Justice League (Cinema Review)

12A – 120mins – 2017 – 3D – IMAX


 

A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN

Having already directed two hugely successful Marvel team-up features, Avengers assembler Joss Whedon was brought on board to rival comic book juggernaut DC’s comparison piece to oversee post-production after original helmer Zack Snyder left Justice League following a family tragedy. We will never know completely – save for a hugely-unlikely commentary track on the home release – exactly how steadfastly Whedon stuck to Snyder’s vision, except that Whedon directed newly-penned reshoots yet is only ascribed as a co-writer, leaving Snyder with the sole director credit.

… Keep Scuttling!

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Suicide Squad (Cinema Review)

15 – 123mins – 2016 – 3D 


 

INJUSTICE LEAGUE

Following the far from unanimous critical response to DC’s universe-kickstarter Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in March, the Marvel comic book rivals were arrogantly confident that this anti-hero team-up would return favour to their flimsy filmic franchise. The promotion was typically bombastic and all the signs were promising, and then – on August 1st – the film was finally released…

*cue evil cackle*

Much like Suicide Squad’s psychopathic power couple, The Joker (Jared Leto) and Harley Quinn (Margot The Legend of Tarzan Robbie), David Training Day Ayer’s big screen adaptation is deluded into thinking that star names, good looks, colourful clothing and an iPod-shuffle mixtape is enough to get you through. But too much ghoulish make-up, too many tattoos and too many frightful fashion faux pas and you soon realise that these beautiful bad guys, much like this big budget blockbuster, is a schizophrenic, ugly mess.

Following the shocking conclusion to BvS (too spoilerific to reveal), a secret government agency led by intelligence operative Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) believes it has the answer: recruit incarcerated supervillains to undertake black ops missions in exchange for leaner prison sentences – just in time to take down supernatural terrorist The Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), her resurrected brother, Incubus (Alain Chanoine), and a horde of monstrous minions. Surely nothing can go wrong…

With a raft of new characters – hitman Deadshot (Will Independence Day Smith), special forces officer Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), Aussie thief Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), pyrokinetic El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), reptilian cannibal Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), mercenary Slipknot (Adam Beach), martial artist Katana (Karen Fukuhara) – all requiring origin story-esque introductions, the opening half of Suicide Squad is a flitting, flighty, mis-edited jumble of all-too-swift on-screen character bios, out-of-sequence Batffleck -cameoing flashbacks and random jukebox compilations.

Foregoing any “middle” to the single sentence plot, following the unsettling formation of this anti-Justice League, the film piles straight into an extended end sequence, with the unreliable rebels crossing the besieged Midway City to tackle the supernaturally-empowered witch-goddess – who has possessed the body of Flag’s girlfriend, Dr. June Moone.

There are promising aspects trapped beneath the quagmire (Will Smith is always engaging, while Harley gets the lion’s share of quirky quips), but there is simply too much going on for any of it to be given enough room to breathe. The much-hyped Joker is little more than a bit-part player intent on releasing his missus from her noble responsibilities, Killer Croc perhaps utters all of three gruff lines, while El Diablo lingers in the background for the first two action set-pieces – and these are main characters!

It’s been much-speculated that the film received an eleventh hour re-edit, so it’s hard to ascertain whether this staccato remix of Suicide Squad is David Ayer’s ultimate vision or a too-many-chefs conglomerate of audience-pandering turned sour. Either way, it’s the version we have to judge, and I’m afraid to say that on this evidence I’d be sending this reprobate back to the slammer and throwing away the key. A DC disaster which only makes me appreciate the less-than-perfect BvS more.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 2 stars

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Cinema Review)

12A – 151mins – 2016


CRASH OF THE TITANS

As a reviewer of films, I have long learned to drown out critical consensus and judge a film for myself. However, I would be lying if the sheer tumult of negativity – from fans, friends and critics alike – being flung at Zack Snyder’s long-heralded Man of Steel follow-up hadn’t permeated by defences and plagued my perception like a, well, phantom menace.

