Review – Justice League

Justice League

It’s taken a very long time to get here, but we finally have a live-action Justice League movie.  The road to the film hasn’t been the smoothest, but DC and Warner Brothers got the job done, one way or another, and now it’s time to sit back and take it in.  The marketing has felt a little incomplete to me, however, without the presence of Superman, whose absence is explained by Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman are the holy trinity of the Justice League as well as of DC Comics, in general, so seeing all of these advertisements for a Justice League film without the signature red and blue suit being featured has made the film feel like a watered down version to me, personally.  But, marketing aside, how does the actual film come off?

Right off the bat, I’m going to say that this is going to be a tough review to write.  I’m not sure how to talk about it without mentioning specifics – many of which would be spoilers.  I’m not going to do that, but have fun as you watch me dance around them.  That’s something else to be said for the marketing: unlike most major tentpole films, the trailers and television spots gave virtually nothing away.  That’s a great thing and I hope more studios go that route in the future.

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So . . . what can I say?  The narrative picks up as Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) and Diana of Themyscira/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) are picking up the pieces after the fallout from their encounter with Lex Luthor and Doomsday in Dawn of Justice.  Bruce has evidence that the unknown and significant threat he has been nervous about has arrived on Earth, and he enlists Diana to help him recruit the other superpowered beings of which he is aware: Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller), Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher).

I don’t feel like I should comment on any more specifics outside of that.  Even the villain was shrouded in mystery until just recently, so I won’t reveal them in case you have managed to remain pure and would rather not know.  I’ll say that – though this particular character was created by one of the biggest legends in comic book history – I found them to be a bit underwhelming as the choice for the first movie to formally feature the Justice League.  Or, perhaps, it’s just the presentation of the protagonist that falls flat.  Justice League isn’t entirely unlike The Avengers in terms of structure and action set pieces, in the sense that there is one primary villain in control of an army of otherworldly creatures as they deign to conquer the planet.  But, in The Avengers, the villainous figurehead was Tom Hiddleston’s Loki – a complex, charismatic, compelling character whose motivations were rooted in deeply personal issues involving the heroes.  Justice League‘s villain is a powerful enough physical threat, but that’s all this particular character has to offer.

HARWOOD

The heroes, on the other hand, are rather well-handled.  Wonder Woman is still the coolest part of the entire DC Extended Universe and Gal Gadot continues to command the screen anytime she appears upon it.  Batman is much closer to the Batman we know from the original comic book source material, if slightly cheekier.  I staunchly loathed Ezra Miller’s cameo as the Flash in Dawn of Justice, but I take it all back.  He shines in the role as the comedic relief and I was completely wrong about him.  He’s my second-favorite member of this Justice League five.  Aquaman – taking on the appearance established during the Peter David-helmed run on his comic in the mid-nineties – is presented in a way that helps the character make strides towards dispelling the perception that he’s a minor-leaguer who only “talks to fish”.  And Cyborg makes up for his lack of a personality (by design) by proving himself an invaluable asset to the team.

The film is funnier than most previous DCEU films (with the exception of Wonder Woman) which will anger Marvel fans who will claim that WB is only aping Marvel and will also anger DC fans who hate fun things.  Can’t please everyone, I guess.  Or, ofttimes . . . can’t please seemingly anyone for those in the business of making major studio films.  But I enjoyed the humor.  It’s done at appropriate times and works pretty well.  Most of the humor comes from the Flash and it’s not really “hilarious” in the way that Guardians of the GalaxySpider-Man: Homecoming, or Thor: Ragnarok is, but more highly amusing.  That’s not a criticism; that appears to have been the goal, and it’s met with solid results.

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There is plenty of action throughout the film.  As Bruce and Diana are assembling (Uh oh.  Can I say that?) the League, the pace slows a bit, hurt somewhat by the fact that we all know where this portion of the story is heading.  But the film has enough to offer beyond that to keep it fun.  Said action didn’t leave me quite as breathless as that in director Zack Snyder’s two previous DCEU outings (Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice), though there’s one particular battle around the middle of the movie that came pretty darn close.  Snyder famously departed Justice League when it was near completion after a horrific family tragedy and Joss Whedon stepped in to finish it.  Despite what that 13-year-old kid on Twitter you know with 35 followers thinks, it’s impossible to know exactly what Snyder and Whedon were each responsible for without having been a part of the film, itself, so maybe the switch had something to do with the slight downturn in spectacle.  Or . . . maybe it didn’t.  Still, even if the excitement isn’t quite up to the standards of those two earlier films, it’s still plenty worthy of the Justice League.

I mostly got what I wanted out of Justice League: iconic characters interacting for the first time in live action, more of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, some barnburning action scenes, snippy dialogue, and some surprises along the way (stay through the credits!).  I would have preferred a different approach towards the villain, but I can get over that.  I suppose the Internet will likely find something minor and innocuous to obsess over and use to define the entire film, like they did with the Martha scene in Dawn of Justice.  But let them refuse to enjoy life.  I had fun with this movie and am ready to see what’s next in the DCEU.  There is plenty of gold left to mine (Supergirl?  Hello?  Anyone listening out there?) and as long as the films stay above the quality of Suicide Squad from here on out (as this one easily does), then I’ll be more than satisfied.

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Review – Justice League

#ThrowbackThursday – The Village

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Original US release date: July 30, 2004
Production budget: $60,000,000
Worldwide gross: $256,697,520

If you’re a regular reader, you may know I was once among M. Night Shyamalan’s biggest fans.  He lost me after a handful of subpar films, but has recently been winning me back with The Visit and Split.  This particular film, The Village, is where he began to lose some of the general public, who had enthusiastically embraced his three previous films, The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs.  So, what was the problem?  And did he begin to lose me here, too?

For those who may be unfamiliar, The Village tells the story of a nineteenth-century settlement whose peaceful existence is threatened by tales of a monstrous presence lurking in the surrounding woods.  This film continued Shyamalan’s journey towards becoming a modern-day Hitchcock with his propensity for stories that exist on the fringe and often conclude with an unforeseen twist.

The Village 1

I want to start by mentioning that the cast of The Village is pretty handily the strongest cast that Shyamalan ever assembled for one of his films.  He secured William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Bryce Dallas Howard, Judy Greer, Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, Brendan Gleeson, Cherry Jones, and Jesse Eisenberg and still made the film for only $60,000,000.  He certainly got his money’s worth and even if one doesn’t care for the film itself, it’s still a pleasure to see all of these professionals ply their trade and bounce off of one another.  I had forgotten about most of them being a part of the film and every time a new face popped up during this re-watch, my enjoyment of the film increased.  If you believe a movie is only as good as it’s script, you’re wrong.  And this group of people are here to prove it.

Beyond that, the movie, itself, is an interesting experiment.  I remember hearing many, many people hate on the film when it was released and they all had one sole, common complaint: the twist ending.  Naturally, it’s going to be tough to discuss said twist without spoiling it for those of you who haven’t seen the film (I encourage you to watch it and make up your own mind, as long as you’re mature enough to watch it with an open mind and not be influenced by what you may have heard from others), but I fall in the middle with regards to it, leaning towards liking it.  I can admit that it’s implausible.  And, anticipating the questions that viewers would have about it as they rise up to challenge its believability, Shyamalan jumps through hoops to proactively address and answer some of them, himself (literally).  It feels a bit forced and unnaturally delivered.  The movie flows smoothly up to that point and to suddenly have exposition thrust at our faces just to satiate the haters is disorienting.

