Property Review: Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Snyder Cut rights a grave wrong

Sometimes, setting a precedent is a necessary evil.

The theatrical release of Justice League in 2017 was an unmitigated disaster. The plot was all over the place, the editing was unpolished, and it generally didn’t seem ready for release. But, the rumors began of another cut by the original director Zack Snyder. Snyder, who had stepped down for personal reasons, was generally regarded as someone who knew what they were doing when it comes to comic book film adaptations (see Man of Steel, 300 and Watchmen). This cut was much longer but supposedly closer to the original vision of what Justice League should have been.

The Snyder Cut was that and much more.

Putting together a coherent feature, the Snyder Cut is infinitely more watchable than the original cut of the film. Character motivations make more sense, important details are emphasized, and subplots and sometimes even characters are restored. Snyder’s delicate touch and worldbuilding are vital with an ensemble picture such as this, and it shows in the many changes made to correct.

One of those material effects is the origin story of Cyborg. With Snyder’s vision restored and more of the important details of his transition from human to cyborg, Cyborg is more present than he ever hoped to be in the original cut. Actor Ray Fisher is a force to be reckoned with in the film, and through this re-characterization you can immediately see why. Fisher must balance the nature of humanity versus machine after Victor Stone’s accident, and he does so with stunning aplomb.

Also of note, The Flash, as portrayed by Ezra Miller, is also superb with the restoration of his character in Snyder’s version. Miller takes the character from jokester to serious world-saving hero with several amazing scenes, including one that eventually won an Academy Award. Though this is not a review of Warner Bros.’ failures, take note that the scene that won the Oscar was among quite a few that the studio and theatrical director Joss Whedon cut from the original final product.

Snyder’s final cut blows away the original theatrical cut and makes good use of the extended run time. It’s almost as if an ensemble film should be this long and this good on purpose. While we’re not fans of the precedent set in having multiple releases of the same film, the original cut of Justice League was an abomination that necessitated the Snyder version’s release. Trust us when we say the film only has room for one abomination in the form of Darkseid.

Story: 8
Acting: 10
Like the comics?: 9

Total score: 27/30 or 9.0

 

HOW WE GRADE

We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Strip Talk #24: Get ready for the deluge of comic book movies

Lyndsey-2013-cutout-onlineThe deluge of comic book movies these days is like heaven-sent mana for a geek like myself. The sheer volume alone is overwhelming, and the majority of them happen to be good. I will properly confess that I wasn’t anticipating the quality of the majority, but it’s a welcome problem to have because it could always be worse.

If your name is Marvel, you have done extraordinarily well. Basically, everything they touch is gold. Captain America: Civil War was HUGE; we’re talking billions in box office receipts. Even the B-Team movies (i.e. the spinoffs) such as Ant Man and Guardians of the Galaxy have exceeded expectations and made buckets of money for the Marvel brand. So, we’re good here because just about everything about Phase III is going to translate into critical acclaim and financial windfall.

If your name is DC, you have some issues and we have concerns about you going forward. DC’s cinematic universe just can’t seem to get it right, whether it’s the poor characterization of Superman’s solo film, the tepid Batman vs. Superman or the silliness of Suicide Squad. It seems that DC is struggling to tell even the most basic stories about its legendary stable of heroes. Superman’s movies have been mostly miss since the ill-advised reboot attempt in 2006 with Superman Returns. Batman has been mostly good since the Christopher Nolan trilogy wrapped up with Dark Knight Rises, but there is yet another new face under the cowl — Ben Affleck — that’s going to have to carry major burdens. Suicide Squad has been hit or miss, with either enthusiastically great or horrible reviews. DC has got to get its act together if it’s serious about competing with the Marvel juggernaut in any way, shape or form.

If you’re not named either DC or Marvel and you’re producing a comic property, chances are you’re the X-Men or Wolverine. Fox handles the X-Men and it shows immediately that they’re not Marvel (despite being a Marvel property in ink). While First Class and Days of Future Past were wonderful and a great restoration of the X-Men name from the horrific days of Last Stand, the more recent Apocalypse nearly destroyed the goodwill that the franchise has managed to earn back. Poor pacing and character development of prominent X-Men such as Storm and Psylocke does not endear the series to anyone looking to see the merry band of mutants make a comeback. While Deadpool did extremely well for Fox, it’s hard to see where they’re going after this except for more X-Men/Wolverine and more Deadpool.

I’m all for the gaggle of movies expected to release in the next months to few years. By the time you read this, Doctor Strange and Thor: Ragnarok will have been released and we still have on the horizon Wonder Woman, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Justice League, Avengers Infinity War, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Shazam, The Flash, Aquaman, Justice League 2, Cyborg, Green Lantern Corps, Spider-Man: Homecoming, an Old Man Logan/Wolverine final movie, Ant Man and the Wasp, and several TV properties such as Luke Cage, and future seasons of Jessica Jones, Arrow, the Flash, Daredevil, Iron Fist, Cloak and Dagger and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. If that doesn’t keep you busy and informed on comic adaptations, you’re missing quite a bit.

You can’t escape the prevalence of comic books in cinema, especially now that the mainstream public at large is invested in either Marvel or DC and second-tier characters like Groot are household names. You know you’ve jumped into mainstream consciousness when the bandwagon fans are sympathizing with the Winter Soldier without knowing his background and up-to-date biography. But it’s not really for the bandwagoneers, is it? It’s more for us, the comic book faithful who won’t turn down a movie about a superhero because, well, superheroes. I don’t know about you, but I’m about to be a little kid on Christmas morning once again.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at editor@gaminginsurrection.com

Property review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Marvel Studios, 2014

 

Winter Soldier strikes cool balance

There is no such thing as not believing in the magic of superhero films. Marvel has proven that a ridiculous number of times over by this point, and you can’t deny the impact that a good action flick about beautiful people with super powers has over the general buying public. But then there comes along a solid title that takes things a step further in terms of technical details, action, acting and writing. That film manages to open a new path in terms of presentation and overall packaging that makes you, the viewer, believe that anything is possible in terms of the improvement in quality for all comic book-based properties. That film is Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Let’s stop for a minute and take stock of the storyline, because this sets up just how well the movie makes its point about being a comic book property. Captain America is living life in the S.H.I.E.L.D way two years after the events of the Avengers. Things are good, he’s doing his job and all seems right in the world though he’s chafing a bit under the S.H.I.E.L.D rule. And then all hell breaks loose. In short order, Nick Fury is shot — apparently fatally — in Steve Rogers’ living room by an unknown assassin, S.H.I.E.L.D seems like it’s out to kill Rogers and he’s on the run while trying to figure out who and what can he trust. That assassin? It turns out this assassin isn’t really unknown but is the Winter Solider, someone that Rogers has encountered many a time before who’s fundamentally opposed to Rogers’ mission to stop the chaos.

There’s so much tight writing and story exposition jam-packed into two hours of Winter Soldier that it’s impossible to accurately describe the synopsis without giving away major plot points. Everything is a major plot point and the pacing at which it’s revealed is perfect. At no point did Winter Soldier give away the fact that it’s a two-hour film centered on political intrigue. At no point did it drag so much that details were lost. It’s the kind of movie that requires multiple viewings just to catch the little things that will be lost on the average moviegoer.

It’s a bad thing that the film doesn’t drag, though, because it’s the movie of the ridiculously good-looking (and great acting) people. Like every movie released in the Marvel cinematic universe, Winter Soldier seems to be casted with and directed by people who were secretly born to play their roles. Even the newcomer — Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon — fits this role so well that it’s as if he were always there, just waiting in the wings to be introduced. The acting is superb and it’s done in such a way that you really get behind the motivation of each individual, forgetting for just a moment that this, indeed, is a comic book come to the big screen.

Winter Soldier probably suffers from only one flaw and that’s the obviousness of the formula. It’s a great formula, and a great problem to have, but it’s pretty obvious by now that Marvel has its ducks in a row and they know how to put together a good crew and storyline for their movies. Winter Soldier slightly seems to fall into that complacency, but it quickly recovers and doesn’t stand for resting on its laurels for long. Just when you think there’s not enough action going on, there’s a distraction in the form of a great set piece or storyline push that remedies the problem. That’s the mark of a good movie.

Even if it is based on a comic book property.

Like the comics: 9

Acting: 9

Plot: 8.5

Overall score: 26.5/30 or 8.8

 

How we grade

We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in the case of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of maximum of 10 per category, and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Strip Talk #20: When obnoxious behavior leaks into comic books

Lyndsey-101612-cutoutI’ve read quite a bit in the past several months about this ridiculousness where women in comics and games are harassed by men in the same industry, and I have but one word to that effect: Stop. No one deserves harassment of any kind, let alone by colleagues in an industry that is still trying to evolve beyond the caveman antics that engineered its very existence.

Yes, I get it that men were the forebearers of this great thing called comic books. There’s plenty of congratulations to go around for the creation of our favorite superheroes by the other side of the population that has XY chromosomes. But can we stop for a second? Just a second to firmly put this out there: No one likes a man that has obvious insecurities. No woman is going to want to deal with you on a professional level, let alone a personal level, after she discovers that every time you open your mouth to speak, insane things that come off as verbal throw-her-over-your-shoulders-and-carry-her-off-sneak-attacks bombard her face and senses.

