Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay

By Drew Kiess

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Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay is the latest addition to the DC Animated Universe that began with Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox and is the first to feature the Suicide Squad. The film stars Christian Slater as Deadshot, Vanessa Williams as Amanda Waller, Billy Brown as the Bronze Tiger, Kristen Bauer van Straten as Killer Frost, Gideon Emery as Copperhead, Liam McIntyre as Captain Boomerang, and Tara Strong as Harley Quinn. It was written by Alan Burnett (Batman: Mask of the Phantasm) and was directed by Sam Liu (Batman: The Killing Joke).

Can we be honest about these animated films for a moment? There has been a narrative about DC’s animated projects that has been all the rage that these are the DC movies that are knocking it out of the park. And at one time, that was honestly true. From Wonder Woman, New Frontier, The Dark Knight Returns, and Flashpoint Paradox, there was a strong string of good to great animated features in a short amount of time.

Since then, there has been less consistency. Killing Joke and Batman and Harley Quinn are far removed from the glory days of DC animated films. And for every Gotham by Gaslight, there is the unavoidable realization that the production quality is not what it once was. And I don’t think it’s a problem with the creative team, but there might just be too many projects for not enough people.

Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay may be one of the better productions from this universe in a while, but the story as a whole feels somewhat lacking. The Squad is sent to retrieve a get out of hell card for Waller, but they have some competition from various baddies across the DC Universe, including Blockbuster, Vandal and Scandal Savage, and Professor Zoom. A grindhouse road trip ensues to find the card.

Where this movie thrives is with the villains—that is, the bad bad-guys. The connections to the greater universe that is weaved into this film may be the best use of this connected universe to date. If this were the focal point of the movie (you know, telling an interesting story within a larger comic book universe) it would have been one of my favorites. That’s not what we got.

What we got was a movie that promised a sexy, violent action movie that could not separate itself from past attempts by these animated movies to be more “adult”, succeeding only in fulfilling the most juvenile of expectations on both fronts. Fetishizing strippers and lesbians is not something I associate with “edgy” and it, unsurprisingly, falls incredibly short here.

I have said it before with these movies and apparently it needs repeating: not everything needs to push the boundaries. Cool stories that exploit what makes these characters interesting will forever be preferable than using these characters to prove some point that comic book stories can be “grown up”. It’s a trend that is in desperate need of ending and I seriously hope it finds its demise before Death of Superman.

Here’s hoping.

 

 

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The Reconstruction of the Superhero, Part Three: Doomsday Clock #4

By Drew Kiess

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The following contains spoilers for Doomsday Clock #4: “Walk On Water”

I See What I Want To See

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ “The Abyss Gazes Also”, the sixth issue in Watchmen is, in this writer’s opinion, among the most important issues in comic book history. Showing the effects of witnessing tragedy on a once idealistic vigilante in such a brutal  way changed Watchmen from being an angry rebuttal of comic book culture into a true deconstruction of the building blocks of the mythos.

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“The Abyss Gazes Also” features Walter Kovacs, the first man to don the moniker Rorschach in prison, being interviewed by Dr. Malcolm Long.

Dr. Long is a mixture of good intentions and star struck, as he sees Kovacs as his chance to make an impression in psychological literature. His relationship with Kovacs is rocky, as Kovacs refuses to reveal much of what is going on in his mind. But as the issue continues, Kovacs’ story comes out.

Dark As It Gets

Kovacs retells a story of an investigation into the kidnapping of a young girl. Upon finding her kidnapper, he discovers that she was murdered, and possibly molested, her bones in the mouth of the monster’s dogs. Kovacs, in anger, brutally murders the man responsible.

“It is not God who kills the children. Not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to  the dogs,” Kovacs tells Dr. Long. “It’s us. Only us.” Dr. Long sits on his bed that night, his marriage in ruins and his career in question after a lengthy and emotional effort to discover something of meaning in Rorschach, looks at an inkblot. Nothing but “meaningless blackness,” he thinks. The horror broke him.

There was nothing to solve.

What Do You See, Mr. Long?

Dr. Matthew Mason walks into the room where the mysterious Rorschach II sits, strapped to a chair, unmasked. Although Mason does not know his new patient’s identity, the inner monologue reveals Rorschach II to be Reggie Long, the son of Dr. Malcolm Long, driven to obsession when Veidt’s plan caused the death of his parents.

Reggie’s views of Dr. Mason, often comparable to Kovacs’ views of Dr. Long, are filtered through Reggie’s views of his father. Dr. Mason is nothing like his father, to him, although his view of Dr. Mason is how Kovacs saw Dr. Long.

Our heroes are how we choose to see them. In this way, the broken mirror image of Bruce Wayne deconstructs how the trauma of a young man views his parents’ relationship and death despite what we know is reality, and how tragedy informed his obsession and mission.

You Need To See Them At Their Best

Reggie had to be institutionalized after the death of his parents. While in asylum, he met Byron Lewis—Moth Man—former member of the Minute Men. Byron trains Reggie to be a one-man Minute Man, teaching him all the tricks the Minute Men had up their sleeves. In this time, Reggie’s view of reality is changed through the encouragement of Byron—instead of seeing them for how they died, he began viewing them at their happiest. He regained an idealized view of his parents, and his hatred for Adrian Veidt grew.

When Reggie’s opportunity to end Veidt’s life and avenge the death of his parents came, Reggie saw the remorse in Veidt’s eyes and couldn’t kill him. This conflicted with his simple view of good and evil. It broke him again.

I Have Someone To Blame

A fascinating element to the character of Bruce Wayne is that his crusade as Batman was never really about Joe Chill, the man who killed his parents. No, Wayne’s mission was to ensure that no child in his city should ever suffer the way he did. In contrast, Reggie Long wishes to avenge his suffering, and finds he has no place to send it. So it is interesting that, when it is revealed that Dr. Mason is, in fact, Bruce Wayne in disguise, that Bruce cannot penetrate through the inkblot.

Of course, Bruce is wearing his own kind of meaningless blackness. Two men attempting to understand each other through misperceptions and disguises are never going to achieve the understanding that they are after.

But which one is the hero? And which one is truly putting the future in jeopardy? Well, the only real answer to that is “we see what we want to see.”

Turned Them Toward Light

Issues like this separate great comic book stories and good ones. This was a game changer, even if the story feels like the story does not advance (it very much does, whether we see it or not). Not only is this the best issue of Doomsday Clock so far, this may go down as one of Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s greatest accomplishment: Examining trauma and not losing heroism. Now, the reconstruction of the superhero can begin.

 

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Fandom At War, But Fans Are Still Good

by Drew Kiess

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It’s gotten to the point where I dread a big superhero movie opening. Don’t get me wrong, when I’m in the theater watching them, I’m having the time of my life, mostly. I enjoyed Black Panther, even if I had a few nitpicks.

But we don’t live in a world where we just enjoy things. It has to be accompanied by so much baggage. From behind-the-scenes drama, corporate finances, and social movements now dominate the discussion of the golden era of superheroes on the silver screen.

This last week, a film pundit (who shall remain nameless here) took to his platform to proclaim that something bad was coming down the pipe regarding DC on film but that he wasn’t go to share. Of course, with the internets being what they are, this blew up with speculation that resulted in Matt Reeves responding on Twitter that he was, indeed, not leaving as director of The Batman, which was a rumor spawned out of the whole mess.

This is where fandom is, and I want no part of it. I know I freelance for a fansite, but I strive to be better than the rumor-mill style of writing that has become so pervasive in this corner of the internet. Any trip onto Twitter seeing more fevered arguments about whether or not we should have the “who would win in a fight…” argument about female comic book characters from people who are outside of comic book culture is enough to make me, for a split second, think that, perhaps, fandom is toxic after all.

But there are moments, when talking with my friends who love these characters like I do, that I find a joy in my fandom again. The noise of online fandom fades into the background as we talk about Frank Miller vs Scott Snyder, or whether Aquaman could take down Namor (he could, by the way. Just call in a whale and have it sit on top of him. TKO).

The noise fades when every time I crack open an issue of Action Comics and see Booster Gold reference Marvel Comics. Or Superman and see Clark and Jon talking about the nature of hope and faith. Or The Mighty Thor and see decades of amazing Thor stories coming to a head during Jane Foster’s final days.

I don’t think fandom is toxic. I think we’ve just lost our way the past few years, and I’m hopeful we’ll find it again. I don’t recall every having a time more rich with great superhero content between comics, movies, television, and video games, and I’m choosing to enjoy every second of it. And even if I don’t like something, I’ll happily move along. Life’s too short to linger there.

I’ll also try to avoid Twitter. That might help, too.

 

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The Reconstruction of the Superhero, Part Two: Doomsday Clock #3

By Andrew Kiess

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The following contains spoilers for Doomsday Clock #3

Not Victory or Defeat 

A Comedian Died in New York, but he now lives in Metropolis. While it is revealed that Dr. Manhattan reversed the cornerstone death of Watchmen. The Comedian responds by attempting to reverse the situation on his killer, Ozymandias. Fortunately for Veidt, Lex Luthor has thicker windows in his office than Comedian had in his apartment.

This is not a story about reversing the past. This is a story about putting the pieces back together that the past broke.

Meanwhile, Rorschach II is in the Batcave giving Batman Kovacs’ journal. Batman does not believe a word of the story and locks Rorschach II in Mad Hatter’s vacant Arkham cell.

This is not a story of optimistic heroes becoming pessimists. This is a story about pessimistic heroes living in the shadow of a pessimistic world, who we hope find optimism in the end.

My Hands Are Dirty, Too

The Superman Theory looms large over the DC Universe of Doomsday Clock, which takes place one year ahead of present day continuity.  Rorschach II stands in an interesting position for audiences that his predecessor did not possess, he is both clearly detached from reality and yet he may be the only one capable of seeing reality.

Unlike Adrian Veidt, Rorschach II witnessed and felt the loss caused by the creature in Watchmen. We learn that his parents were killed during Veidt’s lie. We see Rorschach II’s unknown alter-ego, driving a car and speaking in a more conventional speech pattern before disaster strikes.

The tragedy is seemingly the beginning of the end for our hero’s innocence. As he showers in the Wayne Manor bath, he scrubs his scalp so hard the he bleeds. What blood is on his hand? How did he come across Kovacs; journal, and what pushed him towards wearing Kovacs’ face?

The answer is right in front of us. Or, rather, right in front of Rorschach II. If Walter Kovacs is Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s answer to Charles Victor Szasz, The Question, then this Rorschach is Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s answer to Bruce Wayne, The Batman.

In the face of tragedy, a man uses the tools at his disposal to seek out justice and to, in the words of Frank Miller, force the world to make sense again. It is interesting, then, that when faced with his (albeit, more extreme) mirror image, that he thought the solution was to lock him in Arkham. Had not Batman, just a few years prior, jumped universes with The Flash investigating the very thing Rorschach was claiming to have information on? Ever the cynic, Bruce cannot accept the bizarre unless he himself witnesses it. Instead, he views his reflection as the personification of madness. Rorschach’s worldview is not reality for Bruce, but who’s to say which reality is which?

But I Wore My Best Suit

We’ve known since Rebirth began that something is up with Johnny Thunder and the Justice Society of America. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on this part of the book, but his presence is heartbreaking. It would appears that he is experiencing the effects of the time slippage, and is aware of the life he may never have fully lived. The Justice Society may yet play an important role in this story and I’m excited to learn more.

In The Darkness…I Can’t See Their Faces

The final layer of this story is reflective of The Black Freighter comic in Watchmen. The Adjournment, a black and white detective film starring Carver Coleman is sprinkled throughout the book. Coleman is an actor who made his claim to fame playing Nathaniel Dusk (named after an obscure detective featured in DC Comics), a hard-boiled detective in a fedora and trench coat, in six films before the actor’s untimely death. Coleman’s murder is the subject of the newspaper and tabloid clipping stingers in this issue. The Adjournment sees Dusk investigate the mysterious murder of two men playing chess. The movie is interrupted by news of a metahuman arms race.

This is the dual identity of Watchmen. A murder-mystery placed in the backdrop of impending nuclear destruction. The Superman theory is the element that was missing in Watchmen. When Manhattan was the lone metahuman, the arms race halted while tensions grew taut. The Superman Theory states that 97% of metahumans are American, and now other nations are trying to create their own metahumans in order to compete.

It’s no wonder Clark is having nightmares. What is hope personified to do in a world so consumed with despair? While we are waiting patiently for Manhattan and Superman to come face-to-face, we continue to look into the mirror with our heroes and examine both our world and theirs. Issue #3 is the most restrained of the books so far, but it is also the most interesting and the strongest. This series is on its way to becoming a modern classic.

 

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Future of DC Films Unfolding

by Andrew Kiessdceu-9292017

DC news needs to stop dropping when I’m in school.

There is a lot to cover and I honestly do not want to go through it like it’s all breaking news, because, let’s be honest, if you’re reading this, you know what’s been going on. I will keep the news brief and then explain what I think it means for DC Films going forward.

Two weeks ago, news broke of Joseph Hamada was taking over for the departed Jon Berg as President of DC Films. Later in that week, we learned of a major shakeup in the executive suite of Warner Bros. motion pictures, with Sue Kroll stepping away from her role as president and Toby Emmerich, is essence, taking over as chairman if Warner Bros. Picture Group, taking over some duties previously held by WB CEO Kevin Tsujihara in day-to-day operations of the film studio.

The good news in this is it slims down the number of chefs in the kitchen for the WB executives, particularly with Tsujihara no longer in a position to call the shots. Whether or not Emmerich is the man for the job remains to be seen, but there is reason to be optimistic in light of this shakeup.

What is more interesting from a producer standpoint is the news coming from Suicide Squad 2, where Michael De Luca joined Charles Roven as producer. This shows a departure from DC Film’s habit of having one producer oversee multiple films. It appears that this move signals a new age in the structure of these films, with a focus on individual franchises rather than the universe as a whole.

We also now know that Shazam! will hit theaters in April of next year, and will feature Mark Strong as the villain Dr. Sivana. With Shazam! being produced by New Line where Walter Hamada oversaw production, it will be our first glimpse of the future of DC Films.

Finally, and certainly not least, we have our directors for Flashpoint. After Ben Affleck reportedly turned down the job, WB has entered negotiations with Vacation directors and Spider-Man Homecoming writers John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, who will be working from a script by Joby Harold. This would be far from my first choice for this project, but I think it would be fairly safe to say that the Flashpoint film will be quite far away from the beloved Geoff Johns story. With rumors of Ben Affleck making one last appearance in the cape and cowl, Flashpoint has been a popular choice for that appearance, although Suicide Squad 2 could also be a possibility.

It’s an interesting time to follow these movies. I am cautiously optimistic that at the end of these changes will be some movies that I will truly love. While Aquaman will represent the end of this era of DC on film, it is exciting to see the next era coming in strong. We can only hope that the product delivers.

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Warners Names New DC Films President

by Andrew Kiess

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With Jon Berg now exited from his role as co-President of Production at DC Films (alongside Geoff Johns) last month, Warner Brothers have been expected to announce a replacement this month.

We have our replacement.

Walter Hamada, who had been an executive at New Line, oversaw successful horror films such as The Conjuring and It, has been named as President of DC Films production. By implication, Geoff Johns is no longer in his co-president role, although, according to reports, he will remain closely involved with Hamada as he oversees all production of films based on characters licensed by DC Comics.

While many may want to jump to conclusions about this announcement, I think it is best to play a game of wait-and-see. This move has been a long time coming, but the problems faced by DC Films have often stemmed from higher up the ladder.

Hamada, however, has already played a role in New Line produced Shazam! and has a strong relationship with Aquaman director James Wan.

The next few months should prove to be more revealing as to what the future of DC Films will look like. Fingers crossed for more good news in the near future.

Source: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/dc-movies-find-new-president-it-conjuring-executive-1071435

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The Reconstruction of the Superhero: Doomsday Clock 1 & 2

By Andrew Kiess

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November 22nd, 1992… or maybe it’s the 23rd?

It’s been eight years since Adrian Veidt (A.K.A. Ozymandias, the smartest man on Earth) brought world peace in the guise of a staged alien invader, prompting Dr. Manhattan to leave earth. The ruse is up, and the world is converging on Veidt demanding justice for his lie.

The opening monologue from an unfamiliar Rorschach who is unreliable even in his own journal keeping (he is not entirely sure what day it is), sets the reader off with a bit of unease. This is our world, but it’s not our world. This is the world of Alan Moore’s Watchmen, but it’s no longer that world, either. Things have changed. “God turned his back,” Rorschach laments, “Left paradise to us. Like handing a five-year-old a straight razor.” Rorschach sees the world barreling towards complete destruction, “unless we bring God back down. Kicking and screaming because maybe we don’t deserve it. Maybe the world should burn this time. We shattered the American dream. This is the American nightmare.”

We find our new Rorschach, a young black man named Reggie, playing the role of Rorschach to the best of his abilities, breaking two criminals by the names of Mime and Marionette out of prison. The trio make their way to what appears to an abandoned Owl’s Nest where Adrian Veidt, who is revealed to be suffering from a brain tumor, has concocted his latest plan to save the world: find Dr. Manhattan and bring him home. The only problem? No one is exactly sure where he is.

The first book ends with a glimpse of a small Kanas town: Smallville. A nightmare scene of a young boy losing his parents in a car accident unfolds, being revealed to be the nightmare of a sleeping Clark Kent, lying in his Metropolis apartment with Lois Lane. “I can’t remember the last time you had a nightmare,” Lois says. Clark tells her that he’s never had one.

Life’s Not Black And White Like It Used To Be

Following an electron trail, Ozymandias, Rorschach, Mime, and Marionette find themselves in an unfamiliar city called Gotham. Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor are locked in a legal battle over research into a metagene, research that could show why so many metahumans have appeared in the United States. While Lex Luthor is hailed as one of earth’s greatest minds, Bruce Wayne is being subjected to psychological exams while dealing with a Gotham protesting his existence.

This world baffles Veidt, who observes that many of the costumed heroes in this new world fictional characters in his own. Superman? The Question? Could this world be the creation of Dr. Manhattan? The book closes with Veidt interviewing Lex Luthor, and Rorschach going to the Batcave. Veidt finds an intellect greater than his, and Rorschach finds breakfast. But what becomes apparent quickly will have lasting effects on all these characters going forward.

Obsessed With Reliving Yesterday

1986 changed things for comic books. The combination of the release of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns shattered many preconceptions on the limits of the medium. Some have lamented these books as being the reason for the dark and gritty obsessed 90s for mainstream superheroes, while others have praised them for being the reason for leaving the campy 60s and 70s behind. They did both, in my opinion.

Since DC Rebirth launched in 2016, a theme of restoration has reverberated throughout the pages of DC Comics. Superman Reborn saw the rectification of timelines for Superman, an act that attracted the attention of Manhattan, according to Mxylplyx and Mr. Oz. A timeline long dead had been restored and was brought in marriage at long last to the timeline that replaced it.

Let’s See If I Understand You Correctly

It is no coincidence that the forgotten book of 1986, Crisis on Infinite Earths, appears to play such an important spot in the Rebirth saga. During this event, the Charlton Comic book characters, bought out from the defunct comic book company by DC, made their first appearance in DC continuity. These Charlton characters were the target of Alan Moore’s deconstructionism. For example, look at the similarities between Captain Atom and Dr. Manhattan, or The Question and Rorschach. These characters were fictional in the Watchmen universe (along with Superman) according to Hollis Mason’s Under the Hood.

Within the narrative, it appears that Manhattan is drawing from what he knows to create a universe. From outside the narrative, writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank are saying that Dr. Manhattan and Rorschach changed the characters of Superman and Batman forever, and now it’s time for these characters to say something back.

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons deconstructed the superhero. In 1986, this needed to happen.  The Superman movie franchise had its best days in the rearview mirror. The Batman TV show was ancient history. Comic continuity had grown stale, and a shakeup was needed.

We are now in a time where superhero media is everywhere, but comics have been suffering. Everyone is consuming cape stories on a surface level, and I believe Geoff Johns is saying with this book that superheroes are in need of reconstruction. Rebirth has been doing that, and Doomsday Clock appears to be the culmination of that effort.

And, for me, it’s working. In looking at Doomsday Clock, it’s undeniable that this is meant to contrast with Moore and Gibbon’s work. Gary Frank does a great job of twisting the imagery of Gibbons while not ripping them off, providing softer edges living in a more shadowed world. Geoff Johns’ writing is terrific, even if his monologues, albeit for story purposes, are not quite as catchy as Moore’s.

These first two issues set up the reconstruction of the Superhero. I am more than excited to see where this goes.

 

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Star Wars and the Falsehood of Correct Opinions

by Drew Kiess

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Nothing like a Star Wars movie to bring us together, right?