The Village 2

On the other hand, as implausible as it is, I’m not going to be so arrogant as to state that it’s unequivocally impossible.  But, even if it is impossible in our world, there are other perspectives to consider.  For one,  much less plausible than the twist ending is Bryce Dallas Howard’s character of Ivy.  Ivy is a fine, upstanding young woman who has just started to form her own life, independent of her parents.  She’s also blind.  Howard plays blind extremely well, never overdoing it in a desperate effort to communicate to the audience that Ivy can’t see.  However, the script requires Ivy to perform tasks that I have a hard time believing a blind person could pull off.  Early in the film, Ivy runs freely through an open field, even taking a turn to reach her desired destination.  Okay, I can buy that she grew up in her village and would know that the field is a clearing with no trees or other obvious obstacles.  I can maybe even buy that she’s so familiar with the lay of the land that she would know when to turn in order to head home.  Maybe.  But what about the little things?  Groundhog holes?  Hidden rocks?  This isn’t all, as she is also seen walking briskly while somehow avoiding tree roots and the like.  Howard does what she can to make it feel natural, but it’s a tough sell.

But another look at the story shows that it’s all one big metaphor.  And, even if the surface elements of the narrative don’t all click, the subtext works quite well.  Ivy’s affliction functions as the primary metaphor of the film as the people around her are blind to the fact that they are being controlled by others through fear, misplaced trust, and gullibility.  Fear has often been the most effective method of control and manipulation, from the early days of mankind all the way through today.  People controlled by fear will commit atrocities for their puppet masters.  They’ll betray their loved ones for them.  They’ll vote for them for president.  It’s a potent message and I can’t elaborate any further without exposing story elements that shouldn’t be exposed, but I’m willing to tolerate some of the less palatable cosmetic flaws of the film in order to fully absorb the deeper meaning.

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The Village isn’t flawless.  And it isn’t as strong as Shyamalan’s first three films, though I argue it’s better than any of his films that followed it, up until The Visit (Lady in the Water was rough going, but The Happening truly remains one of the worst films I’ve ever seen and it nearly killed his career for good).  No film lives or dies on its ending.  The ending can help or hurt a film, yes, but it’s never everything.  Whether one likes the ending, or not, there is more going on in The Village than the final five minutes.  It closes the circle of the comparison between the situation created and experienced by these characters and the harm we inflict upon ourselves as a society.  And the story is acted out by a cornucopia of master thespians (and Eisenberg, who is talented, but not versatile enough to be a “master thespian”.  His role is tiny, though.) who deserve respect and acknowledgement for the subtleties they inject into the film.  An insightful viewer will find enough meat to The Village to consider it worthwhile.

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#ThrowbackThursday – The Village

62. Café Society

Cafe-Society

Blake Lively is back!  Hooray!

Okay, so I would have seen Café Society, anyway.  I’ve become a fan of Woody Allen’s recent films and try to catch each one he releases.  I tend to really enjoy them – especially if Allen’s not acting.  Annie Hall was enough Allen acting for me.  Thankfully, he rarely does so, these days, and Café Society doesn’t deviate from that trend (he does narrate, but I’m okay with that).

And I truly did become a Blake Lively fan following her turn in The Shallows.  So while I would have made a point of catching Café Society, regardless, Lively is the reason I was so excited for it.  More on her and the cast in just a second.

Firstly, Café Society is pure Woody Allen in all his glory.  As is normally the case, this film would be instantly recognizable as a Woody film even if one wasn’t aware ahead of time that he wrote and directed it.  Every scene is propelled at a rapid pace with his trademark dialogue.  Sharp, witty, and punctuating as ever, conversations whiz by in a flurry of characterization, exposition, and zippy one-liners that those asleep at the wheel will likely (and unfortunately) miss.  Woody has always lived and died by his dialogue (only Tarantino stands toe-to-toe with him) and Café Society easily – even casually – lives up to his own lofty standards.  Seriously, who else but Woody could craft a scene involving a prostitute in such a way that it’s funny, touching, and even charming?

Without getting into too much detail, the narrative treads a lot of personal ground for Woody, addressing various types of relationships that, without knowing the particulars, society would deem inappropriate.  But this isn’t regular society; this is café society, which – for all of its bad reputation – is much more liberal and accepting, even in 1939.  Anyone familiar with the press surrounding Woody’s personal life (which is most everyone) knows that he has struggled with public perception due to his own love life and here he attempts to show the other side of love that those on the outside rarely seem to take into consideration.  It’s a fearless film that’s completely sure of itself and that just helps to further get its point across.

