Friday, 24 November 2017

JUSTICE LEAGUE : Tuesday 21st November 2017.

'JUSTICE LEAGUE' which I saw earlier this week is here finally after all the hype, the media attention and the speculation surrounding this long awaited and eagerly anticipated fifth film in the DC Extended Universe following hot on the heels of 2013's 'Superman', 2016's 'Batman v. Superman : Dawn of Justice', and 'Suicide Squad', and 'Wonder Woman' earlier this year. Zack Snyder Directed 'Man of Steel' which grossed US$668M, and 'Batman v. Superman : Dawn of Justice' which grossed US$874M, with David Ayer Directing 'Suicide Squad' which grossed US$746M and Patty Jenkins on Director duty for 'Wonder Woman' which grossed US$822M. Once again Zack Snyder is back in the Directors chair for this collective Superhero offering featuring a cast of DC characters thrust together for the first time in a live action instalment, an ensemble cast and a price tag of US$300M to bring to the big screen, making 'Justice League' one of the most expensive films ever made. But, I guess on the strength that the first four films cost a combined US$800M and grossed a collective sum total of US$3.1B, then this fifth film should represent a sure bet for the numerous Production Companies involved. A sequel to this film was scheduled for a mid-2019 release date, which has subsequently been pushed back to make way for a stand alone 'Batman' film. At the time of publishing this Post, 'Justice League' had taken US$308M at the Box Office.

This story then follows on several months after the end of 'Batman v. Superman : Dawn of Justice' in which Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) who is now inspired by Superman's selfless act to sacrifice himself for the greater good of all humanity, teams up with new ally Wonder Woman/Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) to fend off a new threat, with the help of a few others yet to be recruited to the Team.

That threat comes in the form of Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciaran Hinds) - an alien high ranking military officer who is immortal and possesses superhuman strength, speed and stamina from the planet Apokolips, and who has a very specific mission on Earth that could have catastrophic consequences for our humble little green planet. He leads an army of winged flying Parademons who extend into their countless thousands, are fiercely loyal to their leader, have heightened strength and high pain tolerance, carry powerful weapons and resemble giant pesky flies only twice as ugly and much more menacing! Steppenwolf wants to capture three 'Mother Boxes' and combine their energy source into 'The Unity' to remake Earth into the hellish domain he can call home and rule over. Back in the day Steppenwolf and his legions of giant pesky flying armed creatures were thwarted by the combined forces of Olympian Gods, Amazons, Atlantians, Green Lanterns and humans, and the three all powerful Mother Boxes secreted away in various places of hiding around the world to lie dormant for thousands of years . . . . until now!

Following the death of Superman, the Mother Boxes are all triggered back into life which prompts Steppenwolf's return to Earth to retrieve them. The first such box is housed underground in Themyscira, the island home of Diana Prince, which he successfully overruns and escapes with his Parademons in tow. Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) sends a warning to Diana Prince that Steppenwolf is on his way. This prompts Bruce and Diana to try and muster the support of other known metahumans Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) and Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) which Bruce goes in search of, and Victor Stone (Ray Fisher) which Diana searches out. They fail to convince both Curry and Stone to join their Team, but Allen is very enthusiastic and enlists immediately, giving the young lad some purpose in his otherwise meandering wasteful life. Stone joins the group after his father Silas (Joe Morton) is kidnapped by Steppenwolf searching out the Box left to the humans. Curry also joins too after Atlantis is attacked and the second Mother Box buried deep within the ocean is retrieved by Steppenwolf.

Commissioner James Gordon (J.K.Simmons) advises that he has learned that the Parademons are underground. Surmising that the only location is a long abandoned facility under Gotham Harbour, he advises Batman, Wonder Woman and The Flash, now joined also by Cyborg and they converge on the facility and engage with Steppenwolf and his Parademons. In the ensuing close quarter fight, the walls of the facility are ruptured allowing torrents of water to flood into the underground chamber.  Aquaman comes to the rescue and holds back the water so allowing the others to escape.

Stone has been in possession of the third remaining Mother Box, as it was the energy from it that allowed his father Silas, to develop the power to rebuild his son into the Cyborg he is today. Batman hatches a plan to resurrect Superman using the same energy from the Mother Box. This would enable them to fight Steppenwolf on another level and overcome this formidable enemy, whilst at the same time restoring some hope in the world that all is not lost.

Reluctantly Prince and Curry agree although are not too happy with the prospect. Stone and Allen exhume Clark Kent's body and take it to the Kryptonian Ship with the Mother Box. Kent is laid in the incubation waters, and with Allen generating enough electricity they are able to bring Clark Kent back from the dead. However, Superman (Henry Cavill) is suffering from some memory loss and makes a sharp exit out of the ship and into a nearby park where he attacks The Flash, Cyborg who inadvertently tried to kill him, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Batman. With Superman as expected gaining the upper hand in any battle, things don't go so well for the group or the gathered Police. Until that is, Batman brings out his secret weapon - Lois Lane (Amy Adams), at which point his memories come flooding back. While the Team are distracted with all this in-fighting and Clark and Lois reconnecting, the third Mother Box is left unguarded and easy pickings for Steppenwolf, which he claims from right under their noses.

Cyborg tracks Steppenwolf and the heightened seismic activity from the three Mother Boxes now drawn together, to a remote Russian Village - the scene of a nuclear disaster some decades earlier and where a small enclave of people still reside. With Steppenwolf commencing The Unity, time is fast running out for the world as we know it. The Team of five make their way via the supersonic Bat Jet arriving with a plan to distract the Parademons while Cyborg sets about separating the three Boxes. The team of the remaining four are no match for Steppenwolf and his hordes of Parademons, who are unable to provide sufficient distraction to allow Cyborg to be effective. Until that is, Superman arrives and beats the crap out of Steppenwolf; saves the lives, with The Flash too, of multiple families trying to flee the conflagration; and helps Cyborg separate the Mother Boxes successfully so stripping Steppenwolf of his power. Seeing their leader overcome with fear, the Parademons descend on Steppenwolf just like flies on a freshly laid turd, and transport him instantly back to the world from whence they came.

In the closing scenes we see Alfred (Jeremy Irons) escorting Bruce and Diana to the burnt out shell of Wayne Manor. They agree to rebuild it as the centre of operations for the new Team, with room for future expansion as more metahumans join. The newly formed Team then all default to what they do best - Curry returns to his home of Atlantis; Stone works with his father on developing his cyborg technology and abilities; Prince take her place in the spotlight as a hero of truth and justice; Kent takes up his former role as Superman; and Allen gets an official job with the Police Department of Central City impressing his imprisoned father Henry Allen (Billy Crudup). Remain seated for the mid-credits sequence which sees The Flash race Superman to the Pacific coast, and the end credits scene in which Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) breaks out of Arkham Asylum with a new and deadly ally.

I enjoyed 'Justice League' perhaps more than most Critics who seem intent on bagging the Hell out of the DCEU in favour of the MCU. Sure this film is not perfect, and the MCU still has the upper hand in the Superhero stakes - both singularly and collectively, but this film is moving the DCEU in the right direction that's for sure. There is more levity in this film from the principal cast members which makes them more grounded, approachable and human; the action sequences are well executed; the storyline whilst a little thin is relatable; and in particular Ezra Miller, Gal Gadot and Jason Momoa steal the show, whilst Ben Affleck's Batman often looks bewildered and confused by all the going's on. After all he should be centre stage as the corner stone, the originator of the forming Justice League, but is sidelined by his colleagues who do (unlike him) possess real super powers - he's just super 'rich' after all! As an origin story for The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg there is just enough back story to set the scene (remembering that a standalone 'Aquaman' film has just wrapped production, and arrives in our cinemas in December 2018), but Steppenwolf as the big bad villain in the piece is very one dimensional and he just barks orders as his Parademons and beats up anyone or anything that gets in his way, until Superman arrives on the scene. The film is fun and fast paced, and holds promise for future DCEU instalments - I wish it well, and in giving those guys at the MCU a run for their money!

-Steve, at Odeon Online-

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