Justice League + Punisher- Review (NO SPOILERS)

This past weekend two of the most anticipated releases of the year came out, Justice League and the Punisher Netflix series. I am glad to say that I saw them both in their entirety upon release. This is going to be a long post as I will review both of these entities in their entirety. That being said this will be a spoiler free review and dive mostly into the productions and characters.

Let’s Start off with the one the entire internet is talking about… The Justice League!

JUSTICE LEAGUE

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I am going to be frank with this one, I liked the movie but there were quite a few things that needed to be fixed with it. I have found from watching all the DCEU movies that they are made for comic book fans whereas Marvel movies are made for everyone. What I mean to say is that there are some sections of the Justice League movie that I, as a comic fan, were able to fill in with ease; however, someone who might not be as well versed in comic books would not be able to connect to. For example, they did a piss poor job of explaining what the mother boxes were for and who Steppenwolf is. I glossed over it, as did the people i was watching it with, because we knew who these characters were and how they functioned. For the most part the people in the theatre seemed to follow the movie fairly well, there were only a few scenes where I heard a collective “Huh?” from the audience. The overall pacing of the movie was really good, it didn’t get bogged down like Batman V. Superman did, and it didn’t jump making huge leaps like Suicide Squad. Mostly though, it was fun! I walked out of that theatre with a smile on my face and thinking that it was basically just an episode of Justice League unlimited in live action form.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

All right, it’s pretty well known that this project was experiencing a LOT of drama behind the scenes. most notably, Zack Snyder having to take some personal time to deal with the suicide of his daughter. Warner Brothers then brought in Joss Whedon (of Avengers fame), to finish the project and see it through post production. Most people are not aware that most of what was re-shot under Whedon were the character interactions and the action scenes he left largely alone. Warner Brothers actually fired Zack from the project during post production when they ordered him to cut the movie to less than a 2 hour run time and he refused.

Now with that in mind, STOP BLAMING WHEDON FOR THIS MOVIE!

Moving on… Zack Snyder has a very specific style that works very well with the darker and grittier heroes. That being said it doesn’t really flow with the tone of the Justice League. If Snyder directed a solo Batman movie (which he pretty much did with Batman V Superman) I personally, would watch the shit out of it. I loved his take on Watchmen and his style has no equal. His style is very gritty and he grey washes a lot of the colours to make them more flat and matte. He isn’t like Michael Bay who puts a blue filter on EVERYTHING and adds explosions just because; and he’s not like J.J. Abrams who likes to blind people with lens flares, but he definitely has a very unique style that nobody can mistake.

It’s obvious which scenes of the movie were filmed by Snyder and which were filmed by Whedon.  The tonal shift between scenes is very obvious in some cases and it can cause you to feel like you’re watching two very different movies. Again, not Whedon’s fault, he did what he was hired to do. He actually didn’t want to take the project away from Zack, but when WB fired Snyder, Whedon stepped up because he loves the characters and was waiting just like the rest of us for Justice League.

Whedon’s style is very… different from Snyder’s. not to say they are polar opposites, but they kind of are. Whedon loves to add colour splashes and make everything pop to add visual flair to the shots. As I said before it is very evident what was shot by Snyder and what was shot by Whedon.

HUMOUR

Okay, so this is not a dig at Zack Snyder but he really doesn’t get humour and he doesn’t really add it into his movies. He does cynicism and sarcasm like a boss, but for outward obvious humour he is kind of deaf to it. Pretty much all of the humour in Justice League came from Whedon and his re-shoots. Most of the humour in Justice League comes from the interactions between the characters and the dialogue they deliver.

Ezra Miller though! Ezra plays Barry Allen/Flash in this film and he is by far the best character in the movie, this is coming from a die hard Batman fan too. When he first meets the other members of the League and they go to the Batcave for the first time, he runs around checking everything out, just like any member of the audience would. He is basically an extension of how any member of the audience would react in the movie, he is in awe of the other Leaguers and when compared to the rest of them he is the rookie.  Batman has some great mentoring moments with Flash and it shows that this Batman views Flash like one of his Robins which is a very cool dynamic to introduce into the DCEU. I don’t want to say anymore because that could give away some of the best scenes, but let me say that Flash’s antics caused the entire theatre to laugh, every time.

