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.

“Unnecessary Time Periods”

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“UNNECESSARY TIME PERIODS”

I am a big fan of the DCEU or at least the franchise’s first phase. I am also a fan of the 2017 hit film, “WONDER WOMAN”. I was also pleased to discover that the film has managed to convince Hollywood studios – especially Warner Brothers and Disney – to create more comic book movies with a female protagonist.

But my pleasure in both has somewhat been muted by what seemed to be a growing trend in Hollywood – to have these upcoming movies set in the past. Why? Because the successful “WONDER WOMAN” film was set in the past – during the last week or two of World War I? I had no problems with this, considering that “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” had established Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman’s presence during that conflict with a single photograph. Hell, the television series from the 1970s had established Wonder Woman’s origin story during World War II during its Season One and brought her character into the present (late 1970s to early 1980s) in the seasons that followed.

However, I learned that the second Wonder Woman movie starring Gal Gadot will be set in 1984. To drive home that point, it is called “WONDER WOMAN 1984”. Personally, I do not understand this decision. Was this Warner Brothers and Patty Jenkins’ attempt to cash in on the first movie’s success? Was it to undermine the back story for Wonder Woman that was established by Zack Snyder in both “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN” and “JUSTICE LEAGUE” in order to make her seem like a more ideal character? Who knows. But this movie will definitely establish a plot hole in the franchise’s overall narrative.

Warner Brothers also plans to create and release “SUPERGIRL”, who happened to be Kara Zor-El, the first cousin of Clark Kent aka Superman. And they plan to set this movie in the 1970s. Why? Apparently, Supergirl is the older cousin and to the movie’s screenwriters, it made sense that she would reach Earth before him. But . . . “MAN OF STEEL” and “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN” had already established that Superman was the first powerful alien to become known to Humans. In fact, there have been others before the arrival of General Zod and his followers who were aware of Clark’s powers. You know . . . like Jonathan and Martha Kent, some of Smallville’s citizens and Lois Lane. By setting “SUPERGIRL” in the 1970s, Warner Brothers would again . . . undermining a narrative point established in previous films. Why not follow the example of the television shows like “SUPERGIRL” and “SMALLVILLE” on the CW by having Kara aka Supergirl’s spacecraft knocked off course and forced into the Phantom Zone for a decade or two? So, by the time Kara finally reached Earth, her cousin Kal-El would have grown up and become Superman. Why not use this scenario?

“WONDER WOMAN”, Marvel’s Kevin Feige had finally decided that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) will feature a comic book movie with a woman in the starring role . . . namely “CAPTAIN MARVEL”. Mind you, I still find it cowardly that Feige had decided to wait until the success of another studio to produce a movie featuring a comic book heroine in the lead. Especially since the character Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow has been part of the franchise since the 2010 movie, “IRON MAN 2”. However . . . I discovered that “CAPTAIN MARVEL” will be set in the 1990s. And I ask myself . . . why?

The official word is that the movie’s time period is being used to set up Nick Fury’s trajectory toward forming The Avengers years later. After all, both Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg as future S.H.I.E.L.D. Directors Nick Fury and Phil Coulson will be in the film. But this is so unnecessary. I realize that Tony Stark aka Iron Man was not the first enhanced being or metahuman (so to speak) to attract the attention of S.H.I.E.L.D. Fury must have known about Steve Rogers aka Captain America’s war service in “CAPTAIN AMERICA: FIRST AVENGER”. He must have known about Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne’s S.H.I.E.L.D. activities in the 1980s as Ant-Man and the Wasp. And she certainly knew about Dr. Bruce Banner’s experiments in gamma radiation and eventual transformation into the Hulk before the events of “THE INCREDIBLE HULK”. After all, 2008’s “THE INCREDIBLE HULK” was not an actual origin movie. So, I find myself wondering why Feige found it necessary to set up Fury’s trajectory with enhanced beings with Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel . . . in the 1990s. Unless “CAPTAIN MARVEL” is simply another attempt by a studio or producer – in this case, Kevin Feige and the MCU – to cash in on the success of “WONDER WOMAN”. Why not just admit it? Especially since it seems so obvious.

And by the way, why are all of these films led by a comic book heroine? Just because “WONDER WOMAN” was set in the past, there is no reason why every single comic book movie with a woman in the lead have to be set in the past? What is the point in all of this? Yes, “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER” was set in the past. However, the following two movies featuring Captain America were set in the present. So, why did Marvel feel it was necessary to set “CAPTAIN MARVEL” in the past? Why is it that none of the other MCU movies led by men set in the past? Why did Warner Brothers believe it was necessary to set its second Wonder Woman and Supergirl films in the past? Has this been the case for any of their movies with a male lead or ensemble-oriented movies like “SUICIDE SQUAD”?

I found myself wondering if there is another reason why these three upcoming comic book heroine movies are being set in the past. But I could not find any. The time periods for these films are so unnecessary and an obvious attempts to copy the success of “WONDER WOMAN”. The thing is . . . Wonder Woman’s past during World War I and the photograph discovered by both Bruce Wayne aka Batman and Lex Luthor allowed them to recognize her as a possible metahuman or enhanced being. For me, there is no good reason for “WONDER WOMAN 1984”“SUPERGIRL” or “CAPTAIN MARVEL” to be set in the past.

“WONDER WOMAN” (2017) Review

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“WONDER WOMAN” (2017) Review

Since the release of “MAN OF STEEL” back in 2013, the D.C. Comics Extended Universe (DCEU) franchise has been in a conundrum. Although the 2013 film and with the two movies that followed – “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”and “SUICIDE SQUAD” – were all box office hits, they had been heavily condemned by many film critics. Then along came “WONDER WOMAN”, the first superhero movie that featured a woman in the lead since 2005. 

Directed by Patty Jenkins, “WONDER WOMAN” is basically a flashback on the origins of Princess Diana of Thymerica aka Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman. Some time after the events of “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”, Diana received a package at her Antiquities Curator office at the Louvre Museum. It came from Bruce Wayne aka Batman and it contained the original photographic plate of her, Steve Trevor and their comrades during World War I:

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The photographic plate led Diana to recall her past, starting with her childhood on Thymerica Island. While being raised by her mother, the Amazonian Queen Hippolyta, Diana learns about Zeus’ creation of mankind and his son Ares’ jealousy of his father’s creation and the latter’s attempts to destroy humans. After the other Mount Olympus gods were killed by Ares, because of their attempts to stop him, Zeus created a weapon for the Amazonians, a “Godkiller”, in case Ares decides to return. Although Queen Hippolyta has no trouble telling Diana about Zeus, Ares and the other Mount Olympus gods; she forbids her sister and military leader of the Amazons, Antiope, to train Diana. Eventually she relents and demands that Antiope train Diana harder than the other Amazons.

During the last year of World War I, Diana rescues an American military pilot named Captain Steve Trevor, after his plane crashes off Themyscira’s coast. The island is soon invaded by German sailors from a cruiser, pursuing Trevor. The Amazons engage and kill all of the German sailors, but Antiope sacrifices herself to save Diana. Interrogated with the Lasso of Hestia, Trevor informs the Amazons about World War I, his position as an Allied spy and his mission to deliver a notebook he had stolen from the Spanish-born chief chemist for the German Army, Dr. Isabel Maru. The latter is attempting to engineer a deadlier form of mustard gas for General Erich Ludendorff at a weapons facility in the Ottoman Empire. Against her mother’s wishes, Diana decides to help Steve’s war efforts by leaving Themyscira and accompanying him to London. Recalling Hippolyta’s tales about Ares, she believes the latter is responsible for the war and hopes to kill him with the help of the Lasso of Hestia and the “Godkiller” sword that Zeus had left behind.

As I had earlier pointed out, “WONDER WOMAN” received a great deal of critical acclaim. In fact, it proved to be the first film in the DCEU franchise to do so, leading many to regard it as better than its three predecessors. Do I feel the same about the movie? Not quite. Do not get me wrong, “WONDER WOMAN” struck me as a first-rate movie that I found very entertaining. As a woman, I found it personally satisfying that it proved to the first successful comic book heroine film. More importantly, it was also the first comic but the first to be directed by a woman. In the end, “WONDER WOMAN” became one of my top favorite movies from the summer of 2017. Many people were surprised that most of the film – namely the flashback – was set during the last month of World War I, especially since Wonder Woman’s origin began during World War II. It could be that Warner Brothers wanted to avoid any comparisons with Marvel’s Captain America, whose origin began around the same time. I am glad that the movie was mainly set during World War. One, I feel that it would have been compared to Marvel’s 2011 film, “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER”. But more importantly, the World War I setting meshed better with the film’s portrayal of one of the villains, Erich Ludendorff. And without the World War I setting, I would have never experienced one of the best action sequences I had seen this summer – Wonder Woman’s foray into “No Man’s Land”, as seen in the images below:

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Thinking about the No Man’s Land” sequence reminded me of other action scenes in the movie that I found satisfying. Those scenes include a montage of Diana’s training as a warrior, the Amazons’ defense of Thymerica against invading German sailors, Diana and Steve’s encounter with a group of German spies in a London alley. The “No Man’s Land” sequence eventually led to another fight in which Diana, Steve and their companions led a liberation of the Belgian town Veld, which had been occupied by the Germans. You know what? It is possible that I may have enjoyed this sequence even more than the charge across “No Man’s Land”. One, it lasted longer. And the sequence featured more of a team effort between Diana, Steve, their three companions and troops from the Allied Powers. In fact, one scene featured Steve remembering an Amazonian tactic from the Thymerica battle and utilizing it with Diana in Veld. I literally smiled at that moment.

But “WONDER WOMAN” was not all about action scenes. Personally, I regard the movie as a character study of its lead character. Ever since Diana had informed Bruce Wayne that she had walked away from mankind for nearly a century in “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”, I have always wondered what led her to become that slightly cynical woman. For me, “WONDER WOMAN” told that story . . . to a certain extent, thanks to Allan Heinberg’s screenplay. The Princess Diana aka Diana Prince that we see in this film is an intelligent woman with a fierce sense of justice and duty. Whereas her mother and other fellow Amazons want to isolate themselves from humanity and the rest of the world at large, Diana views Steve’s arrival and his revelation about the war being raged to save humanity from what she believed was Ares’ destructive influence. Diana is also portrayed as a compassionate woman incapable of turning a blind eye to the devastating effects of war upon the Belgian civilian population and servicemen like Charlie, a Scottish sharpshooter and ally of Steve’s, who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD). She also possessed enough compassion to become aware of the discrimination that Steve’s other two friends faced – the Blackfoot warrior and smuggler Chief Napi and the French Moroccan secret agent, Sameer.

But Diana’s belief in Ares’ role in the Great War also revealed some negative aspects of her personality. One aspect of Diana’s personality in this film was her naivety. There were scenes in which her naivety about the “world of man” that I found humorous – namely her shopping trip with Steve’s assistant, Etta Camp; her introduction to ice cream; and her discussions with Steve about human sexuality. But there were plenty of times when I found her naivety very frustrating – especially in those scenes in which Steve tries to explain the true ambiguous nature of human beings and the war. A good example was Diana’s interruption of the Allied Powers’ high command and her attempt to instruct the generals on how to “run a war”. Many found this scene as an example of Diana’s feminine empowerment. I found it as an example of her naivety and a bit of arrogance on her part. In these scenes, Diana seemed to display a stubborn, almost hard-headed and blind reluctance to let go of her misguided beliefs. Because of this unwillingness to believe she might be wrong about matters, Diana killed one of the characters believing him to be Ares without any real proof. I found this moment rather frightening. This hard-headed trait revealed what I believe was one example of Diana’s penchant for extreme behavior. Diana’s angry and frightening reaction to Steve’s sacrifice was another example. And the hard lessons she had learned about humanity, along with personal tragedy, led to her almost century long foray into emotional isolation. In many ways, Diana’s journey is that if an idealist, whose positive assumptions had been ripped away in the most painful manner.

While watching “WONDER WOMAN”, it seemed obvious to me that Patty Jenkins is more than a competent director. She is obviously first-rate. Mind you, I do not believe that she possesses Zack Snyder’s razor-sharp eye for imagery. And yet, judging from the sequences of the Thymerica battle, Diana and Steve’s arrival in London; along with the outstanding “No Man’s Land” sequence, it seems obvious to me that Jenkins has a solid grasp of imagery and is capable of being a visually original director. It helped that cinematographer Matthew Jensen and film editor Martin Walsh contributed to Jenkins’ visual presentation of “WONDER WOMAN”. I would not consider the costume designs from “WONDER WOMAN” to be among the best of Lindy Hemming’s career and a costume designer. But I thought she did an excellent job in designing the Greco-style costumes for the Amazons – including Diana’s Wonder Woman costume. And I found her re-creation of the 1918 wartime costumes for the characters of both genders well done:

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Although I believe there is a great deal to admire about “WONDER WOMAN”, I do have a few complaints. One of them happened to be Jenkins’ use of slow-motion filming in many of the film’s action sequences. Yes, I realize that Jenkins was not the first director to use this form of filming action scenes. Her fellow DCEU director, Zack Snyder, was notorious for his use of this technique – especially in his pre-DCEU films. Unfortunately, I found myself getting tired of the slow-motion technique not long after ten to fifteen minutes into the film. I mean . . . good grief! Jenkins not only used it in the film’s every action sequence, but also in one scene that featuring one of the Amazons’ combat training sessions. I just got tired of it . . . really fast.

My second problem with the film centered around the final action scene between Wonder Woman and Ares. I had no problems with Ares’ revelation about his identity. And I certainly had no problems with his revelations about the true nature of humanity and the war itself. And I found Wonder Woman’s reactions to his revelations and Steve Trevor’s sacrifice rather interesting. But why . . . why in God’s name did Jenkins and Heinberg find it necessary to have Diana say the following line to Ares before their final duel?

“It’s about what you believe. And I believe in love. Only love will truly save the world.”

While the sentiment is lovely, it contradicted Diana’s cynical attitude and words to Bruce Wayne, following Clark Kent’s death in “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”:

“A hundred years ago I walked away from mankind; from a century of horrors… Men made a world where standing together is impossible.”

Now, one could say that Diana had acquired this attitude during the 97 years between her showdown with Ares and the incident with Doomsday. But she made it clear to Bruce that she had walked away “a hundred years”, which is roughly between the end of World War I and “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN”, save a three years. Why did Jenkins and Heinberg allow her to spout that line about how love with save the world? Was this some emotional sop to those critics and moviegoers who wanted to pretend that Diana had managed to avoid wallowing in her grief over Steve and disappointment over Ares’ revelation? If so, that is bad writing . . . or bad timing. Jenkins and Heinberg could have saved the line for Diana’s narration at the end of the movie. After she had received the photographic plate and Steve’s watch from Bruce . . . and after she had finally lifted herself from her cynicism and detached air.

I certainly had no complaints about the movie’s performances. Mind you, there were two performances that failed to knock my socks off. One came from veteran actor Danny Huston, who found himself saddled with the clichéd riddled character of General Erich Ludendorff. Huston did not give a bad performance. Being a first-rate actor, he did the best that he could with the material given to him. But the screenwriter’s portrayal of the character reeked with the Hollywood cliché of an aggressive German military officer, straight from the “Ve haf vays of making you talk” school of screenwriting. And I believe this may have hampered Huston’s performance. I also had a slight problem with Eugene Brave Rock, who portrayed one of Steve Trevor’s allies, Chief Napi. Rock was not a bad actor and I found him very likeable. But it was easy for me to see that he was not exactly the most experienced actor. And I was not surprised to discover that he had spent most of his film career as a stuntman and stunt trainer. When Ewan Bremner first appeared in the film, I suspected that he had been cast to portray another one of the many comic roles he has portrayed in the past. However, his character Charlie proved to be another kettle of fish. Thanks to Bremner’s skillful performance, Charlie proved to be a tragic figure whose peace of mind had been ravaged by the violence of war. Elena Anaya, whom I have never heard of before this film, gave an intelligent and intense performance asIsabel Maru aka Doctor Poison, the Spanish-born chemist recruited to create chemical weapons for the German Army and specifically, for General Ludendorff. Unlike the latter, Dr. Maru is a villainess straight from the pages of the D.C. Comics titles for Wonder Woman. And yet, thanks to Anaya’s performance, she was not portrayed in a ham-fisted manner. But I must admit that I adored Saïd Taghmaoui’s portrayal of French Moroccan secret agent, Sameer. I found his performance charming, witty and very intelligent. And in my view, he had the best line in the movie (about Diana, of course):

“I am both frightened… and aroused.”

Connie Nielsen’s portrayal of Diana’s mother, Queen Hippolyta of Thymerica proved to be more interesting that I had assumed it would be. Frankly, I thought Queen Hippolyta would be a somewhat bland parent figure, who was simply protective of her only daughter. In the end, Hippolyta’s protectiveness toward her daughter proved to have a major impact upon the latter. This same protectiveness, along with her world-weary response to Diana’s decision to leave Thymerica revealed the true, ambiguous nature of the character and Nielsen did an excellent job in conveying it. Robin Wright had an easier time in her portrayal of Diana’s aunt, Antiope. The actress not only did a great job, I was especially impressed at how she embraced the more physical aspects of the role. After all, Antiope was the Amazonian army’s lead general. I was very surprised to learn that the actress who portrayed Etta Candy, Steve Trevor’s assistant, was none other than Lucy Davis, who had a supporting role in the 1995 miniseries, “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE”. Personally, I adored her portrayal of Etta. Like Taghmaoui, she was a walking embodiment of charm and wit. I especially enjoyed Davis’ performance in the scene that featured Diana and Etta’s shopping trip. David Thewlis gave a superficially pleasant performance as the dignified Sir Patrick Morgan, a diplomatic liaison with the Imperial War Cabinet. I found him intelligent, subtle and a little tricky.

I have a confession to make. I have always liked Gal Gadot as a screen presence. Honestly. She has a very strong presence. But I have never considered her as a top-notch actress . . . until recent years. But I must admit that her portrayal of Princess Diana of Thymerica aka Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman really knocked my socks off. I was impressed at how Gadot managed to portray Diana during two distinctive phases in her life – the naive, yet stubborn young woman who seemed convinced that she knows what is best for the world in this film; and the cynical and weary woman who is somewhat contemptuous of the world in “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”. And she did such a marvelous job in conveying this two phases in Diana’s life . . . in two different films. Ms. Gadot has come a long way. I think Steve Trevor might one of my favorite roles portrayed by Chris Pine. Aside from the fact that he has great chemistry with Gadot, Pine gave a very entertaining portrayal of the American intelligence officer who first befriends Diana and later, falls in love with her. I found it fascinating to watch Pine convey Steve’s intelligence, cunning and wry sense of humor. I also found it fascinating to watch how Pine conveyed Steve’s struggles with Diana’s naivety, stubborness and impulsive behavior. And he did so with a great deal of skill.

“WONDER WOMAN” is the fourth film released through the D.C. Comics Extended Universe (DCEU). And like the other three, I found myself not only enjoying it very much, but also impressed by it. Aside from a few flaws, I thought director Patty Jenkins did a first-rate job in telling movie audiences the story of how Princess Diana of Thymerica became Wonder Woman . . . and how she also became that world weary woman from 2016’s “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”. And she did so with a first-rate movie crew and a wonderful cast led by Gal Gadot.

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“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.

“The Complexity of Wonder Woman”

 

“THE COMPLEXITY OF WONDER WOMAN”

Ever since the release of the DCEU’s new movie, “WONDER WOMAN”, film critics and moviegoers have been raving over it and raving over the Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman character as this ray of sunshine in the middle of Warner Brother Studio’s DCEU’s “doom and gloom”. Sigh! 

First of all, the main reason I had looked forward to seeing “WONDER WOMAN” in the first place was my curiosity over the main protagonist’s development. I was curious to see how the Wonder Woman/Diana Prince character had transformed into the somewhat cynical and weary woman that I saw in the 2016 film, “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”. That was it. I was not that concerned about Wonder Woman being portrayed as some unstoppable figure of action in the middle of World War I or some one-dimensional feminist icon.

To be honest, if Wonder Woman had simply been this “symbol of goodness and hope” in this new movie, I would have dismissed her as a boring character. I would also have dismissed the film as not worthy of my time. I believe that kind of description would have shoved Wonder Woman into some kind of whore/Madonna category, with her being “the Madonna”. Wonder Woman was a lot more than this “symbol of hope and compassion” . . . this Madonna. A lot more.

For me, Princess Diana aka Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman was a person . . . an individual who was compassionate, strong-willed and intelligent. But she was also a person whose bubble-like upbringing by her mother, Queen Hippolyta, also led her to become a rather naive and unpractical person by the time she left her homeland of Themyscira Island with Steve Trevor. And her unwillingness to let go of her naivety also revealed that she could be quite stubborn. The reason why I liked the portrayal of Diana in “WONDER WOMAN” in the first place was that the movie was not afraid to show both the good and the bad about her character. And I have to thank director Patty Jenkins; screenwriters Allan Heinberg, Zack Snyder and Jason Fuchs; and actress Gal Gadot for this well-rounded portrayal. I found the Wonder Woman characterization quite refreshing and an example of really good writing.

As I had stated earlier, I did not watch “WONDER WOMAN” in order to view the main character as some kind of one-dimensional feminist ideal or some symbol of everything that is pure, good and whatever form of moral saccharine that many critics seem inclined to dump on her. I wanted to see a story about a woman, a complex woman with virtues and flaws . . . and how she was forced to grow up and develop as a character. And as far as I am concerned, that is what I got.

“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.

Critical Reaction to “WONDER WOMAN” and the DCEU

 

CRITICAL REACTION TO “WONDER WOMAN” AND THE DCEU

I might as well put all of my cards on the table. I am tired of people claiming that the D.C. Comics Extended Universe (DCEU) finally got its franchise right with the recent release of “WONDER WOMAN”. As far as I am concerned, the DCEU had been getting it right ever since the release of its 2013 film, “MAN OF STEEL”

I enjoyed “WONDER WOMAN” very much. In fact, it became one of my favorite movies of 2017.  But I do not consider it to be the best film within the DCEU franchise. But that is not my point. My point . . . has to do with the reasons behind this declaration regarding “WONDER WOMAN” and why I find it so troubling.

I cannot help but wonder if today’s critics and moviegoers have balls of rubber. When did it become so damn important to them that all comic book hero movies are “fun” or loaded with humor? There is NO LAW that all comic book movies have to be “fun”. The Captain America movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) franchise were not all fun . . . especially 2014’s “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER” (which is why I am such a major fan of the movie). Neither were the Dark Knight Trilogy films directed by Christopher Nolan. And the DCEU film, “SUICIDE SQUAD” was practically loaded with humor. Yet, that film was trashed as well, and criticized for similar reasons as “MAN OF STEEL” and its follow-up, “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” (another major favorite of mine). So, why criticize the DCEU movies for lacking a sense of humor?

Another criticism that has been lobbied against the DCEU films was the franchise’s ambiguous portrayals of its main characters. Especially Clark Kent aka Superman. I am beginning to suspect that deep down, this negative reaction regarding the DCEU franchise solely began with the portrayal of Clark Kent aka Superman in “MAN OF STEEL”. Many people seem incapable of dealing with Superman being portrayed in some ambiguous manner. They could not deal with his insecurities regarding his place in the world – insecurities that originated with his status as an immigrant from another world . . . and his super powers. These traits – especially his powers – led Clark/Superman to be initially regarded as an outsider and with distrust. “MAN OF STEEL” was the first time any movie had explored this aspect of Superman’s existence. And to be honest, it did not reflect well upon most of the Humans featured in the movie. When it seemed that Superman had finally risen above his insecurities in the next movie, “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”, events in that film proved that he had not – not completely. And the reason he had not risen above his insecurities stemmed from the public’s fickle reaction to him. In the 2016 film, some people worshipped Superman as a god. And this made him feel very uncomfortable. Others regarded him as a convenient savior to be at humanity’s beck and call. Not only did many of the public felt this way, but so did the majority of political and military leaders. And others, like Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne aka Batman, regarded him as a current or future menace. Had this ambiguous portrayal of Humanity or its ambiguous reaction to Superman’s presence annoyed a lot of people?

I do know that many critics and moviegoers had protested his killing of the Kryptonian leader, General Zod, claiming that Superman does not kill. I found this declaration either ignorant or hypocritical. Why? Because Superman had killed Zod in a previous D.C. Comics film, 1981’s “SUPERMAN II”. No one had protested. And many comic book movie fans today insist that scene never happened. It seem many fans and critics will not allow Superman to be an individual with virtues and flaws. Instead, they always seem to demand that he be some damn, one-dimensional symbol used to wallow in their illusions and fantasies of a convenient savior in an unsafe world.

This attitude has been extended to both Bruce Wayne aka Batman and Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman . . . but in different ways. Many critics and moviegoers not only criticized Superman for killing Zod in “MAN OF STEEL”, they also criticized the Batman character for his killing of numerous thugs and his attempt to kill Superman in “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”. Considering that Batman has always been such a noir character among the comic book heroes, I found this criticism very hard to swallow. Have there been other occasions in which the Dark Knight had deliberately killed someone? Hmmm . . . he killed the Joker in 1989’s “BATMAN”. He arranged the Penguin’s death in 1992’s “BATMAN RETURNS”. Batman caused Harvey “Two Face” Dent to fall to his death in the 1995 movie, “BATMAN FOREVER”. And in 2005’s “BATMAN BEGINS”, Batman refused to save the life of his mentor-turned-nemesis, Herni Ducard aka Ra’s al Ghul from one of Gotham’s runaway monorail trains. Mind you, some countries do not consider deliberate killing by inaction a felony. Some countries do. And in my eyes, it is not only murder, but hypocrisy at its worst.

However . . . hardly anyone seemed to remember these previous incidents of Batman causing the death of another. Instead, they focused their ire upon Batman’s actions in the 2016 movie. Was it because Batman was not portrayed as a clear-cut hero throughout most of the film? Or that he seemed to be portrayed as a homicidal xenophobe, bent upon Superman’s destruction? Did this negative portrayal put these fans and critics off? Were they unwilling to peek into the uglier aspects of Batman’s persona . . . something that the comic books have never been afraid to explore? But the portrayal did not stick and eventually, Batman saw the light . . . again – something that a lot of moviegoers and critics had failed to notice Or perhaps they were too busy taking umbrage at how director-writer Zack Snyder was willing to take Batman so close to the abyss. In many ways, these same moviegoers and critics remind me of the general public featured in “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why so many were negative toward the film. Zack Synder had portrayed them in a way they probably found unflattering.

As for “WONDER WOMAN”, I get the feeling that many critics and film goers are complimenting the movie for THE WRONG REASONS. Unless I am mistaken, I understand that the movie is the first truly successful comic book heroine movie and I am not only glad, but relieved. However, the movie seemed to possess a more ambiguous and complex tale than many are willing to admit. And these same fans and critics seemed to think that it is the only DCEU movie that is truly a “fun” movie. Strange . . . I never came to that conclusion. Looking back on the film, I noticed that the movie possessed pockets of innocence and humor – especially in the first half. But once the movie shifted to the war zone in Belgium, it gradually became more grim and angst-filled. Diana’s innocence and naivety, which seemed humorous in the film’s first half, proved to be an impediment to her character growth in the second half. Yet, I have only come across a few articles willing to admit this.

In fact, many were so busy emphasizing Diana’s compassion, warmth, frankness, strength and warrior skills so much that they seemed to turn a blind eye to her personality flaws. Many had ignored that Diana’s bubble-like upbringing had made her too naive for her own good. Although one might be inclined to compliment her frankness, many had failed to notice that this trait proved to be an impediment to Steve Trevor’s attempts to report his actions in Eastern Europe to his superiors. Or that there is a time to be frank and a time to keep one’s mouth shut. Many critics and filmgoers have been so busy focusing on Diana’s virtues or trying to paint her as a more superior costumed hero/heroine than Superman and Batman that it seems as if they have deliberately turned a blind eye to her flaws. Or pretend that she had overcome her flaws by the end of World War I. Many have also complimented Wonder Woman aka Diana Prince for coming to the conclusion that humanity is not all good or all bad. The ironic thing is that Wonder Woman came to her balanced opinion of humanity after her experiences in “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN”, not in this movie. She came to this conclusion after a conversation with Batman aka Bruce Wayne in the 2016 movie. After her World War I experiences, Diana had spent nearly a century maintaining an emotional distance from humanity and maintaining a cynical view (which I share, by the way). And many filmgoers and critics have either failed to notice this . . . or refuse to acknowledge this aspect of her character.

Now, I am a big fan of “WONDER WOMAN”. So far, it is my favorite movie of the Summer 2017 season. But the movie does have its flaws. I have a deep suspicion that a great deal of the movie’s acclaim originated from gender politics. “WONDER WOMAN” is the first truly successful costumed hero/heroine movie in which the protagonist is a woman. As a woman, I am pleased by this turn of events. But I am also disturbed that so many are using this aspect of the film to judge it superior to the other films within the DCEU franchise. Nor do I regard “WONDER WOMAN” to be morally straightforward as many critics and moviegoers insist that it is. In this movie, the character of Princess Diana aka Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman is forced to shed her naivety and truly grow up. And in a rather painful manner. If the movie truly was that morally absolute to me, I would not have found it that interesting in the first place. Nor do I regard the public’s misconception of the movie as morally absolute as a sign of its superiority over the previous three DCEU films. I have reached a point in my life in which fictional works with a black-and-white morality are not as interesting as it used to be when I was a lot younger.

Due to certain arguments, I do not regard “WONDER WOMAN” as the “savior” of the DCEU franchise. Unlike many moviegoers and critics, I did not find the character of Wonder Woman to be ideally moral. In fact, there were times when I found her idealism and moral absolutism rather annoying. And I did not find the movie as morally absolute as many claim it was. Despite being thrilled that the film is the first comic book hero movie with a woman protagonist to be very successful, I do not regard that as an argument to view it superior to the other DCEU films.

For me, the idea that “WONDER WOMAN” is the D.C. Extended Universe franchise’s “savior” is a load of horseshit to me. As far as I am concerned, the DCEU never required any “saving”. At least not yet.