“SUICIDE SQUAD” (2016) Review

“SUICIDE SQUAD” (2016) Review

The year 2016 proved to be a strange one for Warner Brothers Studios and fans of DC Comics. Their creation – the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) franchise had released two films that proved to be box office hits, yet critical flops. One of those movies was the Zack Synder film, “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”. And the other was the summer film, “SUICIDE SQUAD”.

Three years before the release of these two films, the DCEU franchise witnessed its kickoff with the release of “MAN OF STEEL”, another origin tale of Clark Kent aka Superman. Whereas “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN” seemed to be more of a direct sequel to the 2013 movie, the narrative for “SUICIDE SQUAD” seemed to be something of a reaction to Superman’s death in “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN”.

Written and directed by David Ayer, “SUICIDE SQUAD” began several months after the previous film. Amanda Waller, director of the Federal agency Advanced Research Group Uniting Super-Humans (A.R.G.U.S.), convinces the Defense Department to allow her to assemble “Task Force X”, a team of dangerous criminals imprisoned at Belle Reve Prison in Louisiana, to engage in high risk black ops missions. The criminals that she has selected are:

*Floyd Lawton aka Deadshot – an elite marksman and professional assassin, who has a warm relationship with his only daughter

*Harleen Quinzel aka Harley Quinn – a former psychiatrist and crazed supervillain who is in a relationship with the psychotic gangster “the Joker”

*Chato Santana aka El Diablo – a former Los Angeles based gang member with a powerful pyrokinetic ability, who had turned himself in after accidentally killing his wife and children

*George “Digger” Harkness aka Captain Boomerang – an Australian-born thief with an unpredictable personality and a talent with deadly boomerangs and knives

*Waylon Jones aka Killer Croc – a supervillain who suffers from a skin condition that causes him to develop reptilian features and a powerful strength

*Dr. June Moone aka Enchantress – an archaeologist who is possessed by an ancient evil force that transforms her into a powerful sorceress

*Christopher Weiss aka Slipknot – a mercenary and assassin who specializes in tactical grappling and scaling

Waller assigns an Army Special Forces officer named Colonel Richard “Rick” Flagg to lead the squad into the field. He is assisted by a group of Navy SEALS led by GQ Edwards, and a widowed Japanese vigilante and martial arts expert named Tatsu Yamashiro aka Katana, who also happens to be a friend of Flagg’s. While Waller and Dr. Moore are in Midway City, the latter transforms into the Enchantress and manages to escape from the former’s control. The Enchantress then frees her brother Incubus from a South American artifact, allowing him to take control of a Midway City businessman’s body. While both the Enchantress and Incubus besiege the city, the former transforms many of its citizens into her monstrous minions and decides to build a mystical weapon to eradicate mankind. Meanwhile, Waller finally decides to deploy the squad to extract a high-profile mark from the besieged Midway and from possible capture by the Enchantress.

As I had earlier pointed out, the moment “SUICIDE SQUAD” hit the theaters, most of the critics trashed it. I must admit that I was baffled by their reactions. It is one thing to trash the DCEU’s earlier entry, “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”, even though I did not agree with their negative opinions. But “SUICIDE SQUAD” got trashed as well? Two DCEU movies in one year?

“SUICIDE SQUAD” was not perfect. One of the problems I had with the movie’s narrative is that the setting struck me as a bit constricted, considering its 123 minutes running time. At least two-thirds of the film was set during one night in the downtown area of a major city. Also, I never understood why Amanda Waller and Rick Flagg went out of their way to keep the identity of the high-profile mark that the squad had to rescue a secret. Even if they had revealed the truth to Deadshot and the squad’s other members, the latter would have been forced to go ahead with the rescue, due to the nano bombs injected into their necks that coerced the squad to cooperate.

Speaking of the nano bombs, I found myself thinking about the character portrayed by Adam Beach, Christopher Weiss aka Slipknot. I hate to say this, but David Ayer really wasted his role. Unlike the other members of the Suicide Squad, there were no glimpses of his backstory in flashbacks. In fact, his name was not even mentioned in the scene in which Amanda Waller introduced her scheme to create the squad. Nor was he seen in the sequence in which Waller and Flagg “recruited” the other members. Audiences knew nothing about Slipknot’s role in the film, until he made his first appearance at a military base, where the other squad members had gathered. So . . . what was the point of Slipknot’s role in the movie? Utilizing a scene from one of the comic books for “Suicide Squad” in which Captain Boomerang managed to convince Slipknot to join him in an escape attempt from the military, he was merely used as a plot device to show what would happen to the squad’s other members if they try to escape. Death by an explosion from an injected nano bomb. That is all.

Despite the above problems I had with this film, overall, I liked it very much. Okay, who am I kidding? Hell, I loved this movie! It was a hell of a ride and a lot of fun. And it did a great job in expanding the DCEU even more. Just as Zach Synder had connected “MAN OF STEEL” with “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”, David Ayer did the same by connecting the latter with “SUICIDE SQUAD”. More importantly, he also connected this movie with one of the upcoming DCEU films, “JUSTICE LEAGUE” in one scene featuring Captain Boomerang getting arrested by Barry Allen aka the Flash in a flashback and in a post-credit scene featuring Amanda Waller and Bruce Wayne aka Batman. The latter scene proved to be a special connection between Waller’s failed attempt to make the Enchantress a part of the squad, her files on other meta humans like the Flash and Aquaman, and Bruce Wayne’s government contacts that would allow her to avoid any consequences from the whole Enchantress/Midway City debacle.

I also enjoyed how “SUICIDE SQUAD” began with the introduction of the squad’s “recruits”. While Amanda Waller narrated, the movie embarked upon a series of entertaining flashbacks that revealed the squad members’ talents, crimes and how they were captured. Naturally, my two favorite backstories were about Deadshot and Harley Quinn. Both of them revealed how their encounters with Batman led to their incarceration. I was surprised to see another member of the future Justice League of America, namely the Flash, in Captain Boomerang’s flashback.

Another aspect of “SUICIDE SQUAD” that I found interesting was how the squad’s members managed to form a well tight unit on their own, even when their ties to others were either disconnected like Deadshot’s to his daughter Zoe during his time in prison; questionable like Harley Quinn’s disturbed and abusive romance with the Joker; and in the case of three other members, non-existent. El Diablo has spent most of his time in prison mourning over the family he had killed and indulging in self-isolation. Killer Croc’s reptilian appearance has led him to be isolated and reviled by his fellow criminals and society at large. As for Captain Boomerang, he made it quite clear in a flashback when he double-crossed a colleague that he preferred to work alone. Despite these disparate situations, the squad learned to work together. More importantly, they even learned to work with Rick Flagg, Katana and the Navy SEALs, despite the distrust between the squad and their military watchdogs.

