Justice League – Film Review

It’s difficult to overstate just how much the DCEU needed Wonder Woman. After the dour and mean-spirited Batman V Superman and the full-metal racket of Suicide Squad, Gal Gadot’s virtuous Themysciran warrior was a Wonder-ful leap forward for the franchise, finally placing an endearing superhero at the heart of an entertaining movie that was as witty and inventive and it was groundbreaking.

If the success of Diana Prince’s first solo-outing offered the chance for the DCEU to shift gears, it’s one Justice League fails to take. Visually ugly, boring and repetitive, this souped-up superhero team-up is a return to the murky aesthetic, sketchy characters and chaotic action that have continuously dogged the series since its conception.


Tonally, the movie is all over the place, clumsily attempting to stitch together it’s disparate elements into an uninspiring whole. This is most noticeable during a labourious opening act which swings wildly between a grim and gritty Gotham, the shimmering lands of Themyscira and the submerged ruins of Atlantis as Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) grumpily tries to recruit a mis-mash of meta humans and ancient gods to his nebulous cause.


It’s several months after the ‘death’ of Superman and the absence of the son of Krypton has encouraged exiled God Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) and his army of buzzing Parademons to invade Earth in search of three cosmic MacGuffin boxes that, when combined, posses the power to destroy the universe. Realising that a seven foot supernatural warrior with a magic axe might pose more of a threat than a bunch exploding wind-up penguins, Batman assembles a ramshackle band of super-beings to help him defeat Darkseid’s right-hand man and prevent the world from becoming an apocalyptic wasteland.


Such a hackneyed plot holds few surprises, essentially following the tiresomely typical beats of a team-up movie – even the idea of an alien baddie invading Earth to unite a trio of cosmic trinkets is ripped straight from The Avengers. Perhaps that’s why the movie is in such an almighty rush to get down to business. Coming in at a trim two hours, it’s a brisk, breezy adventure – further leavened by an abundance of knowing gags, no doubt penned by Joss Whedon, who replaced director Zack Snyder after a family tragedy and here receives a writing credit.


Yet this leaves very little time to get to know our new heroes and to dig down into the team dynamics. Like every other movie in the DCEU, Justice League is so eager to catch up with its Marvel rival that it assumes our connection with its characters rather than earning our affections. As a result, the planned emotional beats fail to pay off and the entire story descends into an underwhelming mess of ropey visual effects and lunkheaded plot developments – culminating an overblown finale featuring giant purple tentacle-things, flying zombie insects and a CGI monstrosity so sloppily developed it’ll make you yearn for the heady days of Doomsday and Superman playing computer-rendered whack-a-mole.


Even so, there’s great fun to be had, particularly in scenes of the League together, bickering and bonding in a rapid-fire exchange of quips, and the cast play off each other extraordinarily well in the circumstances. Ezra Miller is the highlight as a whip-witted and overzealous The Flash, while Gadot once again radiates gravitas as Wonder Woman. Ray Fisher perhaps needs more fleshing out as the brooding Cyborg, though his digitised Frankenstein arch holds promise. Of the new recruits, Aquaman is by far the worst served, Jason Mamoa reduced to bellowing stock-jock phrases like ‘Oh yeah’ and ‘My man’, as if he’s a drunken frat boy rather than the heir to an ancient kingdom.


If Batman feels like an after thought to the team, that’s hardly the fault of Affleck, who brings an enjoyable gruffness that works well with his elder statesman interpretation of the Caped Crusader. The problem is that Batman is simply not suited to the role of inspirational leader to a team of superheroes – a point the movie tries to address, to unsatisfying effect – and his physical handicaps when compared to the rest of the team understandably see him left behind during many of the action scenes.


Justice League is undoubtedly brighter and funnier than any DCEU movie to date. But it remains lumbered with the same flaws that have been dragging the franchise down from the beginning – namely a loose grip of its tone, haphazard plotting and a collection of unengaging heroes who fail to live up to their billing. As long as these problems persist, there’s no danger of the DCEU usurping the big red behemoth as ruler of the multiverse.

