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Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021) Review

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Zack Snyder's Justice League

Time: 242 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman
Henry Cavill as Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman
Amy Adams as Lois Lane
Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman
Ray Fisher as Victor Stone/Cyborg
Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry/Aquaman
Ezra Miller as Barry Allen/The Flash
Willem Dafoe as Nuidis Vulko
Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor
Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth
Diane Lane as Martha Kent
Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta
J.K. Simmons as James Gordon
Ciarán Hinds as Steppenwolf
Director: Zack Snyder

Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s (Henry Cavill) selfless act, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) enlists newfound ally Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) to face an even greater threat. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to recruit a team to stand against this newly awakened enemy. Despite the formation of an unprecedented league of heroes — Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and the Flash (Ezra Miller) — it may be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.

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Zack Snyder’s Justice League was one of my most anticipated films of 2021. A brief background for those who don’t already know, Zack Snyder was helming Justice League but after his daughter’s death, left the movie. Warner Bros then got Joss Whedon to finish the movie, and he made a lot of cuts, changes and reshoots, and the end product released in 2017 was nothing short of disastrous. Critics didn’t really like it, audiences weren’t liking it, and fans not only didn’t defend it, they also despised it. When reports that Snyder had a long cut of the movie emerged, a movement emerged wanting the seemingly mythical Snyder Cut to be released. Years went by and it didn’t seem like it would happen, I myself didn’t have faith it would happen. However, in 2020 it was announced that Snyder would be returning to restore his vision in all its glory. After much anticipation it’s finally here, and I’m happy to say that it blew away even my highest of expectations.

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Throughout this review I’ll definitely reference the Whedon Cut plenty of times. Normally I’d just review the movie on its own, but that 2017 film makes it near impossible for me to do that. Also to make it a lot easier, I’ll refer to the 2017 Justice League movie as Josstice League, and this new Justice League movie as just Justice League. I think I should first address how both versions seem similar but how they actually aren’t, and address some misconceptions going in. Many detractors of the Snyder Cut have said that ultimately the new cut wouldn’t be that different and would basically be the same story. Yes, essentially Zack Snyder’s Justice League has the same story as Josstice League but only in the broadest of terms. The way that this story is told is so different. Aside from the tone, the length and more (which I’ll get into soon), the whole story is just developed a lot more, and the characters are fully realised. There is a lot more complexity to the story, and it’s a lot more interesting. It’s not the generic run of the mill superhero movie that Josstice League was, where the plot didn’t really matter and was just connecting one boring action scene to the next. There is plenty of room to breathe, and the pacing was steady enough that it wasn’t rushing, yet fast enough for me to be constantly invested in what is happening. There are so many scenes in this movie that weren’t seen in any of the prior trailers that it can actually be overwhelming, especially in the first 30 minutes. It’s not just that, even with the scenes that are in both versions, there are clear differences between them. There are literally scenes that have the same dialogue, but the versions in Josstice League were infinitely worse takes from the writing, directing to the acting and line deliveries. It gets to the point where it just feels like self-sabotage from Whedon. Even the footage that was purely Snyder’s that was also used in Josstice League feels a lot more in place and makes sense here. Additionally, some moments that were filmed by Snyder but no doubt was pushed onto him from WB are gone, an example being Batman’s “I heard you can talk to fish” line to Aquaman, which was in the very first teaser trailer. Just in general, you really feel this is Snyder with a lot more freedom. Despite the length, Snyder only filmed a couple of new scenes, everything else is his full cut from years ago, just fully restored with the CGI effects. With that said, he was able to change some aspects. For example, being able to change main villain Steppenwolf’s design from the generic tall guy in Josstice League, to his original and more superior design. Snyder even changed Superman’s red and blue suit to the black and grey suit, and while that is more of an easter egg and fanservice thing (it’s never addressed) it is fantastic to see on the screen.

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The most daunting thing about this movie for most people is the runtime, with it being a colossal 4 hours long, broken into 6 chapters and an epilogue. Of course, if Snyder got to release his version of the movie in the first place without it being changed by Whedon or WB, he would definitely have to cut it down a lot. Nonetheless, the movie we have now is 4 hours long, and absolutely benefits from that runtime. It takes like half the movie for the League to be together as a group, and in that first half sets the scene for what’s to come, really building up a lot with the characters and backstories. I think a lot of people won’t be expecting the character driven approach that Snyder has with the story, with quieter moments, especially between characters (a good example being Cyborg). It’s definitely dark for sure, and the R rating does feel appropriate for the movie even outside of the violence. Lots of people die, and there’s a lot at stake for the characters, with hints of a dark future to potentially come. With that being said, it is lighter than Batman v Superman (as it was intended to be). It also has moments of levity and comedy but unlike Josstice League, these moments actually work well and feel sincere rather than trying too hard to be quippy and imitate the MCU. There is a great balance of the tones and while I know that some people disliked Snyder’s DC movies for being really dark, I think it’s light enough that general audiences would be more inclined towards it, while it still remaining true to itself. Not only that, beyond everything, it’s an immensely hopeful movie, and you really feel that from beginning to end especially from the main characters by the time they are together at the end as a team. Hearing how Warner Bros wanted to go in a ‘hopeful and optimistic’ direction with this movie years ago is astounding, considering that this movie is exactly that. Justice League is also quite possible the most epic comic book movie. Snyder goes heavy with the mythology, while effectively showing the humanity of these people with godlike abilities, really helping the Justice League stand on their own thing and distinct from The Avengers and Marvel. Everything has so much weight from an emotional level with the main characters, to the larger scale stakes regarding the fate of the world. It really is best described as being DC’s Lord of the Rings. There are some very thrilling and satisfying moments throughout, and the third act is a complete blast. There is an epilogue which ties everything together for the characters but also leaves plenty of room open for follow ups. Those teases are especially excruciating because I really do want to see where the story and characters would go next, though it seems like they won’t happen at this time.

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The acting and characters are vastly improved for everyone in Justice League. Ben Affleck reprises his role as Bruce Wayne/Batman after the events of Batman v Superman. In this movie, Bruce’s faith is restored in humanity and is genuinely hopefully and optimistic as he assembles a team to combat the coming darkness, and it is a natural progression for this character. There’s particularly a brief exchange he has with Alfred later in the movie which just felt so perfect for his character and arc. Henry Cavill also reprises his role as Clark Kent/Superman, who begins the movie being dead after the events of Batman v Superman. Ultimately, he does serve a similar purpose as in Josstice League, but again is way better in every way here. Not only does he lack the very distracting CGI on his face and utter cheesiness and pseudo Christopher Reeve imitation that Whedon added, but it is also a much more genuine take on Superman. Yes, he’s both way more threatening and intimidating especially in the climax, but him returning as Superman was truly handled very well. Cavill has actually less lines than in Whedon’s cut, yet this take on Superman is way more powerful with less words. Gal Gadot also returns as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and while her role in the film is quite similar in both versions, she is portrayed and acted much better here, and doesn’t have some of the more embarrassing additions from Whedon. Her action scenes particularly are fantastic, I really loved the way that Snyder directs Wonder Woman action.

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There are three new Justice League members, and they are all pretty good. Jason Momoa is Arthur Curry/Aquaman, his role is pretty similar to the other movie but he’s thankfully a bit more serious than in the Whedon cut and isn’t making so many jokes. Additionally, we get a bit more of an arc for him and we get scenes with him and Mera (Amber Heard) and Vulko (Willem Dafoe) which further develops him as a character. In a way, Justice League makes Aquaman’s arc in his solo movie even better and more rewarding. Ezra Miller is Barry Allen/The Flash, in both versions he’s very much the comic relief, the difference is with Justice League, the jokes are actually funny and he doesn’t randomly rant about brunch or something. There’s also more emotional weight for him as a character. The scenes with Barry visiting his father in prison (played by Billy Crudup, who also gets to leave a much better impression here) aren’t just basic character backstory elements, but actually feel genuine and heartfelt. Also, the scenes that utilise his powers are fantastic, Josstice League had Flash run really fast, which is fine and all, but Snyder’s take on Flash is something truly special. Two scenes stand out particularly, one is the introduction scene for him (which is initself a great first scene for him), and the other is a strong candidate for the best scene in the whole movie. However, the highlight of the entire film is Ray Fisher as Victor Stone/Cyborg. Zack Snyder has long said that Cyborg is the heart of the movie and he absolutely is. Of the newer Justice League characters, he gets the most time and development with Victor accepting who and what he is. He has a lot of character moments before he joins the League, and his arc is truly beautiful to watch. Fisher also performs his part fantastically, even when almost all of his body is covered in CGI, he leaves such an impression on screen. If nothing else, I hope this gets Ray Fisher the praise that he deserves (and hopefully will lead to more Cyborg in future DCEU films).

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The rest of the cast are great too. Jeremy Irons, Amy Adams, Diane Lane and Connie Nielsen really do deliver greatly in reprising their respective roles and do even better here. Irons was great even in Josstice League but Amy Adams and Diane Lane deliver some great emotional work here, and Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta really gets more to do here. Some of the newer actors and characters actually have more impact on the plot, a chief example being Joe Morton as Cyborg’s father, who was just that in Josstice League but actually plays a notable part in the story in this cut. Then there’s even actors and characters here that weren’t in Josstice League with Willem Dafoe (who would reprise his role in Aquaman), Kirsten Clemens as Iris West (in Flash’s first scene) and Zheng Kai as Ryan Choi, all of whom are welcome additions to the movie. One of the main criticisms of Josstice League was the villain, that being Ciaran Hinds as Steppenwolf, with him being a very weak and generic antagonist with a terrible design. Hinds was among the first people to be openly disappointed with that theatrical cut and watching him here you can understand why. Steppenwolf is absolutely an incredible improvement here on many levels. While I wouldn’t class him as one of the best comic book villains or anything, he’s really effective here. First of all, he’s way more intimidating and scary in this, a large imposing force with a spikey armour exterior, he seems just impossible to kill especially during his action scenes. Not only that, he’s also actually got some motivations behind what he’s doing, and they are well set out. Something that the trailers for Justice League have really been pushing is that major DC villain Darkseid would be in this. He’s basically a cameo in this and a hint of things to potentially (or not potentially now) things to come. So don’t expect much of him, but he’s such a menacing presence when he’s on screen, and Ray Porter’s intimidating voice and performance makes him even more memorable.

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Zack Snyder’s name is in the title of the movie, so of course we would get to him eventually in this review. This is undeniably a film from him, his style is all over this but like Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, makes each of his DCEU films feel distinct from one another. Something interesting is the 4:3 aspect ratio, I can get why some people would initially be turned off by this much like the long runtime. I will say that like many I was hoping for a much wider look to the movie. However it does add another unique aspect to this film over every other comic book movie. Also after a while you just get used to it, so just try to watch the movie on the biggest screen possible. The visual effects are great throughout, and the powers of the characters are showcased wonderfully, the highlight for me being Flash. The most shaky CGI is the new scenes that Snyder filmed, which is understandable. There are some other CGI moments which weren’t perfect, but for a 4 hour long blockbuster, that’s to be expected. Many of the designs are particularly great too, the main examples being the spikey armoured and intimidating Steppenwolf, and the ripped from the comic books look of Darkseid. The action is fantastic and might even rank amongst the best Snyder has done. You can see everything that’s happening on screen and it’s directed absolutely smoothly. It has an R rating for a reason, while it’s no Logan or Deadpool, it is more violent than the average comic book movie with dismemberments and blood and the like. However, it perfectly fits with the tone of the movie. The score by Junkie XL is fantastic and one of the standouts of the movie. It not just replacing Danny Elfman’s lackluster score, but every theme is distinct and fits the moment perfectly. I also love how he uses to previous DCEU themes to great effect here. I’ll also go ahead and say that the main Justice League theme is one of the best themes in a comic book.

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Zack Snyder’s Justice League is so many things. It’s a triumphant comic book epic (the most epic of the comic book epics), a vast improvement over the disastrous 2017 movie, and a complete vindication for Zack Snyder and everyone else who worked on the movie. The characters are beautifully realised, the story is operatic yet poignant and heartfelt, and it’s fantastically directed with a bold vision. It really does rank among the best that comic book movies can deliver. If you are a DC fan there’s going to be a lot here that you’ll love, especially if you are a fan of Snyder’s DC movies. Honestly even if you weren’t such huge fans of Snyder’s DC movies, I still think you might really like it, ironically the 4-hour long movie the most accessible of his trilogy. The only people I can’t recommend this movie to are people who just don’t like comic book movies altogether. I don’t know if there will be a continuation of this story, I certainly hope there will be or at the very least an acknowledgement of this movie over the Whedon cut. Whatever the case, I’m incredibly happy that this movie exists in itself, and is firmly one of my favourite experiences watching a movie for the first time.

Justice League: Theatrical Cut (2017) Retrospective Review

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Justice League

Time: 120 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman
Henry Cavill as Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman
Amy Adams as Lois Lane
Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman
Ezra Miller as Barry Allen/The Flash
Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry/Aquaman
Ray Fisher as Victor Stone/Cyborg
Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth
Diane Lane as Martha Kent
Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta
J. K. Simmons as Commissioner James Gordon
Ciarán Hinds as Steppenwolf
Amber Heard as Mera
Joe Morton as Silas Stone
Director Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon

Fuelled by his restored faith in humanity, and inspired by Superman’s (Henry Cavill) selfless act, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) enlists newfound ally Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) to face an even greater threat. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to recruit a team to stand against this newly-awakened enemy. Despite the formation of an unprecedented league of heroes in Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and the Flash (Ezra Miller), it may be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.

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Note: Most of this review is written at a time when the Snyder Cut (or director’s cut) of Justice League wasn’t announced.

Justice League was my most anticipated film of 2017, and when I first watched it I was slightly disappointed at the results but I still enjoyed it. As time went by however, it really got worse, and I really needed a rewatch to be sure what my final thoughts on it were before I never see the movie again, it just took me a while to get around to that. Now I had been intending for this review to be released much later on but as it turns out, the Snyder Cut was announced to be coming in 2021, so there was no better time for my to release this review. The theatrical cut of Justice League isn’t one of the worst movies I’ve seen by any means, but it’s among the most crushingly disappointing ones, so much potential and talent cut down and thrown away, and the end product isn’t even fun in a so-bad-it’s-good way, it was just sad to think about.

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To get this out of the way, for those who don’t know, during production director Zack Snyder was replaced by Joss Whedon, who would be filming the reshoot. While it was being said that Whedon would be directing pretty much as Snyder for some additional scenes, it really turned out to be an attempt to completely reshape the movie, with some very bad results. The story itself on paper sounds fine but it needed a lot more fleshing out, the final product at best reads like a very rough first draft. There’s a lot here that was very clearly cut out, and indeed I get the impression that they cut down the movie to its simplest form and reshot some of the scenes that remained. There are some moments where the characters just deliver so much explanatory exposition about everything, their current states, their origins, what they have to do and the like, all of that they just briefly mention and never talk about again. It’s like they’re compensating for all the scenes they cut out basically delivering the same points. From what I can tell, the movie was going to be longer and explore each of the characters a lot more, and tell their stories in a more naturalistic and less rushed way. WB seemed to want to brighten up Justice League quite a bit, and you can feel that throughout, everything feels off. It’s not just that Justice League has problems, the final product is very bland, it’s not even that entertaining or interesting. From the beginning it is already pretty rough, from that opening cell phone footage of Superman, to the Batman scene that just felt really off, it wasn’t starting off so well. Now the opening credits sequence set to “Everybody Knows” was legitimately good, but after that it reverts back to being not so good. The rest of Justice League until the climax jumps between having good moments and bad moments, but over time the movie just gets worse. The movie also doesn’t flat out doesn’t address things set up from Batman v Superman, most notably the Knightmare sequence. Even people who were confused by the significance of that scene might’ve been willing to wait for Justice League would bring it all full circle and give an explanation… but that was never addressed here.

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I guess since I talked about the scenes that were removed, I should talk about the additional scenes that Joss Whedon inserted. Whedon seemed to want to add humour to everything, and it’s just unfortunate that the humour here is terrible. Fun fact, the first Batman scene where he uses a criminal to bait a Parademon, that was directed by Joss and was a somewhat okay directed scene. However, it was originally shot to be very comedic, and even WB had to come in and reign him in. Some of the dialogue and moments are so horrendous that I couldn’t believe it actually made it into the theatrical release. There is a scene with Martha Kent and Lois Lane, where Martha says that Clark called Lois the “thirstiest young woman he’s ever met”, somehow managing to be by far the worst line in the movie, and that’s saying a lot. There’s also a scene where Flash accidentally falls onto Diana’s breasts, and you know it’s a Whedon reshoot as it resembles that scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron where Mark Ruffalo falls on Scarlett Johansson in the same way. While I’m not a massive fan of Whedon, he’s done so much better in the past that it’s a little astounding that somehow almost everything new he added was bad. So many of the reshoots were also unnecessary. One was the first scene between Barry Allen and Bruce Wayne, that scene seemed to have largely played out the same way as the original, but for whatever reason at the end Barry starts going on this tangent about brunch or something, very clearly a reshoot so as to add a joke, and an unneeded one at that. Another instance was the random focusing on a Russian Family in the area the parademons are located (also the location of the climax), and I just have no idea why we kept seeing what was happening with them. It seemed like they were placed in the movie just so they could be there for The Flash and Superman to rescue on screen, but they really didn’t need to establish them this early on even if they wanted to do that.

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This movie has such a large and talented cast, and most of them managed to be misused. There is a lot to talk about with the characters and actors, so I’ll start with the supporting cast. J.K. Simmons was a great pick for Jim Gordon, while I would’ve liked to have seen more of him, he served his purpose well enough. Shame we’ll never see him reprise his role. Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth is also once again a delight, despite all the changes that happened in the movie, I had no problem with him or the way he was utilised. Billy Crudup makes a brief appearance as Barry Allen’s father, his scene with Ezra Miller’s Barry early on is legitimately good, and I hope Crudup returns for The Flash movie. Connie Nielson also reprised her role as Hippolyta, Diana’s mother in one of the better scenes of the movie, while she’s like in only two scenes at most she did pretty well. The rest of the supporting cast had issues though. Zack Snyder in both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman (the Ultimate Edition at least) made Lois Lane, played by Amy Adams, a prominent part of the plot. With all the cutting done here though, all she’s left to do is to be there for Superman to see her, so that he could stop being crazy. Justice League is the debut of Mera, played by Amber Heard. While she wasn’t going to have a big role, it seems that they cut down scenes with her. The end result didn’t give Mera the best impression. Thankfully Aquaman gave audiences a much better impression of her, and showcased her a lot better. Ciaran Hinds plays the villain of Steppenwolf and a lot of people really thought he was terrible. I actually ended up liking Steppenwolf more than most people, I don’t think he’s one of the worst comic book movie villains like a lot of people found him. However, he’s not that good of a character or villain either. The thing is, outside of some cliché villain lines and some horrible CGI, the individual scenes with him aren’t bad. The problem is that all the development and depth with him is just missing. Hinds prior to the movie talked about how Steppenwolf was different as a villain, and he had a certain way of playing him. It’s not surprise that after the movie was released, he was unsatisfied with the end product, particularly with how pretty much all of his backstory was removed. There is something I realised while watching Justice League for the first time. Unless you are at least aware of some comic book knowledge about Steppenwolf, Darkseid, the parademons and Apokalips, you have no idea what’s happening with them. Steppenwolf at one point in one of his speeches says “for Darkseid” but the general audience doesn’t know who that it, or even necessarily that he’s referring to a person and not a planet or whatever. For all the exposition that the reshoots dump out, they never really gave them a solid explanation outside of a vague description.

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I’ll talk about the League itself, from best to worst, in terms of who comes across the best. First of all Cyborg played by Ray Fisher was actually quite a surprise. Fisher added a lot with his performance, and the CGI on him didn’t distract too much (only occasionally). There was also his connection with his father Silas Stone, but it also seems like their scenes together were changed, maybe in an attempt to lighten the movie up. Like with a lot of the movie, he’s held back from much of his arc being removed from the movie. It’s a shame that I’m not sure if we’ll ever see him again on screen. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman is also good, though at a lower level compared to her previous appearances. Jason Momoa’s Aquaman really doesn’t get much to do here, having some of the same problems as the rest of the league with their arcs not being fleshed out or their origins just briefly explained. I’m just glad that Momoa at least got his own movie to show off his potential. Ezra Miller is a very talented actor, but his Flash seemed to be really negatively affected by reshoots. Since Barry Allen seemed to be quite comedic for the movie to begin with, it seemed they leaned in heavy with this and made him even more hyper, comedic and over the top. As I said he did have a really good scene with Billy Crudup, and it was a genuinely heartfelt scene, so he can definitely work in the role. However for the most part, he’s reduced to just being the comedic relief, and I really hope his solo movie (if it ever gets released) shows him off a lot better.

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Now for the two of the League that fare the worst, Batman and Superman. Zack Snyder and Chris Terrio were going to take Batman in a less dark direction compared to Batman v Superman and they even said this. It didn’t seem enough, as the reshoots seemed to redo a lot of his original scenes. Even though he wasn’t going to be as dark as he was in BvS, apparently Batman in this movie was originally supposed to be on like a suicide mission, so they had a strong intention of where to take him. WB and/or Joss Whedon however didn’t just trim off some edginess or darkness, they flat out removed almost all of it. What we are left with is a Batman that is not dark at all. He’s not quite George Clooney Batman but he’s definitely in Val Kilmer territory, but actually he’s worse because even Kilmer’s version at least acknowledged that Bruce Wayne was quite a dark individual. Going from BvS to this, he just feels very off. Affleck in the Snyder footage looks like he’s playing his part fine enough. In the Whedon footage however, he either looks like Ben Affleck playing himself saying the lines or just looked really unhappy and doesn’t want to be there (which is very likely the case). Honestly the way he sometimes acts in some of the reshoots is like he’s acting in a Late Night Talk Show skit for Justice League, rather than the actual movie itself. It was a real shame that this would be the last time we’ll be seeing him as Batman.