And, look, there goes that word again: Sense. Why would any woman find attractive a thoughtless individual who spews stupidity forth? That’s like asking me to bed and you’re simultaneously spewing gas from both ends. It lacks sense.

And much like those who would do things like expel gas as they’re propositioning me, please take a dose of much needed medicine, sit down and SHUT. THE. HELL. UP. As a woman who is interested in comics, knows more about the history of the X-Men and Marvel than most normal average Joes on the planet, and one who is involved in the gaming industry, I can speak with impunity when I say that not only does your pitiful attempt at impressing me fail, but also I will never think positively of you in any way, shape or form ever again if you get in my face with nonsense in the form of a joke meant to embarrass me and my gender.

You see, my side of the population already has a built-in bias that rears its ugly head in every thing that we do. We can’t just be smart. No, we have to be smart and pretty. Sexy yet keep modesty up to code. Accomplish all of those things while working at a job that pays inherently significantly less for the same amount of and type of work. Go home and deal with an emasculated individual who hasn’t gone out and done his fair share of the work but wants to complain about us making all of the decisions. And, after all that is said and done, sit down to read or watch something that’s going to tell its decision-makers that it “isn’t for the women. They won’t get this anyway. Women don’t get it.”

So, forgive me if I have just a little bit of outrage when I hear of male industry luminaries outright harassing and making jackasses of themselves in an attempt to keep interest going in their work. You’ve created the glass ceiling. How about you let the other side see how you live for a change? In peace.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at gicomics@gaminginsurrection.com

Marvel character highlight #19: Captain America (Steve Rogers)

Name: Steve Rogerscaptainamerica-fixed

Affiliation: Formerly the Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D., Avengers Unity Division, Illuminati, Invaders, U.S. Army, Secret Avengers, Captain America Corps, Secret Avengers, New Avengers

Special abilities: Enhanced speed, agility, reflexes, healing and stamina comparable to a man at the apex of physical perfection. These are the result of his receiving the Super Soldier Serum, designed to create the perfect soldier who is resistant to disease and injury.

Background: Steve Rogers was a frail and sickly man rejected from the Army during World War II. After he is finally accepted through multiple attempts, he is subjected to an experimental procedure called the Super Soldier Project. During this project, the frail Rogers is intravenously and orally fed a mixture called the Super Soldier Serum and bombarded by Vita Rays, designed to create the perfect soldier. The creator of the serum, Dr. Abraham Erskine, is murdered minutes after the successful procedure and the formula is lost to history thereafter.

Rogers is then sent on numerous missions to serve the Allied wartime interests of defeating Nazi Germany and the Axis Powers. During a mission circa 1945, Rogers and friend Bucky Barnes were attempting to stop a bomb-laden plane launched by Baron Zemo. The plane exploded in mid-air, apparently killing Barnes and throwing Rogers into the ocean. Rogers then entered suspended animation, freezing into a glacier until his discovery decades later by the Avengers as they were fighting against Namor.

Rogers, now thawed in the present day, joined the Avengers and led the team through many a crisis including stopping Baron Helmut Zero and a revived Red Skull, preventing Onslaught from taking over the world and destroying reality, bringing an end to the Civil War — which led to his death at the hands of Red Skull and hypnotically possessed lover Sharon Carter — and participating in stopping the X-Men’s Phoenix Force from destroying Earth.

Relationships: James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes (Winter Soldier/Captain America), best friend/partner; Sharon Carter, lover; Peggy Carter, lover; Sam Wilson (Falcon/Captain America), partner

First Versus game appearance: Marvel Super Heroes

Appearances in other media: Captain America in: The Doom Tube of Dr. Megalomann (video game), Spider-Man and Captain America in Doctor Doom’s Revenge (video game), Captain America and the Avengers (video game), Marvel vs. Capcom (video game), Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (video game), Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds (video game), Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (video game), Marvel vs. Street Fighter (video game), Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage (video game), Avengers in Galactic Storm (video game), Spider-Man and Venom: Separation Anxiety (video game), Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems (video game), Spider-Man (video game), Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro (video game), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (video game), Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects (video game), Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (video game), Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (video game), Marvel Super Hero Squad (video game), Marvel Super Hero Squad 2, Captain America: Super Soldier (video game), Marvel Super Hero Squad Online (video game), Marvel Super Hero Squad: Comic Combat (video game), Marvel: Avengers Alliance (video game), Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty (video game), Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth (video game), Marvel Heroes (video game), Lego Marvel Super Heroes (video game), Marvel Avengers Alliance Tactics (video game), Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes (video game), The Great Gold Steal (novel), Captain America: The First Avenger (film), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (film), Marvel Universe: LIVE! (theater), Ultimate Avengers (animation), Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther (animation), The Avengers (film), The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron (film; not yet released)