We just saw the release of Justice League - the culmination to the first act of the DC Film Universe, bringing together all of the primary heroes that will go on to continue building out DC's slate from here on. The only problem is that, uh, it's not being too well-received by the box office. And while it's largely being blamed on the poor reception of the heavily-hyped Batman v. Superman, that's a little unfortunate, since this film is a much less grim 'n tedious affair.
Still, we have questions about it. A LOT OF QUESTIONS...
There's an opening montage in Justice League meant to show us the cost of Superman's sacrifice at the end of Batman v. Superman and the effect his absence has had on Metropolis and the world at large - harassment and crime are up, homeless is up, and generally everyone feels a little more hopeless (so hopeless, that 'Everybody Knows' by Sigrid plays). Except, I honestly have no idea what in the world any of this is in reference to - Superman was BARELY a symbol of hope between Man of Steel and BvS - by BvS, there were a huge amount of people who felt Superman bore some of the responsibility for bringing Zod and his followers to Earth (and the resulting destruction of like fifty 9/11s they wrought) and even more who felt that he was an alien element who was not to be trusted. Hell, they spent a good portion of the film showing that people sincerely believed Superman was gunning down African villages (with "experimental bullets") and blowing up Congress! How was THAT a symbol of hope?!
Beyond that - the montage seems to indicate that all of these bad things are happening because Superman isn't around anymore. WHAT?! Superman's absence is leading to homelessness and crime?! In Batman v. Superman (the last time Superman was an active presence) there was sex trafficking, wanton gang violence, AND plenty of poverty to go around. Superman's existence wasn't doing THAT MUCH to stop these malignant societal issues - so why is the movie pretending his absence has anything to do with them?
The introduction to Batman in the film - involving him using a criminal as bait for parademons - is actually pretty cool, until you consider what the film is implying: the Parademons are just wandering around, totally aimlessly, randomly attacking anyone who "shows fear"? WHAT?! Given Steppenwolf seemingly dispatched them without ANY idea of where the Mother Box entrusted to mankind is hidden (it's in Metropolis, but we see at least one in Gotham) and one attacks the criminal Batman dangles over the building, they're just randomly attacking anyone who is afraid?
But also - they're expliciting targeting employees of STAR Labs?! So, they DO have fairly explicit instructions of who to target and why, but are also attacking random fearful individuals in random cities (the Mother Box they're after is in a different city)? Frankly, I think Steppenwolf needs to get his minions in line.
"Ah, bug-aliens have invaded my home city and are randomly attacking anyone who is afraid. Better abscond for several weeks, grow a beard, and try to make fishman help me out. No, I have no idea why having a fishman on my team would help with this bug-alien invasion thing, but....seems like a good idea to totally abandon Gotham for several weeks, regardless."
"Ahhhh hey, we have these incredibly important artifacts, and this helmeted axe-guy really wants them. Better keep them in insanely obvious locations that he can easily teleport to (by the way, he can totally teleport with these things called 'boom tubes') and not hide them in any way."
The general explanation for why Steppenwolf chose this moment to attack Earth again was that there were "no Kryptonians" or other protectors, and because fear was at an all-time high (due to Superman's absence). The problem with this thinking is: a) there were also no Kryptonians for the ENTIRE period between his last invasion and 35 years ago (or whenever Superman landed in Kansas), and b) "worldwide fear" is kinda a broad, relative topic, but like...World War II mighta been a pretty fearful time for folks, given it was the largest war ever waged and entered us into the nuclear age. Just saying, Steppenwolf, if you woulda attacked then, you would have had no Kryptonians OR superfast nerds OR robot-football players OR extremely rich furries to deal with (still woulda had to deal with Atlanteans and/or Amazonians though, presumably).
Here's the thing - I'm almost certain the underexplanation of the Mother Boxes is a result of the 2-hour runtime, since there seems to be a LOT MORE going on with them than the movie bothers to explain. Why does Steppenwolf keep referring to them simply as "mother"? Why does he tell Hippolyta that she will love him once the Mother Boxes are reunited? And - most importantly - since NONE of the races that fought to stop Steppenwolf's initial run at the Mother Boxes have bothered to DO anything with them? WHY IS EVERYONE JUST HANGING ONTO THEM?!
It never makes sense why each race didn't DESTROY their respective Mother Box - they serve NO value to any race, and just prove a constant liability in case Steppenwolf returns. If they were serving as a source of power or something, I'd get it - BUT THEY DON'T. They're just lures for a giant CGI axe-man to pop into your world and mess up your shit.
Destroy that shit. Or, uh, hide it in an apartment, which makes them extremely hard to find, for some reason.
To give the audience some semblance of a POV to Steppenwolf's decision to take over some random abandoned Russian nuclear facility as his home base, we are introduced to a Russian family hiding in their tiny home from the swarms of Parademons outside. And what does this plotline, introduced relatively early in the film, lead to?
All that happens is that they continue to hide, eventually leave their home, and their truck stalls a bit - so Barry saves them. That's it. They're supposed to provide some actual faces to the potential victims of Steppenwolf's scheme, but wind up feeling totally extraneous - especially in a movie that's only 2 hours long and lost some SEEMINGLY IMPORTANT PLOT-RELATED SCENES...just to allow 6 minutes dedicated solely to this random family who don't do anything important.
Semi-related question: why were the Parademons unable to break into their rickety, old house? Not even break through the windows? We saw Parademons tear apart the friggin' Batmobile!
STOP MAKING HIM SMILE WHAT THE HELL IS THIS
One of the bigger disappointments in this film is how underutilized JK Simmons is. Not only one of the most compelling character actors of our time, he's also possibly THE GREATEST character actor to ever be in a superhero film, with his spot-on perfect turn as J. Jonah Jameson in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films - a performance so daunting and flawless that no other Spider-Man movie has since even bothered to try recasting the role.
So the thought of JK Simmons taking on a grizzled and weathered Commissioner Gordon was pretty exciting - especially when he started releasing pics of him getting HYPER-JACKED for the role. Was Gordon going to be getting into some of the fighting? Was he going to get heavily involved in the story?
Nope. In fact, he's barely in the film - with a few brief scenes on a rooftop to give the crew some exposition and nothing more. Hopefully he'll have more to do in an eventual Batman solo film, because I WANT TO SEE JACKED COMMISSIONER GORDON.
Bruce Wayne keeps tabs on everything - the entirety of Gotham, various meta-humans he hasn't even met yet, and everyone in between. So, one would assume he'd keep an eye out for MARTHAAAA (sorry) Kent, his sorta-friend's mom whose life he saved and who would presumably mean a great deal to him (as someone still entirely unable to get over the grief of his own parents' death). We saw pretty clearly in BvS that moms named Martha are very important to Bruce - so how did he not know the bank was foreclosing on the Kent Farm?
As Gotham's richest playboy vigilante, it wouldn't have been a huge deal for him to casually pay off the bank without Martha ever having to know about it. Hell, you'd think he'd be visiting her pretty regularly to talk about Clark and make sure she's okay, since this iteration of Bruce has basically no one else to commiserate with on the matter (except Alfred). Thankfully, he does eventually help her out - by buying the bank that was foreclosing on her and undoing that. Which...is a little extreme. Probably coulda just gotten her property back and called it a day and not spent several billion dollars (and insane amount of paperwork and meetings) to accomplish the same thing.
Listen, I know Lex did some funky stuff with adding his blood to the Genesis Chamber and finding some info on Kryptonian genetic modification, but the resurrection of General Zod (and his rebirth as Doomsday) serves as literally the ONLY point of reference to Batman and the rest of the League. To IMMEDIATELY think bringing Superman's corpse back to life in the Genesis Chamber as the ONLY OPTION feels...a little short-sighted. The movie addresses this (both Aquaman and Flash seem hesitant, with some explicit Pet Sematary references), but goes on with it anyways AND HAS IT TURN OUT OKAY. Which is REAL lucky for them, because it's more than a little weird we saw a totally 100% dead person come back to life and have their brain still working fine.
