15 December 2017

2017 in the Ground: Everyone's Best Movie List

I've been really seriously tallying up my end-of-year movie lists for a while now, and to be honest, the last couple years it's like the Christmas gift that I give myself. This probably has something to do with it - tracking and building anticipation for my personal media consumption analysis for an entire year is an awesome thing to look forward to.

Last year, though, I noticed something odd when I began to tally up the movies I loved. They were totally different than everyone else's. It was as if all the other critics had gotten together and said to themselves, "THESE are the movies we are looking at, you may pick from them." This led to a La La Land (2016) / Moonlight (2016) showdown, which was a compelling match between two really good flicks, but also two drastically underseen flicks among the general public that was both bait-y and alienating.

To be fair, I counted La La Land #7 last year and left Moonlight off because I couldn't really get into it - I've since come around and they'll both land in my updated 2016 list that'll drop in a few weeks. My point was more that we kept seeing the same handful of indie films over and over again, like Fences, Manchester by the Sea, and Toni Erdmann. To be precise, all good films but critics seemed afraid of branching out and finding some variety. It's as if they thought they'd be derided for picking anything else.

2017 is far far worse. After I watched Blade Runner 2049 (2017), I was sold on it being the best thing I'd seen in a long time. It's not even a remote consideration on any one's list. I'm flabbergasted.

Let's go through the Prototypical List of Best Movies to Choose From:

Phantom Thread
Faces Places
The Post
A Fantastic Woman
A Ghost Story
Lady Bird
Get Out
The Florida Project
The Shape of Water
Call Me by Your Name
A Quiet Passion
Personal Shopper
The Post
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

That's pretty much the just of this, this, this, this, and this. Now, I don't mean to be a bitch, there's some cool variety to be found. Girls Trip and Wonder Woman pop up here and there, and the Vulture somehow also included Valerian and the Long Title About Planets that I Forgot, which is all kinds of campy and awesome. Colossal found its way as some honourable mentions, which is a film that I loved this year, and Okja creeps its way in, which is terribly underrated.

We also do see some big films like Get Out and Dunkirk earn recognition, which is rad. I just kind of think most of the rest of this is boring pretentious crap. Faces Places, get out of here.

Part of this rant is really just a prep - to let ya'll know that I know what the cinematic conversation is right now and how I plan on rejecting it entirely. I have no interest at all in the vast majority of this shit and my list is going to look totally insane in comparison. Of course, I reflect and morph and update each year after making a slew of terrible choices, but that's also what both watching films and creating long-lasting relationships with them is all about.

That more than anything ends up being how I judge films in the long run. Which films do I continually reflect on and adore for months afterwards. Which fall by the wayside? It's amazing the kind of time traveling that happens with some films. Sometimes I have no single recollection of a damn thing that happened. I watched The Magnificent Seven (2016) a few months back and can't tell you a single plot point. It's super possible that I just watch too many films and any slightly similar ones blur together, but there's also something to be said for distinctive, interesting filmmaking that sticks with you.

On the other hand, what does make a good film? Is it simply a compelling and logical sequence of events demonstrated through a craft that continually accentuates subtext and theme in addition to the plot played out on screen? Are films worth seeing once and analyzing for that merit in the moment without regard to the relationship we develop with them? Should films be thought of as "in the moment" films, where something super-relevant like A Fantastic Woman stands out, or does it stand out only because of its moment and not its craft? Or like Moonlight, does it do both? These are all questions worth asking and reflecting on when selecting a best of list.

For my money, I will mostly ride an overall feel, which comes about from craft, story, character, and in a grand sense, "what it's about." I always kind of think of this when considering big action blockbusters - of course we loved IT (2017) - the old film needed sincere updating and there were genuine thrills and an overall clear aesthetic, purpose, and narrative. Of fucking course no one saw The Dark Tower (2017), it alienated any fans it may have had by not staying true to its source and alienated any new fans by still being too damn fucking obtuse. This isn't hard to decipher. I should be a studio executive.

So that's where I'm coming from this year. I need to continue slamming movies and catching up over the next few weeks, and as it should be, I will post at the genuine end of the year, on the 31st with my Final List. Stay tuned, dear readers!

