Justice League Review: Decent but Confused

This feels familiar: A blockbuster DC movie comes out to negative critical reviews though positive fan reactions.  Like Batman v. SupermanJustice League is not nearly as bad as many critics make it out to be, critics who seem to suffer from groupthink and who keep expecting DC to be like Marvel.  Still, while Justice League is coherently written plot-wise, it has frustrating short-comings that again could have been easily avoided like former DCEU mistakes.  In fact, what ultimately made this movie just okay was because the DCEU listened too much to whiny critics who wanted bright colors, no tension, and incessant quips like Marvel movies instead of trusting its own darker and mature take on comics.  Thus, Justice League is an awkward movie, one that has some of Snyder’s darker tone but also Whedon’s light-heartedness that clashed.  It culminated in a last fight that was much like Age of Ultron‘s: CGI minions to destroy, flashy lights, and altogether no tension while fighting a dull bad guy who was way less threatening than he should have been.

Ironically, the fact that Rotten Tomatoes seemed to delay its score for Justice League was actually harmful to the movie.  Still, before you feel sorry for Warner Bros., they were ultimately the ones who forced a two hour limit on the movie, forced a Marvel-like humor onto it, and rushed everything instead of more patiently building a world.  That is all their fault.  And that horrific thing called Suicide Squad is all on them as well.  Just threw that in there because that movie was so bad that it defied explanation.

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Wonder Woman Review: DC Has a Hit

The DCEU has made a ton of money, but the critical reviews have not been kind.  While some of the criticisms struck me as illegitimate, as I noted in my BvS review, a lot of them were spot on.  Suicide Squad was straight garbage, while Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman both had some great moments surrounded by lackluster writing and pacing.  However, with Wonder Woman drawing rave reviews and outperforming box office expectations, it’s possible DC might be finding its footing in its future battles against Marvel.

And Wonder Woman deserves it.  It’s an entertaining origins story with humor, grit, and likeable characters, and Gal Gadot hits it out of the park with her portrayal of the titular character.  Gadot was the breakout star in BvS, and her own movie did nothing to take away from that.

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Batman v Superman Review: Critics v Audience

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I am sure you know that the highly anticipated Dawn of Justice movie came out.  I am also sure you know that it was brutalized by most critics: It currently has a 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  However, among the general audience, it’s rating is 70%, and it has a 7.5 rating on IMBD.  I myself watched it at 1 a.m. on the first Saturday morning, and I will readily say that the movie is not nearly as bad as the critics are making it out to be.  In fact, I would say that the movie was mostly entertaining, though flawed in many important respects.  So the question is: What gives?  Why is there such a massive distance between critics and the general audience (to be fair, the way RT aggregates scores isn’t very nuanced)?

I’ll eventually review the movie itself, but I want to address this question first because I found many critical reviews frankly to be a bit off the mark.  It gets even worse that Iron Man 2 and 3, objectively mediocre to terrible movies, astonishingly have a 72% and 79% rating on RT, respectively.  In fact, I would have no problem saying that BvS is a better movie than those as well as other Marvel movies such as Thor 2 (66% on RT), and it’s not any worse than Age of Ultron (75% RT).  I think there are a few illegitimate reasons why critical reviews were so incredibly negative:

  1.  Conditioning by Marvel movies.  In multiple reviews, critics complained that BvS was bleak, depressing, and overly dark.  “Shouldn’t superhero films be fun?” they asked.  “Will it kill you to have some upbeat tones and jokes?  This is just Superman and Batman being mad at each other.”  Since the Dark Knight trilogy, Marvel movies have taken off and have set the tone for superhero movies, and they are known for lightheartedness, incessant jokes, and bright colors.  It really does seem like critics were looking for something that simply was not going to be there: This was not going to be a Disney Marvel flick, even if Snyder had ironed all of the film’s real flaws.
  2. Conditioning by old Superman films.  Another source for critical expectation of positive feelings seems to be the old Superman films with Christopher Reeves, particularly Superman III.  Fans of those movies are going to get mad at me for saying this, but it’s true: Those movies have not aged well, and I am not talking about the understandable limitations of special effects of that time.  I’m talking about an overall cheesiness and campiness to them that will make a modern audience cringe.  Man of Steel didn’t have that same tone and critics and some fans weren’t happy, and BvS simply wasn’t going to be that either.  Critical expectation of cheese and feel-good nonsense became even clearer to me when multiple reviewers stated how delighted they were with the Flash and Supergirl crossover last Monday and how they wished BvS copied that tone.  That episode featured horrific writing that sounded like it was written by emotional teenaged girls, corny acting, and a stupid climax.  Yet we have people who get paid to write about entertainment actually say that they preferred that?
  3. Inconsistent standards.  This is related to #1: Because the MCU has now built a brand, it seems like reviewers give those films a free pass even though there are some truly curious decisions when it comes to writing.  Give Marvel credit for building that brand, but critics who are using their brains should resist passing out good grades to Marvel films simply because they have built a reputation.  There are some legitimate criticisms of BvS, but some of those same criticisms can easily be applied to other Marvel movies, such as trying to cram too much into one movie while setting up other movies later (cough, Age of Ultron).

That said, as I have hinted, this does not mean that BvS did not have real problems, problems with choppy editing, incomplete storylines that were haphazardly “resolved” without real thematic unity, and one particularly bad casting.  Still, the film has much to commend to it, such as amazing visuals, some good casting choices, and introduction to some surprisingly mature concepts (that they again dropped halfway through the movie, unfortunately).

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The Avengers 2 Review: Age of Contrivances But Entertaining Action

I watched the new Avengers movie on Monday, Age of Ultron, avoiding the big weekend rush.  Overall, I thought the film was very entertaining with good special effects, good action, and several funny moments.  However, I wouldn’t say I walked out of the theater wowed; I may have walked out even slightly disappointed in many respects.

WARNING: Spoilers ahead.

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Review of the Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Since I reviewed the first two parts of the Hobbit trilogy, I may as well do the third one.  I was impressed with the first installment and somewhat less so with the second, but I nonetheless was looking forward to getting to watch the movie because it contained the final battle.  I would say that the movie is entertaining and I delighted in seeing many parts of the book come to life.  Still, as I said in the first two reviews, the action scenes often became a bit over-indulgent and there were some additions and subtractions from the source material that either did not make sense or were just stupid.

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Movie Reviews: Avengers, 21 Jump Street and others

I watched several movies recently, more in a short period of time than I normally do, and… they were mostly not that great.  We’ll start with the better ones.

The Avengers

I liked this one because it pretty much fulfills what you want from a summer blockbuster.  Is the story great?  No.  Furthermore, as I’ve written before, superhero shows and movies rarely ever make logical sense; if we accept a world where certain individuals have extraordinary powers, we should expect those powers to be used in a reasonable way and be shown in a reasonable way, but this rarely ever happens.  Hence we see Iron Man not die in one hit from Thor (blah blah blah, I remember the suit got powered to 400% capacity, that still wouldn’t match someone as absurd as Thor) or Captain America’s arm not shattering to pieces when Thor hits his shield with his big hammer. Also, none of the human-only heroes should be able to fight huge aliens with superior technology (but unfathomably inferior to Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit), least of all with some souped up arrows.  Also, where is the military?  Are they okay with just “setting up a perimeter” while New York City gets swarmed?  Sure, let’s just let the NYPD and six random people fight off an alien invasion.  Sigh.  Just gotta let these things go with movies like this.

(I think I just hacked off everyone who liked the movie and who likes Marvel Comics.)

Also, I want to insult all Hulk fans everywhere:  I’ve always found this superhero kinda stupid.  Hulk fans love to brag that the Hulk has theoretically limitless strength because, “All he has to do is get angrier!”  Whoopee.  And stupid.  What, are we supposed to believe he can achieve infinite anger?  What does that even mean?  Why is he angry?  They also did a poor job with character development, because one moment he’s about to kill the Black Widow and then the next time he transforms he’s perfectly rational.  Uh huh.

It is clear that, despite the fact that in the comics Thor is depicted to be as strong or even stronger than the Hulk, they had to make the Hulk special and portray him as slightly stronger than Thor, although Thor is still pretty ridiculous.  If you don’t believe me, here are parts of his strength description from Marvel Wiki: Continue reading

Review of Immortals: Because I want to make fun of something

Personally, I typically like depictions of epic fighting with swords, shields, bows and arrows, etc.  I love The Lord of the Rings, I love Gladiator, I was fascinated by 300, and I tolerated things like Troy and The Chronicles of Narnia(love the books but the movies were just okay).  Even a goofy movie like The Clash of the Titans didn’t annoy me too much.  In other words, you have to try really hard to make me dislike a movie that has fantasy/mythical/ancient battles in it, since I am willing to forgive a lot.

One such movie was 10,000 B.C., an astonishingly dumb movie that was presumably written by a drunken six year old.  It is now joined by Immortals, which skillfully takes potentially cool things (Greek mythology and heroic fighting) and turns it into a steaming pile of hippo crap.  Hollywood writers are talented, indeed.

It’s hard to know where to begin, primarily because the movie is just nonsense.  Thus, I’ll just write in bulleted format and list things as they come to mind:

(There will be spoilers.  If you haven’t watched the movie and still want to, don’t read this, but you have been warned about how lame it is.) Continue reading