Note: I know that Superman showed signs of not being dead at the end of BvS, with the dirt shaking and rising - but that now seems....completely irrelevant? Almost like just a random red herring - making us think Superman was just in a bigtime coma and needed the sun to re-energize him again to bring him back to 100% (ya know...like in the comic version of Death of Superman). Here, it now just looks like he was straight up dead, but not decaying, and that's it.
Uhhh miiiight be time to move that weird alien ship from the MIDDLE OF THE CITY. You'd think after a giant raging monster came out of it last time, city officials would be like "yeah, we should move this to the uninhabited island not far away" or something. Because, ya know, THE EXACT SAME THING ALMOST HAPPENS AGAIN HERE (and who knows what Evil Confused Resurrected Clark would have done if Lois hadn't showed up).
JESUS CHRIST DID YOU ALL NEED TO GO OVER TO THE MONUMENT TO GAWK AT SHIRTLESS HENRY CAVILL? I MEAN, YEAH, HE'S GOT A GREAT BODY AND IS VERY HANDSOME BUT FOR SHIT'S SAKE COULD JUST ONE OF YOU GO MAKE SURE THE FINAL MOTHER BOX (THAT COULD BRING ABOUT THE END OF THE WORLD) IS PROTECTED? IT'S LITERALLY THE ONLY THING YOU ACTUALLY SHOULD BE DOING.
So after a messy resurrection and a little squabble with Batman, Clark gets calmed down and decides to chill at the ol' Kent Farm for a bit to get his bearings on the whole "being alive again" thing. He's pretty jovial and chill, especially for someone who has seen the other side of existence and also has an insanely messed up upper lip - but Lois tells him that there's another end of the world scenario playing out, and Clark's like "well, guess I'd better go help with all that." And then...he does, arriving in Russia in the nick of time to help wallop Steppenwolf.
But how the hell did he know where to go? No one left him instructions or directions or even the mildest inkling of where they'd be heading or why. And before you say "superhearing and supersight" or whatever, keep in mind that ONE MOVIE AGO Superman was completely unable to find his own mother in a 5 mile radius.
Here's the thing - I think I really liked the new take on Superman presented in this movie (outside of his mildly evil confused undead state). He's jokey, jovial, dad-like and HE'S SMILING. He's the kind of confident good guy that makes Superman such a timeless and wonderful character - and one that Henry Cavill seems great at playing, despite the previous movies making him into some grim cynical uncertain bore.
I prefaced all of that with "I think..." because it was SO HARD to watch most of his scenes when his upper lip was so noticeably messed up in practically EVERY SCENE HE WAS IN. I understand there were some unavoidable issues that Warner Bros. couldn't get past - Paramount was forcing him to keep his mustache during reshoots due to his commitment to Mission: Impossible 6, so WB figured they could just CG it out and no one would notice. The problem is that it's impossible not to notice - it's your standard uncanny valley nightmarefuel, and it detracts from every scene involving Superman.
The really weird thing is that they had the PERFECT WAY TO AVOID THIS - give Superman a beard. A big deal is made out of his body not decaying despite his death, so why not just have his beard and hair continue to grow? That way he can keep his mustache, WB can save money on last minute special effects, and it's not a horrifying weird uncomfortable experience every time Superman smiles. It's baffling they thought this key character in their $300 million tentpole franchise climax could look like this and it would be okay.
I'm not alone in this, right? Flash's run (primarily thinking of the one from the closing montage) looks EXTREMELY WEIRD - like he's just flailing his limbs aimlessly. It almost looks like someone making fun of the track team by miming a bad running form and yelling "Ooo! Look at me! I like running FOR FUN!"
Only Warner Bros. could spend several million dollars just to make one of their most timeless characters look like the QWOP guy.