Sunday, April 4, 2021

Zack Snyder's Justice League (2021) - Recap and Review

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After years of fan petitioning and online chatter, Zack Snyder's Justice League (or simply) Snyder Cut, has been released on HBO Max. This is a 4 hour long movie or a mini series (as some people would like to put it).
 
Spoilers ahead. Readers who are yet to watch the movie and would like to avoid details, are recommended to skip the post and watch the movie first.
 
 
The basic plot remains the same: Superman (Henry Cavill) has been killed by Doomsday. Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman/Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) are on a recruitment drive to build an alliance to stop the invading forces of Darkseid (voiced by Ray Porter), led by his minion/maternal uncle Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciaran Hinds).
 
zack snyder justice league green lantern darkseid
 
This is not the first time that Darkseid has set his sights on Earth. He had made an unsuccessful attempt earlier, but was beaten back by the combined forces of Atlanteans, Amazons, Gods and a Green Lantern. The three Mother Boxes left behind are given to Atlanteans, Amazons and Men respectively.

This time, Steppenwolf is determined to acquire them and regain the trust and respect of Darkseid. It seems Steppenwolf has fallen out of the New God's good books.
 
But not every one is eager to jump the bandwagon. Flash/Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) agrees right away but Aquaman/Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg/Victor Stone (Ray Fisher) are reluctant.
 
 
 
Cyborg is content with helping out needy people by depositing cash in their bank accounts. Arthur is more than happy to rescue those in distress on his oceanic turf and celebrate his good deeds at the local bar.
 
Once the group does get together, it is time to bring back the most powerful member back to life. But this Superman is grumpy and may not be interested in working with others. 

Check out the trailer below:


The Snyder Cut is far superior to the studio mandated/mangled theatrical version that was unleashed upon unsuspecting viewers/DC comics fans.
 
The Snyder Cut differs significantly from the theatrical version in the following ways:
  • We get our first glimpse of Black suit Superman in live action
  • Darkseid makes his first live action appearance
  • Martian Manhunter finally debuts in the SnyderVerse
  • Steppenwolf's armor and backstory are improved
  • Cyborg's backstory is fleshed out (arguably the most)
  • Iris West has a cameo (in the strictest sense of the word)
  • Ryan Choi features in the movie (DC Comics fan would know him better as Atom)
  • The Whedonesque humor has been (thankfully) done away with, including couple of not-so-fun scenes with Wonder Woman
  • The action sequences are much better in this version
Gone are the unfunny jokes and the frankly unnecessary scene of Flash falling on Wonder Woman in the midst of a fight scene (both courtesy of Joss Whedon). Zack finally gets to release his vision for the Justice League as he had originally intended it to be. Like Whedon, there are the inevitable Snyderisms that this 4 hour long movie is packed with: Lots of slo-mo scenes (and I do mean a lot) and ladies reduced to lusting after alpha male figures.
 
zack snyder justice league black suit superman henry cavill
 
Needless to say Zack Snyder fans will be lapping this up. I would also recommend the movie to both DC Comics fans and specifically fans of Supes. Supes has never been this good in SnyderVerse. Henry Cavill's screen presence is limited but we do get to see him play a relaxed/smiling Superman (at last). Some may argue that he did that in the theatrical version too. But there are a couple of major plus points to this performance:
  • Cavill is no longer sporting the hideous (moustache removed) upper lip
  • He is a blast as the Black suit clad Superman
 
 
Additional bonus: We get to see Supes in action with Hans Zimmer's Flight soundtrack in the background. This brings a great closure to Cavill's Supes in this trilogy. I did not like the fact that the theatrical version left out Zimmer's score. But that was to be expected, considering the studio and it's hired hack director did not care for the comic book characters or the fans and were solely focused on releasing the movie for some quick cash.
 
zack snyder black suit superman heat vision steppenwolf beatdown

With Snyder back at the helm, that mistake has been rectified and here we have Supes in his full glory with Zimmer's fantastic theme music accompanying almost all of his scenes (even those teasing his return). The movie scores when Superman is onscreen and Cavill sets the screen on fire in the climactic action piece. Another great sequence is the team working together to bring back the last son of Krypton to life using the Mother Box. It is executed exceedingly well and hats off to Zack Snyder and his crew and actors for pulling it off.
 
Here is the clip from Man of Steel (for readers unfamiliar with the soundtrack):
 
 
I also liked all the scenes featuring Victor Stone and his fractured relationship with his father: Silas Stone (Joe Morton turning in another great performance). The Stones finally come to accept each other and this makes for some heart warming moments and adds the necessary heart and soul to what is essentially another superhero blockbuster movie.
 
joe morton silas stone cyborg father zack snyder justice league

None of the other characters have the kind of character arc that Victor goes through. His transformation over the course of the movie is terrific and Ray Fisher deserves kudos for an amazing performance. Fisher and Morton share the bulk of the work in carrying the emotional component of the movie. Joe Morton always does some of his best work in supporting roles and this movie is yet another feather in his cap. He had played a similar role in Terminator 2: Judgment Day and even had a similar death scene, while operating a device controller.
 
zack snyder justice league cyborg victor stone ray fisher
 
This extended version makes us understand as to why Ray Fisher was so upset with the theatrical version and the supposed “unprofessional” behavior of Joss Whedon. He has (arguably) been the biggest casualty of Snyder's departure and the subsequent handling of the movie. The media has reported that the studio did not want a black character to be at the core of a million dollar superhero movie, but I think the right decision would have been to retain Cyborg's story line intact. Well, better be late than never. Hopefully, Ray Fisher will get his due and his career will rise to great heights again.

Jason Momoa's Aquaman and Ezra Miller's Flash provide most of the laughs. Ezra Miller's expanded screen presence has both pros and cons: we get to see more of his personal life which is a plus. But his rescue scene of Iris West (Kiersey Clemons) and his scenes with his father, Henry Allen (Billy Krudup) are way too prolonged and just excruciatingly boring. Especially, the last scene between the Allens is the second most boring scene in the movie. (I will come to the first one shortly). And yes this version of Flash kind of fancies Wonder Woman but that is handled much better this time than the in-the-face and crass objectification in the theatrical version (Joss Whedon strikes again).
 
His attempts at the wide eyed newbie style humor in MCU Peter Parker style gets jarring very quickly. Seeing Flash worship Batman (especially one that is played by the not-so-likeable Ben Affleck) is irritating. But Barry's respect for Supes is understandable.

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We get to see more of Willem Dafoe as Arthur's mentor, Vulko. Dafoe is always a sight for sore eyes and this movie is no exception. It is interesting to note that he seems to be taking lessons on hair care from Loki.
 
Amber Heard has some scenes as Mera but does not have much of impact.

Arthur has some scenes with Diana, where they overcome the long standing lack of trust between Atlanteans and Amazons. This works out well in the final action sequence, when they have each other's back. Contrast this with the Aquaman-sitting-on-the-lasso scene in the theatrical version, in which he inadvertently expresses his crush on Wonder Woman and you will gain a clear understanding of the different approaches taken by Snyder and Whedon towards the source material.
 
Like the 4 hour long movie, this post has already gotten quite lengthy. I will be covering the rest of the aspects in another post, which will be up shortly.




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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Batwoman Pilot Episode - Plot Recap and Review

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If Superman's cousin can have her own TV show, how can Batman's not?

So we have Kate Kane (Ruby Rose) donning the cape and cowl. The episode starts off with a voice over by Kate. She is handcuffed and has to make her escape from being drowned in icy waters. This reminded me of Bruce Wayne's training scene with Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) in Batman Begins.

Back in Gotham, Jacob Kane (Dougray Scott) runs Crow Security and has taken the role of protecting Gotham. Where is Batman? - you might ask: As per the writers, Batman has been missing in action for about three years. Of course, no one observes that Bruce Wayne is gone too. But, I digress..

Jacob is in charge of a public ceremony, being presided over by the Mayor Akins (Chris Shields). He wants to shut down the Bat signal. But disaster strikes and Crow's Sophie Moore (Meagan Tandy) is abducted. Sophie also happens to be Kate's former lover.


batwoman lesbian superhero wallpaper image picture poster screensaver

Kate's step-sister Mary Hamilton (Nicole Kang) informs her about the situation. Using her deductive skills and the footage from Bruce Wayne's security, Kate deduces that the gang has taken Sophie to the Burnside Orphanage.

We run into Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson), the son of Lucius Fox. And just like his dad, he becomes the Q to our soon-to-be self-anointed superheroine.



The movie charts the steady descent of Arthur into madness and perhaps unsurprisingly, we get to see Joaquin Phoenix in literally each frame. 

Kate rushes head first to rescue instead of listening to her father. After a showdown with the gang members, Kate is overpowered and taken to their leader, Alice (Rachel Skarsten). 

Alice knows much more about Kate and her family than a stranger would. It is also revealed that her primary target is not Gotham or Crow Security, but Kate's dad himself. But instead of killing Kate, Alice has her deposited somewhere else..

batwoman luke fox wallpaper image picture poster screensaver

Kate decides to take things into her own hand and re-visits Wayne Manor. This time, she hits the jackpot and discovers the Batcave. She also learns that Bruce Wayne/Batman has spent years trying to figure out why he could not save her sister and mother from the fatal car crash which was supposed to have killed them.

Kate has Luke re-design the Bat costume to fit her. Donning the new suit, Kate aka Batwoman takes on Alice and her gang and rescues Sophie.

Despite her successful debut, Kate is still disturbed with the fact that Batman could not help save Beth, her sister. Finally, it dawns on her that Beth is still alive and is in fact Alice.

The episode also sets up another plot line - Sophie is now married to Tyler (Greyston Holt). But clearly, she is still deeply in love with Kate.

batwoman sister beth villain wallpaper image picture poster screensaver

This was an ok pilot episode. The acting was passable from every one except the lead actress. Ruby Rose seems to be overacting. She is not alone though. Rachel Skarsten as Alice/Beth also chews the scenery as an over-the-top villain.

Dougray Scott and Camrus Johnson do their best with their roles of caring father and the nervous geek respectively. So does Nicole Kang and Elizabeth Anweis in their roles as the naive daughter and status conscious wife.



The only actor to make an impression is Meagan Tandy as Sophie Moore. She manages to convey the intimate connection that her character shares with Kate.

The series is heavily influenced by the Chris Nolan movies. As I mentioned before, the training montage was similar to the one in Batman Begins. The Wayne Tower itself too has been lifted from the same movie. Plus, the night time shots of Gotham also reminded me of those from The Dark Knight.

Click on the link below to buy your copy:




On the other hand, the only scene featuring Batman looked to be shot on a shoestring budget. Granted this was the pilot episode.. still that scene could have been shot better.

Recommended watch to fans of DC Comics.

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