COSTUMES

So the costumes in this movie are pretty much identical to the ones worn by the Trinity in Batman V Superman with the exception of Batman. For most of the movie he is wearing a very dark blue suit reminiscent of the cartoon Justice League. His suit looks black in the dark but when it’s shown in the light it has a very dark blue hue to it. Just like in the promotional poster for the movie that says “You Can’t Save The World Alone”. The rest of the League has awesome costumes as well, with the exception of Superman and Wonder Woman, the creators opted for a more armoured look for everyone during the final fight. I think this makes them look more prepared for what they encountered and made it more believable than different coloured spandex.

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One thing that was brought to my attention was by one of my movie viewing compatriots during the scene where Steppenwolf appears on Themyscira. She (my compatriot) noted that the Amazons were much more scantily clad than in the Wonder Woman movie. I will admit I didn’t notice this as I was too focused on the action, but when I went back and looked at the trailers showing the scenes with the Amazons my friend was right, they were no where near as armoured as in Wonder Woman.  While this is obviously a ploy by the creators to keep young men coming to the movie I thought it had to do with something entirely normal, maneuverability. Wonder Woman takes place during the time span of World War I, during this movie the Amazons are much more armoured and move slower compared to Justice League. It was also during Wonder Woman that the Amazons discovered their armour no longer stopped the weapons of man. I am of course referring to that scene on the beach, when several dozen Amazons including their general were cut down by rifle fire.  Now this might be my mind over thinking it but I believe that when they came to realization that their armour was ineffective they opted for a lighter material that they can still used to deflect physical attacks, but didn’t restrict their movement.  When you see the movie you will understand what I mean, I just can’t say anymore without spoiling it.

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OVERALL THOUGHTS

If you’re looking for an oscar worthy movie then this is not it. If you’re looking for a fun superhero movie with some great one liners look no further! While it failed to capture the magic of the Avengers, Justice League made leaps and bounds compared to some of the previous DCEU continuity. It got rid of the dark and gritty tone set by the previous installments in the universe and decided to go for a more fun approach.

I will say this Steppenwolf looked absolutely terrible. When a movie costs over 300 million to make you think they could use some better CGI. For most of the movie he looked like he was cut out of PS3/Xbox360 cutscene. His reasons are very unclear in the movie and this inhibits the story telling quite a bit. I think they should’ve used him as a segue way into their big bad Darkseid, and they might eventually, but as of right now he was a very lackluster villain for the League to have gone up against. When you see the movie you’ll understand what I mean during the final fight, 2 members of the League kept him occupied while the rest did other things.

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Despite the drama behind the camera and the tonal shift this movie is a solid superhero flick. It’s not as complex as it could’ve been but it also didn’t spoon feed you everything off the hop (Marvel). It is far from the best superhero or even DC movie ever made, but it’s definitely not the worst either (Bat Nipples anyone?) I definitely give this movie a 7/10. It has some flaws and some things that I would change personally but overall like I’ve said it’s a fun movie to just kick back and enjoy for 2 hours.

 

Onto Marvel!

 

PUNISHER

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So, I’m sure myself like many others, marathoned Punisher in either a day or a day and a half. My friend and I decided to get up early on Saturday, make a coffee and a bagel each and start the marathon. the title sequence was amazing! The song and the sequence showing the various bullets and weapons that then form the Punisher skull just fit the show so perfectly! The song itself is going to be a must have for my personal playlist, it was reminiscent of the classic rock ballads with hints of country thrown in. I will admit that I dislike country music very much, (but that’s a whole other topic), but this song was awesome! The series itself is probably the most brutal of all the Netflix series to date. It follows Frank after he has finished his crusade for vengeance and he is trying to keep a low profile as Pete. Things obviously don’t go to plan and he is dragged back into his old life. Micro seeks out Frank to help him bring down a government conspiracy so that Micro can see his family again. The show doesn’t pull any punches and doesn’t skimp on the violence either. The final two episodes are probably two of the most brutal episodes of a show I have ever seen and I watched Sons of Anarchy and Game of Thrones.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