The aforementioned cast is a rather surprising one for a Woody Allen film.  He branches out and chooses less conventional stars than one would expect to see in a film that’s concerned with being taken seriously in the more artistic circles of the industry.  But, as I said, Woody and the film are confident and it works.  Jesse Eisenberg breaks away from his standard typecasting and plays Bobby, a young man simply in search of a life for himself.  He finds it with the help of his uncle Phil (Steve Carell), Phil’s secretary Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), and down-to-earth socialite Veronica (Lively).

Lively is the least outside-the-box for a Woody Allen film and it’s no wonder, as she absolutely glows.  Her Veronica exudes charm and simply mesmerizes with every spoken word.  I hope she’s in every movie for the rest of all time.  Enough said.

Eisenberg continues to display his growth and maturity and has a pretty easy time portraying the Everyman who’s decided to play in a different sandbox than he’s used to.  He’s relatable, likable, and endearing, even when he makes the same love-driven, boneheaded mistakes that we’ve all made in our lives.

Phil Stern couldn’t have been better cast as Steve Carell navigates a complex maze of a money-grubbing talent agent who so desperately yearns for love and acceptance . . . but only among the elite.  Stern seems unaware that his seemingly innocent desires are fueled by selfishness related to his social status.  Carell carves his performance out of avarice, using emptiness as his scalpel.

And lastly (among the principals) we have Kristen Stewart, the most disarming of Woody’s casting choices.  Look, it’s easy and lazy to lambaste her for Twilight, as so many do, to this day.  And, yes, Twilight was genuinely awful but, objectively speaking, Stewart was among the least of its problems.  The fact is, in Café Society, I was impressed by many of her choices and subtleties.  She gives an appropriately restrained performance, playing Vonnie, the girl with ambitious dreams and little drive.  Vonnie has true feeling and empathy but these aren’t her motivating characteristics.  In response, Stewart allows her emotions to constantly brush the surface but never to take over.  I still feel like Stewart lacks a certain charisma and I have a hard time understanding why others are so passionately enthralled by Vonnie in the film, but I can agree to chalk that up to different tastes and subjectivity.  Regardless, Stewart gives a nice, delicate performance that her uninsightful “haterz” will refuse to acknowledge.

What all this adds up to is another great film from Woody Allen.  He’s about as reliable a filmmaker as we have and I look forward to revisiting Café Society upon its blu-ray release.  If you’re looking for something sweet, swift, and grown-up, you absolutely can’t go wrong with Café Society.

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62. Café Society

41. Now You See Me 2


Now You See Me was a bit of a surprise hit back in 2013, earning $333 million worldwide on a $75 million budget.  Combining a unique premise with a varied, appealing cast, the film not only got people to the theater but gave them an enjoyable experience once they got there.  Most of the time, even though people constantly say how much they wish for “original” films, whenever something fresh hits theaters, general audiences stay away.  But, directed by Louis Leterrier, Now You See Me had enough mainstream appeal that it carried a sense of safety and familiarity with it alongside its imaginative narrative.

Now, the majority of the principal cast returns, alongside fledgling director Jon M. Chu, for another wild caper in Now You See Me 2.  Interestingly enough, it opens in America alongside another sequel to a well-received overachiever in The Conjuring 2.  It will be fun to compare both the weekend and final hauls of the two pictures when all is said and done.

I’ve always been a little surprised that magician-based movies aren’t more prevalent.  Off the top of my head, I can only think of a handful.  The best of the bunch is easily Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige, which is a merciless mind-bender that hits the viewer in the face with perplexing ethical implications that no one would have otherwise thought to consider.  An overlooked work of genius, that one.  The Great Buck Howard, starring John Malkovich and Colin Hanks was another fun one.  And, other than the Now You See Me films, the only one I can think of is The Illusionist, which was a chore of a film that gets a free pass from many because it stars Edward Norton.

