Justice League: Movie Man Jackson

The Superman is dead. Bury it. People are still coping with a Superman-less (Henry Cavill) world after he sacrificed himself to defeat Doomsday. Bruce Wayne himself (Ben Affleck) feels responsible for what happened, even if Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) reminds Wayne it wasn’t his fault.

Crime-fighting doesn’t cease, though. However, a new threat always emerges from the last one. Returning to this Earth is Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), a being who comes to obliterate worlds and conquer lands through power sources known as the “Mother Boxes.” Steppenwolf and his Parademons happens to be the vision Bruce saw, and it’s a vision that he knows he cannot defeat alone. So, he’s got to recruit some help in Wonder Woman, Cyborg (Ray Fisher), The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Aquaman (Jason Momoa).

There are a lot of places to start with Justice League, obviously DC’s answer to Marvel’s Avengers. For all the events surrounding the production, it’s a minor miracle this is rather OK. Not groundbreaking or necessarily closing the gap on Marvel, and still a little disappointing compared to the high of Wonder Woman, but semi-enjoyable.

Two men essentially directed this movie in Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon, with the latter coming in after the Snyder family tragedy. For the most part, it works enough. This is not a superhero story to get engrossed into, but as an extremely basic “bad guy whose only drive is to take over the world just because and heroes have to stop him because they’re heroes” plot, it is what it is. The slightly lighter tone is appreciated without completely doing away with a darker vision. Direction-wise, there are some sleek sequences, most containing The Flash and Wonder Woman. But like the large bulk of recent comic book movies, the CGI aspect can get to be a little mind-numbing, mostly in the final act where our heroes dash, spear, punch, and electrify drone upon drone of computer-generated baddie pawns.

But what mars Justice League are the sins of the father film in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. It’s rushed. Numerous prior iterations of Batman and Superman don’t need reintroduction even in a different studio universe, and Wonder Woman got her fully detailed introduction in June. But for newbies in Cyborg, Aquaman, and The Flash, there simply isn’t enough time to build a connection with any of them. It’s a shame, too, because all three seem to have cool, unique backstories only hinted at that would make them all endearing in this team-up film.

Out of the three, only The Flash can claim to be endearing, possessing a teenage zeal comparable to Peter Parker. Hate making comparisons, but Rome aka Disney’s/Marvel’s The Avengers was not built in a day, but over a few years with intro movies that gave exposure to those who would make up the backbone of Nick Fury’s initiative. Not all of them were great, but, they laid the foundation for the big, crowd pleasing feature.

It’s also a shame that half of the team doesn’t get much background to experiment with because the casting is strong. It should be fun to see Ray Fisher, Ezra Miller, and Jason Momoa as the stars of their own shows and the big deals their characters are, instead of being told they’re a big deal but being given no reason to believe so. As for the dynamic lead duo in Batman and Wonder Woman, their prior movies give them layers of depth and you can see Affleck and Gadot really understanding what their roles entail. But the scene-stealer as odd as it sounds is probably Superman being portrayed once again by Henry Cavill. For the first time, it truly appears as if Cavill is having a good time as the Man of Steel, still being the de facto paragon while noticeable charisma. The less said about JL’s villainous forgettable Steppenwolf, the better.

Justice League is ultimately a byproduct of mistakes made from prior DCEU installments, but somehow, the final product is serviceable. And looking to the future, there’s enough here to get a little excited for. Baby steps.

C

Photo credits go to variety.com, collider.com, and eonline.com.

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson

Advertisements

Avengers: Age of Ultron: Movie Man Jackson

aoustub

“How is humanity saved if it isn’t allowed to evolve?”

How is it that striving for peace almost always seems to make things worse than they are? There is no assembling The Avengers this time around, the group is already comprised. In Age of Ultron, the good guys are back and a cohesive super unit. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye are doing their best to keep the world and humanity running smoothly. They are doing a great job, but as Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) states, they should be fighting in the hope that one day, they will no longer have to.

Enter the Ultron program, which Tony Stark is not able to build in a cave…with a box of scraps. Designed to be a global artificial intelligence defense that keeps unwanted intruders from entering Earth, Stark and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), decide to give another go. Unfortunately, the Ultron AI goes haywire, and “peace” in its mind involves the eradication of The Avengers and humanity.

ultron

At this point, Marvel cannot lose, from a revenue sense at least. Maybe one day a huge loss will come that ends up changing the terrain of comic book feature presentations, but not yet. From a quality sense, Avengers: Age of Ultron is still a winner, but not to the extent that the The Avengers was. Don’t take that as AoU being a failure, take it as AoU being a functional blockbuster.

Director Joss Whedon has the job of once again bringing these popular comic book characters together, and he possesses a real talent in doing so. He wastes no time in reintroducing the audience to the gang in a frenetic, fun, and maybe too comic-book-ish (it probably is stupid to complain about this given the origins, but whatever) opening sequence. Whereas maybe one or two characters from the first movie had less total impact and screentime, this go around, everyone’s contributions do feel as equal as could possibly be.

There’s even some notable depth given to a few of them that is totally unforeseen. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is more than the human archer, and yet he isn’t at the same time. Sounds confusing, but it makes sense when seen. But the real development occurs with the arrogant Tony Stark. Downey, in yours truly’s opinion, hasn’t been this good since the first Iron Man. What is being done with his character is a nice, long, slow burn heel turn, reminiscent of a wrestler who shows bad guy tendencies for months but never officially turns until way down the line. It should be great to see it culminate in next year’s Civil War.

scarletquicksilver

Not everything is handled expertly, however. It could just be a personal preference, but I’d prefer my Avengers films to be love-free. Not to spoil anything, but anytime two specific characters get doe-eyed and spout double entendres around each other, it is hard to stomach and the movie truly bogs down in pace. This is one of a few moments/side plots that are odd in their presence, adding to a story that at its base is somewhat coherent yet fragmented; not as complete as the predecessor. For what has come out with Whedon and the creative differences pertaining to AoU in various scenes, it will be interesting to see how things appear in the rumored extended cut once a home media release rolls out.

With a group this large and egos this sizable, you have got to have a villain to be formidable. Ultron (James Spader) is…just good. Visually, he looks menacing, and Spader gives a distinct voice to the character, but a belief exists that he could be so much more. His inclusion comes off as a tad rushed, as in it doesn’t even take a minute for the program to become corrupt. And, he falls short of being the badass he could be. The trailers painted him as a ruthless, sentient being, and he gets to about 75-80% of that. The other 20-25% is filled with hit or miss one-liners, which can be said for most of the film, and underdeveloped motivations.

reintroduction

Avengers: Age of Ultron is still the definitive christening of the summer blockbuster season, and it is hard to be completely dissatisfied with what is present here. If a hunger for comic book heroes and villains exists, one will get their fill with this one. But instead of feeling like a unique event all in of itself like the original did, AoU ends up feeling like another cog in the Marvel machine.

Grade: B-

Photo credits go to geekslife.com, io9.com, and comicbook.com.

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson

Marvel’s The Avengers: Movie Man Jackson

avengersposter

 “Because if we can’t protect the Earth, you can be damned well sure we’ll avenge it!”

And this is the story all about how a little blue box turned the world upside down. Director of S.H.I.E.L.D Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) makes his way onto the Santa Fe headquarters of the agency one day during an evacuation. The fabled blue cubed Tesseract is beginning to act funny, and before the research team can figure out why, a portal to another realm opens, and out of it arrives Asgardian Loki (Tom Middleton). Having lost his rule over his homeland previously, Loki has struck a deal with an otherworldly race: If he seizes and gives the Tesseract to these beings, they will be under his control to rule over Earth.

With the powerful cube gone, Fury decides it is essentially code red. What is code read? The Avengers initiative. This is war, and not a war that can be fought singularly by Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), or the Norse God of Thunder. Captain America, Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, and and others are going to need each other to take down this threat. Getting these guys on the same page, however, may be a tougher war than taking down Loki.

loki

No matter how many times it is watched, The Avengers still carries a feeling of astonishment, to yours truly at least. Whenever I think of this movie, I think of that semi-iconic scene where the camera does a nice pan around all of the heroes. It is a geek-out moment, and this is coming from a guy who isn’t a comic book nerd. The fact that director Joss Whedon can extract that feeling, or make it from nothing in some cases, is quite the feat.

That is to say that Whedon has made something in The Avengers that works well enough standalone, but the true magic is seeing how all of the other films tied to Phase 1 before it have built up to the specific moment. Some might have been better quality than others, certainly, but at the end of the day they all had enough linkage to each other to comprise the intertwined universe that Marvel envisioned.

It’s little things like, for example, hearing Tony mention to Bruce that Steve is the guy his father worked on. This intertwining gives depth, and also makes the rather simple plot of “taking back item X (the Tesseract) from the bad guy” a bit more substantial and meaningful because the object of attention has had a presence in many of the previous films.

pan

Where Whedon shoots for the moon and hits the target over and over again are the massive action set pieces. Aside from some lumbering and very stylized hand-to-hand combat, when it is time for buildings to crumble, planes to come down, and intruders to get hammered, blasted, smashed, or “shielded,” the movie dazzles consistently.

Even with the high quality of superhero action in this, the best moments, at least to yours truly, are the smaller moments among the heroes. Unlike some later films that really forced the humor (looking at you primarily, Iron Man 3), the humor here is natural, and comes from well-written lines and the simple clashes that come with these larger-than-life personalities.

Each alpha carries distinct traits that make them who they are for mostly better but worse when forced to assimilate in a group. Watching Captain America and Iron Man spar verbally with different ideologies (really planted the seeds early for Civil War), or Thor flexing his demigod status making it occasionally difficult to connect with others is compelling. One can tell there’s a real comfort level, whether a good guy/woman, a smaller side character, or bad guy, everyone has with their roles, which also applies to the guy who has the least experience with his superhero character. Mark Ruffalo absolutely nails The Hulk from appearance to personality, adding to the spot-on casting that Marvel always seems to bat close to 1.000 on.

Nothing said here about The Avengers by yours truly is groundbreaking, insightful, or newly eye-opening. But years later, it is still clear that Whedon has assembled many parts to create something very whole that will last the test of time.

Grade: A-

Photo credits go to impawards.com, comicvine.com, and fanpop.com.

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson.