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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Deathstroke Film from “The Raid” In The Works

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In what seems like a lifetime ago, Magic Mike star Joe Manganiello was announced as the villain in The Batman. It’s been unspoken for some time now that he would no longer appear in that feature, but Manganiello as Deathstroke the Terminator was just too good of casting to go completely to waste.

Now, friend of Shanlian on Batman Umburto Gonzalez from the Wrap is reporting that The Raid Director Gareth Evans is in negotiations to write and direct a Deathstroke film. The Raid and its sequel are renowned for their incredible action sequences, and so just what kind of movie Warner Bros. wants out of Deathstroke likely falls right in line with this style of film.

Evans reportedly was offered Justice League Dark, but impressed DC executives with his Deathstroke pitch.

What remains to be seen, of course, is just who or what Deathstroke will be up against. Will it be one of the many DC heroes populating the universe already or someone else entirely? Only time will tell, but that won’t stop anyone from speculating. This may be the perfect opportunity to bring back Will Smith’s Deadshot, but I will be excited to see whatever Evans has come up with.

Source: https://www.thewrap.com/gareth-evans-dc-comics-deathstroke/

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“Batman Vs Two Face” Review

 

 

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By
Drew Kiess

I fell in love with Adam West’s Batman later in my fandom than many. While West’s portrayal was responsible for an entire generation becoming Batman fans for the first time, what West did for me was teach me how versatile the Caped Crusader could be. In 2016, seeing Adam West (along with Burt Ward and Julie Newmar) return to his classic role was an absolute joy, and the film itself was ridiculously entertaining, even if it was flawed in some ways.

When Adam West passed away, it struck a chord with me. This man had been responsible for bringing a character that has meant so much to me and has brought me a countless amount of joy to the mainstream. Before his passing, he was able to provide us with one final crusade: “Batman Vs Two-Face.”

In “Batman Vs Two-Face,” Adam West’s Batman is joined by Burt Ward’s Robin, Julie Newmar’s Catwoman, and William Shatner as the villainous Two-Face. While most of what we now consider the heavy hitters in Batman’s rogues gallery found their way onto the screen during the 1960s TV series, one notable exception has always been Two-Face, who starred only in one unused script. Harvey Dent, Gotham’s District Attorney and best friend to billionaire Bruce Wayne, is scarred by pure evil in a laboratory accident gone terribly wrong. The explosion turns Dent into the criminal known as Two-Face, and despite what Bruce Wayne believes to be a successful recovery, Harvey Dent’s scars are deeper than just the surface. With a crime wave indicating the involvement of a duality obsessed fiend, only Two-Face could be behind it. But could Harvey Dent truly be evil? Can the Dynamic Duo stop this crime spree in Gotham? (Tune in next week, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!)

The DC Animated films have been hit and miss lately. This was definitely a hit. Not only was it incredibly funny, it also had a surprising weight that pulled me into the film’s story. The casting of another 60s TV star in William Shatner as Harvey Dent was a stroke of brilliance, and he delivers with a voice performance that rivals any in these films. (His performance was reminiscent of the better moments of Tommy Lee Jones’ version in “Batman Forever.” Surprisingly, this version was less cartoonish.) Shatner pulled off a menacing Two-Face, playing the tongue-in-cheek nature of this universe with ease, while providing a tragic weight to Harvey Dent that is unexpected in connection with the 60s TV show.

Adam West’s performance was everything you would expect it to be. This story gave him a terrific send-off, allowing him to play both the heroic and inspiring Batman in some of the film’s more heavy moments, to the more comedic tones that this version of the character requires. As always, this was what made Adam West and this character such a great marriage: he could play every tone with the same amount of sincerity and commitment. You are always sure about two things with Adam West’s Batman around. Criminals are a cowardly and superstitious lot that he’ll bring to justice, and that Batman is always there watching out for us when we need him most.

The cast of characters in “Batman Vs Two-Face” is deep. If a viewer can go in not knowing what villains cameo and have major roles outside of the titular character, they can find themselves enjoying the revolving door of references to episodes of the TV series. On top of the revolving door of villainy, be on the lookout for some hilarious shout-outs to various Batman pop-culture moments that add flavor to this bountiful Bat-feast.

If “Return of the Caped Crusaders” served as a sequel to “Batman-The Movie,” then “Batman Vs Two-Face” closes out Adam West’s Batman trilogy triumphantly, providing us with humor, action, and a big bucket of heart. Director Rick Morales’ obvious love for the TV show shines through with every scene. It is a miracle to take a world and a style and bring it back to us 50 years after it was popular and do it so well, and to provide us all with one last adventure with our Bright Knight.

I would recommend buying two copies (one for each face), and enjoying this conclusion to Adam West’s Batman trilogy. I watched this with a smile on my face from beginning to end and am looking forward to watching it again. And for those of you out there who have yet to discover Adam West for yourselves, please take it from me: when you learn to love the goofiness and the colors and the biffs, booms, and pows, you will also find the heart, love, and unwavering goodness that was Adam West and his Batman. I think we could all agree that the world needs a Bright Knight now more than ever.

 

3.5 Bats out of 4

 

 

 

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Batman and Harley Quinn Review

by Andrew Kiess

Many Batman fans are in agreement that Batman: The Animated Series is among the greatest comic book adaptations out there. For many of us, it has defined the character of Batman and his supporting cast. So, when co-creator Bruce Timm returns to the style and characters that first captured our imaginations, only greatness can happen, right?

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Batman and Harley Quinn is the latest DC animated feature film to get the one-night only theater treatment before being released on demand, following the success of The Killing Joke and Return of the Caped Crusaders. While I enjoyed Crusaders, neither of these one-night only showings featured what I considered to be the “best” of the recent animated films (I thought Judas Contract and Justice League Dark were fantastic), I was still excited to see what looked to be a long lost episode of The New Batman Adventures. What I got fell short of my expectations.

The opening few scenes of the films did not help my perception of the project overall. The animation looked cheap and the characters inconsistent. As the movie went on, the animation improved, but that’s when the story developed.

The plot of the film centers around Poison Ivy (voiced by Paget Brewster) and Jason Woodrue, the Floronic Man (Kevin Michael Richardson) plotting to recreate the event that turned Alec Holland into Swamp Thing on a global scale, transforming all humanity into The Green. Batman (Kevin Conroy) and Nightwing (Loren Lester) enlist the help of a reformed Harley Quinn (Melissa Rauch) to track down Ivy and save the world.

On the surface, this still feels like a new episode of Batman. But as has been the case with many of the latest DC animated film, there seemed to be an imperative to “adult it up.” In theory, I don’t think this is necessarily a good or bad thing. It worked extraordinarily well in both The Judas Contract and Justice League Dark, but failed miserably with movies like The Killing Joke and Assault on Arkham. Harley Quinn is no stranger to being sexualized, and when done right it can create empathy for the character as someone who has overcome objectification. When done wrong, it just feeds into the objectification that the character (and, let’s face it, the comic book industry as a whole) has been fighting against.

We meet Harley working as a risqué waitress, where she beats up a customer for attempting to grope her. When Nightwing later questions her about it, she explains that it’s the only job she can get due to her past with The Joker being on her record. Instead of this being a moment to create empathy, it is followed up by a ridiculous scene where it is not-so-subtly implied that her an Nightwing, to quote Marv from Sin City, “do the nasty.” From the way the scene is drawn to the absolute lack of any reason for this to be in the film completely disservice the character, and is, in one man’s opinion, the opposite of “adult”. It is pure adolescent fantasy, with no real appreciation for storytelling.

To make matters worse, the rest of the humor in the film is bizarrely sophomoric. There is not much I can write that would fully explain just how off-putting a fart joke is in a movie that is trying to convince me that it is an “adult comedy.” A ten minute scene in a karaoke bar with ridiculous dancing and singing did nothing but add to the ever-changing tone. The story progresses to an inevitable appearance by Alec Holland himself, which was simply the final disappointment in a long line of disappointments.

Perhaps I am being too harsh. I have seen several positive reactions and some middle of the road reactions from many outlets online. But for me, Batman and Harley Quinn was a failure on every level and never engaged me for a single moment. As always, I would recommend you judge for yourself if you are interested in seeing it, but I think this will join The Killing Joke as the second of the DC animated films to not have a home on my shelf.

 

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OP ED: Why Matt Reeves Deserves Creative Control over ‘The Batman’

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By

John McKee

For a while, it looked like Matt Reeves just might not direct our next Batman film. News spread like wildfire that he had backed down and wouldn’t take the project, despite reaching “final talks” just weeks before. Per Birth. Movies. Death. Matt Reeves had “finally seen Batman v Superman and run away while he still could.”

Interestingly enough, Reeves signed on about a week and a half later to direct The Batman. Perhaps he had seen Batman v Superman and decided to add his name to the incredibly talented DC Universe. But what kept him from signing on in the first place? Money is an unlikely answer; Warner Bothers knows how much they have to shovel out for Batman films. The most obvious issue was creative control.

Seth Graham-Smith, Michele MacLauren, Rick Famuyiwa, David Ayer. All names of directors in the DC Universe who either left due to “creative differences” or in the case of Ayer, stayed on only to witness his film carved up and rehashed by test audiences and studio interference. Zack Snyder was demoted a tad on Justice League and Ben Affleck promoted as a way to respond to Batman v Superman’s reviews (ironically brought about mostly by the studio’s interference—we got the 2.5 hour slap job instead of the masterpiece Snyder originally had in mind now called the Ultimate Edition). So Warner Bros., the studio with a history of letting directors do their thing, has been unafraid of late to say “no” to a director.

Which is why Matt Reeves must be given full creative control over The Batman (and probably has) in order to make the film as great as possible. Ben Affleck wanted less to shoulder when he stepped down from The Batman. If WB/DC wants Affleck to make a Batman trilogy then it all rests on The Batman’s success. There is no indication (as Affleck said) that he will leave the role prematurely—there are huge loose ends to tie up, such as the Knightmare sequences in Batman v Superman. There is so much to explore with this character. So in order to keep Reeves on and make the film great, the studio needs to do what they did before—hand it over and TRUST the director. Tim Burton in 1980s. Christopher Nolan in early 2000s. Matt Reeves 2010s.

Great Batman films come from a healthy director-actor relationship. Affleck has gone on to say the director is the “artist” who makes Batman look right on set and in post: Affleck and Terrio write the comics and the director draws them to life. Matt Reeves has a history with the Apes franchise of not only rescuing it last minute, but intuitively realizing which character to focus the films on. With that kind of eye for filmmaking and characterization, Reeves can easily get The Batman off the ground and possibly help top The Dark Knight as the most widely acclaimed Batman film of all time. All that needs to happen is Warner Bros. taking a step back. They have done their job to this point by signing Affleck, Reeves, Terrio, and the rest. They need to trust Matt Reeves to handle the film and give him carte blanche to do what he needs to do to make the very best Batman film that he can.

Shanlian on Batman Episode 59 – Suicide Squad “Blitz” trailer breakdown

The crew takes to the web to breakdown the latest “Blitz” trailer for Suicide Squad. Tune in to see what scenes stand out the most to use and see weather or not we are still hyped for this movie to come out!

Also check out the video we did for this episode right here! https://youtu.be/gqyNeCpna8c

 

Batman-On-Film Shanlian On Batman Special Crossover

Batman-On-Film’s founder Bill “Jett” Ramey and his crew team up with the guys from Shanlian on Batman to talk Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice. At this point pretty much everyone has seen this film but in all fairness we must say, obviously, ***THIS PODCAST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR BATMAN V SUPERMAN DAWN OF JUSTCE** Now with that being out of the way, come hang out with the BOF & SoB crews while they go over everything that they liked, disliked, would have changed, and interpreted from this film! Don’t forget to visit www.batman-on-film.com for more BOF and as always check SoB out at www.ShanlianOnBatman.com as well as www.PodcastEmpireNetwork.Com

Shanlian On Batman Episode 57 wsg Jim Vejvoda

Jim “Stax” Vejvoda has been writing for IGN Filmforce since 2006, and we have him on the show this week! The guys talk to Stax about his early interests, how he got his start at IGN, the DC universe, (of course) Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice, and sooo much more! Hope you enjoy this episode and make sure that you check us out over at www.PodcastEmpireNetwork.com!

Shanlian on Batman Episode 56

We are back from a little business break and we brought a new friendly voice! We kick off this podcast with the introduction of Rheanna Haaland. We debut our new website the Podcast Empire Network! Justin tells us about his Wanner Bros/movie theater early viewing mix up! We talk ticket tracking for BvS, thoughts about justice league, and so much more. Enjoy this one guys its packed full of info.