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Henry Cavill’s Superman is really divisive but I really liked him in the previous films. Justice League’s Superman annoyed me even when I first watched it, and that’s still the case now. Now I should get something out of the way, my primary issues have got nothing to do with the CGI on Henry Cavill’s face. Honestly, I’d rather Snyder’s Superman with a weird CGI face than the Superman we got with the face looking fine. It’s pretty clear that WB removed almost all of Snyder’s footage of Superman, I’m pretty sure there’s like 2 scenes of Snyder’s Superman, and that’s not even including the two deleted scenes. This doesn’t just feel like an attempt at being like Christopher Reeve’s Superman, this flat out feels like a mockery of that version, being overly cartoonishly cheesy and silly. I know a lot of people thought his past two movies that he was stiff, but he felt more human and grounded in those movies. However, I didn’t like him here, he seemed so unnatural and forced, he seemed like what many haters of the Superman character think he’s like. Even the Superman on the Supergirl tv shows fared better. In short, he’s pretty much the Superman that some of the detractors of Snyder’s Superman wanted him to be, happy, quippy, with no conflict and with not much personality or character beyond that whatsoever. Also on a lesser but still disappointing note, when it comes to showcasing his powers, he doesn’t seem like he’s directed by Snyder, you don’t really feel the weight of his power, he comes across as a little more cartoonish. Last point about this Superman, at the end of the movie he pretty much saves everything. The whole thing about the League is that all of them are needed to come together. It seems that originally Superman would be the last necessary addition to the team that’s enough to stop Steppenwolf and save the world. However with this Superman, he probably would’ve been able to solve everything himself. This makes the tagline of one of the posters “You can’t save the world alone” rather silly looking back at it. Maybe the saddest part about all of this is that despite all the changes made to Superman here, it’s still not enough to get people on board with Cavill’s version, I’m not even sure if we’ll see his Superman on the big screen again in any format.

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You can blatantly see the differences between Zack Snyder’s direction and Joss Whedon’s direction on screen at many points. Some of the action was pretty good, but other aspects of the direction held it back a little. In terms of the best sequences, one of them was seeing the Amazons fight against Steppenwolf. Even though the Steppenwolf CGI looked iffy, it showed off both his power and the Amazons skills. Also the flashback showing mankind, Amazonians and Atlantians fighting against Steppenwolf, even though it was brief and no doubt cut a lot of things, was good to see. I did like seeing certain things on screen, like I liked the way they showed off The Flash with his speed.

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The CGI goes from looking actually pretty good, to looking so incredibly awful, the look of the movie was inconsistent. Even at its best, there was always something off, like they deliberately tried to brighten up the look of the movie. An example was the fight between the Justice League and Superman, the way the background looked and the windows particularly really did seem like it took place at night but they just brightened everything up. I would also bring up the moustache debacle with Henry Cavill but it’s been talked to death so I won’t bother. Its far from the film’s biggest problems. Despite some of the CGI not looking so good in the first two acts, it’s the third act where it takes a massive downgrade and looks downright ugly. There are glimpses from the trailers of the third act that made it into the movie, and they didn’t have this horrible red filter over everything, it only looked dark. If it the previous acts didn’t make Justice League a disaster, the climax certainly made it. It is worth noting that this is one of the most expensive movies ever made, that money didn’t seem to have gone to good use. The third act apparently was almost entirely reshot and looking at the results, it definitely looked that way. If they really wanted to have extensive reshoots, and changing pre-existing scenes, they should’ve moved the movie back many months, that way that would give them enough time to do all the reshoots and also have enough time to get the effects all under control. But alas, instead we get an incredibly rushed film. I was one of the only people leading up to its release rooting for Danny Elfman to deliver a good score for Justice League after replacing Junkie XL but I was completely disappointed in it. Even if the movie wouldn’t necessarily be made better by it, it could’ve at least elevated the movie but it’s so generic. Elfman when it came to his score talked about how he’s using John Williams’s Superman theme and his own theme for Batman, and they do make an appearance in the movie at brief moments. Unlike some people I don’t necessarily have a problem with that, the problem is that his score literally doesn’t have anything else to offer. It probably would’ve been better if he literally just took the score from his Batman and Donner’s Superman and just played it because at least they’d be more memorable than whatever he was trying to make here. It is worth noting that Elfman also straight up ripped off the theme of The Flash from the tv series The Flash on the CW, it’s so incredibly lazy. Also what Elfman did with Wonder Woman’s theme, especially in her introduction in the Bank scene, is absolutely atrocious. It’s like someone was parodying Wonder Woman and made some incredibly basic theme to somewhat resemble it.

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Now I think some people are wondering about how good the movie could be had it all been under Snyder. I’m of the mind that Snyder’s version would’ve been a lot better, but even a complete Joss Whedon Justice League movie would’ve been better than what we got here. You can feel this real laziness when it comes to some of the reshoots by Joss, and I feel like even he wasn’t satisfied with his work here. I’m not saying that everything Zack would’ve done with the movie would’ve been gold or anything. Originally this movie was going to be in two parts, but the first part would end by having Darkseid kill Lois and setting the chain of events in the Knightmare timeline, seemingly setting the stage for Part 2 to be something like Avengers: Endgame. While that idea is bold, it’s understandable why WB weren’t so hot on it, and Snyder and Terrio compromised for a straight forward Justice League, however one that was worldbuilding, expansive and epic. From the leaks and unfinished footage that we got, it would’ve at least been a lot more interesting. That said, now we know that the much desired Snyder Cut is coming to HBO Max. Not only will it be all from the original director, he’ll be releasing it much more of it, around 4 hours as opposed to the length that he’d no doubt have to cut it down to if the final theatrical cut was his. I won’t go into too much depth about what will be in this new version here, but essentially Zack and a post production crew will finish off his cut, and will shoot some additional scenes. Snyder had said that what made it into the theatrical cut was like 25% his, and that this new cut will be a completely different experience, and I don’t doubt that.

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The theatrical cut of Justice League is one of the most disappointing movies I have ever watched. It’s by no means one of the worst comic book movies ever made, but it is so incredibly lacklustre. However the Snyder Cut turns out, I don’t know if we’ll be getting any future Justice League movies, for a while at least, and it led to a number of negative things happening with the DCEU. Actors leaving, characters probably not going to appear again on screen again, and so many changes made. If anything can come from this, hopefully WB has learnt their lesson of not cutting and interfering, but then again that’s what I thought Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad would’ve taught them. I can’t even muster up any hate for this movie, it’s just disappointing and sad to watch and think about. With that being said, I don’t see the upcoming the Snyder Cut not being supremely better and at least make Zack Snyder’s DCEU trilogy feel complete and satisfying.

Vice (2018) Review

Time: 132 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast:
Christian Bale as Dick Cheney
Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney
Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld
Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush
Alison Pill as Mary Cheney
Lily Rabe as Liz Cheney
Tyler Perry as Colin Powell
Jesse Plemons as Kurt, the narrator
Director: Adam McKay

Gov. George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) of Texas picks Dick Cheney (Christian Bale), the CEO of Halliburton Co., to be his Republican running mate in the 2000 presidential election. No stranger to politics, Cheney’s impressive résumé includes stints as White House chief of staff, House Minority Whip and defense secretary. When Bush wins by a narrow margin, Cheney begins to use his newfound power to help reshape the country and the world.

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Vice (once titled Backseat) was one of my most anticipated movies of 2018. Along with the cast being talented with the likes of Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell involved and it being about Dick Cheney, it would be Adam McKay (who directed The Big Short) who would be taking on this movie about the notorious Vice President of George W. Bush. Despite hearing some early positive buzz, when the full reception of the movie came out, it was pretty divisive, one of the most divisive films of 2018 in fact. I happen to be in the camp of people who liked Vice, even though I get why it didn’t quite work for some people.

Adam McKay wrote the script for Vice and having watched The Big Short somewhat recently you can feel it. Now the movie is based on a true story and title cards at the beginning it makes pretty clear at the beginning that Dick Cheney is a very secretive person and that they tried their hardest to get their information about what happened. I heard some criticisms of the movie being that it’s very biased and intending to be very scathing towards Dick Cheney, I disagree. I knew going in that Adam McKay is a very political person, and he’s already made his opinions on Bush, Cheney and the entire Bush Administration pretty clear. With all that said, McKay seemed to restrain himself from just making the whole film just a hit piece on Cheney, while it is very opinionated and clearly against him, it also attempting to give some humanity to the controversial politician. At the same time though, it’s not trying to glorify him. Naturally as this movie is about politics, it’s going to divide some people with things that are said and how things are portrayed, it’s a given really. As a movie I was pretty interested in what was going on. It really covers Dick Cheney’s life in politics, so this includes his early stage work in the White House, before he’s Bush’s running mate in the 2000s. I think I should point out that despite the title, it’s really the second half of the movie that covers Dick as Vice President, and that’s where it picks up. I get that given this is a biopic about him they needed the first half to show where he got his experience, but I wouldn’t have minded if they picked up the pace a bit. While I wouldn’t say I was bored in the first half, there were portions where I was kind of wanting it to just jump to the Bush/Cheney stuff pretty quickly. The movie is 2 hours and 10 minutes long and while I don’t necessarily think that it should’ve been shorter, I wish that it got to the Bush Administration sooner. The second half is way more compelling and interesting, and that’s where the more hard hitting facts come into play. In terms of criticisms with what was portrayed and what was not, I do feel like they don’t spend enough time with the 9/11 bit. It’s definitely there, but it actually doesn’t stay on that extremely crucial and historical moment for long.

Vice had one of the best trailers of the year, however it implied that it would have a lot more comedy than there ended up being. Some of the humour can be absolutely absurd and it won’t work for some people, it did for me though. The comedy is here to make processing some of these events and facts easier. For one, this movie is pretty political based, and people generally are understandably bored by politics. I will say that I understood more here than with The Big Short, but that might just be because I can follow politics better than the economy. The other reason for the humour is that Vice is a lot darker than you think it would be. From the trailer you would think that it would just be rundown of what Dick Cheney did and that it’ll list off what happened as a result. While it is that and more, it also shows the consequences of his decisions, and I mean like they recreate events. For example there might be a scene where Cheney makes some decisions which might result on people being bombed and it would show glimpses of said bombing happening (the same could be torture, war, etc). Despite the comedy, it’s used more sparingly than you may think. The Big Short had quite a bit of comedy while highlighting a lot of tragic aspects, with Vice there’s much less comedy. I feel like using the comedy makes the harder and more troubling moments hit even harder, because you’re not bracing yourself for how bad things are going to go next. If you feel frustrated, angry or disturbed learning about all of these facts, Vice is kind of doing its job. As for more about how this is all told, I’ll get to that when I talk about the direction of the movie. Side note but Vice also a mid credits scene… a mid credits scene which is unnecessary and didn’t quite work. I get the intention behind that scene but it felt very heavy handed (even for Adam McKay) and was a little silly and not in the right way. The reference to a certain popular action franchise in the last line of the entire movie didn’t help things much either. So no, you aren’t missing much if you leave after the credits start to roll.

Vice has a fantastic cast that all work together great. Christian Bale here gives one of his best performances in his entire career, and considering his acting talent and his endless track record of fantastic performances, that’s saying a lot. Not only does he physically transform into Dick Cheney with yet another large weight gain (he really should stop doing that soon), he just embodies him completely. Even though I haven’t seen a ton of video footage of the real Cheney, the way Bale acts seems exactly like him. It would be easy for any actor to over rely on the weight gain, makeup and transformation, however he uses it to enhance his performance. The way he speaks (out of the corner of his mouth and with a very low voice), moves, all of that felt so much like Cheney. It’s not a showy performance at all, appropriately given the person he’s portraying, it’s a very quiet performance, you can tell even when he’s not saying a single word that he’s thinking and scheming about something. I know that it’s been said many times in the past with plenty of performances, but I forgot so many times that it was Bale playing Dick Cheney (I’m referring more so in the latter parts of the movie, he’s pretty recognisable earlier on). Now I have seen some people complain that the movie doesn’t go into a deep dive into Cheney as a person or necessarily explain him, given that Vice is a biopic about him. Once again I’ll refer to the beginning of the movie how it mentions that Dick Cheney is incredibly secretive, so really there was only so much that one could actually find out about him. Really when it comes to showing what kind of a person he is, you have to look at his actions in the movie and the ways he does them, those things sort of painted a picture of what Cheney really was. One of the best performances of 2018 for sure.

Amy Adams plays Lynne Cheney, the wife of Dick, who actually played a big part in his success. She was actually involved a lot more in the movie than I thought she would be. Adams as usual brings her A-game to this role, I don’t know if I’d consider this to be necessarily one of her all time best performances but it a good performance nonetheless. Steve Carell is charismatic and entertaining as Donald Rumsfeld, who acted as Secretary of Defence for both Presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush, and is a delight when he’s on screen. Then there’s Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush who is hilarious when he’s on screen. The portrayal basically leans in more that Bush was really incompetent and was manipulated by Cheney and others. I just wished that we got more of Rockwell, he really shows up in the second half of the movie and doesn’t as much screen time as I would’ve liked. Other actors like Tyler Perry who plays Colin Powell are also great in their roles. Something that also should be discussed is Jesse Plemons is as the narrator of the movie, who you see in person quite a lot throughout the movie, talking to the camera. Plemons is an overlooked actor worthy of a lot more recognition and he does a really good job here, really keeping your attention whenever he’s present. There’s a big mystery to his character in his relation to Dick Cheney, and I can certainly say that the reveal was rather unexpected. I’m not exactly sure how I felt about it though. The reveal felt rather pointless, it doesn’t exactly tell us anything new, it’s just surprising that’s all. It might’ve just been better to have Plemons as a random guy narrating everything that happened than actually giving him a role in the story.

Adam McKay’s direction of The Big Short was pretty unique and actually worked quite well to tell the story and explain everything rather well (even though there was a bunch of things that I still don’t understand even after watching it twice). However, he takes his odd brand of filmmaking to the next level with Vice. This might be the most unorthodoxly directed political movie and biopic I’ve seen, especially with regard to the editing. Along with the political baggage, this direction is what will really polarize and divide a lot of people. As for how the story is told and all that, I decided to hold off talking about it till I was talking about the direction, because the two aspects kind of interlink with each other. As previously mentioned the film is narrated, and there is a ton of narration, and there is a ton of explaining everything to the audience. As much as I prefer that they would show rather than tell, it’s pretty hard getting across so much information and having the general audience understanding it. So I don’t see it as McKay condescending and treating people like they’re children, it can be very difficult for most people to understand politics or really be that interested in it, its rather mundane. McKay does some weird choices of portraying scenes, some of it being for humour. For example there’s a scene where both Dick and Lynne have a scene where every line they had was like Shakespearian (this instance it was more done for humour). Things like this at least keeps things interesting as you’re wondering what absurd thing McKay will somehow add in next (Galactus somehow makes an appearance). In that sense, quite a lot of the movie is satirical, and the whole movie seems to bounce between being a straight up serious political biopic with some comedic bits, to a full on absurdist satire. This can be very jarring but it worked for me, even though it can be quite messy at times. As the film covers 3-4 decades, there is a lot of makeup used and it worked really well, mostly being used on Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Steve Carell.

Making a movie about Dick Cheney is not easy but Adam McKay really pulled it off, even though it won’t work for everyone. The performances are nothing short of fantastic, and the way that the story was told was very effective, at times funny, but also very hard hitting. Vice is an unorthodox film for sure but I think it’s better with this direction than without it. I do think that Vice is worth watching at least for the performances, though I’m not quite sure how you’ll feel about the rest of the film.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) Retrospective Review

Time: 183 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman
Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Superman
Amy Adams as Lois Lane
Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor
Diane Lane as Martha Kent
Laurence Fishburne as Perry White
Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth
Holly Hunter as June Finch
Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman
Scoot McNairy as Wallace Keefe
Callan Mulvey as Anatoli Knyazev
Tao Okamoto as Mercy Graves
Robin Atkin Downes as Doomsday
Director: Zack Snyder

It’s been nearly two years since Superman’s (Henry Cavill) colossal battle with Zod devastated the city of Metropolis. The loss of life and collateral damage left many feeling angry and helpless, including crime-fighting billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). Convinced that Superman is now a threat to humanity, Batman embarks on a personal vendetta to end his reign on Earth, while the conniving Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) launches his own crusade against the Man of Steel.

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This is a spoiler filled review, here is my original Batman v Superman review, and here is my review of the Ultimate Edition.

I had already done a couple of reviews on Batman v Superman, one on the Theatrical Edition, and another on the Ultimate Edition. It’s been over a couple years since Batman v Superman has been released and I’ve seen it over 7 times (3 of them being of the Theatrical Cut and the rest being of the Ultimate Edition. I had felt compelled to yet again write about this movie, especially after my more recent Man of Steel retrospective review. Batman v Superman did have a large impact and impression on audience members, some loved it, others hated it and others felt very mixed and didn’t know what to think of it. Everyone had a strong opinion on this movie and it was very divisive, probably one of the most polarising comic book movies (if not the most polarising comic book movie of all time, even more than Man of Steel). It was such a surprising movie for me personally, I mean it was in the top of my fave movies of 2016. This review will go in a little more depth than my Man of Steel review with certain aspects. There were so many aspects about this movie that I was worried about, Ben Affleck was going to be Batman, Gal Gadot of Fast and Furious fame was going to play Wonder Woman, and Mark Zuckerberg himself Jesse Eisenberg was going to play the villainous Lex Luthor. Also, I didn’t know how this film would handle the introduction of the Justice League. I was very worried at what this movie was going to be like, even when I liked the trailers and footage I had many doubts. However, this movie blew me away, this movie as a whole was a lot more than I expected it to be. I expected a simple Batman versus Superman movie. Instead I got one of the few films that I would call a ‘superhero drama’ (other films in this category I would also place Watchmen, The Dark Knight and Logan), and it just gets better and better the more I watch it.

This film took massive risks, not only when it came to what Zack Snyder and Chris Terrio did with the characters but also the way it tells its story (with it being a movie about Superman and Batman, arguably in the top 3 comic book superheroes of all time). This story is a lot more dense than expected, you really have to pay attention to what was going on, it’s no Memento but there are lots of plotlines going on for a comic book movie. I and many other people just expected a straight up Batman vs Superman movie but it was a lot more than that. Oscar winning writer Chris Terrio did a great job with the script, he rewrote David S. Goyer’s script and you can feel the occasional odd Goyer line of dialogue that feels out of place, but otherwise most of it all really works. Batman v Superman also gets better and better the more I watch it, and certain aspects work better upon repeat viewings. Some scenes that didn’t seem necessary on of the first viewing, actually worked upon repeat viewings. The Clark and Jonathan Kent dream/vision mountain scene seemed unnecessary when I watched it for the first time. Upon many viewings though, I would consider it one of Clark’s most important scenes in the whole movie, especially for his arc. Despite the long runtime of the Ultimate Edition, for some reason I can always watch this movie and be fully invested from start to finish. There is some atmosphere in it which draws me to it but I can’t tell what it is, it’s something about this world that Terrio and Snyder had set these characters in.

Now the characters’ treatment in this film was one of the most criticised aspects of the film, especially with Bruce Wayne/Batman and Clark Kent/Superman. However, I personally think that their interpretations were not only great, they were very compelling and some of the best versions of the characters on the big screen. Let’s start with Batman. Batman is not just darker here than in any previous live action incarnation of Batman (which he is), he’s damaged, he doesn’t care anymore, he’s completely off the rails and is unstable. Many people complained that Batman here wasn’t really Batman, he wasn’t really a hero, between the Metropolis flashback and the third act, the one time when he actually saves people (aside from Martha Kent), he really wasn’t looking to save them. In his introduction scene as Batman, he was looking for the human trafficker criminal for information, not necessarily to save the people. To that criticism I say… that’s kinda the point. He’s not what he once was, like how Alfred brings up how everything’s changed “That’s how it starts, the fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men cruel” That Metropolis event changed Bruce significantly for the worse, which built upon his feeling of helplessness even when he was Batman (especially the implication that he failed to save Robin from The Joker). “20 years in Gotham Alfred, we’ve seen what promises are worth. How many good guys are left? How many stayed that way?” To take a character as beloved and iconic as Batman and to take the risk of making him incredibly flawed, I have to give Snyder huge props for that. I noticed that Batman is one of these iconic characters that are so beloved that a lot of audiences don’t like when they are shown to be flawed, whether it be Superman, Luke Skywalker or whoever else. As for the complaints of him killing…. Batman has always killed in his past live action movies (with Batman and Robin being an exception). The difference here is that it is more blatant. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily into having Batman kill everyone he comes across (because then they would have to make up some contrived reason why he doesn’t end up killing particularly people like The Joker). The reason that the killing works here for me is that there is actually a character arc around the killing. At the end of the film, Batman visits Lex at the prison but chooses not to brand him (like he did with many other criminals), basically meaning that he’s done with killing (or no doubt just done with killing in this blatant way, he’s going to somehow end up killing again in his next appearance like with the other versions of Batman). It was because of Superman’s sacrifice that he decided to make a change. Now for the controversial ‘Martha’ scene. I was not expecting the conflict between Batman and Superman being resolved through the revelation that their mothers had the same name (and on paper it doesn’t really sound good). At first I really didn’t know what to think of it. But after thinking about it for a while I think it is great, after all the reason that Batman doesn’t kill Superman isn’t because their mothers share have the same name, it’s because he realises that Superman is not just an all powerful dangerous single minded being. Throughout the majority of the movie, Batman believes that Superman is a complete threat to the world and not ‘human’ at all. In the moment where Lois tells Bruce that Martha is the name of Clark’s mother, he realises that he has a mother, he is a person. I do think it could’ve been handled slightly better but most of it works.

Snyder really made Batman a force to be reckoned with, his action scenes are nothing like we’ve seen in other Batman live action movies before. The widely praised warehouse sequence, praised by even people who heavily disliked the film, is a good example of this, with Batman taking on multiple criminals at the same time, mostly relying on his own fighting style which is a lot more brutal. It’s not just action scenes that conveys his strong presence, his first appearance was straight out of a horror film. Other decisions like with the voice modulator and his worn down simplistic costume really added to this portrayal. Also, Ben Affleck was excellent in the role of Batman, he blew me away with how great he was here. I’ve always liked Ben Affleck as an actor, but I had no idea what to expect from his Batman and he really surprised me here. He pulled off the charismatic side of Bruce Wayne, the broken and damaged side of Bruce, as well as Batman himself. In fact I think his best acting is during the Batman and Superman fight, when his metal helmet is damaged and his face is exposed, seeing Batman’s expressions while he was Batman was something we don’t usually get to see. Definitely an unexpectedly great casting decision, and an interesting take on the character. As for Ben Affleck, I think he’s the best Batman in a single live action film (however Christian Bale’s 3 Batman appearances combined is better than all of Ben’s Batman appearances, I personally blame Justice League). Hopefully Ben will get to reach BvS greatness once again in the Matt Reeves Batman movie (should he choose to return to the role).

Clark Kent’s story in Man of Steel’s was about him being ready for people to see him for what he is. In Batman v Superman, Superman is out there in the public eye, and his story is about him living in a world where people know about him and are reacting to him. Some of the reaction is positive, others are negative (Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne being examples of people who don’t take too kindly to him). In retrospect I can partially understand why his character did get some criticism, because a lot of his arc in this movie is cut in the Theatrical Cut. The Ultimate Edition fleshes out his story more, giving him a lot more screentime. It also included important scenes like Clark talking to his mother, Clark talking to the deceased branded criminal’s wife, Superman saving some people in the Capitol and the aftermath, all these are very important for his story arc and more clearly lays it out. However, I also think that part of the criticism is how Superman sort isn’t a huge hero, a criticism that was brought up in Man of Steel. Well he does save many people in Batman v Superman, he saves Lois a few times in the movie, he stops Doomsday, and there’s even a montage of him saving people like in the first act. I suspect it’s more the criticism that Superman isn’t constantly doing a lot of heroic things. For me that personal didn’t bother me, this movie was taking Clark on a particular arc and I liked it. In the real world, a powerful being like Superman would not be universally loved, there would be lots of concerns as to what he can do, should do and will do. BvS really tries to capture how we would react to someone like Superman, there are those who love him, and there are those who hate him and fear him. And before some people comment, no, DCEU’s Superman isn’t dark. He lives in a world which is dark but despite everything, he still rises up to be the hero. All things considered, Superman is the true hero in Batman v Superman, not Batman. Despite all that humanity does to him (especially Lex), Superman is willing enough to sacrifice himself for them. Henry Cavill is even better here than he was in Man of Steel. Cavill expertly brings out Clark’s inner emotions without requiring a lot of dialogue, you can just see what he feels. With two deep and conflicting stories that Superman has gone through in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, I have to say that Henry Cavill’s Superman, as directed by Zack Snyder, is my favourite interpretation of the character. Now I’m just wondering how he’s going to be handled in future Superman movies.

All the other characters I thought was great as well. Amy Adams was great as Lois (she gets a lot more to do in the Ultimate Edition with her investigating the desert incident and more, on top of saving Superman twice). Gal Gadot was solid as Wonder Woman, Holly Hunter as Senator Finch made an impression despite not playing a comic book character and Jeremy Irons stood out as Alfred Pennyworth (I hope we get to see a lot more of him in the solo Batman movies). Even Callan Mulvey made an impression as Lex Luthor’s henchman, overall everyone was great. But I really want to focus on Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. Definitely a very divisive aspect of the film, with some finding him to be annoying and just a copy of Heath Ledger’s Joker (I guess any comic book villain who’s crazy is just trying too hard to be The Joker). Now I’m just going to avoid all the comic book accuracies arguments for a bit, and am going to focus on him in the movie itself. I for one loved his Lex, and I was one of the people who hated Jesse’s casting from day 1. He was somehow even more quirky and over the top than I expected but he still manages to come across as menacing and dangerous, especially on the rooftop with Superman. His plan is darker than most interpretations of Lex, and his motivations were more complex. Also on a side note, Jesse Eisenberg completely threw himself into this role and didn’t hold back, you can clearly see that he is having the time of his life as Lex, and I think it’s worth at least respecting how committed Eisenberg was to the role. Not that I care about comic accuracy but despite all the claims about this Lex not being comic accurate, he’s pretty much young Lex Luthor from a comic book called Superman Birthright. Snyder and Eisenberg have made a modernised Lex Luthor that works in today’s world. Now we will just have to see what is done with Lex in the Man of Steel sequels.

The direction by Snyder unsurprisingly is great. The cinematography by Larry Fong was so great, this is a beautiful and sleek looking movie. In contrast to Man of Steel, there isn’t a lot of shaky cam or zoom ins/outs, which was almost in a documentary style. The action, as expected from Zack Snyder is great. The CGI for the most part looks really great, with the exception of certain small bits which didn’t look fully polished. One thing I’d like to mention is how Snyder held back with the action for the most part. Before the third act with the BvS fight, warehouse sequence and the Doomsday fight, the only action scenes in the movie prior was the Metropolis flashback (if it counts as an action scene), the Knightmare sequence and the Batmobile sequence. Those sequences are big when they happen but for the first two acts this movie relies mostly on story, especially in the Ultimate Edition. The film is much more than just an action movie, it is also drama set in a superhero world. So, Snyder did hold back… until the last act which I’ll get to later. The music by Hans Zimmer was absolutely masterful and ranks among some of the best music work he’s done. From the opening “A Beautiful Lie”, to Lex Luthor’s theme ‘Red Capes are Coming” and Wonder Woman’s theme “Is She with You?”, all of it works so excellently. I guess maybe I would’ve liked to have had a slightly more distinct theme for Batman like Zimmer had done for Superman and Wonder Woman, but it’s still pretty good and has the right tone.

I need to touch on the Ultimate Edition for a bit. Now I have done a full review of the Ultimate Edition so I won’t linger on it too much. But I feel like I need to mention how much it improved the movie. It fixes plot holes (there is now an explanation for Superman not being able to stop the Capital Bombing), fleshes out Clark/Superman’s story, gives Lois a lot more to do and shows more of how large Lex’s plan was. Not to mention the scenes didn’t feel jarring especially in the first act, like it did in the Theatrical Cut. Even if the extended scenes have the same outcome from the theatrical version of the scenes, there’s much more time given, so it flows a lot smoother instead of just jumping from scene to scene every 2 minutes. The scenes are even ordered in a much better way. For example in the Ultimate Edition Bruce has his nightmare (with a Man-Bat-like creature), wakes up at the penthouse and then meets with Alfred before preparing to go to Lex’s party to steal some information. However in the Theatrical Edition, they put in Lois’s meeting with General Swanwick in the middle of that segment, which just feels jarring. I’m not exactly sure why they made some of the ordering decisions that they did. There are only a couple of reasons I can think of why WB cut 30 whole minutes form the film and that’s the runtime and the age rating. Blockbusters are rarely 3 hours long, but then again it’s worth considering that The Dark Knight Rises was 2 hours and 45 minutes long and that was still a hit. As for the age rating, the Ultimate Edition in America shouldn’t have been rated R (both version of the film have the same rating in New Zealand), it’s once again a case of bizarre MPAA ratings. For whatever reason that they did it, cutting out 30 whole significant minutes of footage was a major mistake, you should never try to change a Zack Snyder film, otherwise it will not work. I want to say that WB might’ve now learned not to repeat this mistake in future DCEU films like they did with BvS and Suicide Squad (the latter movie having even worse editing issues) but Justice League clearly proved me wrong.

Now that’s not to say that there’s no problems with this film. There are some plot points which weren’t handled as well as they could’ve. For example, in the Batman vs Superman sequence, I get that Bruce wouldn’t listen to what Clark had to say, but it could’ve been presented more clearly, because otherwise it seems like Clark could easily explain what was going on at the beginning of the scene. As for noting one of the lesser scenes of the movie, I’d have to say that it’s the scene when Bruce sends Diana videos of the other Justice League members. I did like that scene but there is not that much to gather from that scene, Cyborg’s cameo did hint at his role and his actual origin in Justice League, but the rest doesn’t have much. They could’ve implemented the scene better, or they shouldn’t have had that scene. However it didn’t bother me too much. A complaint that does get thrown around a lot was around the third act and how it changed tone and became a big action fest, which was different from the slower paced almost political thriller in the first two acts. While I still love the third act, I do partially agree with this. We’ve seen end fights with monsters plenty of times, but even though it surprisingly worked fine enough for BvS, it did feel slightly out of place here. And yes, Snyder does go big with his action here, the action (as expected) is incredible and entertaining to watch. It would’ve been nice to have the final act something a little more compelling than just another monster fight at the end but this final battle sequence was good enough for me (even though Batman really couldn’t do anything throughout it). Speaking of the third act, Doomsday is a heavily criticised part of the movie, and while I don’t think he was great, he did his part well enough. Maybe if it was a character deliberately created for the movie I would take more issue, but as he’s a comic book character and as Doomsday is pretty much just a mindless dangerous monster, I could look past that. The only part of it that I wished was better was the design, I think the CGI on him is for the most part good but he just looks so generic (hence all the comparisons to the cave troll in Lord of the Rings or Abomination from The Incredible Hulk). Outside of his basic design, I didn’t have too many problems with Doomsday. One aspect which is a little sad to look at now is all the aspects that set up for Justice League, because the Justice League movie completely ignored them, whether that be the Knightmare sequence or The Flash’s warning (but that’s for another awaited retrospective review).

No matter your thoughts on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, there’s no denying that it had made a huge impact and impression when it was released. Batman v Superman was a breath of fresh air in the comic book genre for me, a film which decided to slow down with its story and take risks with its characters (not that no comic book movies do this, but it was a standout nonetheless). For most of the movie it’s like that, and on top of that there are some great action scenes, impressive performances and portrayals of iconic characters and a very unique story for these characters. Watchmen is still Zack Snyder’s masterpiece to me (as well as my favourite Comic Book Movie), but Batman v Superman is up there. As I said it still has some issues and if I looked at the Theatrical Cut I’d have a lot more unfavourable opinion of that version than the 3 times I saw them in cinemas (especially after seeing the Ultimate Edition and how these extra scenes added to the movie). But BvS nonetheless is an great comic book film in my eyes, and I do believe that this film (like Watchmen) will become loved much more as the years go on.

Man of Steel (2013) Retrospective Review

Time: 143 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Kal-El:
Amy Adams as Lois Lane
Michael Shannon as General Zod
Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent
Diane Lane as Martha Kent
Laurence Fishburne as Perry White
Antje Traue as Faora-Ul
Christopher Meloni as Colonel Nathan Hardy
Ayelet Zurer as Lara Lor-Van
Russell Crowe as Jor-El
Director: Zack Snyder

With the imminent destruction of Krypton, their home planet, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and his wife seek to preserve their race by sending their infant son to Earth. The child’s spacecraft lands at the farm of Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha (Diane Lane) Kent, who name him Clark and raise him as their own son. Though his extraordinary abilities have led to the adult Clark (Henry Cavill) living on the fringe of society, he finds he must become a hero to save those he loves from a dire threat.

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This is a SPOILER review. My original thoughts on Man of Steel are here.

I made a Man of Steel review many years ago, but after seeing the later DCEU films and upon further thought, I decided to do another review, because I wanted to give some updated thoughts on the movie, as well as going in depth with spoilers. I originally planned to release this review sometime in the foreseeable future, but after it recently being the 5 year anniversary of the film (13th of June 2013 to be exact, as you can tell my review is a little late), I decided to release it now. When I initially saw Man of Steel, I liked it but didn’t really love or think much about it. I thought it was a solid and different take on Superman, even if it wasn’t excellent. Having rewatched it over many times since its release, I’ve come to appreciate this movie a lot more. It’s has some minor issues but I still really love it.

Generally the first half of the story is more Clark’s origin story. Whereas the original Superman film told the story chronologically, Snyder decided to jump between Clark’s past and present, which was ultimately a good decision. While for some this was jarring (and very Batman Beginish), I thought it worked quite well. If it was just told through chronological order, it wouldn’t be as interesting. We already have a generally idea about Clark’s backstory, so having that play while telling the present story helps keep our interest. There might’ve been maybe a little too many flashbacks but I honestly wouldn’t know which one to cut out, each of them seemed necessary to show Clark’s arc and character in this movie. There are some truly great Superman scenes, some of them including Clark learning to fly for the first time and Superman surrendering to mankind. I’ll get to the controversial decisions regarding Superman later. The second half is Zod coming to earth. The third act is big and destructive. Some would said that it was senselessly destructive, I don’t think its necessarily the case, but I can get that there are aspects that they could’ve tweaked a little to improve it. I think the only time it was a little too over the top was the Smallville fight, and even then I liked the overall sequence.

The pacing was generally good, Man of Steel is around 2 hours and a half long and having seen the film multiple times I can’t pick out really any scene which drags or felt over long. The dialogue is mostly good, and a little mixed sometimes, at times it is very well written and there are some great lines for a Superman movie but at other times it is rather odd and silly. Most of the time it is perfectly fine, but the odd lines really do stand out, whether it feel too silly or too generic/familiar (e.g. “You’re a monster Zod, and I’m gonna stop you”). The humour, when it’s there is a little mixed as well, they are brief but some of them don’t really land well (the “I think he’s kinda hot” line near the end of the film being an example). In terms of any other story issues, there is a scene after the scene about Zod’s snapped neck, which is for the most part good but feels completely and tonally different from the previous scene, almost as if the previous scene never happened before. It would’ve been a little more effective to have an additional scene showing the continual impact of that scene.

Henry Cavill portrays a very different Superman than what we’ve seen before (at least in live action). This is a Superman who’s very conflicted, a Superman who’s not perfect, but most of all a Superman who’s learning. He also felt much more relatable as a character, yes the Christopher Reeve Superman to this day remains very effortlessly beloved but creating the cheesy Superman in today’s times just doesn’t work at all (just watch what Joss Whedon tried to do with him in Justice League). For some reason a lot of people found Cavill to be quite stiff here, I didn’t get that from his performance. I mean sure he’s not as quippy as some other versions of Superman but he still had his fair share of lighter moments and charisma, he’s not as charismatic as the real life Henry Cavill but very few people are. Henry Cavill’s Superman is one that I actually cared for. He’s not making constant quips but he’s not a constant brooder, they aren’t trying to make him the superhuman version of Batman. I find much of the ‘not muh Superman’ crowd’s criticisms to be strange to me. There are some people that have issues with this version of Superman. There are way too many complaints to go through, even in an in depth review, so I will just go through a couple of them. One of the major criticisms was the amount of people who died at the end. The truth is that you can’t save everyone in that situation, and with the exception of possibly the Smallville scene, in the climax, it is Zod and the Kryptonians who end up causing the vast majority of the destruction. In fact, Superman in the final fight with Zod really tries to take the fight away from the city but isn’t able to. Since we are going in depth with spoilers, we might as well talk about the controversial neck snapping scene. When Zod tries to kill some innocent civilians in the end of the final fight, Superman is forced to snap his neck to save them. To this day, I never understood why people hate that he did this. I can get if that they hate that Superman was put in this position, but between letting them die and killing Zod to save them, I think doing the latter was the better option. And on top of that, the film doesn’t just act like it was an easy, it was clearly really painful for him. At the very least, it was a lot more justified than Superman killing a depowered Zod in Superman 2 (I’ve noticed a lot of the “not muh Superman” crowd hold up Christopher Reeve’s Superman movies as the definitive Superman). Not to mention that plenty of comic book movie heroes nowadays kill people easily. I don’t mean this in judgemental of people who don’t like this version of Superman (it’s really not a big deal if you don’t), but I’ve noticed that people get extra specific when it comes to how the most popular comic book characters are portrayed in movies (speicifcally Superman, Batman and probably Spider-Man for instance) and there is a lot of backlash when they are different from previous adaptations or from the more common perception of the characters. I’m completely open to people trying new ways of approaching iconic characters. All in all, I don’t really have many problems with Cavill’s version of Superman, at least not with his first two movies.

Amy Adams as Lois Lane was great casting. While it’s not one of her best performances and some aspects about Lois here don’t work perfectly here, it gives her more to do than some other versions of Lois. I mean, Lois figures out by herself who Superman is, which by the way is a change that I really like. I know that it’s a classic comic book thing for Lois to never figure out that Clark Kent is Superman, but I find that less believable than no one recognising him as Superman because he wears glasses. So it was a refreshing change. The chemistry between Adams and Cavill isn’t perfect but it works okay enough for this movie. Michael Shannon is great as General Zod, the main antagonist of the film, and I have to say that he’s much better than Terrence Stamp’s Zod. Whereas Zod in Superman 2 just wanted to take over Earth… just because, Shannon’s Zod has reasons for what he’s doing, he wants to save his race. Zod here was also bred purely to advance his race unlike Clark, so it makes sense that he is single minded and bent upon this. When Superman destroys all chance of Krypton being rebuilt, he loses his people and his purpose. I think he might be one of the best comic book movie villains. Shannon does have his fair share of hammy and over the top moments (his “I will find him!” will forever remain a classic), but that makes him all the more entertaining. Besides, all things considering he might not be as over the top as Stamp’s Zod. All in all, Michael Shannon did a great job with a well written General Zod. Also, shout out to Antje Traue, as Faora, who despite being a supporting antagonist as Zod’s lieutenant, manages to leave a really strong impression, at least at the same as Zod. She particularly shines in her action scenes (Smallville battle being a stand out), and Traue and Zack Snyder made her a force to be reckoned with. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane play Clark’s adopted parents, they felt much more grounded than previous versions of the characters. This take on Kent’s adopted family has caused some controversy, particularly with Costner. For example, in a flashback after Clark saves a bus full of kids, Costner seems to hint that maybe Clark shouldn’t have saved them, because he wanted to keep his secret at least for now. While I can see why some people were polarised, I feel this makes the character more human. He thinks he’s doing the right thing but he’s not absolutely sure. It felt like a more appropriate take on the characters for nowadays and both Lane and Costner acted very well in the roles. Russell Crowe is also worth mentioning, as he is great as Superman’s real father Jor-El, getting much more to do than Brando in the Reeve films, especially in the opening scene. Other supporting actors like Laurence Fishburne do their part well.

Zack Snyder always has spectacularly looking movies, and Man of Steel is no exception. This movie looks incredible, the special effects are great, the designs of the ships, outfits and more are unique. Just a moment to focus on Superman’s costume, it is so incredibly well put together, beautifully designed and actually works in a modern setting. In fact on pretty much all levels, Snyder really made Superman work in a modern setting. All in all, Man of Steel just might be the best looking DCEU film, with it having slightly better CGI than Batman v Superman, off the top of my head there weren’t any moments that stood out to me as having bad CGI. It’s even more impressive after seeing some of what they did behind the scenes. For example, the suits of Zod and the Kryptonians were CGI, but they look completely practical in the actual movie. This film also successfully portrayed Superman’s power (including his strength, flight and laser vision) in the modern day. Other live action versions that have Superman nowadays (Supergirl and Justice League) do show off how powerful he and similar characters are, but it really lacks something, and makes him seem outdated, but Snyder’s version works well. Yes, it is very destructive but it feels somewhat grounded at the same time, it’s kind of hard to describe. It feels like how Superman would be if he existed in real life. The action was also great, fast, intense and impactful. Everything from the opening Krypton sequence, the oil rig fire scene, the Smallville fight and the final Superman vs Zod fight, everything works incredibly well. One aspect that was a slight annoyance was the occasionally handheld camerawork and the zoom ins and out. Its not bad and was actually quite effective at times but it wasn’t really necessary and was a little distracting at times. It does less bothersome the more I watch the movie however. Hans Zimmer’s score here is god-tier, amongst some of the best work he’s ever done, which is saying a lot. Also I know it might be a bit of a controversial opinion but I think it’s the best score for a Superman film yet.

Man of Steel is to me the best live action Superman film (solo at least) and one of the best superhero movies (top 10 at least). With its grounded and more modern take on Superman, the mostly good writing and Zack Snyder’s great direction, it actually worked. It does have some issues with its writing and plot, but what it gets right, it really gets right. It only gets better and better the more I watch it. Also it did something I didn’t think possible, it managed to get me to like Superman in the modern era and make him take him somewhat seriously (well, at least for two movies).

Justice League (2017) Review

Time: 121 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast
Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman
Henry Cavill as Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman
Amy Adams as Lois Lane
Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman
Ezra Miller as Barry Allen/Flash
Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry/Aquaman
Ray Fisher as Victor Stone/Cyborg
Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth
Diane Lane as Martha Kent
Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta
J. K. Simmons as James Gordon
Ciarán Hinds as Steppenwolf
Director: Zack Snyder

Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s (Henry Cavill) selfless act, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) enlists newfound ally Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) to face an even greater threat. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to recruit a team to stand against this newly awakened enemy. Despite the formation of an unprecedented league of heroes — Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and the Flash (Ezra Miller) – it may be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.