Runtime: 120 mins (approx)
Director: Zack Snyder
Screenwriters: Chris Terrio, Joss Whedon
Stars: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher




Wonder Woman – Film Review

We’re all agreed Gail Gadot’s Wonder Woman was the best thing about DC’s dour and dispiriting man-spat Dawn of Justice. Amid all the grim soul searching, moody visuals and bludgeoning SFX work, Gadot’s Amazonian goddess strode into view like an ass-kicking, lasso-whipping electric cello riff in human form to brighten up the darkest of hours for DC’s faltering superhero universe. It’s little wonder there’s been so much excitement and goodwill surrounding Diana Prince’s first solo outing. And we haven’t even mentioned the fact that it’s the first female-led (and, with Monster’s Patty Jenkins behind the camera, female-directed) superhero movie.

Feminist triumphs aside, though, Wonder Woman feels like a missed opportunity. While it’s undoubtedly the best movie of the DCEU thus far, brightening the tone and demonstrating a stronger handle on its core characters, it’s still plagued by many of the issues that have held previous DC movies back: over earnestness, mind-numbing action, and a slogging origin story that’s framed around a messy, wildly preposterous plot.


Having already been introduced as an experienced, battle hardened warrior in the present day, Wonder winds the clock back to Diana’s picturesque childhood on Themyscira, the hidden island of the Amazons. This tribe of athletic, gold-plated female warriors live in a bubble, protected from the corruption of man, as they prepare for the prophesised return of Ares, the Greek god who plans to wage an endless war to destroy humanity. And then Chris Pine’s charismatic American spy washes up on shore, bringing with him a flotilla of German soldiers, and tells of a horrifying war raging in the outside world. After one of the most bizarre action sequences of modern times – a slow-mo beachfront battle between pirouetting women and gun-totting men – Diana decides to defy her mother’s wishes, stealing her trademark sword, shield and lasso before setting sail for the world of men to stop the war once and for all.

As Diana, Gadot is extraordinary. Dawn of Justice proved she has the youthful athleticism to stand toe-to-toe with Henry Cavill’s Superman and Ben Affleck’s pumped-up Caped Crusader, but Wonder gives her a chance to explore the nuances of an impulsive, idealistic young warrior who has a disarming belief in doing the right thing. Gadot infuses Diana’s sweet innocence with a ferocious defiance that helps to keep the more hokey moments in the script from sounding too goofy. She’s funny, too, especially during the fish-out-of-water scenes in a civilised London where she attempts to tackle a revolving door armed with a shield and sword.


Using World War I as the backdrop for a highly-stylised action movie might make some people uncomfortable. Yet it allows Jenkins and screenwriter Allan Heinberg to explore themes of feminism, oppression and the evil that men inflict upon each other. It also neatly sidesteps the issue of needing to find a villain capable of facing-off against a near-indestructible warrior created by Zeus, by making Diana’s unshakable belief in the power of good the thing that’s tested rather than her physical prowess. Jenkins sensitively captures the devastation of the conflict, bringing a grim tangibility to scenes of wounded soldiers and bloodied refugees trudging though the mud and charred remains of their former lives.

With so many positives here, it’s a shame the movie is hobbled by a clunking, sloppy script. Like Thor, this is supposed to be a story about a naive demigod coming to terms with the harsh realities of the world. Instead, much of the focus is on a clumsy love story between Diana and Pine’s Steve Trevor. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of romance, but its use here only serves to sideline Diana for much of her own movie. With no experience of the modern world, she’s largely useless once we’ve left Themyscira, which means Steve steps into the valiant hero role, leading the mission to stop the war and making the noble sacrifice that saves the world. Diana is essentially his MPDG, using her optimistic innocence to undercut his early cynicism so that he can find his inner hero. It’s hardly a fair dynamic, especially when you consider she has the power to break him like a twig.


It’s also poorly structured, spending far too much time milling around Themyscira and period-era London despite events there having very little to do with the actual plot – which involves stopping Elena Anaya’s intriguing but underused German scientist and Danny Houston’s military chief using a deadly gas to prevent the armistice agreement. That leaves no time to explore Diana’s world view, which goes unchallenged for much of the movie, as we rush towards yet another weightless, overblown finale where two CGI beings levitate at each other. Wonder Woman might be a Diana Prince-sized leap in the right direction for the DCEU, but it still has a lot to ground to make up if it wants to match the sparkling triumphs of its Marvel peers.

Runtime: 141 mins

Director: Patty Jenkins

Scriptwriter: Allan Heinberg

Stars: Gail Gadot, Chris Pine, David Thewlis, Elena Anaya, Danny Houston

Henry Cavill to return as Superman in Man of Steel 2 

For those who have yet to see Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice be warned: major spoilers follow.

Though he’s currently presumed dead following the cataclysmic events of Batman V Superman, it’s fairly obvious the DC Universe has not seen the last of Henry Cavill’s Superman. The Man of Steel will be seen in the upcoming Justice League movies and Cavill’s new manager has just confirmed he’s also getting a second solo movie.

Dany Garcia, whose company Garcia Industries recently acquired the Superman actor as one of its talents, talked up Cavill’s future projects and seemingly confirmed a follow-up to 2013’s Man of Steel in an interview with Newsweek.

She said: “Henry has a big appetite. We’ve been in a five-month period of time where he’s re-strategising, acquiring property [ or his production company Promethean], he’s filming [Justice League] now, he’s in development for the Superman standalone… he’s beginning to expand that world. It’s beautifully teed up.

“In a year from now, or two years from now he’s going to be a force globally.”

It’s not yet clear where the potential sequel will fit in DC’s already packed schedule – which includes two Justice League movies, a solo Batman movie (featuring Deathstroke as the villain), and standalone movies for Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg before the end of 2020.

Released in 2013, Man of Steel was something of a disappointment for Warner Bros. considering it was intended to relaunch a DC Universe capable of competing with Marvel’s sprawling cinematic and TV products.

The movie was critically mauled for its moody interpretation of the superhero and its seemingly carefree attitude towards wide-scale death and destruction. Still, it did manage to scrape more than $650 million at the box office, which makes a second stab at the character a no brainer.

Cavill has just finished work on Iraq-set war drama Sand Castle and will appear as Superman in Justice League, which arrives on 17 November 2017 – assuming he manages to escape that buried coffin in time.

Who is Deathstroke? Everything you need to know about Batman’s latest cinematic foe


Ben Affleck’s solo Batman movie is still two years away (at least) but plot details are already starting to sneak out of the production, including yesterday’s sizeable revelation that Deathstroke will be the Caped Crusader’s main antagonist.

Initially teased in a cryptic tweet from Affleck on Monday, the news has since been confirmed by The Wrap, sending fanboys into meltdown. Showing the black and orange-armoured antihero striding towards the camera in a very cinematic fashion, he certainly looks like the type of guy you don’t want to mess with.

But just who is Deathstroke? Here’s the lowdown on Batman’s latest foe.

What’s his alter-ego?

Slade Wilson. If that name sounds familiar it’s because Marvel’s cult hero Deadpool – the fourth wall-breaking antihero who took the box office by storm earlier this year – was originally created as a riff on DC’s fan favourite villain, right down to the name Wade Wilson. Could the surprising success of the Merc with a Mouth’s recent cinematic outing be the driving force behind Deathstroke’s selection as Batman’s nemesis? That seems unlikely given Deadpool has since crafted his own very unique identity as a bizarrely meta mercenary. Still, it probably didn’t hurt.


Where did he come from?

Created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, Deathstroke first appeared in Teen Titans #2 in 1980 as an assassin and a mercenary. Initially introduced as a vietnam vet who goes rogue after being handpicked for a secret experiment to create super soldiers, the character’s origins were later re-worked to make him a member of special-ops force Team 7 who becomes imbued with superhuman strength as the result of emergency surgery after being seriously injured on a secret mission. He leaves the force after defying orders to rescue war-buddy Wintergreen and eventually dons the Deathstroke moniker to begin work as an assassin for hire.


What’s his tragic backstory?

Essential in creating sympathy for even the most sadistic of individuals, every DC super villain worthy of the title needs a tragic backstory, and Deathstroke is no different. When he first emerged in the 1980s, Slade was tipped over the edge by the murder of his son Joseph during a botched kidnapping designed to bait Deathstroke into revealing the name of his employer. (FYI, that event led his understandably enraged wife Adeline to shoot him through the eye, which explains the lack of eyeholes on the right-side of his mask.) Future reboots see the character loose both his wife and son at the hands of a gang of North Korean soldiers. Most recently, his backstory was reworked yet again to have Slade’s son, now renamed Grant, offed when he tags along on his father’s mission in North Korea. Expect Deathstroke’s origins to be reworked once again for the upcoming movie to place Bruce Wayne at the centre of Slade Wilson’s misery.

