REVIEW: ZACK SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE (2021)

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ZACK SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE (2021)

Justice League was a movie fans had been waiting a long time for and was sadly, not the movie we’d hoped we’d get. Originally it was to be brought to the screen by Zack Snyder from a story and script by he and Chris Terrio. When a family tragedy forced Snyder off the project, Avengers director/writer Joss Whedon was called in to finish post-production and write and direct re-shoots. A lot of the film was changed and the result was met with less than stellar reactions from fans and critics. Now, four years later, after relentless campaigning by fans, Zack Snyder has returned to finish his version of the film and HBO Max is presenting the Snyder cut exclusively on their streaming network.

The story now opens with Superman’s (Henry Cavill) death and his final scream echoing across the planet, the effects of his loss rippling across the world. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) begins searching the planet for meta humans, as he feels an attack on earth is imminent, while the world and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) mourns Superman’s death. Earth soon does find itself under attack from an ancient being called Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarán Hinds), in the name of an even more powerful being named Darkseid (Ray Porter). He needs to recover three powerful ‘mother boxes’ to come to his full strength and conquer the planet…something Steppenwolf and Darkseid failed to do once before. Batman (Ben Affleck) and Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) are trying to put together a team of meta humans to join in the fight. To  do that they need to convince Arthur Curry, The Aquaman (Jason Mamoa), Victor Stone aka Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and Barry “The Flash” Allen (Ezra Miller) to unite with them to stop Steppenwolf from conquering Earth and retrieving something here that Darkseid badly wants. But even with these heroes united, their only hope of defeating the villain and his army of pandemons, may lie six feet under in a grave in Smallville.

Under Snyder’s guidance the film is a lot more somber, but also packs a lot more emotional resonance. We are truly made to feel not only the difference Superman made in people’s lives, and the effects of his being gone on the mood of the world, but on his family and friends as well. It is also twice as long, at over four hours, and is presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio, which may not sit well with those used to more panoramic superhero epics. The film is far more intense in it’s violent moments and is not quite as family friendly, as was the theatrical cut, as it now carries an R rating. There is, though, a lot of character development now, Cyborg and Steppenwolf in particular, for everyone involved and this greatly improves on giving the comic book material a lot of depth and substance. Sure it takes a long time to get to the heroics, but the battles with Steppenwolf have far more weight, as now do all the characters involved. There is also a healthy amount of action added too, so the flick is far from talky. There is also the added caveat of an anti-life equation that Darkseid wants and Steppenwolf believes is here on Earth. It adds even more urgency to the proceedings and echoes of future conflict to come. We see a lot of the humor that was added to the theatrical cut removed, but it is not all doom and gloom, as there are still some nice lighter moments between characters. Obviously, there was a healthy amount of Snyder’s material still in the theatrical cut, so there are many familiar scenes, but the amount of new material, added story elements and alternate versions of sequences makes it practically an all new film. On a production level, the new FX sequences merge flawlessly in with the original material and the mood is well set by a very effective and more fitting score by Tom Holkenborg, who goes under the stage name of Junkie XL. Overall, this Justice League can stand up far better next to the Infinity War saga from it’s MCU counterparts.

The cast’s efforts in this cut are even more evident as we get much more of their strong work. Affleck is once again solid as Batman/Bruce Wayne. Batman is a bit more brooding and intense here, which is more in character, and we see where some of his lighter moments were added in the theatrical cut. Affleck shows again he is a solid caped crusader. Gal Gadot once again proves she was born to play Wonder Woman and she has some really good extended and added moments. The chemistry with Affleck’s billionaire hero is still evident, as is now with Alfred as well. Ezra Miller still steals his scenes as the sarcastic, slacker hero The Flash. He gets some of the best lines and his dorky charm fits the character perfectly. He also has solid chemistry with his co-stars. Ray Fisher is effective as the tragic, yet powerful Cyborg. He’s still learning how to use his powers and still conflicted over being Frankenstein-ed by his father (Joe Morton) and we sympathize. Another role nicely expanded by more footage. Jason Mamoa is less the surfer dude as Aquaman. Here he gets a lot more depth and there is some foreshadowing of his adventures to come and we see his inner conflicts clearer. By now it’s no surprise that Henry Cavill returns as Superman and here is he is a more conflicted and troubled hero before deciding to resume his role as protector. No CGI erased mustaches either, but there is a foreboding black suit. J.K. Simmons is still here as Commissioner Gordon, but again only has two or three scenes. Ciarán Hinds still voices a more imposing Steppenwolf, and here he also seems to have a lot more character development and depth, as we learn more about him and his debts to Darkseid. As for other returning cast members, Amy Adams and Diane Lane ease back into their roles as Lois Lane and Martha Kent respectively and get more scenes in this cut. Irons is still perfect as the cynical Alfred and also benefits from more footage. This version also has Harry Lennix as Calvin Swanwick, who is now revealed to be Martian Manhunter, Peter Guinness as DeSaad, one of Darkseid’s generals, Willem Dafoe as Vulko, Ray Porter as Darkseid and Jared Leto returns with an absolutely chilling cameo as The Joker. A great cast, now even more evident with added performance material.

In conclusion, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is the flick were wanted the first time. It is a four hour opus filled with the emotional depth, character development and brooding intensity that was missing in the theatrical version. The casual viewer may find the 242 minute runtime a bit daunting, but fans of this stuff will simply eat up all the new material and it’s darker tone, though it’s nothing much darker than say the last two Avenger’s epics. It’s also satisfying to see Snyder’s vision come to light, one that is sweetly dedicated to his daughter, whose loss lead to his leaving the project initially. Now that this series is back on track, let’s see where they go with it.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 4 (out of 4) heroes.