Being a DC Comics fan, I’m in an interesting position to comment on divisive movies. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is certainly just that, but in a fascinating way that I am struggling to find a parallel to. Perhaps J.J. Abram’s Star Trek, ironically, has had a similar reaction to where it is a critical hit and seemingly well liked among casual moviegoers and fans, but incredibly divisive among the more faithful fanbase.

I will get this out of the way now: I did not particularly like The Last Jedi. I found the plot to be clunky and full of holes that would make Mr. Sir proud. It was an incredibly uneven experience with the things that I loved about it clashing with the things that I didn’t. This, however, does not mean that the film was without merit or should, as some zealous fans have suggested, be stricken from the official canon. That is just nonsense.

All students surpass their masters. This is the way things work. This is the theme of Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi and is easily the greatest thing this movie can add to the franchise. We can always move beyond the things that have come in the past and embrace the future, even if that future makes us uneasy.

And I embrace that lesson. I will be the first to admit, while I was fighting the good fight for Man of Steel against the “Not My Superman” crowd, I was planted directly in the middle of the “Not my Star Wars” crowd as a proud member. The year 2005 changed the way I viewed Star Wars with the conclusion of Revenge of the Sith. The Star War was over. It was a thing of the past. The next month, I would read for the first time Batman Year One and watch Batman Begins and my conversion to being a comic book nerd from being a Star Wars nerd was completed. “When I was a child, I thought as a child…”

And so Star Wars was cemented as an element of my childhood. I was fourteen when Revenge of the Sith hit cinemas and Star Wars has always been a relic for me of that time period. I have flippantly referred to Star Wars as the nerd starter pack. I still (kind of) stand by that.

The prospect of bringing them back and even deconstructing these heroes was not and is not an idea that I am entirely game for. I have a deeper understanding of those who dislike Man of Steel for that reason. However, that was my problem with The Force Awakens. I do suspect that is also the problem for some with this film, but it reveals another dark side to fandom:

If someone disagrees with our opinion, we have to explain it away.

The reason I didn’t like The Last Jedi is simple: the negative subjectively outweighed the positive. The reason others liked it is because they had the reverse experience. The common theory that has been thrown around is that those who dislike it are throwing some kind of tantrum because of their fan theories is actually a disservice to the movie you love.

I fully believe that The Last Jedi is a bold movie that makes bold decisions. If those worked for you, great. I would hope that if you are a fan of a controversial movie that you would choose to engage in the conversation rather than categorize dissention and write them off. Engaging with it is the best way to embrace it.

On the flip side, if you hated it, do not conflate those who love it with blind brand loyalists. Any movie worthy of a strong negative reaction must have qualities that are bold enough to warrant appreciation from someone else.

I believe that conversations about movies can and should include discussing different opinions and not become a shouting match. We all have a different road that leads us to these movies and so we all have a different experience with them. Hear from them, and let it inform and even strengthen your own opinion. You might actually learn something along the way. Learn the lessons from the film arguments in the past and make the ones coming up better. Movies shouldn’t be something that rips us apart, but something that brings us together—even if we disagree.

 

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Justice League Review

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by Drew Kiess

 

How to describe a movie like Justice League? Or, a better question, how to describe a movie like Justice League in a way that it has not already been described?

Let’s look over what we know: yes, we know that the post-production process on this movie was less than smooth for various reasons, chief among them a personal tragedy in the director’s family. Yes, we also know that the critical hill for this movie to climb was probably much too steep and the comparisons to the distinguished competition were unavoidable (how could anything measure up to what is already locked-in as a cultural phenomenon?). And yes, we also know that the tone of this film was shifted even further from the somberness of its predecessor due to critical feedback.

We know all that. What we don’t know is how things would have turned out otherwise. I can only review this movie for the movie I saw in the theaters and not the movie that I thought we were getting. Maybe someday we’ll get to see that movie (we’re just now getting to see the three hour version of 1978’s Superman The Movie, so there’s always hope), but this is the Justice League movie we got. And—honestly—I loved it.

To say a movie is imperfect seems like a critical cheat, but it is also important to say in this case. While I think most of the imperfections pointed out aren’t necessarily the same problems I have with the film (most of my complaints involve the ever-hated spoilers, so I will avoid talking too much about them), this is the first of the three Snyder DC Films entries that I’m comfortable with letting the critical onslaught hit without much argument. Perhaps that says more about me than the movie, but this is not quite the same kind of movie as Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. If you hated those movies, you might take that as a relief. As someone who loved them, it is a bit of a dunk in cold water.

What exists instead, though, is just as reverent a love letter to DC Comics fans. Never did I dream of seeing pieces from Jack Kirby’s Fourth World on a big screen. Seeing Commissioner Gordon (played well by J.K. Simmons) speaking with Batman and Wonder Woman and The Flash and Cyborg on a rooftop is a treat. And for anyone who has read the works of Kirby, Grant Morrison’s Rock of Ages, or Geoff John’s Justice League: Origins, there is plenty to keep you geeking out from the opening titles to the close of the credits. And yes, that end credits scene is as good as you’ve been told.

Of the major characters, most for me were given a fantastic show case as to what makes them amazing characters. There is one character that I felt may have been shortchanged, but that may be super spoilery (see what I did there?). Steppenwolf was fine. The great thing about using a character like Steppenwolf is that he does not come with a lot of baggage and is disposable without having his fan club become up-in-arms. Quick, name your favorite Steppenwolf comic book! He serves the purpose of providing a threat daunting enough to get the team together, but is not the kind of character who merits a long-winded motivation.

What the movie does well for me is not shying away from the comic book-ness of the whole thing. While the humor, thanks in part to screenwriter (and post-production supervisor) Joss Whedon, is cranked up in Justice League, it never feels aimed at the audience for enjoying these types of stories. It managed to have fun while still telling a cool story ripped almost perfectly from the pages of a comic book. And that may make it a movie that’s not for everyone. But if you’re someone who loves these characters, I highly recommend seeing Justice League with someone who loves these characters with you. There’ll be plenty for you to talk about.

Final score: Comic Code Approved

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Early Justice League Reactions and Elfman’s Score

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It’s hard to believe that we are just a few days away from being in a theater and watching some of our favorite superheroes fighting side-by-side for the first time. Justice League premieres now in less than a week and it feels like Twitter is so full of 280-character opinions that it is about to burst at the seams.

With the social media embargo lifting on Friday, we now have some of the first verified opinions on Justice League. While there have been a few killjoys, it does sound like we are in for a good time when the film finally rolls. A quintessential part of getting hyped up for these DC Films has been listening to the musical score the week before. I am not entirely sure if there is another franchise, with the exception of Star Wars, where the musical score is so closely analyzed. (How many people remember the Twitter debates surrounding the score for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them? Yeah, I don’t either.)

The Justice League score, like much about this movie since the departure of Zack Snyder, has been under the microscope since it was announced that it would be Danny Elfman instead of the previously announced Junkie XL, who co-composed for Batman v Superman and impressed us all with his soundtrack for Mad Max: Fury Road. Danny Elfman, of course, has had his fair share of superhero work, from Tim Burton’s Batman, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, and Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. From a personal point of view, his score for Spider-Man 2 is among my favorite comic book movie scores of all time, and I was excited to hear what he had come up for Justice League.

Fan reaction to the score has been an interesting one to watch. I will say that I do not think it works as well as a standalone listen as much as what Hans Zimmer put together for Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. That does not mean that it is a bad score.

There are scores we listen to specifically because it reminds us of a movie we love. Elfman’s Batman score is actually a perfect example of this. Outside of the main theme and Decent Into Mystery, I would argue that there are not a lot of tracks that would standalone if not for the emotional connection to a movie that we love. Clint Mansell’s Noah score is an example for me of the opposite, great pieces of music that are used within a movie.

If I am to fully judge Elfman’s score, I will need to hear it in context. I will say, I am a fan of the call-backs to the classic Batman and Superman themes. If the response to complaints about Batman and Superman not behaving like themselves in previous films has been answered by, “well, they’re building up to being the heroes we all love”, then I personally like using the classic musical cues to indicate that they are behaving at their best and most heroic.

I do want to signal out Sigrid’s Everybody Knows cover, the opening track on the soundtrack. It is a standout and has always been lyrically a very somber song. My curiosity is certainly piqued as to how this relates to the story Snyder and Whedon are telling with Justice League.

I am no musical expert. But after listening to the Justice League soundtrack, I can say that I fully believe it can work. I cannot wait to hear those classic themes fill up a theater next week. Be sure to keep the conversation going and tell us what you think!

 

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