But I’m not here to talk about those.  The matter at hand is how Now You See Me 2 lives up to the reputation of its predecessor.  Along for the ride, this time, is Lizzy Caplan’s Lulu.  Replacing Isla Fisher’s Henley, Caplan brings a welcome aura of enthusiasm and lightheartedness to an already-fun universe.  Daniel Radcliffe joins in the fun as well as Walter Mabry.  Radcliffe continues to work hard to establish himself as Daniel Radcliffe and not Harry Potter.  You’re not there yet, Daniel, but keep going!  It will happen for you!  (That was me pretending that Daniel Radcliffe is reading this.  In the spirit of the movie, please don’t shatter the illusion for me.)

I’m especially glad that I went in only knowing that I was about to see the follow-up to a movie that I enjoyed from three years ago.  Not being clued in on any of the story details allowed me to be fully swept up in the roller coaster that is Now You See Me 2.  I’ll say nothing other than that a challenger steps up to challenge the Four Horsemen for their title as the world’s greatest magician(s) and what follows is an exciting, thrilling game of one-upsmanship that’s even more unpredictable than the original film.  One scene, in particular, is the most inventive scene I’ve watched on my 2016 March to 100.  I was lacking self-awareness in the moment but I imagine I was smiling through the whole thing.  You will, too.

This film and franchise is a perfect go-to for anyone who’s looking for something light and fun to help them escape from reality.  It does require an attention span as, like the initial installment, the dialogue and story are sharp and unrelenting.  But, when it comes right down to it, Now You See Me 2 is the kind of crowd-pleasing movie that general audiences tend to look for.  At the same time, the cast, dialogue, and character development offers more beneath the surface for cinephiles to enjoy, as well.  There’s really no good reason to avoid this one, unless you haven’t seen the first one.  In which case, see the first one then go enjoy this one.  Otherwise, I don’t want to hear you complaining about the “lack of originality in Hollywood”.

41. Now You See Me 2

18. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

I’m going to say this with pride: I loved Man of Steel.  It was exciting (those fight scenes . . . THOSE FIGHT SCENES!!!), intelligent, emotional, memorable and resonant.  People are still talking about it.  And they’re talking about it for reasons other than the fact that it leads directly into Batman v Superman.  They’re talking about it because it gave them something to talk about.

And, fittingly, people are already talking about Batman v Superman, as well.  It’s become clear over recent years (and I’ve discussed this before), that audiences have taken on an air of entitlement.  In many of the reviews I’ve seen for Batman v Superman, this entitlement makes itself known.  Everyone is declaring that this movie “has to be” this or “has to be” that or “shouldn’t” do this or “shouldn’t” do that.  Closed-mindedness is the truest sign of audience entitlement.  And I’ve been seeing it everywhere.

So, I went in (wearing a Superman shirt.  #TeamSuperman!) very open-minded, as I always do.  I love these characters and I always hope for the best when I sit down for one of these movies.  But I also don’t lie to myself about why I’m there.  I want fights.  I want special effects.  I want to see things I never thought I’d see in live-action.  Anything else on top of that is extra.  I find it amusing when people see a comic book film and complain about things like character development or subtext.  I like those things, too.  And I like when comic book movies have those things.  But when Batman v Superman was announced almost three years ago, I didn’t see or hear one single person celebrate by saying, “Yes!  I can’t wait to hear all of the introspective dialogue!”  So, let’s stop pretending, people, okay?  As long as these films stay true to the basic themes of the characters and have sweet fight scenes, special effects, and just take me away for a couple of hours, then I’m good.  If they have all of the other good stuff on top of that, then it becomes something special.  But, in my heart, I want excitement.  I want thrills.  I want wish fulfillment.  I’m not looking for Memento, here.  In fact, I’d be disappointed if that was what I got.

So, where does Batman v Superman fall on that spectrum?  One of the things the entitled declare is that the film is “too serious”.  That’s not a legitimate criticism.  That’s a personal preference.  Being based on a comic book doesn’t necessitate any particular tone.  And being serious doesn’t automatically preclude a film from being fun.  Even if the story is “serious”, it’s still a movie about a rich guy with toys fighting a super-powered alien.  That’s fun no matter what else goes down.  But the film is allowed to make statements and contain gravitas.  Warner Brothers is trying to distinguish its cadre of characters from that of Marvel, which is a great idea.  The tone is one way of doing that (though handcuffing themselves and becoming a slave to said tone can be a problem, down the line).  So, what of Batman v Superman‘s tone?

Well, it’s serious, just like they said.  But, again, that doesn’t keep it from being fun.  What’s evident after seeing both this film and Man of Steel is that Zack Snyder has a particular story structure that he’s very comfortable with for these films.  There’s a lot of set-up, set-up, set-up, and then a final hour that just goes gangbusters with some of the craziest comic book action and ideas that you’ve ever seen on film.  And that’s fine.  Who’s to say that a film can’t be structured that way?  At the end of this movie, I felt exhilarated and my adrenaline was truly pumping.  That’s a success in my book.

That’s not to say that the movie is perfect.  In fact, some of the criticisms that the professionals have are, in fact, accurate.  The first half is somewhat unfocused.  Warner Brothers and DC are playing catchup to Marvel and trying to follow in their footsteps by crafting their own universe into a sprawling film franchise.  But, rather than adapt Marvel’s approach of establishing the characters in individual films and then bringing them together, WB is bringing them together, first, and then branching them off into their own films.

As a result, whereas Snyder’s Man of Steel was very intent on establishing Superman and his supporting cast, Batman v Superman isn’t able to take the time to do the same for the new characters.  And, yes, that includes Batman.  As strange as it sounds for a character who has penetrated the zeitgeist to the extent that Batman has, we could have used a separate Batman film with the new Affleck version in order to see who, exactly,  this new Batman is before we got to this film.  What are his motivations and goals?  What is his motus operandi?  His history?  Since we don’t get that, he absolutely comes off as an unreasonable villain for nearly the entire film.  He essentially wants to keep all aliens off of the planet, whether they’re a threat to us or not.  And if he can’t keep them off, then he wants to kill them.  Yes, that’s right – for the majority of the runtime, Batman is Donald Trump.

Snyder could also stand to learn that there’s a difference between laying foundation for future stories and forcing scenes into a movie that shout into the audience’s faces that more stuff is coming.  There are a couple of scenes that do just that and it’s frankly disorienting.  Not confusing.  Not by the end, at least.  Just jarring.

And is it wise to launch a universe with an aging Batman?  If he’s “already too old to die young”, as Alfred says, how much longer can he realistically be doing this within this continuity?

Also,for all the complaining that the film is too serious, the attempts at humor (and there are some) generally fall flat.  I wouldn’t call them groan-worthy.  Just obvious and unoriginal.  So, perhaps it’s better that they leave the humor to the folks over at Marvel.  Perry White gets a good line or two, though.

Also, I think that I’m going to hate . . . H-A-T-E . . . Ezra Miller as the Flash.  Of all of the recent casting related to the DC Cinematic Universe, his was the only one that furrowed my eyebrows.  And I cringed at the small glimpse we got of him in this.  Not optimistic about that one.

So, those are my criticisms and concerns.  Now for what I liked . . ..

Firstly, there was clearly forethought in the construction of Man of Steel and bridging from that movie to this one.  There were lots of whiners about the climax of that film as if the audience was a step ahead of the filmmakers and catching things that Snyder and company weren’t.  Not true.  In fact, it’s never true.  Filmmakers always know their films better than you.  Snyder is aware of everything I mentioned above.  He just made the choice to forge ahead, anyway, and risk that those issues wouldn’t do much (if any) damage and would even pay off later.  We’ll see.  I hope so, as I’m pulling for them.