 

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REVIEW: BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017)

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BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017)

Sequel picks up thirty years after the disappearance of Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) with replicants now being perfected to the point of obedience. One such new model “K” (Ryan Gosling) hunts down older models as a Blade Runner. When he “retires” replicant Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista), he finds a box of bones on his property that belong to Deckard’s replicant lover Rachel. They also indicate Rachel had died giving birth, a starting revelation that finds K sent on a reluctant mission to find and eliminate the child before the world finds out about it. This puts him in great danger as he must track down Rick Deckard and is pursued by the Wallace Corporation, who want to find out how a replicant gave birth and use that knowledge for their own purposes.

Worthy sequel is directed by Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) from a script by Hampton Fancher (who co-wrote the original) and Michael Green. It’s a science fiction mystery with an amazing visual style that both brings us back to Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult classic and yet goes beyond it to create it’s own futuristic world, of neon overindulgence and rotting decay. It is a moderately paced and moody thriller that manages never to be boring at a lengthy 163 minutes and populates it’s world with some very eccentric…and dangerous…characters. The script links the film very cleverly to the 1982 original and takes the story to new places and gives us a lot to think about as we follow K on his journey and we discover the clues and startling revelations as he does. Like Scott’s film, there is some violent action, but this is a film noir, mystery/thriller not an action movie, much like the first film and it works very well if you have the patience to let it tell it’s story at it’s own pace. The cinematography by Roger Deakins is quite sumptuous and the score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch sets the mood perfectly and mixes in some elements of the original Vangelis score, so the film feels like a Blade Runner movie.

Villeneuve has a great cast. Gosling is a perfect fit for the brooding Blade Runner “K”. He gives the outcast replicant some nice emotional depth as he ponders his part in this ongoing mystery. Ford steps back into Deckard’s shoes with ease giving him a weariness and a hardened edge of living a lonely life in exile. Robin Wright makes for a tough, hard-nosed cop as K’s superior officer, Lt. Joshi. Ana de Armas is charming, sweet and sexy as K’s hologram girlfriend Joi. Rounding out is a creepy Jared Leto as Niander Wallace, who has taken over the replicant business from The Tyrell Corp and Sylvia Hoeks as his very lethal hench-woman, Luv. They serve as our villains, as they want to find Rachel’s child for their own nefarious purposes. The supporting players, including Guardians of the Galaxy’s Dave Bautista, are all top notch, too. A very solid cast.

It’s too early to tell if this flick will become a cult classic like it’s predecessor. It is a solid sequel and yet very much it’s own movie. It has a great cast, some incredible visuals and an intriguing mystery that keeps our attention even at almost three hours long. It may be a bit too brooding and lengthy for some, but if you are a patient person, and a fan of the original, it is a highly recommended sequel to a cult classic.

-MonsterZero NJ

rated 3 and 1/2 holographic girlfriends.

 

 

 

 

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REVIEW: SUICIDE SQUAD (2016)

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SUICIDE SQUAD (2016)

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DC Comics based flick is an awful and tedious disappointment that makes the flawed Batman v Superman look like a masterpiece in comparison. The mess of a story has a ruthless government official (Viola Davis) planning to put a squad of imprisoned bad guys together as a black ops deterrent to the rising number of meta-humans showing up in the world. This group, including assassin Deadshot (Will Smith), thief Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and the Joker’s (Jared Leto) main squeeze, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), is coerced into action via explosive devices injected in their necks a la Escape From New YorkThey get a chance for action when a powerful witch named Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) revives her equally powerful CGI brother and begins to build a weapon to destroy all mankind. The team reluctantly sets out to save the world that hates them and imprisoned them.

The flick’s mess of a script is written by David Ayer (writer and director of the equally bad Sabotage) who also lifelessly directs what might be one of the dullest superhero flicks in recent memory. The movie resembles the Ghostbusters remake at times with it’s swirling energies and omnipotent villains surrounded by pulsating CGI, but at least that flick had some life to it. Despite source material ripe for a good anti-hero flick, in the spirit of the similar but far superior Deadpool, this dull mess is routine and forgettable in every way. From the dialog, to the ho-hum action to the visual design to the cinematography, there is nothing here that stands out save for Margot Robbie’s short shorts which she looks quite fetching in. Ayer doesn’t generate any suspense, energy or even attitude as the film tries way too hard to be hip by flooding the soundtrack with dozens of pop songs and classic tunes. There were about five in the first two or three minutes. It’s obvious and gets annoying after a while. There really is very little to recommend in this flick with the few effective scenes being those involving Affleck’s Batman and they are not long enough to save this overbearing bomb.

As for the cast, they are completely wasted with only Will Smith showing some gusto in his portrayal of the assassin Deadshot and he has some of the best lines…which isn’t saying much. Despite showing potential in the trailers, Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is only moderately amusing and never really has much to do except for some smart ass lines and a couple of so-so fight scenes with the Enchantress’s avocado-like minions. Jai Courtney gets a scant few laughs as the deranged Captain Boomerang, but like everyone else, he just never is given any truly impressive or impacting moments. This even extends to Jared Leto as the Joker and it’s really disappointing he is never really allowed to cut loose. He’s just an eccentric thug, nothing special. He showed potential, but the material is just not there and at the moment, the late Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson have nothing to worry about…come to think about it, neither does Cesar Romero.

IMO this is the biggest dud of the summer and certainly the most disappointing. It had good source material and a solid cast, but was put in the hands of someone who had no idea what to do with it. It’s dull, lifeless and on an action/FX level completely routine. Add to that the story is a jumbled mess and there is very little to recommend here other than simple curiosity, or to witness a cinematic train wreck in motion. Also stars Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Karen Fukuhara as team members El Diablo, Killer Croc and Katana respectively.

-MonsterZero NJ

1 and 1/2 anti-heroines who deserved a much better movie.

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