“Now…Let Them Come”:
Like good ol’ Doc Jekyll quaffing down his nutritious breakfast smoothie and bringing a bad guy out of Hyde-ing, the internet continues to reveal a dark and nasty side to my fellow fantasy film nerds.
Seemingly freed from all restraints, they don’t even need to have actually seen a movie anymore before condemning it. Nah, the trailer is enough for gallons of bile to be spewed forth.
After that — with their minds made up that they’re going to detest what a team of artists have spent a year pouring their creativity into — when they eventually do slot in an actual viewing, they have so much hatred invested that it wouldn’t matter if what they see was a stone cold classic.
Their minds have been made up since before shooting started. Especially if their creepy little collective unconscious has decided that a name director is in need of a good booting.
And some time back it was decided that one such director was Zack Snyder.
Now, Snyder had made a damned interesting debut with his testosterone-fueled remake of Dawn of the Dead, before going on to give us the respectful and quite brilliant Watchmen, with an ending that actually improved big-time on Alan Moore’s original. Yet for some reason a hardcore of internet commentators had him singled out to be taught a lesson.
And if this was constructive criticism such as his disappointing Man of Steel actually warranted, then that would be fine; but, of course, as is always the case these days, it went ’wayyy beyond that and into territory that covered personal attacks. Par for the course, of late.
As a result I could not fathom the hammering that Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice received. And it was a shame, because it was obvious that – like it or not – Snyder and his co-writers had a particular vision and certain story arcs that they were intending to follow over several films. Well, with the critical and box-office drubbing that the DC Universe films were receiving, that was not going to happen, or if it was then it would be in the diluted state in which we find Justice League.
So the wonder is that this film is just so damned good!
What was intended to be a two-parter was beset with problems from early on, culminating in the horrific news last May that Zack Snyder’s daughter had committed suicide. This was an appalling tragedy and necessitated the director handing the post-production of the film over to Joss Whedon of The Avengers, who also filmed some extra scenes. It was now a one-shot film, with its main villain – Darkseid – gone completely. Whedon is not listed with directing credits but is down as co-writer with Chris Terrio.
Of course, more than one thing was now definitely going to give; and yet Justice League has somehow emerged as far and away the best of DCs output to date, no matter what the nay-sayers are screaming.
The plot gives us a truly cosmic threat that involves combining the energies of the great artist-writer Jack Kirby’s Mother Boxes. And that’s some energy: as is stated, they don’t just possess Power, they are Power.
Bruce Wayne, the Batman (Ben Affleck) has anticipated such a threat for some time; and so he and Alfred Pennyworth (Jeremy Irons) have been monitoring the activities of several metahumans: superpowered beings that have begun to make their appearance across the planet. These include:
Amazon warrior Diana Prince, the Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot); Atlantean outcast Arthur Curry, the Aquaman (Jason Momoa); the haunted figure of Victor Stone (Ray Fisher), who has had almost all of his physical body rebuilt and now exists as Cyborg; and a young social outsider who appears to be somewhat autistic and who can move at super-speed. This is Barry Allen, the Flash (Ezra Miller).
Indeed, they are all outsiders in their way. And in an interesting scene we see that the Batman, who has brought them together, sees himself as the biggest outsider of the lot. He had intended that Superman (Henry Cavill) would lead them, since he is ‘more human’ than himself. Despite being born under another sun, the Man of Steel has embraced Humanity and cares for it in a way that Bruce Wayne doesn’t seem to think that he does.
Batman has always been a complicated character and this adds to that complexity. He doesn’t think much of humans, that’s for sure (“They think the Doomsday Clock has a snooze button”); and yet he is trying to save them.
The Kryptonian is believed dead, but it is giving little away at this stage to say that the League is given the chance to return him to life. However, just as the Flash has feared, Superman’s return is in ‘a Pet Sematary kind of way’.
And this was an eye-opener for me. Finally, we get a chance to see Cavill’s acting chops – and the resurrected Superman is nothing short of utterly terrifying. Never before has the sheer limitlessness of this being’s powers been so frighteningly evident.
I’ve also finally settled down with Gadot’s interpretation of Wonder Woman. I loved her performance this time around; indeed, all of the Amazons look like truly formidable warriors.
Cyborg remains to be fleshed out (pun intended) in his own standalone film. His fate is as tragic as the original Robocop’s and if handled right it could make for an enthralling film.
I’m a layman so I have no real idea if Barry Allen/The Flash has Asperger’s or Autism, but that’s the feel I got; certainly, what I had expected to be cringe-inducing comedy relief…isn’t. And it works.
Aquaman doesn’t really have a lot to do except imitate Jason Momoa being Conan or Khal Drogo. But that’s OK: there is a good scene between Mera (Amber Heard) and he that hints at better things for his own solo outing.
Fact is, there are plenty of fine individual scenes in Justice League. One takes place between Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane). It is played naturally and with such poignancy; and it really feels like two women – partner and mother – talking about the man that they both love and mourn. Beautiful.
There is a lot to get excited about here, with tantalizing glimpses of the Green Lantern Corp battling alongside Olympian Gods and Atlanteans and a really solid feeling of the DC Universe coming together as it should.
The film does suffer badly from the excision of Darkseid, especially as the villain who replaces him – Steppenwolf – really didn’t cut it for me; and there is is a howler of a plot hole when it comes to retrieving Superman’s dead body. Although even here there is a touching scene between Cyborg and the Flash.
For me, faults didn’t matter: I was able to overlook that and more just for the sheer enjoyment and exuberance that Justice League contains, not to mention a truly iconic moment between Superman and Flash that is straight out of classic comics lore and which you’ll see if you hang around post-credits.
Justice League really rocked my boat; I hope that you’ll ignore the whingers and give it a chance to rock yours too.