This show has a very Stark and gritty tone to the shots they use. When Frank is sporting his full Punisher garb they use a lot of shadows and lighting tricks to hide his face while making the skull on his armour pop. Giving the impression of the skull coming for you as opposed to the man. They also use a lot of warm colours during his memory scenes and dream sequences. They also like to frost the tiniest bit of the shots when he is recounting a memory. They especially add a very soft filter and bloom the light sources when he dreams about his family. It’s a great technique that adds a lot more to the scenes.

HUMOUR

This is a show about the Punisher, he really isn’t a funny guy. That being said the supporting characters of Billy Russo and Micro really bring the humour and so does the character of Stein. Those three bring just a little bit of light and antics to this dark brutal drama.

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COSTUMES

The costumes in this show are spot on. Most of the characters only wear regular street clothes so there isn’t much to convey. When the Punisher does suit up though he is like a mash up of the 2004 Thomas Jane and the 2008 Ray Stevenson. He sports tactical gear without looking overly tank like. He isn’t sporting light gear but he is definitely not wearing full advanced combat body armour.

The weapons! Weapons fall under costumes, it’s my blog I can put them where I want!

For most of the show he uses the tools he has at hand, sometimes a sledge hammer and sometimes a handgun. When he does get his arsenal though, look out anonymous henchmen! The main battle scene wherein Frank takes on about 30 guys by himself is nothing sort of spectacular. He weaves and kills like some sort of deadly water dancer. If the water dancer could kill you with their bare hands in 30 different ways…

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OVERALL THOUGHTS

This series is a great addition to the Netflix Universe. It currently sits as my second favourite series after Daredevil and before Iron Fist. I don’t want to dive too much into the plot for fear of spoiling something but I will say that it’s a great revenge plot. Following the Punisher’s arc in Daredevil Season 2 could’ve been rough but this production team and the actors pulled it off amazingly.  I would definitely rate this series a solid 8.5/10. I can’t explain why I gave it that rating until you watch the series. Once you watch it and the ending you will definitely understand the rating I gave it. The plot is a little convoluted at times and if you aren’t paying very close attention you can miss some key moments. Bernthal embodies the role and really gets into the grit of what makes Frank Castle tick. For those expecting a series where Frank senselessly murders hundreds of anonymous henchmen, this isn’t it. Want that kind of Punisher violence then watch Punisher:War Zone starring Ray Stevenson. I will say that Bernthal doesn’t look like the comic book version of Frank Castle but he definitely acts like him when it counts.

 

Those are my reviews of both releases. Agree or not let me know! see you next week for another edition of Underrated Hero!

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DCEU – Too Big Too Fast?

As many eager fans finally got their Justice League fix (myself included) when the new trailer dropped a couple weeks ago, one question came to my mind, is DC trying to do too much right away to catch up to Marvel?

Most die hard DC fans will argue vehemently that DC is going to do everything better than Marvel ever could despite their recent critical setbacks. Those setbacks being Man of Steel, Suicide Squad and Batman V Superman, which garnered very poor reviews from critics and fans alike. While Man of Steel fared better with critics than the other 2 entries into the DCEU ( DC Extended Universe), it still did not garner the reception that was hoped for one of DC comics’ flagship characters. Many criticize Snyder’s portrayal as far too dark and gritty for a character that is supposed to rather cheerful and lighthearted. The main controversy surrounding Man of Steel was the finale when Clark, despite his best efforts to stop him, ended up having to kill Zod to save a family. This stray from the core of the character is what really set back the modern retelling of Superman from the classic view as depicted by Christopher Reeves. While there is no doubt that Henry Cavill looks like Clark Kent, he so far, has failed to capture the essence of the character.

Batman V Superman performed much better with fans than it did with critics. Using the classic Frank Miller story of The Dark Knight Returns as its main inspiration;  it brought what many believe to be one of, if not the, best clash between the two titans of DC comics to the silver screen. Using a suit of armour specially designed to fight beings more powerful than himself, Batman took the fight to Superman on the rooftop of an abandoned warehouse in Gotham. With Wonder Woman joining the fray after Lex Luthor releases Doomsday, the two fighters put their differences aside in a very poorly executed reconciliation scene involving a Kryptonite spear and the word “Martha” .  With the Trinity formed, it finally took the fight to evil and delivered a beat down in the name of justice. With Wonder Woman leading the charge it was a great spectacle to finally see the three pillars of DC comics working together on the big screen at last. That feeling was short lived as Superman sacrificed himself in a pointless scene to stop Doomsday. At the end of the film Bruce and Diana make a vow to find the “others like him” and unite them for a war that Brice believes is coming.  Queue up every fan’s desire for a Justice League film.

The next installment of the DCEU was the critical bomb Suicide Squad. The movie, while fun to watch, was poorly put together and barely gave any back story on great characters such as Katana or Killer Croc, instead opting for the origin story of Harley Quinn and providing a lot of exposition into the reason why Deadshot does what he does. This script went through several re-writes before finally getting a good draft the director (David Ayer) was comfortable with. After finishing shooting, the final cut of the movie went through 7 re-cuts before the studio finally agreed to it. The re-cuts added more humour and made the movie less dark and gritty.  The big problem besides the incoherent story and the incomprehensible villain, was the Joker. Jared Leto was cast as the Joker in the DCEU and his first appearance was to be in Suicide Squad. The make-up and characterization were different from anything previously done but it was pretty well executed for what it was. The main issue was that Leto was billed as one of the top cast members and all advertising had him as a central part of the film. The reality was that he clocked less than 20 minutes of screen time in the final cut and most of his scenes were little more than filler for the main story. The highlight of the movie was Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn and Jay Hernandez as El Diablo. They both stole every scene they were in with most of the movie focusing on Harley and her relationship with the Joker.  The after credit scene for the movie shows Bruce Wayne meeting the leader of Task Force X ( The Suicide Squad) and receiving a folder on other known meta-humans. The folder opens to show profiles of some of the members of the Suicide Squad as well as Flash and Aquaman.

The teaser for the Justice League that we got shortly before Christmas was definitely a great tease, and got enough people interested that the wait for the actual first trailer was excruciating. The trailer finally dropped and the internet exploded with overwhelming positive feedback. It’s worth noting that after the critical failures of their first 2 outings, DC comics recruited chief creative mind Geoff Johns to help re-write the Justice League script and to co-write all future DCEU scripts. The trailer offered enough exposition to get fans interested in the story with enough tiny Easter eggs to get die hard comics fans like myself, keys to future movies as well as potential plot points. The main criticism that most fans are worried about is that putting all these awesome characters together without establishing each of them could lead to a very convoluted plot.

Everyone is familiar with the MCU ( Marvel Cinematic Universe), whether they are a fan of Marvel comics or not. The massive success that the MCU has received is in no small part to their meticulous planning. Beginning with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk in 2008, Marvel teased nods to various heroes that would eventually make up their Avengers roster. Marvel also established each of their characters in their own solo film before bringing them together for the first Avengers movie in 2012. This method of teasing a little bit of information every time a new movie comes out helps to ensure that fans will keep coming back for more. The main criticism Marvel has received in relation to their movies is that they are all cookie cutter copies of one another. Which can be understandable when dealing with origin stories, but that is a topic for another time… back to the Justice League.

The Justice League will bring together Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, Cyborg, Superman, and another mystery hero (presumably Green Lantern). The problem is that with all these heroes their supporting characters there is going to be way too many moving parts to keep the plot going forward. Already eagle eyed fans have spotted what could be a teaser to Hawkman and Hawkgirl as well as references to a greater Bat family and the introduction of the Green Lantern; and all this was done with one teaser trailer and one four minute official trailer. Call me skeptical but I think this movie is going to make or break the entire franchise. If this movies bombs, DC is likely to pull it’s future movies and try to salvage what they can with the rest of the films already in production. I want this movie to succeed but given the track record of what DC comics has released so far… I’m not holding my breath.