13 December 2017

My Long Obsessive History with Star Wars

I had to sit really hard for a while thinking of this post. I have a complex relationship with Star Wars, as I think we all do. I haven't done much to get hyped about The Last Jedi (2017) - it's coming out, I am obviously going to watch it, probably multiple times regardless of quality, and that's that. I only watched the teaser, which was months ago, I thought it was kind of vague and sucky. So, to be honest, I don't have much of a preview for you, here. It'll make a ton of money, probably less than The Force Awakens (2015), because that was the build up of a lifetime, but I've got to think more than Rogue One (2016) because that movie was so specific. It'll have cultural weight, but again, probably in between Ep VII and Rogue, although with each rapid-fire release, the individual films become less special.

So, instead, I'm going to take you on a journey today, folks. I want to talk about Star Wars fandom in general, my history with the franchise, which I think is shared by many, and the intersection of where we are with this behemoth that can maybe explain why I don't really give a shit about the latest installment in a franchise that has shaped much of my childhood. And who am I kidding, my adult life, too.

Mark Hamill didn't speak in The Force Awakens because
he's now just stuck on Joker voice.
This series exists as a confrontation between nostalgic obsession and a more thoughtful adult worldview. So let's get personal. On the one hand, Star Wars beats everything else I loved in my youth. Ninja Turtles, Donkey Kong Country, Marvel Comics, digging in sand - these were all my prime hobbies, and none holds a remote candle to Star Wars. Maybe Donkey Kong. I still play Diddy's Kong Quest on SNES. On the other hand, I can reflect now and say, "What the hell was I thinking?" Let's dig into this obsession before we discuss the merits of The Last Jedi.

Star Wars dominated so much of my time and attention from about 1994 to...well, the present. I was born in '86, which is actually this Star Wars Dark Period. In the Late 80s Star Wars mania died down, with only some Ewok and Droid TV shows to sustain us. It really sucked! Just look at this timeline. And yes, I went through all of it and re-ordered each section by date of media release and  NO I'M NOT OBSESSIVE.

I'm mentioning all this because I think that every nerd has some relationship with Star Wars, but that really depends on the era he or she is born into. There are the original fans who saw the first trilogy in theaters, maybe kids who were born in the 60s or early 70s. Then there are the next generation who had to gobble up re-releases (keep in mind that all three OT films had substantial theatrical re-releases prior to the '97 Special Editions) and VHS. Those fans are still pretty potent, and were able to catch up on quite a bit. Then, my generation, who I think is really special for one reason - we were all Expanded Universe.

Now called "Legends" and not canon (oh Star Wars canon...you change every fucking year and are yet so holy), this shit exploded in the early 90s. We had Splinter of the Mind's Eye and a shitload of scattered comics and stories, but starting with Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire in 1991 we started getting all these really good novels. Dark Empire and The Glove of Darth Vader and the rest of the Jedi Prince series followed (okay, the latter is kind of shitty, but it was Star Wars YA in like 1992, I ate that shit up). The 90s exploded with this shit, from Darksaber and the Truce at Bakuura to Tales from Jabba's Palace, which gave complex backstories to every single fucking side monster stopping by Tatooine. This, combined with VHS gave me such a world-building appreciation of Star Wars and as more and more books and intricate media came out I was hooked even more. One of my proudest possessions is a huge hardcover Wildlife of Star Wars book. Okay, so I got that one in 2010. I said the obsession was '94 to present!

We had Shadows of the Empire, both comic and video game, and of course, this all built to the Special Edition re-releases of '97 and The Phantom Menace (1999). I can't overhype that we thought these were good when they came out. It's kind of like that moment where you realize that your parents are fallible and Santa isn't real. We didn't think Star Wars could do any wrong. We were so damn absorbed in this world. Well, I keep saying "we" but I was. I laughed at Jar Jar Binks. I was supposed to! I was twelve! Anyway, I was so caught up in this world that I immediately dove into everything Phantom Menace. I knew all the Jedi Council members, new weird-ass worlds, and all the filler background trade disputes. It was all golden, baby!

Except it definitely sucked. Like it DEFINITELY sucked. Looking back with a critical eye on my childhood is like taking a machete to this tortured franchise. Hey, we got Machete Order, right? During Attack of the Clones (2002) was fourteen and nearly fifteen. This is where that first moment of cognitive dissonance creeped in. Is it possible that I was wrong? I cheered for the Yoda fight with Dooku because it was campy and ridiculous. Why was this old former puppet doing flips? It was zany and fan service-y in all the best ways for a teenage boy to love and go nuts for. Except I was going nuts for the ridiculousness of it all, not out of genuine appreciation. It was unbelievable that a major film would actually do this sort of thing. This is my "walking in on my parents having sex" moment. Revenge of the Sith (2005) came out when I was in college, which is a weird age span to experience these films. Pre-teen to freshman year of college. It was also a seminal moment where I was now an adult. As a man it was time to leave these childish things behind. No, I definitely bought a shitload of those Star Wars Transformers.

The prequels signaled more than just a new batch of shitty films, though - they ushered in an era where Star Wars was never going to leave us. Instead of the occasional Super Return of the Jedi for SNES or Shadows of the Empire, we had complex, engaging video games that came out a few times a year. We had serialized shows - seriously, the Clone Wars only took three years, how did we get 129 episodes over six seasons? And that was the damn SECOND animated show to depict the time period!

This is for those mid-90s kids who truly grew up alongside the prequels. I don't really know their relationship with those films, if they think they're good, if they've grown cynical, if Jango Fett and Sio Bibble are truly "their" Star Wars characters, but it's harder to shake off movies you saw when you were four than ones you saw at age 14. They also consumed so much more expanded universe than we did, on a massive scale. Star Wars at the turn of the century was more ubiquitous than it ever had been - the movies itself mattered less than the merchandising. This was of course pioneered back in '77, but truly perfected here. These kids are just now starting to reach the age where they can think critically about their nostalgic childhood and it's a little too early to tell what they'll come with for or against the prequels. There are already all these insane theories or positions out there that the prequels are secretly good or that us old farts never understood Ring Theory or whatever. That's all compelling, and I'll give prequels what little good they are due, but it's all mostly compensation to mask something terrible you loved as a kid.

Man, I was super fucking into the movie CASPER (1995). Whoops.

With another ten years comes the last generation, impossibly born post-Revenge of the Sith. These are the kids who will watch The Force Awakens and Rogue One, and of course, The Last Jedi for the first time and own them as THEIR Star Wars. I'm curious to see how they end up reacting to these films. First of all, all the nostalgia infused in these films is never going to work on the same level. Sure they will be able to understand if not right now, then eventually the intertextuality of all the similar plot points. That will never be a reach back to their childhood, though, it will always be parallel. In that regard I'm curious if they think of Star Wars as all one amorphous glob or the old films as derelicts of the past, weird campy epics with shoddy effects and weird hairdos (ohh...Luke's coif...and Cassio Tagge...I talked about my love of his and the other Moff's '70s sideburns here).

Oh yeah - THESE guys too
While there seems to be a new Star Wars for each generation of kids to experience, where the dissonance happens is when you're an old man like me experiencing each wave at drastically different times in your life. I saw the original trilogy in their theatrical glory as a wee lad, then experienced the Special Editions and prequels during my formative years, and now as a full-grown-ass man am experiencing the Sequel Trilogy. In doing so I carry the full weight of my eight years of writing on the Internet level of critical thinking about film while balancing the love, hatred, betrayal, adoration, bewilderment, and inspiration this franchise has delivered to me for the past thirty years. It's a complex set of emotions that will always inform any review or interpretation of these new films.

This is what makes Star Wars gargantuan. It's beyond a new Alien movie or a new Pirates movie. There's nothing comparable to the eternal multimedia empire of Star Wars, which impacts everyone a little differently, but nevertheless in ubiquity. I try hard to take each of these new films on their own, but at the same time, they don't even want to stand on their own. If they did they wouldn't have teased us so much with Han Solo or both plots being intrinsically tied to A New Hope (1977) or the Sequel Trilogy still being indebted to the on-going Saga of the Skywalker clan. SPOILER - Kylo Ren is Rey's father!