And where Batman is Donald Trump, Superman is Jesus.  This is nothing new, of course, as Superman has been portrayed as a Christ-like figure for many years.  Batman v Superman doesn’t even attempt to be subtle about it, however, and I have no problem with that.  It’s an easy comparison to make and plays heavily into the underlying theme regarding the muddied separation of man from god.

Superman is perfection, as he was in Man of Steel.  There has been a great pedigree of actors to play the character but I think Henry Cavill is my favorite.  He has a strong vulnerability that’s unique to him, while also coasting through the everyman persona.  And I believe in him.  I believe he wants to do good and I believe he can and he will.  Frankly, due to the contrasting portrayals of Superman and Batman in this film, if you’re still for Batman by the time the fight begins, you might be kind of a dick.

Ben Affleck, as expected, did just fine as Batman.  I’m not sure where he falls on my list of favorite Batmans, but I have no complaints.  The Affleck hate is silly and childish.  When I ask people why they hate him, they never have a good answer.  Let’s all grow up a little and learn about objectivity, shall we?

Amy Adams, as always, owns her role.  I was glad to see her have more to do as Lois than I expected in a film this crowded.  Jeremy Irons is fine as Alfred but, again, we know nothing about him.  Really could have used that solo Batman movie as a lead-in.  Laurence Fishburne doesn’t get much, but he makes the most of his screen time.  Jesse Eisenberg was fine.  I expected to hate him.  I didn’t hate him.  I didn’t love him, but I didn’t hate him.

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was absolutely breathtaking.  And I mean that in every way I could possibly mean that.  When she first showed up in full costume, I actually got chills and the audience applauded.  After she was cast, I rolled my eyes at the people who complained that she was “too skinny” to play Wonder Woman.  Wonder Woman’s strength comes from her heritage, not her physique, and she’s been drawn in many different ways by many different artists throughout her long, long history, and not always with muscles on top of muscles.  I would think that such “experts” would know all of that.

But she was absolutely captivating and it was obvious that she was having a blast.  And by “she”, I mean both Gadot and Wonder Woman.  They were practically one and the same.  She radiates power in both the external and internal senses and I just want to see more, more, MORE!

Finally the last hour is just wall-to-wall action and is everything I go to these movies to experience.  And it was just that – an experience.  These characters do the things you have always wanted to see them do.  It’s beautiful.  I could have sat there and continued watching the finale until I died of old age.  So, when people say this film has no aspect of fun, I say that they’re just putting on a sour face to maintain a semblance of their self-perceived reputation.  Because that last hour is pure joy.

So, here’s what it comes down to.  It’s not a perfect movie.  It does a lot right.  But it also gets ahead of itself on many occasions.  The question is whether or not something like that really bothers you.  I noticed it.  It bothered me, to an extent.  Are you bothered by unconventional film structuring?  I’m not, so much.  Real life stories play out at different paces and in different ways, so I don’t see why fictional stories can’t, too.  But, without question, I got more good out of this movie than bad.  By a long shot.

Comparisons to Marvel Studios are going to persist, though.  That’s unavoidable.  And Marvel far outperforms WB in terms of creating a connection between its characters and its audience.  And that’s largely because they were patient and took their time in building their universe and rolling the characters out to the audience one-at-a-time.  And it’s also partially because they’re getting better behind-the-scenes talent who understand what works for general audiences.  Because in order for these films to succeed, they need the general audience.  I was a little concerned that the Suicide Squad trailer got virtually no response, tonight, and that was from a converted crowd.  Harley Quinn got a little bit of a reaction but even she didn’t get all that much.  If the diehards aren’t reacting, I can’t help but wonder if casual moviegoers are going to show up.  I hope it’s great and I hope it does well.  We’ll know in August.

Bottom line: the first two acts are a mixed bag with plenty of good but plenty of distractions as well.  The final act is why you’re really there.  And it’s completely worth the wait.  As a whole, the film isn’t among the very best comic book films.  But you can’t miss it and keep your geek cred.  So, stop pretending you aren’t going to see it and just go, already.  And don’t even try to tell me you didn’t enjoy that climax, you dirty, dirty liar.

18. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice