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Movie Review: Justice League—Do NOT Believe The Haters!!!

Posted: November 18, 2017 at 8:32 pm   /   by

There are certain movie critics I want to smack across the face, right now.  Proverbially, of course.  One in particular I’ve long counted as a hero and inspiration—but I won’t specify the “who”, on that.  We don’t attack allies on this site—we’re better than that, and I’d like to think I am, too.  No matter who they attack—so blinded by inconsolable rage (to quote Judi Dench’s M), that they don’t seem to care who they hurt, as long as the targets are in “Hollywierd”, or “Harveywood”….

Again, the man is one of my biggest inspirations, as a Culture Warrior.  And so, invoking Russell Crowe’s Jor-El, “I will honor the man you once were…not what you’ve become.”

All right, enough of that.  Before I go to the main review, one thing a few online Conservatives in comments sections have said about Justice League—that there’s an SJW moment early on where some white guys lash out on an Arabic woman in a hijab.  Two things: 1) I’m pretty sure the guys are skinhead Nazis; and 2) the cop who takes them down…is white.  Skip the “anti-white” whining, all right?  We’re not Richard Spenser.

And Now…The Review:

I honestly don’t understand what the complaints are in general, about this movie.  It’s not perfect—there are issues, which I’ll discuss.  But I had as great an experience as I’ve had in the theaters for a long time.

The first scene, before the credits—a couple of kids making a smartphone recording of Superman (Henry Cavill), while they give him a cute little Q&A.  Call me a sentimentalist, but I found absolutely nothing wrong with it.  I smiled, and found it very sweet and endearing.  It truly established that, for all the darkness in how society treated Clark in Batman v. Superman…there were, in fact, people who loved him.  And he was sure to appreciate that.

From there, a beautifully haunting sequence with the opening titles, showing how Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane) are going through the aftermath of Clark’s passing.  It’s pathos, all the way—and screenwriter (and reshoot director) Joss Whedon’s reputation as a jokester aside, this movie is filled with pathos.  To the brim.

The Heart:

It’s the main reason, for the life of me, I simply cannot fathom the low critic ratings for this film.  I was blinking back tears more than once, watching Justice League—the first time early on, between Barry Allen and his old man, another with Diana and Victor, and two others involving my gal, Lois….

There’s also a family the film often cuts to, to solidify the suffering from the villain’s evil plan, for the audience.  Some people didn’t like it—I do.  We can talk about the “stakes” of Thor: Ragnarok all we want, but it needs to be felt, for the audience to appreciate it.  And that feeling must be maintained.  And that’s exactly what this movie does: Show us the victims and their suffering, and remind us of that.

Cliched?  Maybe.  But some cliches become cliches because they work.  Especially if they’re used well.  Kudos to Snyder and Whedon.  That’s exactly what they do.

I’ll have more about the film’s “heart”, later.  Anyway…

The Set-Up:

Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), aka Batman, has been fighting some insectoids called Parademons, who’ve popped up seemingly out of nowhere and seem to LOVE the taste of fear.  One dies before Bat can interrogate it—leaving a three-cube symbol that Bat’s been seeing a lot, lately.

This motivates Bruce to step up his game in seeking out the “meta-humans” on Lex Luthor’s data drive from BvS.  His first attempt doesn’t go so well—Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), aka Aquaman, sees himself as an outcast.  He hasn’t met his wife-to-be Mera (Amber Heard) just yet (they meet a little later in the film), and doesn’t want much to do with Atlantis, feeling that world abandoned him when it counted.  He does bond with Bruce a little—almost certainly over their mutual “loner” status.  Still, that’s why he first turns him down: he’s not a team guy.  He does what he can to help people…as long as he’s left alone.  And as such, he ain’t interested—for now.

Meanwhile, Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) stops some neo-Luddite terrorists in a glorious sequence, showcasing her abilities nicely.  Her day job is a museum art restorer, and while she’ll save lives, the events of Wonder Woman have led to her more-or-less doing it sparingly.  And she certainly won’t ask someone else to put their lives on the line….

However, she sees a signal sent by her mother, Hippolyta (Connie Nielson).  As Diana tells Bruce, the invasion he feels has already begun.  Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds), an ancient enemy driven from Earth by a Last Alliance (sorry, Lord of the Rings fans) of Amazons, Atlanteans, and Men.  Now he’s back—for revenge, and world domination.  His evil plan involves finding the three Mother-boxes—devices of immense creative and destructive power—hidden on Earth, by each race in the Alliance.

They need to find the other heroes now, Diana notes.  As Aquaman’s a “no” (for now…)—more on this later—Bruce and Di go off to focus on the last two.  And they’re dealing with their own inner demons….

The Character Arcs:

We see Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) racked with anguish over his father spending life in prison, falsely held responsible for killing Mrs. Allen.  Barry’s being going from job to job…and as he notes, he doesn’t have any friends.  And so he jumps at the chance to join Bruce’s team—much to Bruce’s relieved delight.

But Victor Stone (Ray Fisher) is more reluctant…deeply traumatized by the manner of his mechanical resurrection, courtesy of his father—and a Mother-box.  Diana pleads for him to return to humanity—with tears in her voice—but he’s just not ready.  He’s coping with his constantly-upgrading machine parts (at this point, he’s able to hack into the Batcave computer)…and left wondering if he’ll remain human when it’s all said and done.

Meanwhile, Lois and Martha have their own struggles.  Martha’s lost the farm, and she wasn’t about to “burden” Lois or Bruce with calls for help.  And Lois…well, Lois has found herself wondering, “What’s the point?”—she’s stepped back from “important” stories, wondering if she’s still got it…or if losing Clark meant losing herself.

And for Bruce’s part…he’s getting older, and he’s not sure how much more his body can take.  He’s considering retiring, soon—after the world’s been saved.  (Was that line written because Ben Affleck apparently wants to hang up the cowl, and this is part of the “seg-way”?  Your guess is as good as mine.)  Meanwhile, he’s wracked with guilt over his past mistakes.  He’s humbled.  He’s stepped back from bending his “No Kill” rule.  And if there’s anything he can do to redeem himself for his role in Superman’s fate, last film…he’ll do it.

Superman:

I won’t say much about Superman—honestly, we knew he’s coming back in this movie.  And yes, his return was more complex in the comics.  Who cares?  This is a two-hour movie.

But once he returns, get ready for a lot of great moments—particularly a very emotional turn involving a certain “big gun” in Bruce’s plan.  It’s one of those “misty-eyed” moments, for me.

Lois:

I will say, I’d had some fears about how the movie would handle Lois’s role.  On the one hand, would she do nothing for the plot—just react to what happens?  On the other hand, would she be stripped of all tears, because “Strong Female Character”?

Thank heaven…I had nothing to worry about.  And as for those who say with a straight face that Amy Adams and Henry Cavill have “zero chemistry”—well, there’s more meat on my end, to throw in their faces.  That scene where they see one another for the first time post-resurrection…

That said, I would’ve loved a couple of moments early on, involving Lo: One with Bruce—to emotionally foreshadow what she does for him later (perhaps him expressing his desire to do whatever he can to atone…); and one with Diana—who, as I’ve said elsewhere, knows just what it’s like to witness the death of her man, completely helpless to prevent it.

(Really, the film actually furthers that parallel, showing how both Diana and Lois got so traumatized by those losses, that they found themselves disenchanted, and discouraged from making a difference.  That’s called “an opportunity”, Warner Brothers—you really didn’t pick up on that?!)

Plot & Character:

The social media reactions—in my opinion, the superior set of reviews—had a consensus of “strong on character, weak on plot”.  Thor: Ragnarok was strong on plot, weak on character—and to me, while I found Thor highly entertaining, I don’t expect to enjoy it as much if I see it a second time, let alone a third.  I already know what’s going to happen, after all….

Not so with Justice League. Every single one of the major characters has an arc, and I felt like I knew them.  I connected with them all.  I loved them all.

As for the plot, no big complaints.  Maybe relatively “weak”—but I had no problems with it, at all.  I cared about these characters, and I enjoyed hanging out with them—and as such, I didn’t need any big twists or surprises to keep me interested the first time.

There are flaws, mind you.  Just not as bad as some people have said:

What Got Cut:

With the whole thing about a certain WB exec demanding a 2-hour cut after principle photography was done (seriously, WB, did the debacles over BvS and Suicide Squad teach you NOTHING?!?)…well, I was really afraid I’d feel the worst kind of “bare-bones”—that it’d feel rushed, stripped of the meat.

Well…thank heaven, I didn’t.

Even most of the stuff we’ve seen in the trailers that didn’t make the cut, I can live without—easily.  Really, Alfred’s “He said you’d come” moment, had it been included, probably would’ve hurt the suspense of a “When?” plot point.  Steppenwolf’s “No Kryptonians, no Lanterns” speech, while great in the trailers at conveying the situation, probably would’ve come off as a little forced in the film.

I would’ve liked to see what the context was of Lois out on the street, turning and looking up at something.  Watching the film, I don’t see where it would’ve fit.

Really, the only “trailer” moment that arguably needed to stay, and didn’t, was Diana and Bruce talking about Bruce’s failure to recruit Aquaman—you know, “More ‘more’ or more ‘less’.”  The hole gets especially apparent when our couple discusses the remaining two potentials—almost coming across as if they’ve forgotten about Arthur completely.

But I do miss the “ring” exchange.  There’s a shot of Lois touching the ring in the film—which just underlined the loss, for me.

Aside from that, and the aforementioned “wish list” about my beloved Lo, it’s round about everything I would’ve wanted and asked for.  I chuckled and cried—and I cheered inside.

Do I wish it hadn’t been cut so short?  Absolutely—but thank Heaven, the damage is minimal.

Quick Note:

I still want to see a full “Snyder Cut”…but mostly so I can know for sure, 100%, exactly what the studio had Joss Whedon change and “simplify”.  Rather like the “Donner Cut” of Superman II—personally, there are a lot of things about the theatrical cut I prefer, particularly the last scene.  But it’s nice to have both versions, to compare and contrast…and maybe come up with fan edits of the best of both.

At any rate, I’d sure enjoy witnessing the “HACK Snyder” idiots trip over themselves, if the cut reveals that at least some of the scenes they loved and deemed “clearly Whedon”…actually weren’t.

Okay, what about the CGI?

A lot of people have been complaining about that—saying Superman’s lip looks weird at times (due to them removing a moustache the Mission: Impossible people wouldn’t let Cavill shave…for some stupid reason), and that Steppenwolf’s face looks so stiff, it’s like a video game character.

Well…maybe I’ve always been merciful about CGI, but I don’t have nearly as much of an issue with it.  I only got “put off” by close-ups of Supes in one moment—literally: one.  (It’s early on, in an intense moment between him and Batman.)  Maybe John Campea’s wrong about how much of his stuff was reshot?  I dunno.  As for Steppenwolf, well, sometimes I saw where people are coming from.  Other times, I saw his whole face light up with amusement at the foolish bravery of those fighting him—a great character trait, incidentally.

Yeah, he was underused.  People have compared that to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s villain problem.  Still, Justice League does something the MCU keeps failing to do, to rectify that—something in the end.  No spoilers.

Casting:

Everyone gave their all, in this movie.  The acting’s incredible.  Amy Adams brings that skill of hers, where she can take what might’ve been awkward lines and make them sound like poetry.  (Thank heaven, that isn’t needed too much, here; maybe her line about not having been strong for Clark….)  And she has the honor of closing things out with Lois’s speech about heroes among us.  (Apparently they whittled down that speech, too, if the trailers and the “Hope Never Dies” motion poster is any indication—but hey, it’s all good.)

Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot continue to amaze, and they really click with their chemistry.  Fans of the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited animated shows can rejoice at the opportunity to ship Bruce and Diana.  And there’s a wondrous moment where they clash over—something you’ll have to see….

Ezra Miller is endlessly charming—even when Barry’s arguably being annoying.  Jason Momoa has charisma to burn as Aquaman—and we’ve a lot to look forward to in his upcoming solo flick.  Ray Fisher brilliantly conveys Cyborg’s struggle to remain human—beginning the film sounding almost…robotic—and switching to emotional and back at the perfect moments.

Alfred is great—and so is J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon.  And Henry Cavill?  Well…let’s say he is Superman, and leave it at that.

All right, let’s sum it up:

I loved this movie.  Loved, loved, loved, loved, loved this movie.  Loved it.  And words can’t express how irritated I feel at the notion that the low critic scores may be responsible for the less-than-expected opening box office.  (Meanwhile, the audience ratings are FAR, far higher.  I don’t know what those detractors were looking for….)

I hope and pray that the box-office numbers will get better.  Justice League deserves more.  A lot more.

There are two “credits” scenes.  One’s a cute moment that’ll leave you smiling.  The other—at the very end of the credits—is a master blood-pumper, that sets up a new villain (that comic fans know and love)…and goes a LONG way towards redeeming one we’ve already seen.  And in the span of a moment or two, to boot!

If you truly love good, solid entertainment—go see Justice League.  (Yes, you have to have seen Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman—ONLY watch the Ultimate Edition of the latter, by the way!—and Wonder Woman.)

Do it.  And stay film-friendly, my friends.

 

Movie Grade: A

 

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons / Warner Brothers

License: Public Domain

Eric Blake

Eric Blake

Team Writer at Western Free Press
Eric M. Blake is a recent graduate of the University of South Florida, with a Bachelor's in Political Science and a Master's in Film Studies.  As that implies, he is very passionate about political theory and filmmaking--and the connections between the two.  Inspired by Andrew Breitbart's axiom that "Politics is downstream from culture", he is deeply fascinated by the great influence that popular culture has on public opinion, and is a firm believer in the power of storytelling.  He proudly owns his second copy of Ben Shapiro's Primetime Propaganda...his first copy having been worn out though intense re-reading.

Eric was raised by Conservative Christian parents, but first became especially passionate about politics in high school, through reading up on economic theory.  He also first read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged around this time, for the ARI's essay contests.  He now owns a great deal of Ayn Rand's work.  Also included in his library are the collected works of Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Ann Coulter, etc.

Eric is no stranger to writing commentary, as the writer of the Conservative Considerations column on CampCampaign.com, and as a film critic and commentator on FlickRev.com.  He has also carried on the Conservative tradition of talk radio commentary, as the host of "Avengers of America" for the USF student radio station, Bulls Radio.  In the meantime, he is practicing what he preaches: Striving to enter the professional realm of Hollywood, he has already written and directed short films for the Campus MovieFest, which can be found on his YouTube channel, Hard Boiled Entertainment.
Eric Blake

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Movie Review: Justice League—Do NOT Believe The Haters!!!