There had been a good deal of criticism from critics and some fans about how Ayer dealt with the relationship between Harley Quinn and the Joker. Many seemed to believe that Ayer had whitewashed the abusive nature of their relationship. That is not the relationship I had seen on screen. It really was not that difficult for me to notice how the Joker seemed to be in control of their relationship. Flashbacks revealed how he had exploited her infatuation for him. I also noticed his disturbing penchant for infantilizing her at times. Even the wardrobe that Harley wore to Midway City seemed to indicate that the Joker regarded her as his possession – namely her “Daddy’s Lil Monster” T-shirt and “Puddin” choker:

And yet, I do not recall the Joker wearing any clothing or accessories hinting that he is Harley’s possession. Curious. In fact, the controlling nature of their relationship seemed indicative in other relationships in the movie. The Enchantress proved to be something of a control freak. Brimming with resentment over humanity for imprisoning her and her brother Incubus, the sorceress decides to mankind. And yet . . . she transformed many of Midway City’s citizens into her minions and seemed to be the dominant half of her relationship with Incubus. On the other hand, Amanda Waller seemed to be the “Queen of Control” in “SUICIDE SQUAD”. She uses her position as Director of A.R.G.U.S. to assume control of the criminals who form the squad. And to insure that they will cooperate, she has small nano bombs implanted in their necks. She also tried to use her possession of the Enchantress’ heart to control the latter. And she encouraged a romance between Rick Flagg and the Enchantress’ human identity, Dr. June Moone, to guarantee Flagg’s undivided cooperation.

What can I say about the cast? Personally, I thought the cast members were the best thing about “SUICIDE SQUAD”. I have not seen Will Smith in a really good movie since 2012’s “MEN IN BLACK III”. And I really enjoyed his entertaining, yet first-rate and ambiguous portrayal of sharpshooter Floyd Lawton aka Deadshot. Margot Robbie gave what has turned out to be a superb performance as the hilarious, yet somewhat insane Dr. Harleen Quinzel aka Harley Quinn. Frankly, I think her performance was one of the best in the movie. Another performance that really impressed me came from Viola Davis, who nearly ruled above the others as the ruthless and diabolical Amanda Waller, Director of A.R.G.U.S. The ironic thing is that Waller’s character was not the movie’s main antagonist, yet Davis’ portrayal of her was so scary that she might as well have been.

Jay Hernandez was marvelous as the emotionally tortured Chato Santana aka El Diablo, whose guilt over his family’s deaths have led him to be reluctant to participate in the fight against the Enchantress. Karen Fukuhara was equally marvelous as Tatsu Yamashiro aka Katana, the expert martial artist/swordswoman, who guarded Rick Flagg and mourned her dead husband with the intensity of El Diablo’s flames. Speaking of Rick Flagg, it is amazing that I have never noticed Joel Kinnaman before this movie. I was surprised to learn that he was not the first choice for the role, for I believe he fitted it like a perfectly well-tailored suit. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s role as Waylon Jones aka Killer Croc was not as big as I would have liked. But the British actor still managed to give a great performance as the isolated supervillain, who managed to maintain a healthy attitude about his own self-esteem . . . despite what others may have thought about him. The biggest surprise proved to be Jai Courtney’s portrayal of Australian criminal George “Digger” Harkness aka Captain Boomerang. I have seen Courtney portray a series of intense characters – both heroes and villains. I never knew that he had a talent for comedy. Because . . . dammit! The man was funny as hell.

I thought Jared Leto gave one of the most interesting and original portrayals of the D.C. Comics supervillain, the Joker, I have ever seen. It was . . . well, very dangerous, but in a very sexy way. A sexy Joker. I never thought I would ever say that about the famous villain. But Leto did give a rather sexy and entertaining performance. “SUICIDE SQUAD” also featured some solid supporting performances from the likes of Cara Delevingne as Dr. June Moone aka the Enchantress, Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne aka Batman, David Harbour as a Federal official named Dexter Tolliver, Shailyn Pierre-Dixon as Zoe Lawton, Corina Calderon as Grace Santana, Scott Eastwood as Navy SEAL GQ Edwards, Common as a Gotham City criminal named Monster T and yes, even Adam Beach as Christopher Weiss aka Slipknot . . . despite his limited appearance.

Although I had a problem with director David Ayer’s use of the Slipknot character and other minor aspects of the narrative for “SUICIDE SQUAD”, I must admit that I enjoyed the movie a lot. Very much. In fact, it has become my favorite movie from the summer of 2016 and one of my favorite movies of the summer. Despite what other critics may have thought about it, I thought it was one hell of a film. I look forward to a sequel.

Media Reaction to Zack Snyder’s Cut of “JUSTICE LEAGUE”

The following article was written back in May 2020, following the announcement by Warner Brothers that director Zack Snyder will be allowed to release his own version of the 2017 movie, “JUSTICE LEAGUE”, thanks to a campaign by fans who disiked the studio and Joss Whedon’s um . . . edited version:

MEDIA REACTION TO ZACK SNYDER’S CUT OF “JUSTICE LEAGUE”

What exactly is going on? Recently, director-producer Zack Snyder had announced via Zoom that Warner Brothers Studios had finally agreed to release his version or “cut” of the 2017 DCEU film, “JUSTICE LEAGUE” on HBO Max next year. As expected, this news was followed with mixed reactions from comic book movie fans. Many were thrilled and excited by the news. Others were either angry at the news or dismissive. What I find . . . interesting was the media’s reaction. At least the media on the Internet.

Most of the Internet media outlets had reacted to the news in a straightforward manner. I cannot recall any media outlet reacting to the news with any satisfaction or glee. But I did come across a good number of articles on the Internet that conveyed a negative response to the news. For example:

*Jessica Mason wrote a dismissive article for THE MARY SUE BLOG, conveying the idea that moviegoers should not care about this news. Ms. Mason seemed to believe that the Snyder Cut will not elevate the movie’s quality . . . period and that comic book movie fans should spend their time anticipating productions like “DOOM PATROL” (because it also features the character Victor Stone aka Cyborg).

*USA TODAY had posted an article written by the Associated Press announcing the release of the Snyder Cut in a straightforward manner. However . . . the media outlet included a video clip of the “Imagine” montage that had been kick-started by Gal Gadot, who portrayed Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman in the film. As many know, the “Imagine” video was dismissed by many people. So, why did “USA Today” include that video with a story about the Snyder Cut release … instead of an image of the cast from the movie? Why did it do that?

*To my utmost surprise, I had come across three articles that expressed this belief that Warner Brothers’ decision to release the Synder Cut was a sign that Hollywood was setting a dangerous precedent by giving in to “toxic fandom”. In other words, Hollywood is finally allowing certain fans to dictate the content of pop culture films. Now, I have complained about this subject in the past. I have also noticed how some television networks have given in to the desire of some fans to save television series like CBS’s “JERICHO” and NBC’s “CHUCK”. But I also know the difference between fans dictating the content of films and television shows and fans wanting to see the original version of a certain film – namely “JUSTICE LEAGUE” – whose content has been dictated by others – whether it is Snyder, director Joss Whedon or Warner Brothers. Apparently, the following authors of these article failed to see the difference:

– Paul Squire of “DIGITAL TRENDS”

– Drew Taylor of “COLLIER”

– Joanna Robinson of “VANITY FAIR”

I get the feeling that many of these journalists/critics are threatened by the idea of Zack Snyder’s vision of “JUSTICE LEAGUE” seeing the light of day. And I find this attitude mystifying for a movie that is suppose to be terrible. Why did they go out of their way to express such hostility toward this news?

P.S. . . . “ZACK SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE” was finally released on the streaming channel, HBO Max in March 2021 and proved to be a big hit.

“SUICIDE SQUAD” Showdown

“SUICIDE SQUAD” SHOWDOWN

The 2016 D.C. Extended Universe (DCEU) film, “SUICIDE SQUAD”, featured an interesting post-credit scene between A.R.G.U.S. Director Amanda Waller and billionaire Bruce Wayne aka Batman. In the wake of Task Force X aka Suicide Squad’s confrontation with former team member, the sorceress Enchantress, Ms. Waller requested a meeting with Bruce for a special favor.

Apparently, Ms. Waller found herself in hot water with the U.S. Department of Defense, due to the Enchantress’ attempt to wreck havoc upon the world and rule it. After all, the sorceress was known to be a former member of the Suicide Squad. Ms. Waller met with Bruce in order to use his Washington D.C. connections to protect her from the backlash against her role, as Task Force X’s creator, in the Enchantress’ rampage. In return, she provided him with government files files on the expanding meta-human community . . . along with documents on both Barry Allen aka the Flash and Arthur Curry aka Aquaman. Following Bruce’s agreement to help Waller in exchange for the files, the pair had this little conversation:

Amanda Waller: There’s the difference between us. You believe in friendship, I believe in leverage.
Bruce Wayne: Good night.
Amanda Waller: You look tired. You should stop working nights.
Bruce Wayne: You should shut it down, or my friends and I will do it for you.

When Ms. Waller had first hinted that she knew Bruce was Batman, his first response was to warn her to shut down the Task Force X team, also known as the “Suicide Squad”. When I first saw the movie, I had taken Bruce’s warning at heart. Especially since she had asked for him to protect her from facing the consequences of using Dr. June Moone aka the Enchantress as part of her Task Force X. And the recently formed Justice League would be more than capable of physically breaking up the squad and keeping its members behind bars. In the end, it took me a while to realize that on a deeper level, Bruce’s warning was hollow. It was just as hollow as Waller’s insinuation that she knew he was Batman.

One, the formation of Task Force X “Suicide Squad” was not illegal. It was sanctioned by the Department of the Defense and the White House. With the exception of Task Force X leader Colonel Rick Flagg and his bodyguard, Tatsu Yamashiro aka Katana, the other members were convicted criminals. Which meant that Waller or any other member of the government or law enforcement had the right to “recruit” them to work in the interest of the country/community. The Thirteen Amendment (1865) of the U.S. Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. Which meant that convicted and imprisoned criminals can be used as forced labor. And this is exactly what Waller did when she had nano bombs implanted in their necks and coerced them into working on behalf of the government . . . with the threat of death if any Suicide Squad member did not cooperate.

Two, if Batman and other future members of the Justice League had interfered with any of the Task Force X’s operations, they would find themselves in legal trouble. Especially since the Task Force X is a legally sanctioned intelligence unit. And when Bruce had issued his warning about the squad, he should have remembered that Ms. Waller not only knew about his identity as Batman, she also knew about secret identities of the Flash and Aquaman. After all, she was the one who had provided Bruce with information about the pair. Considering Ms. Waller’s talent for acquiring information, it would have been a matter of time before she discovered Diana Prince’s identity as Wonder Woman, Victor Stone ‘s identity as Cyborg and Clark Kent as Superman. If she does not know the truth about them already. After all, Lex Luthor does.

Three, Waller’s insinuation that she knew about Bruce’s identity as Batman struck me as equally hollow. Even if she had exposed him as the Dark Knight, chances are Bruce would not hesitate to find a way for her to face the consequences of her role in the Enchantress’ rampage. If he could not personally achieve, Bruce would probably arrange for his security chief, Alfred Pennyworth to expose Ms. Waller on his behalf.

Perhaps it would have been best for both Bruce and Ms. Waller to realize that when it came to secrets and protection, they were in a standoff. Waller should have never made such a useless threat. And Bruce should have realize there would be legal consequences if he and the other members of the Justice League had interfered with Task Force X. And both should simply consider leaving each other alone.

“FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD” (2018) Review

“FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD” (2018) Review

Following the success of the 2016 movie, “FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM”, Warner Brothers Studios and author J.K. Rowling continued the adventures of former Hogwarts student, Newt Scamander with the 2018 sequel called “FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD”. Starring Eddie Redmayne, the movie was directed by David Yates.

“FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD” began in 1927, less than a year after the events of the 2016 movie. In the film’s opening, the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) is transferring the powerful dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald from their maximum security prison in New York City to London. The latter is be tried for his crimes in Europe. But with the aide of Grindelwald’s follower, MACUSA agent Abernathy, the wizard manages to escapes during the transfer. Three months after Grindelwald’s escape, magizoologist Newt Scamander appeals to the Ministry of Magic in London to restore his revoked international travel rights following his previous adventures in New York City. While at the Ministry, Newt learns that his former Hogwarts classmate, Leta Lestrange, is engaged to his brother Theseus, an auror in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. The Ministry offers to restore Newt’s travel rights if he assists Theseus in locating Credence Barebone, the American obscurial believed to have been killed in Paris. He has been detected in Paris.

Grindelwald is also searching for Credence. He believes that only the latter is powerful enough to kill his “equal”, Hogwarts Professor Albus Dumbledore. Newt declines the Ministry’s offer, but is is secretly summoned by Dumbledore, who also tries to persuade Newt to locate Credence. Dumbledore under constant Ministry surveillance for refusing to confront Grindelwald, who was a former close friend from the past. Upon his return home, he discovers that his American friends, the non-magical Jacob Kowalski and witch Queenie Goldstein had left New York. Jacob has retained memories of his past adventures with Newt and the Goldstein sisters, despite MACUSA’s citywide Obliviation order. Queenie and Jacob had followed Queenie’s sister Tina to Europe, where the latter is searching for Credence. Newt also discovers that Queenie has enchanted Jacob into eloping to Europe with her to circumvent MACUSA’s marriage ban between wizards and Muggles. After Newt lifts the charm, Jacob and Queenie quarrel about the marriage law, and the upset witch leaves to find Tina. Newt ignores the Ministry’s travel ban and with Jacob, head for Paris in search for the Goldstein sisters and Credence.

“FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD” proved to be an unpopular entry in the HARRY POTTER movie franchise. Even a year before the film’s release, many had criticized the film’s producers, including J.K. Rowling, for allowing actor Johnny Depp to take over the role of Gellert Grindelwald in the wake of his controversial divorce. Ironically, once “THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD” hit the movie theaters, both the critics and many moviegoers expressed other reasons for their displeasure. Either these criticisms were merely used as shields to hide their displeasure at Depp’s presence in the movie, or they genuinely did not like it. Although “THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD” actually managed to make a profit, it did not make as much as its 2016 predecessor. Nor did it make as much as Warner Brothers Studios had anticipated. So . . . how did I feel about the movie?

I will admit that I have some problems with “THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD”. I never admitted this in my review of “FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM”, but I had noticed Rowling’s habit of creating two or more disjointed story lines and allowing them to connect near the end of the film. As much as I admired her use of this narrative structure, I must admit that there were times when I found it frustrating. To be honest, I found it more frustrating in “FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM”, especially Newt Scamander’s search for his missing animals. But in “THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD”, there were times when I found myself wondering why Rowling had focused so heavily on Leta Lestrange’s character arc/backstory and Queenie Goldstein’s problems with her non-magical love, Jacob Kowalski. I also had a problem with Colleen Atwood’s costumes. On one level, I found her costumes very attractive, as shown in the images below:

And yet . . . aside from the costumes and hairstyle worn by actress Katherine Waterston, I found the other costumes and hairstyles reminiscent of the early 1930s, instead of 1927, the film’s actual setting. Speaking of the timeline, could someone explain why Minerva McGonagall was a teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, when either the Harry Potter novels or the franchise’s official website made it clear that she was born in 1935, eight years after this movie’s setting. And since Dumbledore was the Transfiguration professor at Hogwarts in 1927, what was the young Professor McGonagall teaching?

“FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD” had its flaws, like any other movie. But I enjoyed it very much. Actually . . . I enjoyed it slightly more than I did the 2016 movie. The reason why I enjoyed it more than the first film is probably the reason why many others liked it less. J.K. Rowling had written an emotionally complicated tale that reminded me that humans beings are a lot more ambiguous than many are STILL unwilling to admit. They might pay lip service to the ambiguity of humans, but I have encountered too much hostility directed at movies willing to explore the complex nature of humans and society in general . . . especially in pop culture films. Some might claim that such ambiguity has no place in pop culture films and franchises. My response to that claim is . . . why not? I see no reason why humanity’s ambiguity should only be tolerated in films being considered for the film industry’s award season.

I noticed in “THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD” that the majority of Gellert Grindelwald’s followers were not “dark wizards” or superficially evil. I must admit that the Vinda Rosier, Grindelwald’s loyal right-hand follower, seemed to be the film’s closest example of the future Deatheaters that followed Lord Voldemort aka Tom Riddle Jr. Most of Grindelwald’s other followers seemed to be typical human being who has allowed his or her emotions to indulge in the usual prejudices or make bad choices. One example is the MACUSA agent Abernathy, who had earlier supported President Seraphina Picquery in the 2016 film. But the prime example in “THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD” proved to be Queenie Goldstein, the New York-born Legilimens (telepath), who out of her desperation to be with the non-magical Jacob Kowalski, turned to Grindelwald to help her achieve her desire. Many fans had condemned the movie for this portrayal of Queenie. And I do not understand why.

“FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM” had already hinted Queenie’s desperation to be with Jacob, when she conveyed reluctance to follow MACUSA President Seraphina Picquery’s orders to ensure the erasure of his recent memories. She broke the rules even further by paying a visit to Jacob’s new bakery in one of the film’s final scenes. More importantly, Queenie had discovered that Jacob had retained some memories of his adventures with her, Tina and Newt. This is why I am not surprised that Queenie had resorted to desperate measures in “THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD” to make Jacob her husband. Love might lead a person to do wonderful things. But it can also lead someone to make questionable or terrible decisions. J.K. Rowling understood this. I never understood why so many people were incapable of doing so.

The ironic thing about “FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD” is that the movie not only featured former protagonists like Queenie Goldstein and Agent Abernathy, who had decided to follow Grindelwald, it also featured . . . Leta Lestrange. Any fan of Potterverse will remember another character with the Lestrange name – Voldemort follower Bellatrix Lestrange. Although Bellatrix had married into the Lestrange family, fans learned that her husband was another one of Voldemort’s highly murderous and faithful followers. I do recall that the 2016 film may have hinted that Leta was briefly as someone from Newt’s past who may or may not have deliberately led him into trouble and expelled from Hogwarts. Thanks to “THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD”, audiences learned that Leta was NOT someone who lived up to her pure-blood family’s name and who proved to be a different kettle of fish. She was not perfect. Her one crime . . . which led to years of guilt . . . stemmed from resentment toward her father’s sexist desire for a male heir. As a young girl aboard a sinking ocean liner headed for the United States, she made an ugly decision that affected both her family and Credence Barebone.

The characterizations of both Queenie Goldstein and Leta Lestrange, along with Gellert Grindelwald’s followers made J.K. Rowling’s intent to continue her ambiguous portrayal of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. But instead of viewing this ambiguity from a growing child, audiences get to witness this ambiguity through the eyes of an adult. Instead of realizing that individuals we might perceive as “bad” can also possess decency within, Rowling seemed to be hinting that those whom we might originally perceive as “good or decent” can allow their emotions to make terrible choices or embrace evil. Granted, fans learned in the previous series that Albus Dumbledore had once skated on the edge of giving into some parts of his baser nature. But through characters like Queenie Goldstein and Agent Abernathy, agents get to see how originally perceived “decent” characters can allow their emotions and desires to embrace evil . . . not for any moral good, but due to their own selfishness or prejudices. It is a pity that so many are unwilling to explore this journey with Rowling.

Although I had criticized the film’s costumes for resembling the fashions of the early 1930s, instead of the late 1920s, I must admit that I found Colleen Atwood’s designs very attractive and very original. I rarely comment on a film’s editing, but I found Film Editor Mark Day’s work in the movie first-rate. I was especially impressed by his work in two particular sequences – Grindelwald’s escape in the film’s first action sequence and another one featuring a wizarding freak show in Paris. I was also impressed by Philippe Rousselot’s cinematography . . . to a certain extent. Rousselot’s photography struck me as beautiful and memorable – especially in the Parisian scenes and one particular flashback scene in the Atlantic Ocean. But I really disliked the monochromatic tones (blue, yellow or green) that seemed to dominate the movie’s photography . . . as much as I disliked the brown tones that dominated “FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM”. Also, production designer Stuart Craig, set designer Anna Pinnock, the art direction team led by Martin Foley and the special effects team all did an exceptional job to re-create the wizarding worlds of New York, London, Scotland and Paris.

“FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD” featured some first-rate performances. Lead actor Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Carmen Ejogo, Claudia Kim and Ezra Miller all gave excellent performances. But there were performances that I found more than first-rate. Jude Law was superb as the enigmatic and younger Professor Albus Dumbore, who seemed warm and manipulative as ever. William Nadylam gave a very complex and passionate performance as Yusuf Kama: A French-Senegalese wizard who has spent many years obsessively searching for Credence, whom he believed was responsible for the death of a family member. Callum Turner’s portrayal of Theseus Scamander, Newt’s brother, first seemed pretty solid. But his performance became more complex and interesting, thanks to Turner’s skillful acting. Alison Sudol gave an outstanding performance as the increasingly desperate Queenie Goldstein, who allowed her love for Jacob and emotions to lead to a morally questionable decision. Zoë Kravitz was equally outstanding as Newt’s former love, Leta Lestrange, who became emotionally troubled and confused over a morally questionable decision from the past. But the best performance, in my opinion, came from Johnny Depp, who portrayed the film’s main villain, Gellert Grindelwald. Depp’s Grindelwald seemed like a completely different kettle of fish from the more obvious villains of the Harry Potter novel. More subtle, subversive and manipulative. Insidious. The franchise’s Palpatine perhaps? Honestly, Depp’s Grindelwald made Tom Riddle Jr. aka Lord Voldemort seem like a rank amateur as far as villains go.

This 2018 sequel to “FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM” proved to be a disappointment at the box office. Between the controversy over Depp’s casting and the hostile reaction to the Queenie Goldstein character, I guess I should not be surprised. But I am disappointed that the majority of moviegoers had failed to appreciate Rowling’s story, because I thought it was first-rate, thanks to her screenplay, David Yates’ direction and the excellent cast led by Eddie Redmayne. To be honest, I personally feel that it was slightly better than its 2016 predecessor. Perhaps one day, more filmgoers will be able to appreciate it.

“JUSTICE LEAGUE” (2017) Review

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“JUSTICE LEAGUE” (2017) Review

The D.C. Comics Extended Universe (DCEU) released its fifth film utilizing several characters that were either featured or hinted in its previous four films during the fall of 2017. Directed by Zack Snyder (well, most of it), “JUSTICE LEAGUE” proved to be an even more controversial entry than two of its previous films. Only for different reasons.

Set some time after the present-day events of “WONDER WOMAN”“JUSTICE LEAGUE” begins with the Gotham City costumed vigilante Batman aka Bruce Wayne attempting to arrest a thief. However, his efforts are interrupted by the arrival of an alien creature known as a parademon. Realizing that he had dreamed of a similar creature in “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”, Batman realizes that Earth is about to face another alien threat. Before he can summon Wonder Woman aka Diana Prince, she learns of an even bigger threat from her mother, Queen Hippolyta of Themyscira. A former foe known as Steppenwolf has arrived on Earth to acquire the three Mother Boxes, sentient, miniaturized, portable supercomputers from his homeworld of Apokolips. One of the boxes had been guarded by the Amazons of Themyscira for thousands of years. The pair decides to find the other metahumans – Barry Allen aka the Flash, Victor Stone aka Cyborg (whose body was cured by a Mother Box) and Arthur Curry aka Aquaman – and form a team to fight against Steppenwolf. Bruce manages to easily recruit the Flash, but is unable to recruit Aquaman. And Diana encounters difficulty in recruiting Cyborg. But when Steppenwolf manages to acquire the second Mother Box in Aquaman’s world of Atlantis, the “King of the Seven Seas” decides to join the newly formed Justice League to defeat the alien from Apokolips. However, it is not long before the League realizes they need a sixth member to help them defeat Steppenwolf – namely the recently deceased Superman.

Ever since the release of “MAN OF STEEL” in 2013, critics and some moviegoers have been highly critical of the DCEU. With the exception of “WONDER WOMAN”, the franchise’s movies have either received mixed reviews or panned. In the case of “JUSTICE LEAGUE”, it has been panned . . . perhaps even more so than the other four films. Personally, I have been a major fan of the DCEU films before “JUSTICE LEAGUE”. Do I believe the movie deserved to panned? Honestly? No. But I do feel that “JUSTICE LEAGUE” is probably the first DCEU film toward which I felt some disappointment.

There was a good deal from “JUSTICE LEAGUE” that I enjoyed. The creation of the Justice League began when Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman formed a team to battle Lex Luthor’s creation, Doomsday, in “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”. This creation continued with Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince’s recruitment of the Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman. And if I must be honest, I enjoyed how the movie’s screenplay took its time in fusing these characters into the League. I found this especially satisfying, since both Cyborg and Aquaman proved rather difficult to recruit. What finally drove them all together as a team proved to be the threat of Steppenwolf.

This leads me to something else I enjoyed about the film. Steppenwolf’s acquisition of two Mother Boxes provided some first-rate action sequences featuring the Amazons on Themyscira and the Atlantis inhabitants’ efforts to stop him. And they did not make it easy for him. I especially enjoyed the sequence featuring Steppenwolf’s theft of the Mother Box on Themyscira. There were other action sequences that enjoyed. One of them included the League’s first encounter with Steppenwolf inside an abandoned facility near the Gotham City Harbor. I also enjoyed the League’s second attempt to defeat Steppenwolf and his Parademon army at a small Russian village, where the Apokoliptian planned to fuse the three Mother Boxes and terraform the Earth’s surface. I also enjoyed an early action sequence that featured Wonder Woman’s confrontation with a group of terrorists in London. But for me, my favorite action sequence featured the League’s confrontation with a recently resurrected and amnesiac Superman. Although I found it rather scary, thanks to Henry Cavill’s chilling performance, there was a comedic moment that I found very funny.

As much as I enjoyed most of the film’s action sequences, I found a good deal of its comedic and dramatic moments even more satisfying. It seemed pretty obvious to me that the film’s two comedy relief characters were Barry Allen aka the Flash and Arthur Curry aka Aquaman. And I found both characters more than satisfactory, thanks to Ezra Miller and Jason Momoa’s performances. Miller’s Barry Allen was an extroverted and nervous personality that was at odds with his inability to easily befriend others. This was especially apparent in one scene that featured the initial meeting between Barry and Bruce Wayne at the former’s abode and his attempts to befriend Victor Stone aka Cyborg. But the one scene that truly made me appreciate Miller’s comedic talent occurred when the League clashed with a resurrected, yet amnesiac Superman and the Flash attempted to attack the Man of Steel from behind . . . and failed. Jason Momoa’s portrayal of Arthur Curry also provided a good deal of the movie’s comedic moments. Momoa’s portrayal of the blunt and cynical King of the Seven Seas practically had me in stitches. But I especially enjoyed that moment when Aquaman unexpectedly went into a comedic spiel about fighting Steppenwolf and his appreciation for Wonder Woman . . . unaware that he was sitting on her Lasso of Truth.

However, there were many dramatic moments that made me happily realize that “JUSTICE LEAGUE” was not all comedy and action. The movie’s opening credits featured a poignant montage that revealed the world’s grief over Superman’s death. One particular scene – a homeless man holding a “I TRIED” sign next to him – really resonated within me. I thought Martha Kent’s visit to Lois Lane in Metropolis and the two women’s shared grief over Clark/Superman’s demise was particularly poignant, thanks to Diane Lane and Amy Adams’ performances. I particularly enjoyed one scene that featured a tense conversation between Cyborg and his father, Dr. Silas Stone over the latter’s decision to use a Mother Box to save the former’s life. May I be frank? Both Ray Fisher, who portrayed the superhero and Joe Morton, who portrayed his father, really knocked it out of the ballpark in this scene. I was not that impressed by the CGI used for the Steppenwolf character. But I must admit that I enjoyed Ciarán Hinds’ voice performance for the villain. The actor projected a good deal of style and menace into the character.

I enjoyed Clark’s reunion with both Lois and Martha. Although I feel that it was a bit too brief for my tastes, I cannot deny that I found it emotionally satisfying. And I enjoyed the tense conversation between Aquaman and future love interest, Mera of Atlantis. The scene seemed to give audiences a preview of the screen dynamics between Momoa and Amber Heard, who portrayed Mera. But if I had to pick my favorite dramatic moment in “JUSTICE LEAGUE”, it would have to be the scene that featured Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince’s conversation regarding his continuing guilt over his past attempt to kill Superman and her lingering grief over the death of her former lover/colleague, Steve Trevor. Thanks to superb and subtle performances from Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot, the scene was a tense and angst-riddled moment that I truly enjoyed.

Zack Snyder had collaborated with cinematographer Larry Fong on four films – “300” (2007)“WATCHMEN” (2009)“SUCKER PUNCH” (2011) and especially, “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” (2016). For “JUSTICE LEAGUE”, Synder ended up collaborating with Fabian Wagner, who had previously spent most of his career in television – especially HBO’s “GAME OF THRONES”. However, I am not that familiar with Wagner’s previous work. But I must admit that I was impressed by his work in “JUSTICE LEAGUE”. His work proved to be a bit brighter than Fong’s work in “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN”. This is not that surprising, considering that the movie’s narrative is slightly less angsty than the 2016 film. But I was especially impressed by his photography of the film’s protagonists, as shown below:

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One would be inclined to wonder why I had regarded “JUSTICE LEAGUE” as something of a disappointment, due to my positive comments on it. Well . . . I had problems with the film. Hell, I have expressed quibbles for about every comic book movie I have seen. My first problem with “JUSTICE LEAGUE” there were times when it seemed I was viewing a movie with two directors . . . with two different styles. Well of course the movie seemed to possess two different directors. As everyone knows, Zack Snyder had experienced a family tragedy while dealing with the film’s post-production. Unable to continue, he asked Joss Whedon, who had directed the two Avengers films for Marvel/Disney, to complete the post-production reshoots, using his notes. Well . . . Whedon did more than that. At the behest of the Warner Brothers executives, he chopped out a good deal of Snyder’s work, re-shot and re-wrote at least 30 percent of the movie in a similar style he had used for the Avengers films. In the end, there were times when “JUSTICE LEAGUE” seemed like a DCEU film trying to look like a Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movie. I found this very confusing – especially in the film’s third and final act.

One of the results of this hack job by Whedon and Warner Brothers was the decision to change the film’s composer. They tossed out Junkie XL (who had co-written the “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN” score with Hans Zimmer)’s score and hired Danny Elfman to replace it. Now . . . I have been a fan of some of Elfman’s work for years. But what he did for this film’s score? As far as I am concerned . . . nothing. Elfman fell back on the nostalgia factor by utilizing his old score from the two Batman films directed by Tim Burton. Worse, there was a moment following Superman’s resurrection – I do no know if this happened or not, but I could have sworn that right after the resurrection or when the Man of Steel confronted Steppenwolf for the first time – Elfman even used a few bars from John Williams’ score for the 1978 film, “SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE”. All I can say that it was a very cringe-worthy moment for me.

Speaking of Superman . . . what in the hell happened? Granted, I really enjoyed the sequences featuring his resurrection, his clash with the League’s other members and his reunions with Lois and Martha. But once Superman joined the League’s battle against Steppenwolf . . . I just do not know what happened. It seemed as if someone – I suspect it was Whedon – tried to transform him into Christopher Reeve’s version of the Man of Steel. Ugh! Look, Chris Reeve’s Superman was fine for the late 20th century. But we are nearing the end of the 2010s. Henry Cavill had managed to establish his own version of Superman. There was no need to force him to copy another actor’s style. One other fact bothered me. I am referring to the questionable CGI that tried to hide the mustache he was sporting, while filming “MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT”. Apparently, Paramount Studios refused to allow Cavill to shave the moustache for the “JUSTICE LEAGUE” re-shoots. Between the cringe-worthy grinning, the cheesy dialogue and that ridiculous race against the Flash in the first post-credit scene, I simply found myself feeling sorry for Henry Cavill. In fact, either Snyder or Whedon (I suspect the latter) tried to lighten up Affleck’s performance as Batman by forcing the latter to spew some pretty lame jokes. Poor man. In their attempt to transform the movie into an Avengers film, the Warner Brothers suits damn near sabotaged both the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight.

But for me, the real problem proved to be the film’s last act. It brought back bad memories of the last act of the 2015 movie, “THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON”. The entire sequence featuring the Justice League’s battle against Steppenwolf and the latter’s parademon army at some Russian village struck me as simply confusing. It was beyond confusing. Between the questionable editing, the unattractive lighting, and the rushed action, I simply found the entire sequence hard to swallow. I can only thank God that Russian village was not rising in the sky, while the Justice League battle Steppenwolf. That shit would have been even more difficult to swallow. The first post-credit scene featuring Superman and the Flash’s race to see who was the fastest did not help. Why is it so damn important in a D.C. Comics movie or television production to show a Kryptonian (whether it was Superman or Supergirl) in a race with the Flash? I disliked it in this movie and I disliked it in a Season One episode of the Arrowverse’s “SUPERGIRL”. Fortunately, the second post-credit scene nearly made up for the film’s last thirty minutes or so. I will say that it involved Lex Luthor and one of Batman’s former foes, Slade Wilson aka Deathstroke. It proved to be a great surprise.

So, there you have it. Do not get me wrong. “JUSTICE LEAGUE” provided some great action scenes and dramatic moments. It also featured some excellent performances, as well. However, it is quite obvious that the Warner Brothers executives and Joss Whedon made a serious mistake in ignoring Zack Snyder’s post-production instructions and trying to transform the movie into their own version of a Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film. In a way, they did. “JUSTICE LEAGUE” strongly reminded me of Marvel’s 2015 movie, “THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON” – both the good and the bad.

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Favorite D.C. COMICS Moments in Movies and Television

Below is a list of my favorite scenes from various movies and television shows featuring D.C. Comics characters:
FAVORITE D.C. COMICS MOMENTS IN MOVIES AND TELEVISION
1.  “Justice League” (2017)  – Barry Allen aka the Flash tries . . . and fails to save his Justice League colleagues from the paranoia and wrath of an amnesiac and resurrected Clark Kent aka Superman.
2.  “Batman v. Superman:  Dawn of Justice” (2016) – D.C. Comics original trinity – Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman – gather together for the first time in a live action production, when they team up to take down Doomsday, the monster created by Lex Luthor.
3.  “Legends of Tomorrow” (2.07) “Invasion!” (2016) – The Arrowverse heroes gather for a final confrontation against a group of alien invaders known as the Dominators in this crossover event.
4.  “Suicide Squad” (2016) – Chato Santana aka El Diablo confesses the true details about the death of his family to his Suicide Squad colleagues in a bar in this poignant scene.
5.  “Legends of Tomorrow” (2.14) “Moonshot”– Legends member Dr. Martin Stein aka Firestorm I, distracts the Mission Control members at NASA circa 1970 with his rendition of “The Banana Boat Song”, while the other half of Firestorm, Jefferson Jackson, work to prevent them from detecting Dr. Ray Palmer aka the Atom from moving the Apollo 13 capsule.
6.  “Superman Returns” (2006) – In a spectacular action sequence, Superman saves both a space shuttle in route to a launching pad and the jet plane conveying it, following a nationwide power outage.
7.  “Wonder Woman” (2017) – A determined Princess Diana of Themyscira aka Wonder Woman leads the charge against a battlefield dubbed as “No Man’s Land” in an effort to reach a Belgium town and General Erich Ludendorff, whom she believes is Ares, the God of War.
8.  “Batman v. Superman:  Dawn of Justice” (2016) – Bruce Wayne aka the Batman battles against thugs hired by Lex Luthor in order to save Superman’s mother, Martha Kent, from them.
9.  “Man of Steel” (2013) – In this controversial scene, Superman is forced to save a family of humans by killing the last remaining Kryptonian, General Zod.
10.  “Superman:  The Movie” (1978) – Superman makes his first appearance in Metropolis, when he saves Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane after her fall from a damaged helicopter, atop the Planet building.
11.  “Arrow” (5.17) “Kapiushon” (2017) – After being tortured for a while by the villainous Promethus, a distraught Oliver Queen aka the Green Arrow finally admits his penchant for killing.
12.  “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” (1.12) “All Shook Up” (1994) – While a deadly meteor streaks toward Earth, Jonathan and Martha Kent tries to convince their adoptive son, an amnesiac Clark Kent, that he is Superman.
13.  “Batman v. Superman:  Dawn of Justice” (2016) – Various journalists, commentators and scientists debate in a montage scene about Superman’s true nature and goal on Earth.
14.  “The Flash” (3.23) “Finish Line” (2017) – Before a defeated and vindictive Savitar can kill the Flash, the latter’s fiancee, Iris West, shoots him dead.
15.  “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” (2.18) “Tempus Fugitive” (1995) – The vindictive and sarcastic evil time traveler, Tempus, reveals Superman’s true identity to an astonished Lois Lane.
16.  “Batman v. Superman:  Dawn of Justice” (2016) – Clark and Lois enjoy a sexy respite in a bathtub, following a serious discussion over his rescue of her in North Africa.
17.  “Batman” (1989) – Bruce Wayne aka Batman crashes through the glass roof of  Gotham City’s Museum of Art in order to save photojournalist Vicky Vale from criminal Jack Napier aka the Joker.
18.  “Legends of Tomorrow” (2.17) “Aruba” (2017)– Before he can kill Legends leader Sara Lance aka White Canary, the villainous speedster Eobard Thawne aka Reverse-Flash is killed by Black Flash, the Speed Force enforcer and former villain Hunter Zolomon aka Zoom.
19.  “Green Hornet” (2011) – Newspaper publisher Bret Reid aka the Green Hornet and his partner Kato are chased along a Los Angeles highway by minions of gangster Benjamin Chudnofsky in order to prevent them from publishing an article exposing a corrupt district attorney in Chudnofsky’s pay.
20.  “Gotham” (1.01) “Pilot” (2014)– Rookie police detective James “Jim” Gordon of the corrupt Gotham City Police Department is forced to fake the death of minion Oswald Copperpot aka the Penguin, after being ordered to kill the latter by gangster Carmine Falcone.
Honorable Mention:  “Batman Begins” (2005) – Batman refuses to save the life of his former mentor Henri Ducard aka Ra’s al Ghul from a runaway monorail, after foiling the latter’s plans to destroy Gotham City.

“Comic Book Movies: Critical Hypocrisy”

I first wrote the following article during the early fall of 2016:

 

“COMIC BOOK MOVIES: CRITICAL HYPOCRISY”

It just occurred to me that none of Marvel’s Captain America films ended on a happy note. Yet, they have never been criticized for possessing too much angst or being depressing. On the other hand, D.C. Comics films like 2016’s “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” have been accused of being dominated by these traits. And I have never understood this contrasting attitude toward the two comic book movie franchises. 

In “CAPTAIN AMERICA: FIRST AVENGER”, Steve Rogers lost his close friend, James “Bucky” Barnes during a mission. He was forced to crash the HYDRA plane into the cold Atlantic Ocean, where he froze for the next 66 to 67 years. Because of the crash, his burgeoning relationship with S.S.R. Agent Peggy Carter abruptly ended, with her believing that he had died. The movie ended with Steve awakening in 2011 New York City as a fish out of water and the world completely changed.

Although I love it with every fiber in my body, “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER” proved to be a rather depressing film, if one is completely honest. The only positive thing that came out of it was Steve’s new friendship with Afghanistan War veteran, Sam Wilson. Otherwise, the movie featured the downfall of S.H.I.E.L.D., the very agency that his old love Peggy Carter, Howard Stark and Chester Philips had created, due to a major mistake they had committed. And that mistake turned out to be the recruitment of former HYDRA scientist, Armin Zola into the newly formed S.H.I.E.L.D. agency. Steve discovered that despite Johann Schmidt aka the Red Skull’s death, HYDRA continued to exist and that it had infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. and the U.S. Senate. He also discovered that his former best friend, Bucky Barnes, was not only alive, but also a brainwashed assassin for HYDRA. Everything eventually went to shit by the end of film, including Steve’s career with S.H.I.E.L.D.

“CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR” proved to be another depressing film. It introduced the Sokovia Accords, a United Nations sponsored document that forced enhanced beings like himself and other members of the Avengers to register with and be regulated by various governments. The main drive behind the Accords was Secretary of Defense and former U.S. Army General Thaddeus Ross, who had been the nemesis of Bruce Banner aka the Hulk. The Sokovia Accords finally gave Thaddeus Ross the opportunity to control a team of enhanced beings. The ninety-something Peggy Carter finally died. And the Avengers faced another threat – a Sokovian named Zemo, who wanted revenge for the destruction of his country – an event caused by Tony Stark’s creation of an artificial intelligence (A.I.) called Ultron. And Zemo also used the still brainwashed Bucky Barnes, whose past involved being coerced by HYDRA into murdering Howard and Maria Stark, to get his revenge. Between the Accords and Zemo, the Avengers suffered a permanent split by the end of the movie.

On the other hand, many film critics and moviegoers have criticized about “darker” aspects of the DCEU films. They have accused director Zack Snyder and the production teams behind the DCEU movie franchise of being too depressing or portraying its major protagonists as a bit too angsty. One, I see nothing wrong with morally and emotionally complex comic book hero movies. Also, at least two of the DCEU movies, “MAN OF STEEL” and “SUICIDE SQUAD” ended on a happier note.

“MAN OF STEEL” ended with Clark Kent aka Superman moving to Metropolis and joining the staff of The Daily Planet as a junior reporter and exchanging a knowing smile with his love, Lois Lane – the only person other than his mother who knew of his identity as Superman. “SUICIDE SQUAD” told the story of a group of super villains (two of them, meta-humans) who were forced to battle a powerful sorceress, bent upon world-domination by the director of A.R.G.U.S., Amanda Waller. Although Waller’s right-hand man, Colonel Rick Flagg, had allowed the villains to walk away after she had been kidnapped, the “Suicide Squad” assisted Flagg in taking down the Enchantress anyway. They were repaid with a reduced prison sentence and a few benefits. Also, “SUICIDE SQUAD” was filled with a great deal of humor – something that many critics and moviegoers have complained that the DCEU was lacking.

I find it ironic that “MAN OF STEEL” and “SUICIDE SQUAD” have been criticized for being “depressing and angst-riddled”, along with the DCEU’s boogeyman, “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” (which I also adore with every fiber of my being). Yet, the MCU’s Captain America films have managed to evade such criticisms, despite their ambiguous endings. Why have many critics and moviegoers have been so hard on the DCEU films about their ambiguity and given the Captain America films a pass? Hypocrisy much?

Post-Script:  And the hypocrisy has continued.  As late as the summer of 2018, many moviegoers and critics have either expressed hope that the DCEU would release more light-hearted and “hopeful” films.  They have also expressed hope that Warner Brothers Studios’ upcoming releases – “AQUAMAN”, “SHAZAM” and “WONDER WOMAN 1984” – will feature more fun-oriented plots.

Yet, during the same year, Marvel Films/Disney Studios released three MCU films – “BLACK PANTHER”, “THE AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR” and “ANT-MAN & THE WASP”.  The first film proved to be an angst-filled and political family drama.  The second film ended on a catastrophic note in which the main villain achieved his goal and wiped out half of the universe’s population – including many familiar characters.  And although the third film proved to be a lot more light-hearted, its post-credit scene ended on a devastating note – a residual of what happened in the second film.  Hardly anyone complained about this and instead, complimented the MCU franchise for its willingness to be more serious.

Like I said . . . the hypocrisy has continued.

“Irrelevant Bashing”

 

“IRRELEVANT BASHING”

I am another moviegoer who is getting sick and tired of the regarding Marvel/Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films and Warner Brothers/D.C. Comics’ D.C. Extended Universe (DCEU) films. I have come across articles in which fans of both movie universes have accused the other of excessive bashing. 

