CVIndependent

Tue11242020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Come on, DC Films! You did so well with Wonder Woman, and Justice League was your chance to really establish your superhero universe!

And you blew it.

Justice League is an expensive mess in which some of our favorite superheroes battle an apocalyptic force, while two seriously different directors, Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon, battle with their filmmaking styles.

It’s no big secret that Zack Snyder (who created two execrable duds with Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) had to leave deep into production due to family reasons. Joss Whedon (The Avengers) stepped in for post-production and major reshoots. The resulting catastrophe is like a swig of boxed wine that has been left out in the sun for three weeks, chased by a big chug of Sunny Delight. Neither is a taste you want in your face.

The action picks up after the death of Superman (Henry Cavill), with Batman (Ben Affleck) still brooding as Gotham is invaded by bug-like alien creatures. It turns out they are the envoys of Steppenwolf, the worst special-effects/CGI bad guy you will see ever in a big-budget blockbuster.

Steppenwolf looks like the late singer of Alice and Chains had sex with a California Raisin, and then the offspring had sex with a Meat Loaf album cover. Finally, the Meat Loaf-album-cover baby had sex with an Atari video game console from the early 1980s that had an E.T. game stuck in it. That ugly-as-shit creature then went for a walk in Hollywood; Zack Snyder crossed its path, and, for some ungodly reason, he put a dopey helmet on it and screamed: “Behold! My next film’s villain!”

Anyway, Steppenwolf comes to Earth looking for the Mother Boxes, the DC Universe’s version of the Marvel Universe’s Infinity Stones. They combine to rule all worlds, or some bullshit like that. Batman thinks this is bad, so he gathers the planet’s superheroes, including Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg, aka the Worst Superhero Ever (Ray Fisher).

A big piece of the blockbuster puzzle is missing with Superman six feet under, so Batman decides to bring the corpse back to that ship where Lex Luthor made Doomsday out of Michael Shannon. It made no sense in BvS, and it makes no sense now, but, yes, Superman comes back, Jesus-style, and the only thing that looks worse than Steppenwolf in this flick is Henry Cavill’s freaky face. Cavill had a mustache during reshoots that he was contractually obligated to keep for another movie, so they had to digitally remove it in much of his footage. To say that his face looks altered would be an understatement: This is a very handsome man we are talking about, but he looks wonky for much of his screen time, like his face is a high-definition video trying to load on an older cell phone. He looks all smudgy and garbled. It’s not a good look for him.

OK, back to the stupid movie: The Justice League gets together and battles Steppenwolf in a sequence that offers no surprises and features more terrible special effects and editing. It isn’t only Steppenwolf and Henry Cavill who look like shit in this movie; the humans don’t blend well with the CGI, and always look inserted into an unwieldy gigabyte maelstrom. It’s hard on the eyes.

Godot still rocks as Wonder Woman in every moment she’s onscreen, and Miller makes a fun Flash. Affleck seems a bit tired of the Batman role, while Momoa is just a wisecracker as Aquaman, and Fisher is dreary as Cyborg. The Superman parts could’ve been cool, but the uneven face messes things up. It really brings out his teeth in a bad way; they are frighteningly pointy. He looks like a scary Superman vampire.

Whedon was handed a morose mess by Snyder, and Whedon didn’t have enough time and post-production talent to save the enterprise. Based on past work, I’m thinking the few moments in which the film brings a smile have everything to do with Whedon, and nothing to do with Snyder, who needs to move on to other projects.

Justice League is playing at theaters across the valley, in a variety of formats.

Published in Reviews

The DC Universe gets the blast of fun it sorely needed with Wonder Woman, a film that gets it right in almost every way—including a performance from Gal Gadot that makes it seem like the role is her birthright.

Gadot lights up the screen and commands the camera on the same level as Christopher Reeve and Robert Downey Jr. She simply is Wonder Woman; I can’t picture another actress even attempting to play the character. She owns it. It’s hers. Game over.

There’s always a faction of fans who bitch about superhero-origin stories, who want films to jump straight to the hardcore action, but I love a good origin story done well. The movie starts with young Amazonian princess Diana running around her island paradise, practicing her fight moves and yearning to be trained as a warrior. After butting heads with her sister, Antiope (Robin Wright, rightfully cast as an Amazonian badass), Diana’s mother, Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen, yet another piece of great casting), relents, and allows Antiope to train her niece—as long as Antiope doesn’t tell Diana about the true powers Diana possesses. For those who don’t know the Wonder Woman back-story (I was a little rusty on it myself), it’s a sweet piece of mythology and mystery, and director Patty Jenkins (who made the Charlize Theron Oscar vehicle Monster) perfectly paces all the revelations.

Diana eventually winds up in Europe during World War I along with Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), a wartime spy who crash-lands on her island. Diana is convinced that the German military leader who Steve is fighting (Danny Huston) is the war god Aries, and she intends to take him out. This all leads to miraculously cool scenes of Wonder Woman leading soldiers on the battlefield against the Germans, and it’s nothing short of exhilarating.

Gadot has the best superhero smile since Reeve flashed his pearly whites in the original Superman (1978). When Reeve smiled, he drove home the fact that he was the sweetest, best darned guy running around on planet Earth (you know, back when Superman was generally happy rather than constantly moping about). Gadot has that same kind of smile superpower.

It says a lot that Gadot and Jenkins make you feel good in a movie with a lot of violence and villainy. Huston is a super-creep, and his evil sidekick, Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya), likes making poisonous gas—and there are moments when her evil-doings are flat-out terrifying. Yet no matter how dark the film gets, it remains an overall upbeat experience.

However, the film is not perfect. There are some occasional terrible CGI special effects, although there are enough stellar effects to balance things out. Still, maybe this movie needed a few more months in post-production, because the shoddy moments are glaringly obvious. They don’t come close to spoiling the movie, but they keep it short of excellent.

Pine is a total charmer as the confused spy who winds up romancing a goddess—a love story handled in a way that is surprisingly convincing and quite adorable.

Perhaps some of the joy in this movie will make it into November’s Justice League, or future Superman movies. (Hey, Batman can mope … that’s his lot in life.) Wonder Woman gives the DC superhero crew a new lease on life, and offers the summer movie season the adrenaline boost it needed after the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie stunk up the place.

After all these years, and all sorts of failed attempts, Wonder Woman has finally gotten her chance to rule on the silver screen. Gadot takes that chance and soars. May she have many more adventures as fun as this one.

Wonder Woman is playing at theaters across the valley in a variety of formats.

Published in Reviews