At the same time, though, they jerk us around with the Resistance vs. the First Order and Snoke and all this bullshit that they don't seem to care at all about explaining. Sure, the Original Trilogy didn't need to explain everything little thing, but that was also coming out of the blue, not after forty years of precise and intricately detailed Expanded Universe material to bolster one of the most popular movie franchises of all time. Like I said, my generation in particular was first introduced to this mess through the now-Legends material. It's tough to shake off that none of that existed now without having the competence to fill in new material. Maybe The Last Jedi will solve all questions and in ten years' time we will look back on this with context and understanding. We just need a long enough time scale.

Then again, fuck that, we could understand the Emperor in A New Hope because we know what Emperors are and how Empires and rebellions work. What the hell is the First Order? How are they powerful? Are they actually a global threat or a thorn in the New Republic's side? Are they the insurgent terrorists, now? Ugh I hated The Force Awakens so much from just a nerdy world-building perspective. That's terrible because the characters are outstanding and Rey grabbing that lightsaber in the snow is one of the greatest movie moments ever.

I'm really cold on Last Jedi, both in anticipation and my literal knowledge about it. It's just a movie to me now. That's awful and cynical, but I need to be proved wrong. I've reached a point where in my life now we've had bad Star Wars for longer than we had good Star Wars. It's a tough hill to climb for Rian Johnson, but I hope for the best. 2017 has already brought us Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder Woman, War for the Planet of the Apes, and Blade Runner 2049 so there's no more excuses not to make a big money-making blockbuster that isn't great. Let's go, Star Wars.

29 November 2017

First Impressions: Justice League

It wasn't totally against my will, but for some reason I did regrettably watch Justice League (2017) in the theater. And read this huge bit about THOR: Ragnarok (2017), I'm not Marvel biased, but everything that Ragnarok stumbled on, League fell straight on its face into a ditch. This was an absolutely atrocious film that doesn't deserve any attention at all. There are bits and pieces of things it does really well, so I won't go total ham here, but this is going to be an upsetting batch of impressions. Having said that, SPOILERS forever in this discussion.

Presenting all the good characters in this movie
This film's production history has been dissected to death, and at this point we even have a good idea of what is Whedon and what was Snyder. The more I reflect, though, and I anticipated this in our preview post, this reeks of a studio that saw a film headed in an unfavorable direction and switched directors with a dude who had the most possible direct experience with this kind of film. Now, I'm not so heinous as to delegitimatize Snyder's sincere family tragedy, but the Whedon replacement seems far too on the nose. Why not a David Ayer or Patty Jenkins or hell, even a Wally Pfister or something. He's not doing anything. Someone else who has been a part of this team or in house? Why the hell did they choose the one dude who has the exact opposite vision of a superhero universe as Zack Snyder does?

Well, Avengers (2012) changing the movie franchise game and cracking a billion dollars at the box office has a lot to do with it. I've said this before but WB keeps chasing what works while Disney dictates what works. It's a huge discrepancy. The clash of styles here is the source of all this film's problems. Physically, Whedon brightens everything up, ruining Snyder's design choices. Thematically, Whedon ignores all of Snyder's big dramatic ideas in favor of superfluous throwaway lines, ruining his on-going motifs. These go over better coming out of Robert Downey Jr.'s gag machine Tony Stark than from Ben Affleck portraying the dark conflicted Batman we all know and love that feels a little less weighty. It appears as if what didn't work was cut and it's clear that was quite a bit. This film is in shambles. It lurches from scene to scene lacking any coherent momentum, congruity, conflict, or stakes. It's fucking terrible.

I complained about this quite a bit with Ragnarok. Everything in that movie felt designed to get to the next Hulk vs. Thor scene. Nothing happened for a reason within the film, it was all external fan service. Ragnarok was carried by its charm, characters, and even its aesthetic design. Justice League contains none of this support structure. Every problem that arises is solved instantly. Steppenwolf's coming? Well, let's just get Superman to beat him. Superman's dead? Well, let's just revive him. With every problem that comes along the team instantly figures out a way to solve it with little significant debate or time for contemplation. When Superman finally comes back and goes nuts (for no real explained or lasting reason), he just punches Steppenwolf and that's about it. Good to have Superman back. No need to worry about all that fearing gods among men talk from the last two movies.

This is always a weird issue to have with movies that mostly feature people punching and shooting each other, but I'm talking about real conflict. Real obstacles towards characters' goals. And what was any character's goal? Nothing beyond vaguely saving the world, and that's important, sure, but we ought to feel some personal stake, right? Batman wanted to save the world in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), but that was interesting because 1) He thought he was saving it from the threat of Superman, which wasn't really a threat and 2) He was motivated by seeing his own people and his own company destroyed in Metropolis. And yes, I just used Batman v. Superman as an example of tangible character motivation and conflict as compared to Justice League, where a bunch of shit just happens.

Maybe it's spawned from Bruce's obsession with his visions of the apocalypse. If so, shouldn't those be more tangible? Or you know...exist? Shouldn't other characters be a little wary or suspicious of this ranting lunatic in a batsuit? Luckily the Amazons and Atlanteans have battled this threat before, which is a such a huge plot convenience to get them both on board. Batman doesn't have to actually convince anyone to help his mad quest. Convenience over conflict. It's terrible.

Steppenwolf is a huge part of this problem, and although Ciaran Hinds actually does more with the giant plastic CGI man than he had a right to, something about this should have been personal. I mean, he killed a lot of Amazons and Atlanteans, right? Shouldn't we feel some sort of stake in Diana and Aquaman's fight? He's just too nuts and eccentric to be a proper threat. On the other end of the spectrum, I do think that someone like Ultron who has all these quippy character moments is neutered because his motivation is never clear, therefore masking his threat. The best villain is somewhere in the middle.

And I'm not really looking for deep explanations or anything. I like how this movie didn't really care about explaining fucking shit. I have no idea what an audience who didn't at least see Wonder Woman (2017) would think. I at least saw that, but not Batman v. Superman, but I felt alright with that. If you had no knowledge of Apokolips or boom tubes or parademons I can't imagine what you'd feel in this film.

So much of that felt like a Saturday morning cartoon, which I actually dug. This boils down to a singular moment - when Batman whips out the Bat-Nightcrawler, which for some reason climbs up and down sewer tunnels. This kind of shit would never exist ever, but it's such a perfect Saturday morning cartoon / stupid comic book thing to throw up on screen. The movie doesn't totally buy into its own goofiness, but I'm so okay with shit getting weird. We just need stakes. Considering how much we're supposed to just accept and roll with, though, it's insane to think that this series evolved from the Nolanverse. Nolan was all about creating these reasonable real-world explanations for zany comic book antics. Snyder doesn't give a shit about any of that.

So what does this franchise want to be? It was supposed to be dark and brooding to contrast with Marvel's cheerful superfluousness, right? But it's dark and brooding but not...realistic? Fine, that's doable. But now it's dark and...inconsequential? This was a bad move and totally ironic that Marvel is definitely the more grounded superhero juggernaut right now. Besides Logan (2017). How did that fucking happen. X-Men is killing it in everything besides its core franchise, which is off the rails, but using different time settings to justify its garish comic book attire.

I digress. Let's talk about the characters, piece by piece, because they're the best part of this film. I've always said that Ben Affleck has his place (that profile was written eight years ago btw, and definitely definitely still holds up) and is usually an add to a movie rather than a distraction, although he appears so damn disinterested here. And fat. Like, it's weird to have a costume with abs over such fat. I get it, that's part of the point of older batman, but his appearing and disappearing beard, big buff gut, and conflicting characterization doesn't work well. I want to talk about his introduction, too, which is terrifying in Batman v. Superman but totally neutered here by the awkward confrontation with a criminal who seems to just want to hang out. In reality it's just so Fatfleck can bounce some one liners off him.

Gal Gadot is unsurprisingly solid as Wonder Woman, who is noticeably a bigger deal here, undoubtedly in reaction to her film actually doing spectacular. There are still somehow a lot of weird shitty male gaze moments, though. Seriously, her tits are hanging out in every damn scene. I wouldn't go so far as to call them misogynists, because I think both directors have had solid female characters in their films, but fuck you Zack Snyder for being a blatant exploiter of the female body and fuck you Joss Whedon for being a disguised one. Gal Gadot as Diana does so much more than just be beautiful, but that's all anyone seems to be able to talk about. She's the powerhouse here, although I always thought she could handle going toe to toe with Superman. Definitely not in this universe. Her will and passion keep the fragmenting Justice League together, even through Benfart's asshole and out of place Steve Trevor remarks.

Setting Wonder Woman in WWI, while really cool, thus presents a shitty problem for the DCEU. At least Captain America was frozen. What did Wonder Woman do for a hundred years? Just chill at the museum? Batman has a point that it's shady she didn't do shit, but at the same time that's not Diana's fault, it's the writers and orchestraters of this franchise. I wonder what reason Marvel will come up with for keeping the 90s-set Captain Marvel (2019)'s eponymous female hero out of the in-universe spotlight for twenty years.

Jason Momoa as alcoholic surfer bro Aquaman is a fucking amazing turn for that character and he's proving the kind of career you can make out of having a really huge chest. I love you, Miami Man. There are a ton of questions leading up to James Wan's Aquaman (2018), though. Like, is he the King of Atlantis or not? Is he secretive and subdued like in his intro or braggish and wacky like he is for the rest of the film? Does he dislike landlubbers or not? Who knows. What's up with Mera? Amber Heard is badass, but I don't think her name is even mentioned here. Why do they need to talk in air bubbles? They live underwater, right. This maybe gets nitpicky, but any time something really stupid happens that's just a way to take the audience out of the movie a little more. Piece by piece we end up not giving a shit.

Ray Fisher and Ezra Miller I'll do together because they're bros and personality-wise polar opposites. I'd love to see a Grant Gustin Flash mix in with this, although I can see how tonally that'd be kind of insane (besides, Ben Affleck isn't ever going to appear on a CW show), and how Gustin's Flash isn't really filling the Peter Parker-esque role Miller is. He's definitely funny and legitimately learning how to be a hero, which is really cool considering how powerful he is. I really loved his role as more giving support to all the big guns, which is how the Flash should be used. Except for when he gets really awesome and does stuff no one can. Speaking of that Justice League Wally West flash, this Justice League Barry Allen was totally just Wally West, ironically more so than the CW's Keiynan Lonsdale's Wally West. Ya'll still with me? I go ham in this shit.

Ray Fisher. Let's try this again. Word is that when Snyder was in charge of this film this was very much his movie and while he still has a fairly central role, Fisher does awesome things with by far the least recognizable of these characters. Cyborg is a classic Teen Titan who was definitely shoved into the New 52 Justice League to be both a token black character and a techno-guy to interface with all the new fangled technology running about. The mother box corruption is actually a nice arc and personal conflict for him to deal with. All shit that would make for a really interesting movie, Joss.

Let's go on to the least weighted character death ever. I mean, when Supes died in Batman v. Superman we all felt nothing. What made it so much worse, though, was how much Snyder TRIED to make us feel. Even the opening moments of this film just hammer us with Super-mourning. THE BIGGEST CONTROVERSY OF THIS FILM WAS HENRY CAVILL'S MOUSTACHE. His death was such a fucking joke! It's all masturbation. It's like when Optimus Prime died in Revenge of the Fallen (2009). No, that actually had some weight. Believe it or not, I've spoken about this at length, about how it's instrumental for the character of Sam Witwicky.

Even if we didn't know this huge spoiler, this could have been handled better. Actually show us the threat of a world without Superman. He only did his thing for what, a couple years? Months? Was he that important? It carries so much more weight even in Superman Returns (2006) when Lois rights that "World without Superman" article, since he leaves after having a huge impact for years within that movie's chronology. Kill off Brandon Routh at the end of that film, then we can actually mourn.

Yes, add Superman Returns to Batman v. Superman, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and THOR: Ragnarok which I've cited in this article as doing the same shit better than Justice League.

Just one scene of Affleck eating as many ho hos as he can
No one's actually sad that Superman is dead. His mom makes a joke about Lois being thirsty. Any actual drama is defused. Now, there will be some spoilers for other comparable movies from the Transformers and Guardians franchise here, so just skip this paragraph if you want to go into Age of Extinction (2014) cold. I love Deadpool (2016) and there is a time for jokes in superhero movies. But during the dramatic parts of Deadpool, he didn't make wisecracks! Even when fucking TJ Miller dies in Transformers: Age of Extinction we have a moment of respect with Mark Wahlberg. It's sad! Look at Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017). We fucking care about Yondu and TJ Miller more than we care about Superman's death! This is because they're actually treated like characters instead of trading on their cultural weight. They had no cultural weight so the film had to generate it. The deaths were permanent. They were real. There was no magic box that could be re-purposed to bring them back to life.

Now, to be fair, using the Mother Box is not really any less stupid of a reason than Superman's return from death in the comic books. We don't have to get into the Reign of the Supermen, but that was significant. It took time, deconstructed various aspects of Kal-El, and added some characters that are legitimate and still kicking around the DC comic universe. Resurrecting Superman here is devoid of conflict. Batman suggests that the Mother Box could be used so out of the blue I didn't even realize what he was talking about at first. Wonder Woman protests, but this is a man's movie so she's silented. Then shit goes wrong. Don't worry, Cyborg can fix it. Shit goes wrong, don't worry, Flash can fix it. There's no tension, no struggle, not even a compelling urge to bring him back. Is Superman the only answer to Steppenwolf? Maybe? But we never know for sure. He's a very literal deus ex machina, though.

While we're on the subject we should note that Supes coming back and going nuts is an amazing scene, particularly when he notices the Flash and starts beating him down. Again, it's over too quickly and without satisfaction, though. Batman brings out Lois and everything is all good. Brainwashed, confused Superman is just instantly back to being a fucking Boy Scout. Why did he want to kill Aquaman? Who knows. Was there something wrong with his soul? Yeah, it got no pussy in that grave. I'm sorry. Thinking for more than a second about this movie has caused so much rage inside me. Batman should have just yelled "Martha" again.

Actually, legitimately that would have been a cool callback to stop his rampage as it stopped Bruce's back in Bv.S.

I won't get into the bizarre Russian family living alone in a nuclear wasteland intermittently being attacked by bug people. A whole movie centering on them would have actually been way more interesting. The sky turns red and mysterious flying monsters invade? That'd be sweet. It's fucking Lovecraftian, man. Like the ending of The Evil Dead (2013). Sick, man.

Let's wrap up with some Easter eggs, which this film does pretty well. There are lots of sweet teases for things to come, if we ever get another sequel to this trainwreck. There is a huge ancient battle against Steppenwolf and the Parademons that features a bunch of Green Lanterns, which is an amazing tease. There are also a few of the Old Gods, which conflict nicely with Darkseid and Kirby's New Gods. The main dude seemed to be Zeus, but I actually thought it may have been the original SHAZAM! Wizard. That'd be cherry as hell.

Finally, that end tease of the Legion of Doom. We've tried so hard. Sinister Six (2016) failed. Suicide Squad (2016) was a nope. Yes, at one point both of these movies were going to be released last year. Now, a film probably wouldn't focus on the Legion, but setting them up as adversaries seems a little weird when Darkseid is the obvious big bad. Perhaps the fact that his plan would be the exact same as Steppenwolf's (which was actually the exact same as Zod's from Man of Steel [2013]), maybe we're waiting a tick. All I want is an Evil Swamp Skull and someone yelling about pants. Do that and we're all happy.

So that's it, folks. I fucking hated this movie, but there are some good things in here. DC can do some things well and its characters are so damn good. It just wastes everything on rushed pacing, a plot that makes no sense, and a horribly misguided tone. I wouldn't watch it. Watch some trailers. They're legitimately funny and they contain every money shot. The trailer for Infinity War (2018) dropped today. Watch that instead.
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