I never understood this rivalry between Marvel and DC Comics movie franchises. To be honest, I find it unnecessary. And I believe today’s audiences are getting too caught up in this so-called rivalry, thanks to the media, the studios and the two comic book conglomerates. I have seen both DC Comics and Marvel since “SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE” first came out in 1978. Why do certain films from one comic book company need to be better than those from another one? I have seen films from both that I found very impressive. And I have seen films from both that left me feeling disappointed. For me to decide whether the Marvel films or the DC films are better strikes me as ridiculous.

Some fans have claimed that since the MCU films perform better at the box office, they are without a doubt, the superior series of films. One major problem with this reasoning was the box office performance of the five major comic book movies released in 2016. Marvel’s “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE CIVIL WAR” proved to be the second (or third) biggest box office success of that year. Yet, D.C. Comics’ “BATMAN v. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” proved to be that year’s fifth biggest box office success. Although both the DCEU’s “SUICIDE SQUAD” and the MCU’s “DOCTOR STRANGE” never reached those heights in terms of box office, both were successful and ironically, the DCEU movie proved to be a bit more successful.

However, I believe that box office performance is not a true reflection of a movie’s worth. No one knows the true reason behind the critics’ current and more positive reaction to the Marvel films. Not really. True, some film critics might honestly believe they are better. Then again, it is possible that some film critics were bribed to praise the Marvel films to the sky and/or bash the D.C. Comics movies. Personally, I had stopped regarding their opinion as fact a long time ago. After all, their opinions are dictated by personal tastes, or . . . other means, just as the opinions of moviegoers are dictated by personal tastes. – Yes, there might be more people who believe that the current Marvel films are better. But I have encountered a great number of opinions that favor the current DC Comic movies. And I cannot help but wonder if the MCU fans are simply the loudest. Also, judging a film based upon box office success or the number of fans for a certain franchise strikes me as irrelevant. There are a lot of fans of the “TRANSFORMER” films. A lot. Which is why those movies generated a good deal of money. In the end, it is all subjective.

I am fans of both the MCU and the DCEU. I have been aware of some bashing of the MCU films by certain DCEU fans. However, their bashing seemed to be minor in compare to the consistent and excessive stream of criticism and bashing directed toward the DCEU films … and I believe this bashing is getting out of control.

Sometimes, I get the feeling that a lot of Marvel fans (or perhaps I should say the Marvel/Disney company is threatened by the three movies released by DC Comics between 2013 and 2016. These three movies signaled the end of the Marvel/Disney’s monopoly on a series of comic book movies based upon a collection of titles. The bashing for the DCEU has become utter ridiculous and excessive. I am also beginning to wonder if those who had accused Disney/Marvel of paying off the critics to bad mouth ALL THREE DCEU movies that have been released so far … had been right after all. Because this criticism has become over the top. It has now extended to both “WONDER WOMAN” and “JUSTICE LEAGUE” and they have yet to be released. Has bashing the DCEU movies become the “in” thing to do? Just as bashing the “STAR WARS” Prequel films is still a popular past time? I hope not. For I had almost bought it myself.

When “MAN OF STEEL”“BATMAN v. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” and “SUICIDE SQUAD” first hit the theaters, I was reluctant to see all three, because I had stupidly accepted the bad opinions about them. Yet, I overcame my reluctance and went to see them, anyway. And when I finally saw those three movies, I enjoyed them. All of them. Very much. In fact, I regard “BATMAN v. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” as one of the best comic book hero movies I have ever seen. And that was when I finally realized that a film critic’s opinion was worth dog shit. No more. I am simply going to form my own opinion of any movie I am interested in seeing. And I refuse to be some mindless drone and accept the views of others simply because it is the in-thing to do.

The idea that we are supposed to be accept that the Marvel or MCU films are better than the DCEU films, because many film critics or movie fans say so is irrelevant. It is irrelevant, because their views are matters of opinion. Preference. I do not accept this view “numbers matter” regarding the artistic quality of a film, because I do not share it. I have watched a lot of comic book movies in my time. From my perspective, only my opinion of an individual movie count. I do not care whether any those movies are based upon the titles of Marvel, DC Comics or any other comic book company that exists. And considering that art and entertainment are subjective in the end, what is the point in declaring that MCU films are better or that DCEU movies are better? It seems like a waste of time to me. I think we all should focus on which individual movies that appeals to us and not bother on which company makes the better films.

Warner Bros./DCEU is scheduled to release two movies in 2017. Disney/MCU has scheduled three to be released. I plan to see all five movies this year. And I will be damned if I pay attention to any film critics or moviegoer . . . until after I have seen these movies. Regardless of who performs better at the box office, I am the one who will decide which films I want to see and which ones I want to buy, regardless of whether they came from DC Comics or Marvel.

Top Favorite Movies of 2017

Below is a list of my favorite movies of 2017( List subject to change):

 

 

TOP FAVORITE MOVIES OF 2017

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1. “Dunkirk” – Christopher Nolan wrote and directed this acclaimed look at the British Expeditionary Force’s evacuation from Dunkirk, France in 1940. Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy and Mark Rylance starred.

 

 
 
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2. “Wonder Woman” – Gal Gadot starred in this movie about the D.C. Comics’ heroine Wonder Woman and her experiences during World War I. Patty Jenkins directed.

 

 
 
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3. “Murder on the Orient Express” – Kenneth Branaugh directed and starred in this fifth adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1934 novel about a murder aboard the famed Orient Express. Johnny Depp and Michelle Pfieffer co-starred.

 

 
 
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4. “I, Tonya” – Margot Robbie starred in this deliciously bizarre biopic about the controversial Olympic ice skater, Tonya Harding. Directed by David Gillespie, the movie co-starred Sebastian Stan and Allison Janney.

 

 
 
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5. “Marshall” – Chadwick Boseman starred in this interesting biopic about an early case of future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Directed by Reginald Hudlin, Josh Gad and Sterling K. Brown co-starred.

 

 
 
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6. “The Post” – Steven Spielberg directed this fascinating look about The Washington Post’s efforts to publish “The Pentagon Papers”, the controversial Department of Defense documents about the Vietnam War. Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks starred.

 

 
 
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7. “Detroit” – Kathryn Biegelow directed this harrowing look at the Algiers Motel incident during Detroit’s 1967 12th Street Riot. John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith and Anthony Mackie starred.

 

 
 
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8. “Justice League” – Zack Snyder directed (most of it) this entertaining, yet flawed tale about the formation of the Justice League of America and its battle against the alien villain known as Steppenwolf. Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa and Henry Cavill starred.

 

 
 
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9. “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” – Johnny Depp returned as Jack Sparrow in this funny, yet slightly poignant fifth entry in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film franchise. Directed by Espen Sanberg and Joachim Rønning, the movie co-starred Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario.

 

 
 
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10. “Logan” – Hugh Jackman and director James Manigold reunited for this haunting adaptation of the 2008 Marvel Comics tale, “Old Man Logan”. Patrick Stewart co-stars as Charles Xavier aka “Professor X”.

 

 
 
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Honorable Mention: “Baby Driver” – Edgar Wright wrote and directed this tale about a young Atlanta getaway driver and music lover who is forced to work for a kingpin in order to settle a debt. Ansel Elgort, Lily James and Kevin Spacey starred.