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Justice League was my most anticipated movie of 2017. While it’s proven to be very divisive, I really like the DCEU. I loved Batman v Superman, I loved Man of Steel, and I liked Wonder Woman (and Suicide Squad is a guilty pleasure at best). Naturally I was excited to see everything come together with this talented cast, director Zack Snyder and writer Chris Terrio. There were some bumps along the way, with the reshoots being filmed by Joss Whedon instead of Snyder, as he was dealing with a tragedy. Nonethless, I was still incredibly hyped to see the end result. So did Justice League live up to expectations? For the most part yes.

This movie is noticeable shorter than the other DCEU films, they are usually at least 2 hours and 20 minutes long. However Justice League is 2 hours long, even Suicide Squad is longer. Justice League really does need an extended/director’s cut (it seems that Warner Bros hasn’t learnt their lessons from Batman v Superman and has yet again ditched the superior version in favour of a shorter and lesser version for the theatrical release). It really needed a longer runtime, especially with the first act. There are a significant number of scenes in the trailer which are missing from the movie. I think what makes me look over some of the issues is that this movie is quite straightforward, that was the plan and I’m not upset about that. Even if there might’ve been some changes made, its clear from what Snyder and Terrio said even before the release of Batman v Superman, that Justice League would be lighter and more straightforward. It’s a simple save the world comic book movie, and I think that overall Justice League did that well enough. I also had a lot of fun with it, if you are a big DC fan there will be some stuff here that you will really love. There are also two credits scenes that I liked, particularly the second one, and I’m curious as to what this will mean for the future of the DCEU.

The cut scenes weren’t the only issue with Justice League. Most of the jokes worked, some of them didn’t. There are also some lines which don’t fit in, some of them were downright cringeworthy. There was particularly one line in the third act which really frustrated me, I have no idea if Joss Whedon wrote it or not, but either way that was one of the worst moments of the film. Something that needs addressing is Joss Whedon’s reshoots, there are at times you can tell when its his writing. Again with the dialogue, some of it didn’t work and I can tell that a lot of it is his dialogue. I know that it seems like I dislike this movie but its not the case. It was very entertaining and I loved seeing these characters together. Its just that the negatives really stand out.

The team dynamic was one of the best parts of the film, which is good because its one of the most important parts that the film needed to get right. Most of the characters get a good arc. Ben Affleck’s Batman has changed since the events of Batman v Superman, clearly affected by Superman’s sacrifice, he is filled with hope and this is a good continuation of his arc from Batman v Superman. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman continues to be great, continuing on from Wonder Woman and Batman v Superman. The newcomers were all good as well. Ezra Miller’s Flash is a stand out and is the more comic relief out of the group. Ray Fisher’s Cyborg actually worked really well, I’d love to see his story continued in future movies. Jason Momoa’s Aquaman doesn’t stand out as much among the main cast but he was still really good, and I can’t wait for his solo film next year. In fact I can’t wait to see more of all of them. As for Henry Cavill’s Superman, I can’t go into too much depth in case I spoil anything. So I’ll do my best to keep it vague. I’m not quite sure what to make of this version of the character, it was quite different to the version we saw in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman and it was really jarring. I just hope Man of Steel 2 handles Superman a lot stronger. The supporting cast with Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, J.K. Simmons and others were pretty good. The main villain of the film is Steppenwolf, who is motion captured by Ciaran Hinds. I actually don’t think he’s that bad of a villain, he works as a physical threat against the Justice League. However he could’ve used just a little bit of backstory, it is possible that it was cut. The CGI on him for the most part was fine, but the effects on his face needed more work.

The action was filmed very well and stylistically. At times the visuals are downright beautiful. Most of the visual effects are good, but there are times where it did look off, at times it looked really bad. I’m not sure why this happened. Throughout the film at times you can clearly see that there are some reshoots, for example there are some moments when some out of place green screen is behind characters. There are also some scenes that don’t appear in the trailers but there are also different takes that were used for some unknown reason. After scoring Man of Steel and Batman v Superman Hans Zimmer decided not to do Justice League, and Junkie XL was booted off the film when Joss Whedon stepped in for the reshoots. Instead we got Danny Elfman filling in and while everyone was bagging on him, I was willing to give him a chance. After watching Justice League it made me want Danny Elfman to never get hired to score a film ever again. It was so forgettable and didn’t add anything. However, it’s not just that it feels generic, it straight up doesn’t fit with the movie. There are a lot of comic book movie scores which are forgettable but at least it fits in the movie. It makes a lot of the scenes feel underwhelming and deflates it. His score honestly took away a lot of the impact of the scenes. It would’ve worked for a Tim Burton Justice League but not with a Zack Snyder Justice League. There is one hint of Hans Zimmer’s score, but it only makes the rest of the score look inferior. Yes, its nice to hear hints of Reeve’s Superman theme and Tim Burton’s Batman theme but it’s not enough to make the score good. The score unfortunately took away some of the enjoyment of the scenes.

Overall this film does do what it set out to do. I had fun with it, the team dynamic is great, the actors are great, the action is entertaining, I really liked it. There are a lot of issues I had with it, I think that the cutting of the scenes, the reshoots done by Joss Whedon and the score by Danny Elfman (yes, it affected the film experience that much) are probably the stand outs. Although I have commented a lot about the issues, I must stress that I still consider Justice League to be good, I had a lot of fun with it and I recommend at least checking it out. It’s just that there are some aspects that could’ve been better, and I honestly think that Joss Whedon had a large part of some of the problems, the best parts of this movie are clearly Zack’s stuff. After Justice League, I wanna see more movies with these characters, and I think that is something that this film achieves at the very least.

Nocturnal Animals (2016) Review

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Time: 116 minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, sexual violence, offensive language & nudity
Cast:
Amy Adams as Susan Morrow
Jake Gyllenhaal as Edward Sheffield/Tony Hastings
Michael Shannon as Detective Bobby Andes
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ray Marcus
Isla Fisher as Laura Hastings
Armie Hammer as Hutton Morrow
Laura Linney as Anne Sutton
Andrea Riseborough as Alessia Holt
Michael Sheen as Carlos Holt
Director: Tom Ford

The life of a successful Los Angeles art-gallery owner’s idyllic, named Susan (Amy Adams), is marred by the constant traveling of her handsome second husband (Armie Hammer). While he is away, she is shaken by the arrival of a manuscript written by her first husband (Jake Gyllenhaal), who she has not seen in years. The manuscript tells the story of a teacher who finds a trip with his family turning into a nightmare. As Susan reads the book, it forces her to examine her past and confront some dark truths.

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Nocturnal Animals was a movie that I was curious about, mostly because of its great cast. I didn’t know a lot about the movie aside from that, but the cast and the premise was enough to intrigue me. I have to say, Nocturnal Animals is not only a great movie, it’s also one of the best movies of the year. The acting, the direction and the story was done excellently. Even if you don’t like the movie, there’s no denying how unique Nocturnal Animals is.

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This movie has a very unique structure. This movie cuts between storylines, with the present day storyline, the novel storyline and the flashbacks with Amy Adams’s character. It seems like it had the potential to become a mess but not once do any of the scenes feel out of place. There is something intriguing about this movie that had me invested from start to finish, it’s been many days since I’ve watched this movie, I’m still processing what I watched. I will say, without spoiling anything, the ending is one that might annoy some people, I myself was confused when I saw it. It is one of those endings that you need to think about for a while to understand the intent of it. I honestly want to watch this movie again, it’s one of those movies that gets better and better the more you watch it.

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The acting by everyone is absolutely superb. Amy Adams gives such a great performance, both this and Arrival shows that she really is an excellent actress. I’ll just say that her performance here is truly one of her best, and that’s saying a lot. Jake Gyllenhaal unsurprisingly is excellent, showing that he is one of the best actors working today. There are two showstealing supporting performances in thismovie. One of them is from Michael Shannon, who not only has an entertaining character to work with, but also gives one of his best performances in a while. He was so enjoyable to watch but at the same time was very compelling. The other showstealing supporting performance is surprisingly from Aaron Taylor Johnson is also great as one of the villainous characters in the novel. Aaron Taylor Johnson is for me a decent actor, but this is hands down his best performance yet, Taylor-Johnson fully embodies the character. The cast all do a fantastic job, and all deserve high praise for their work here.

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The style and overall direction by director Tom Ford is done excellently. This film is shot absolutely beautifully, it’s one of the best shot films of the year. Every scene was directed perfectly. A great example was the first scene in the novel storyline, without spoiling anything, I’ll say that it was truly unsettling and intense, and Ford’s direction executed this scene excellently. If I had to mention one problem I had with the film, it’s with the opening credit sequence, which I’ll just say, was really out of place. If you watch the movie, don’t be deterred by this though, the rest of the movie is great. The soundtrack by Abel Korzeniowski was also truly great, and added a lot to the movie.

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Nocturnal Animals surprised me, I was expecting great acting at the very least (which I did get) I didn’t expect this movie to be this investing and to be directed so greatly. While I do think you need to know what sort of film you’re getting into before watching it, I do recommend going into this movie without knowing a whole lot about it. That’s how I watched it and I really got a lot out of it, and the surprises were more impactful. I personally loved Nocturnal Animals, it is a very ambitious film that manages to succeed on mostly every angle. It’s one of the best of the year.

Arrival (2016) Review

Amy Adams as Louise Banks in ARRIVAL by Paramount Pictures

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Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast
Amy Adams as Dr. Louise Banks
Jeremy Renner as Ian Donnelly
Forest Whitaker as Colonel Weber
Michael Stuhlbarg as Agent Halpern
Tzi Ma as General Shang
Director: Denis Villeneuve

Linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) leads an elite team of investigators when gigantic spaceships touch down in 12 locations around the world. As nations teeter on the verge of global war, Banks and her crew must race against time to find a way to communicate with the extra-terrestrial visitors. Hoping to unravel the mystery, she takes a chance that could threaten her life and quite possibly all of mankind.

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Arrival (originally called Story of Your Life) was one of the most anticipated films of 2016. With the cast which consisted of Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner and especially Denis Villeneuve’s involvement, I was excited to see what movie we would get. I have to be completely honest, Arrival is one of my favourite movies of the year, and that’s saying a lot considering the movies I’ve seen this year. The story was great, the direction was flawless, the acting was absolutely fantastic, everything fitted nicely into place. Not everyone will love Arrival, you do need to know what sort of movie they are going into. But I personally loved it, and it really deserves a lot of praise.

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From start to finish, Arrival had me completely riveted. I had no idea which direction the story would go in, and I was satisfied with all the twists and how the story turned out. I think it’s a lot better to not know a lot about this movie before seeing it. With this movie, you need to really pay attention to what is going on, especially when it comes to the last act. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say, its very mind bending and cleverly done. The film is also slower paced and you do need to know that going in. I personally liked the pacing, it is quite slow and steady but I think it personally helped tell its story in a much better way. There’s one other thing I should mention: the ending will divide people. I won’t spoil what happens but I personally loved it. It’s the kind of ending that you really have to think about, and it is absolutely perfect. I have no problems with the ending.

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Amy Adams is absolutely spectacular in the movie, this is really her movie. I won’t reveal what happens with her in the story, but she’s absolutely great. This is really one of Amy Adams’s best performances, and that is saying a lot. She definitely deserves a lot of praise. Jeremy Renner was also really great in a supporting role, and added a lot to the movie. The other supporting cast, consisting of actors such as Forrest Whittaker are also great. The acting from all the talented cast was excellent.

Jeremy Renner as Ian Donnelly in ARRIVAL by Paramount Pictures

The cinematography is absolutely beautiful, this is Denis Villeneuve’s best looking movie, and that’s saying a lot, considering that he directed Prisoners, Enemy and Sicario. The CGI was fantastic, at no point was it overused or looked fake. The design of the alien beings and the way it was done was so great and effective, the aliens as a whole were created quite original. The soundtrack by Jóhann Jóhannsson is absolutely beautiful and added a lot to the movie.

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You do need to know what you’re getting into, don’t go into Arrival expecting a fast paced, alien encounter sci-fi movie. It takes the alien encounter story we’ve seen so many times before and takes it to whole new levels. Even though you need to know what type of film you’re watching, the less you know about the film itself the better. There are so many surprises that you won’t predict. I can’t really find any flaw with this movie honestly. Arrival is one of those movies that gets better and better the more I think about it. Go out and see Arrival as soon as possible.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition (2016) Review

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Time: 182 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence and Offensive Language
Cast
Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman
Henry Cavill as Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman
Amy Adams as Lois Lane
Jesse Eisenberg as Alexander “Lex” Luthor
Diane Lane as Martha Kent
Laurence Fishburne as Perry White
Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth
Holly Hunter as Senator June Finch
Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman
Director: Zack Snyder

It’s been nearly two years since Superman’s (Henry Cavill) colossal battle with Zod (Michael Shannon) devastated the city of Metropolis. The loss of life and collateral damage left many feeling angry and helpless, including crime-fighting billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). Convinced that Superman is now a threat to humanity, Batman embarks on a personal vendetta to end his reign on Earth, while the conniving Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) launches his own crusade against the Man of Steel.

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Link to review of theatrical cut: https://thecinemacritic.wordpress.com/2016/03/25/batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice-2016-review/

Batman v Superman was an extremely divisive movie upon its release, particularly with the direction that they took the movie and its iconic characters. However from what I can tell, the 3-hour cut is generally more well received. Whether this version will make you like it more depends on your problems with the original version, if your issues were the pacing and editing you might like this more. If your issues were with Jesse Eisenberg’s performance or the fact that Batman kills, then no, chances are you’ll still have problems with this version. I loved the theatrical cut and that was already my favourite movie of the year. My only problem I had with the movie was that it felt like there was a lot of footage missing. With that issue fixed, there’s not many problems I have with the movie, maybe there might be the occasional plot decision that could’ve been done better but that’s really it.

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In this version we get more expansion of the stories for Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Lex Luthor. One of the criticisms of Batman v Superman was that for many, Clark’s motives weren’t clear. I personally understood what Snyder was going for but the extended version does make it a lot clearer, especially as it shows more scenes of him like when he goes to Gotham. In fact it shows more of his emotions, there is a certain scene during the senate scene with Superman during the halfway point that’s in the extended version, and I have no idea why it was cut. Lois gets to do some investigation of her own. Lex didn’t get a whole lot of new scenes but it does show how much of a part he played in making Batman and Superman battle each other. Also other characters like the African woman at the Senate at the beginning of the film and Wallace Keefe are more defined, with their motivations made even clearer. This film also flat out explains things that were left ambiguous in the original cut, for example in the middle of the movie, an ‘incident’ occurs involving Superman and there is an explanation of why things went how they did. If you watched the theatrical cut before seeing this version, you’ll notice that there are random things that weren’t included, for example there’s a bit of 2 seconds of Batman punching Superman, which was cut from the previous version. It was like Warner Bros was trying to cut down this film as much as possible.

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One legitimate criticism of the theatrical cut was the editing. While it didn’t bother me, I definitely noticed that the scenes jumped locations quickly, and with not a great transition, especially in the first act. The Ultimate Edition gives time for the scenes to breathe, the Lois desert scene was an example, it gave a lot more time for us to get into the scene. Not only that, this version rearranges scenes and connects many of them. For example, this connects Lex’s two introductory scenes, the first when he’s speaking to the senators and the second when he gains access to the Kryptonian Ship and Zod’s body. In the theatrical cut for no reason at all, they put a scene in between. The movie overall seemed to flow a lot smoother, for me at least.

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This film was always going to be divisive, no matter what version was released. I have no idea how differently you’ll see this movie to the first version, some people like this version more, others think the theatrical version is better. But either case I do think it’s at least worth checking out, whether you love or hate this movie. I will openly say that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition might actually be my favourite comic book movie of all time. And I don’t say these kinds of statements easily.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) Review

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Time: 151 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast
Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman
Henry Cavill as Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman
Amy Adams as Lois Lane
Jesse Eisenberg as Alexander “Lex” Luthor
Diane Lane as Martha Kent
Laurence Fishburne as Perry White
Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth
Holly Hunter as Senator June Finch
Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman
Director: Zack Snyder

It’s been nearly two years since Superman’s (Henry Cavill) colossal battle with Zod (Michael Shannon) devastated the city of Metropolis. The loss of life and collateral damage left many feeling angry and helpless, including crime-fighting billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). Convinced that Superman is now a threat to humanity, Batman embarks on a personal vendetta to end his reign on Earth, while the conniving Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) launches his own crusade against the Man of Steel.

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Click here for my review of the Ultimate Edition of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the superior version of the film

Batman v Superman has been 3 years in the making and it has been my most anticipated movie of 2016 ever since its announcement. So much was riding on this movie to succeed, with it having to establish Batman, Wonder Woman with cameos from the Justice League, all in one film. Even though the film’s premiere received critical acclaim, the reviews started to worry me, with the Rotten Tomato score being around 30%. However after watching the movie, I have to say that I’m very satisfied with what we got in the end. The acting from its very talented cast and the direction from Zack Snyder was great, but it’s the script from writer Chris Terrio which ties it all together, and sets up the DC Cinematic Universe perfectly.

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When you compare Dawn of Justice to Man of Steel, you will notice how significantly the writing’s improved and that’s all thanks to Chris Terrio. This film doesn’t rely on a lot of action scenes to move the plot along like the previous movie, it really for the most part follows Clark and Bruce’s inner struggles as they are trying to find their place in the world as well as the conflict between them. I know from the reviews that this put people off as there’s not a whole lot of them saving the world or even physically fighting each other but I appreciate the risks that the movie took. This isn’t your typical comic book film. This movie had a lot of elements that they had to incorporate with the Justice League forming and I thought the film managed to pull it off quite well. As for the cameos of the other Justice League members, they were done well, to some they would probably feel a little forced but I have a feeling that was supposed to feel forced, it’s just a little taste of what’s to come. I will just say this, the final act is absolutely incredible, not only on an entertaining level but on an emotional level too, the ending is one of the best comic book endings I’ve ever seen, you’ll never see it coming.

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I will say that looking back at the film, there were some elements that felt missing. For example, one element that I wished the film delved deep into was Lex’s motivation. I’ll go onto the performance later but I have a feeling that there is a scene explaining Lex Luthor’s perspective on Superman that was missing, which is a shame as that would’ve made his character even more compelling. I know that there is a 3 hour cut that will come to Blu Ray, maybe that might fix the problems but for the most part the movie really works on its own. Now onto the elements that might divide some people. Ben Affleck’s Batman is very hardcore, this is like Dark Knight Returns and Thomas Wayne Flashpoint Batman. There are moments where his actions lead to many deaths and that might be hard for some viewers to stomach after Bale’s ‘no kill’ portrayal. Also this movie is 3 times darker than Man of Steel so if you found that movie hard to watch, you will be horrified with this movie. As I said before, this isn’t your typical comic book movie, it’s quite unconventional, so that might alienate some people.

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The performances were phenomenal. I’ll start with Henry Cavill, I have a feeling he will be forgotten as a result of being overshadowed by Affleck and he really shouldn’t. He was given a lot more to work with than in Man of Steel and after this movie, he is my personal favourite version of Superman. Unlike other versions there is a humanity and relatability that Cavill infuses that makes us really care for him, this was seen especially in his scenes with Lois played by Amy Adams, who was also great and shares better chemistry with him than in the previous film. No matter what anyone thinks about the movie, most people agree with one aspect, Ben Affleck was incredible as Batman. He was incredibly dark and has a history and every moment he’s on screen, Affleck sells it. His relationship with Alfred (played Jeremy Irons, who also does an excellent job) was also entertaining to watch, I just can’t wait for the Batman solo movies. Keaton’s and Bale’s Batman roles needed to perfectly play the Bruce Wayne and Batman roles, and both of them really did one aspect better than the other (Keaton did Batman better and Bale did Wayne better). Affleck was the first actor to nail both Bruce Wayne and Batman perfectly. We didn’t see a lot of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman but when she’s on screen she is great, and she stole the show in the third act. I’m now even more looking forward to seeing her solo movie next year.

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The other supporting cast was also great with Holly Hunter, Laurence Fishburne and others being quite good in this movie. The one divisive performance will be Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. If you thought he looked a little over the top in the 2nd trailer, just wait till you see how he is here. From my limited knowledge of Lex Luthor in the comics, he is quite different from this incarnation, but this was such a strong decision that I have a feeling he will be developed more as the films go on. I personally liked the performance, this was a more crazy portrayal of Lex Luthor, and he worked quite well for the film as he manipulates the dark knight and the man of steel to fight. However I can’t guarantee that you will love his performance, as his performance has so far divided many.

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As this is Zack Snyder directing, the visuals look very beautiful. One of my issues with Man of Steel was the cinematography, it adopted more of a handheld sort of camera work and while that worked for the most part, it could’ve been done better. This time, it has a much steadier direction as Snyder this time used his cinematographer from Watchmen. As I said earlier, there aren’t as many action scenes as there was in Man of Steel but all of them are done excellently. There are so many memorable scenes, the beautiful opening credits sequence, the flashback to Metropolis’s destruction from Bruce Wayne’s perspective, the Knightmare sequence (which features an incredible one take moment) and more. The fight between Batman and Superman, while a little short, was still enthralling to watch. The final act in its entirety was great, especially the final battle featuring the trinity. Last but not least is the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL. All of it was great, from Batman’s theme, to Lex’s theme, to Superman’s theme as well as the fight between Batman and Superman. However I’ll just say that Wonder Woman’s theme was my favourite of the lot.

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From my first viewing, I can say that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is now one of my favourite comic book movies of all time. The performances were great, with standouts from Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot and Jesse Eisenberg, Zack Snyder directed this movie beautifully and Chris Terrio gave even more depth to this movie than most would initially expect. Looking at the mixed reactions from both critics and fans, I’m not entirely sure if you will like this movie or not, and I can understand how some elements might rub people the wrong way. However I think you should watch it and make up your own mind about it. For me, this was an incredibly satisfying experience. Don’t wait for it to come out on Blu Ray, see it on the biggest screen that you can find as soon as possible.