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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.

Red Sparrow (2018) Review

Time: 140 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, sexual violence, rape, cruelty and offensive language
Cast:
Jennifer Lawrence as Dominika Egorova
Joel Edgerton as Nate Nash
Matthias Schoenaerts as Ivan Vladimirovich Egorov
Charlotte Rampling as “Matron”
Mary-Louise Parker as Stephanie Boucher
Jeremy Irons as General Vladimir Andreievich Korchnoi
Ciarán Hinds as Colonel Zakharov
Joely Richardson as Nina Egorova
Bill Camp as Marty Gable
Director: Francis Lawrence

Prima ballerina Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) faces a bleak and uncertain future after she suffers an injury that ends her career. She soon turns to Sparrow School, a secret intelligence service that trains exceptional young people to use their minds and bodies as weapons. Egorova emerges as the most dangerous Sparrow after completing the sadistic training process. As she comes to terms with her new abilities, Dominika meets a CIA agent (Joel Edgerton) who tries to convince her that he is the only person she can trust.

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Red Sparrow is a movie I was aware of. It went through a lot of development, from Darren Aronofsky in talks to direct it, then David Fincher was in talks to direct with Rooney Mara to star in the lead role, before finally ending with Francis Lawrence set to direct and Jennifer Lawrence set to star in the lead role. Not going to lie, hearing the prospect of David Fincher directing a spy movie, only for Francis Lawrence to get the job let me down a little (no disrespect to Lawrence, he’s made some good movies). I still had interest in the film but I really didn’t know what to expect. Red Sparrow was actually better than I thought it would be. It had a riveting plot, was well directed and had some good performances, especially from Jennifer Lawrence.

Red Sparrow is based on the book of the same name by a retired CIA operative named Jason Matthews. However I haven’t read the book so I can’t comment on any potential differences from the book. Red Sparrow is 2 hours and 20 minutes long and while it did really feel it’s length, the story really did have my interest. You have to know that this is a slower paced spy thriller, not a straight up action spy movie. There are plenty of twists and turns from start to finish and involved with every character. Whether or not said twists will hold up on a rewatch remains to be seen. The second half of Red Sparrow oddly seemed slower paced than the first half. Part of why this movie was so divisive is the hard R content, with the violence and sexual violence. While I can see why this turned a lot of people off, I felt that it was handled well, it was brutal enough and didn’t shy away from it, yet it wasn’t too over reliant or self indulgent on it. I think Francis Lawrence has shown himself to be at his best when he’s allowed to go into R rated territory, films like The Hunger Games, I am Legend and maybe even Constantine might be even better had he been allowed to go into those levels. The film ends with a possible set up for a sequel, I do hope that this ends up happening.

The cast all do well here. Jennifer Lawrence is the lead of Red Sparrow and this is one of her best performances yet. She really throws herself into this character who goes through a lot over the course of the movie and she gives it her all. Her Russian accent at time doesn’t always work and can slip out from time to time but it’s passable enough, and her performance aside from that is fantastic. Joel Edgerton was also really good in his role as a CIA operative who comes across Jennifer Lawrence’s character. Although Lawrence and Edgerton are great in Red Sparrow, I really didn’t buy their relationship, I could buy them working together but I never bought them actually falling in love with each other, and I know that’s what the movie was trying to show. It may well be that the writing for them wasn’t strong enough. Supporting actors like Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker and Jeremy Irons all play their roles well.

I was really impressed with Francis Lawrence’s direction here, on top of this movie being his best film, it’s the best direction of a movie I’ve seen from him. Red Sparrow looks visually great and is well put together. Also as I said earlier, the more intense scenes are handled quite well, with the right amount of brutality that’s needed. The score by James Newton Howard is also really good and adds to the movie.

Red Sparrow deserved more praise than it received. It’s really not for everyone, it is brutal and it is a long watch. But for me, the film is well directed, had my attention and had some really good performances, particularly from Jennifer Lawrence who is great here. I do hope we get a sequel and eventually a trilogy, adapting the 2 other books in the series. I’m not sure how different the first movie is from the first book but I’m sure that there’s a way to continue the series. Francis Lawrence, Jennifer Lawrence and the rest of the cast and crew did a great job here and I’d love to see them return again to this series and these characters.

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.

Silence (2016) Review

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Time: 161 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence and Cruelty
Cast
Andrew Garfield as Sebastião Rodrigues
Adam Driver as Francisco Garupe
Liam Neeson as Father Cristóvão Ferreira
Tadanobu Asano as The Interpreter
Ciarán Hinds as Father Alessandro Valignano
Issey Ogata as Inoue Masashige
Shinya Tsukamoto as Mokichi
Yoshi Oida as Ichizo
Yōsuke Kubozuka as Kichijiro
Director: Martin Scorsese

Silence tells the story of two Christian missionaries (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who face the ultimate test of faith when they travel to Japan in search of their missing mentor (Liam Neeson) at a time when Christianity was outlawed and their presence forbidden.

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Silence was one of my most anticipated films of 2016. Every time Martin Scorsese makes a film, I’m in, no matter what the premise. This film was actually a passion project of Scorsese’s, he wanted to make this movie for over 20 years. So I was definitely interested in what he had in store for us. Scorsese didn’t disappoint with Silence. This is a brutal, harsh and real movie about faith and the conflict that can be caused from it. With the complex story, flawless direction as well as the brutal performances, this is a fantastic movie.

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What I love about this movie is how complex it is. It doesn’t try to pick sides (Christianity or Budhism) or paint everything in black and white, it just allows the story to play out and its fascinating to see these people. The theme of faith is throughout the movie and it is fascinating, with the different ways characters see faith, to the way that their views change. This is particularly shown in the conversations. The screenplay is near perfect This movie is long, at around 2 hours 40 minutes. Now even though I felt the long length throughout the movie, I was completely invested in the story, my attention never wavering. The last 5-10 minutes however, I do think could’ve been better, the film could’ve been wrapped up a little faster. That’s probably my only problem with the movie however.

(L-R) Adam Driver as Father Garupe and Andrew Garfield as Father Sebastião Rodrigues the film SILENCE by Paramount Pictures, SharpSword Films, and AI Films

The performances in this film are amazing. Both Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver are great as these missionaries. Garfield particularly stands out, this is the best performance I’ve seen from him (though I haven’t seen Hacksaw Ridge yet). His character changes a lot in the movie, as seen in both the way he acts as well as the things he says and believes. His views on faith are one of the most interesting aspects to watch as it changes after he witnesses and experiences certain events. Liam Neeson is not in this movie a huge amount but he is great, very complex and interesting. The other supporting cast shouldn’t be overlooked. Yosuke Kubozuka is great as a bit of an ambigious character who pops up frequently throughout the movie (that’s all I’ll say). Also great is Issey Ogata as one of the Inquisitors that’s trying to remove Christianity from Japan. Like many of the characters, he is ambigious, he’s not portrayed as a one dimensional bad guy, he’s a lot more interesting.

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Martin Scorsese’s direction for Silence unsurprisingly is flawless. The cinematography was immaculate, every shot is framed perfectly, the way the camera moves always fits the moment. The locations also are beautiful and perfect, it feels like it’s right out of that time period and locations. This film in the technical department is perfect.

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Silence is hands down one of the best films of 2016. Unfortunately, this movie has been overlooked by many people. I will say that this movie is one that’s really only worth watching once, not because of the length, but because of the emotionally draining story. As long as you know what you’re getting into, I suggest watching this movie, it is well worth your time. The fantastic story, performances and direction are so well crafted that I guarantee that this movie will be looked back upon as possibly one of Scorsese’s best films, which is saying a lot.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011) Review

The Ghost Rider in Columbia Pictures' GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE.

Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance

Time: 96 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence and Offensive Language
Cast:
Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider
Johnny Whitworth as Ray Carrigan/Blackout
Fergus Riordan as Danny
Ciarán Hinds as Roarke/Mephistopheles
Violante Placido as Nadya
Idris Elba as Moreau
Director Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor

Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage), a man who made a deal with the Devil who called himself Roarke (Ciaran Hinds), is on the run trying to make sure no-one is harmed by his alter ego, The Ghost Rider. He is approached by a Monk named Moreau (Idris Elba) who tells him that he can help be him free of the Rider, but first he needs Johnny’s help to protect a boy, whom Roarke has plans for, to help him take human form.

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I always thought that the best way to create a Ghost Rider film is to not take it too seriously and seeing as the filmmakers of this film made Crank, it should be better than the original, which was too serious. In many ways this film is better and worse than the first film. On one hand it doesn’t take itself as seriously and Nicolas Cage actually seems to be crazier but on the other, there’s painful editing and the story has plenty of plot holes. In either case, Ghost Rider 2 is still a pretty bad movie.

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This movie’s script does have even more problems than the original film. First of all there’s absolutely no character depth or development for any of the characters, not even Johnny Blaze seems that different by the end. There are a lot of plot holes, for example there’s a moment when the devil gives a henchman the power of decay (however it only decays certain things if it’s convenient). The devil then sends the henchman to get the boy back even though it would be near impossible to do without toughing and therefore decaying and killing him. Also the way the Ghost Rider acts in the first film made a little more sense than here. In his first scene, he would just stand around before he goes up to a henchman and just stares at him, doing nothing for like a minute. There’s even a strange moment when Ghost Rider urinates fire, this goes in the complete opposite direction of being boring and becomes downright stupid and borderline bizarre instead.

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Nicolas Cage is more animated than in the previous movie, which I have to say is a big improvement over the original. In the previous film he seemed to be quite bored, which was the wrong performance in this sort of film. In this film there are plenty of over the top moments that he has. There is one scene in particular where he’s interrogating someone and he’s trying to keep the ghost rider spirit from coming out and it’s definitely one of his best freak out moments. Idris Elba is trying his best to give a good performance, despite being in a pretty bad movie. Ciaran Hinds gives a decent performance as the devil, being more of the manipulator sort but it would’ve work much better in another movie. In this movie he doesn’t do anything cool or threatening, which would be the more preferable type of devil in this sort of movie. The climax of the film is him driving a car. I didn’t think I’d say this but Blackheart in the previous film put up a better fight than him, that’s a bad sign.

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I don’t remember if I liked the editing of the Crank films but Ghost Rider 2’s editing is just awful. A lot of the action is filmed being quite shaky and incomprehensible. I will give credit that Ghost Rider does look cooler and some of the action scenes are quite creative, like Ghost Rider turning a crane into a giant flaming chainsaw but it ultimately most of it is hard to get into.

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Is Ghost Rider 2 worse than the previous film? When all things are considered, yes, it’s editing and cinematography can be quite annoying and the characters aren’t interesting at all. Despite this we have Nicolas Cage being his enjoyable insane self and some of the action is quite enjoyable. If you’re going to see this film, just know exactly what you are going in, it can be fun as a guilty pleasure.