The bigger they come the harder they fall, and $250 million blockbuster behemoths don’t come much bigger than the first ever box office battle between DC Comics’ two most iconic superheroes. With Marvel in ascendency and Civil War about to break out between their much-loved properties, there was a lot riding on BvS to even up the score and help set up an Avenger’s-style universe for the Justice League.

While critics have not been kind, all the studio (Warner Bros. Pictures) really cares about is the takings, and they have been extraordinarily healthy – and in some cases record-breaking – so Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) need fear not; BvS is no franchise derailing disaster like 1997’s Batman & Robin. Day will follow this Dawn

So, away from the pesky background noise of pessimistic public perception, did I despise this epic showdown between Gotham’s Caped Crusader and the Survivor of Krypton? No, of course not. It is by no means perfect and I can fully understand why fanboys would find a batcave’s worth of flaws to pick to shreds, but there is also much to like about this grandiose two-and-a-half-hour superbrawl.

Primarily, I was delighted that this was a true sequel to Man of Steel. With Superman (Henry Cavill) having to share the title with Ben Affleck’s Dark Knight – and even demoted behind him in the billing – plus the none-too-subtle subtitle tease of more superheroes joining the party, I feared that any relationship to Snyder’s serviceable 2013 Superman reboot would be lost in the hectic hustle.

While the volume of players does occasionally threaten to swamp the screenplay (even dead characters return for little narrative impact), and even with “Batfleck” (as the internet has christened him) granted opening monologue duty (replete with yet another adaptation of the Bruce Wayne origin story!), BvS very quickly establishes itself within Man of Steel’s continuity and presents Superman very much as the lead character.

Not that he’s necessarily having a grand time of it. Following the climactic battle with Zod (Michael Shannon) which destroyed half the city, Superman has somewhat fallen out of favour with the people of Metropolis – branded a “false idol” by some and a destructive alien threat to humanity by others – to the point where he is put on trial and threatens to leave Earth for good if Holly Hunter’s Senator Finch deems it so.

Early on, the moral questioning of justice was definitely to the film’s credit – raising this implausible situation beyond the fantastic to a more mature and humane level than the superficial CGI beat-em-up it is advertised as. Sadly, this strand this brought to a swift and fiery end by unhinged corporate coot Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), whose tactics for ridding the world of Superman are more destructive than a courtroom war of words.

Manipulating Batman to turn against Smallville’s adopted son, Eisenberg’s twitchy, erratic portrayal of the not-yet-bald billionaire is unlike any I’ve seen before – and he’s a revelation. Smarmy and snide, yet also deadly in the scope of his world-dominating schemes, Luthor more than makes up for his lack of physical prowess with his deceitful cunning, unleashing an opponent on Superman so powerful that even nuclear weapons cannot contain it.

Like the rest of the competent cast, Batfleck is by no means a bad Batman – I even accept that a man lacking superpowers would require a far bulkier and more heavy-duty suit than some of the skimpy costumes of previous incarnations. But it is exactly the fact that there are so many previous incarnations that makes this one seem so superficial and inauthentic… Just four years since Christian Bale hung up the cape, I couldn’t immediately accept someone else as Batman, more an actor playing at dress up. The same is true of Jeremy Iron’s Alfred and Amy Adam’s Lois Lane – for me they will never be the optimum versions of these characters.

Superficial is a word which will haunt this overblown production, so too the oft-overused phrase style over substance. Snyder’s chocolate box sequel is overlong, over-crowded, over-complicated and over-flashy, to the extent that during some of the battles sequences I found myself disconnecting from the action and switching off, returning my attention minutes later and having to question what was going on and who was fighting who and why.

But it’s never terrible, no matter what the critics tell you. It’s as glossy and entertaining as a busy and brainless blockbuster can be, with an ending that will leave you dumbfounded and with a tease of more focused solo missions to come. However, in the comic book movie stakes, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a lightweight underdog when standing cowl-to-cowl with even Marvel’s weakest competitor.

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars