to a background thing feels just way off. You should never feel you’ve seen a less interesting part of the story than the one dangled just offscreen.

Overall: go in with low expectations (and snacks!) and this can be a fun bit of entertainment. Be prepared, though, for grumbling about how it could have been quite a bit better handled! Still, I liked it more than the Superman and Batman movies that have preceded it, and perhaps have some extra hope for the DCEU.

Released: 5th August 2016
Viewed: 13th August 2016
Running time: 123 minutes
Rated: 15

My rating: 7/10 – I’m feeling generous!