Who are his enemies?

Deathstroke is something of a rarity among DC villains in that he is not strongly linked to one particular superhero. Originally seen as an arch-antagonist of the Teen Titans, a series in which he attempts to blow up the team with a Promethium bomb and almost mortally wounds Beast Boy, he has cropped up as an adversary to most DC heroes throughout his run. He’s perhaps best known as the primary villain during Arrow’s second season where Manu Bennett’s interpretation of the character arrives in Star City hell-bent taking down Oliver Queen as revenge for the death of his lover on Lian Yu.

What’s he beef with Batman?

If you think selecting a lesser-known rogue means Batman is going to get an easy ride in two years time, think again. Deathstroke is an incredibly formidable combatant – he once famously battled The Flash, Arrow, Green Lantern and Captain Marvel single-handed. And won! The character has crossed paths with the Caped Crusader on multiple occasions, most memorably in 1991’s City of Assassins arc, where Deathstroke mercilessly beats the Dark Knight to a bloody pulp. What’s more enticing is that the character is often referred to as the anti-Batman due to his reliance on his skill and cunning to overcome opponents and his disturbing world view of “I will do what I want because who will stop me?”, uncomfortable parallels Affleck is sure to draw upon for his solo movie.

Who will play him? 

Considering news of Deathstroke’s appearance has only just been revealed, the identity of the man behind the mask is still anyone’s guess. Rumours have long focused on True Blood’s Joe Manganiello – who’s currently hanging out in London near to where Justice League is being filmed (can anyone else smell a cameo coming?).

One man who is almost certainly out of the running is Manu Bennett. Despite playing the character on the small screen in Arrow, Bennett’s version of Deathstroke has since been scrapped from the series to make way for a new interpretation on the big screen (a fate similarly suffered by Deadshot and Amanda Waller in Suicide Squad). Since his exit Bennet has had many not-so-nice things to say about the series.

Margot Robbie wants Harley Quinn and The Joker to team up for a spinoff movie

Given she’s currently scoring rave reviews for her gleefully nihilistic performance as Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad, it should come as no surprise Margot Robbie is actively pushing for a spin-off starring her and Jared Leto’s Joker.

Speaking to Tipsy Talk, the Aussie actress talked up her desire for a movie further exploring the twisted lovers’ relationship as they spread chaos throughout Gotham City.

She said: “I’m trying to make that happen. Not for anything specifically, but just something – there’s so much more to do.”

It’s a movie that seems to make a lot of sense given how popular Robbie has proven in the role and fans disappoint with the Prince of Crime’s lack of screen time in Suicide Squad, an issue she puts down to attempts to make the movie more coherent.

She explained: “There was so much of our back story … they probably realised that the emotional through-line of the story had to be the mission we were on, and kind of explaining The Enchantress’ position and all that kind of stuff, and the back story stuff – though it’s like magic … there’s a lot but it just didn’t make sense to confuse the present storyline with that.”

One possible way to reunite Harley and Joker on screen may come in Ben Affleck’s forthcoming standalone Batman movie, with Leto already talking up the prospect of the Joker and the Dark Knight facing off

“I hope this is just an introduction [of the Joker] … and not the end! Because I could easily just play the Joker a couple more times and then retire. Because it’s so fulfilling and so creative and it’s so imaginative. It’s really difficult to think about doing anything else,” he said.

“I think it would be incredible to see Batman and the Joker go head-to-head! This Batman and this Joker. I mean, I don’t know, that might be too much! But that would be fun.”

Warner Bros. may have a different plan, however, with rumours circulating back in May that the studio was contemplating a spinoff focusing on a clutch of female villains and heroes, fronted by Robbie’s Quinn.

Whatever form the movie takes, Robbie is definitely eager to return to the role.

The Australian actress gushed: “I feel like I hit the lottery … The chicks never get these roles – we never get the roles where we have the funny one-liners and then the kick-ass action scene, but then also, like, an intricate character with an awesome story arc – you just don’t really get that, like in a big-budget film.”

Suicide Squad is in cinemas now.