Game Corner [Crossover Crisis]: Injustice: Gods Among Us (Xbox 360)


In April of 1985, the first issue of the ground-breaking, twelve issue Crisis on Infinite Earths (Wolfman, et al, 1986) was published. This event, which was easily the biggest in DC Comics at that point (and for many years), saw the destruction of the “Multiverse”, an infinite number of parallel worlds, and the awkward establishing of one unified DC canon. Over the years, DC have returned to this concept again and again, retconning it, expanding upon it, and milking it to the point of excess but that doesn’t change how influential this massive crossover was. To celebrate this momentous event, I’ll be taking a look at multiversal crossovers every Wednesday in April in an event I’m calling “Crossover Crisis”.


Released: 16 April 2013
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Also Available For: Arcade, Mobile, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One and Xbox Series One X/S (Backwards Compatible), Wii U

The Background:
When it was first released, Mortal Kombat (Midway, 1992) was a phenomenal success for Midway because of its focus on gore and violence, and it offered some real competition for Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (Capcom, 1991) in arcades and on home consoles. For a time, the series seemed unstoppable during the 2D era of gaming but struggled to find a footing in the emerging 3D fighter arena and Mortal Kombat seemed to be in jeopardy after Midway went bankrupt in 2010. The main reason for this was the poor reception of Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (Midway Games, 2008), the first collaboration between Midway’s Mortal Kombat and the DC Comics characters owned by Warner Bros. Interactive, which was hampered by age-related restrictions.

Mortal Kombat‘s 3D struggles culminated in a disastrous crossover with DC Comics.

Luckily, Warner Bros. Interactive stepped in and the team, now rebranded to NetherRealm Studios, immediately set about getting their violent franchise back on track; Mortal Kombat (NetherRealm Studios, 2011) was subsequently very well-received for its “back to basics” approach and, bolstered by the reboot’s success and eager to take advantage of the vast library of characters of their parent company, NetherRealm Studios sought to expand upon the game’s mechanics with a new, all-DC brawler. Although the game wasn’t as bloody and violent as its sister series, Injustice: Gods Among Us was a massive critical and commercial success that was followed up by not only a bunch of additional fighters and skins added as downloadable content (DLC) but also a sequel in 2017 and a critically-acclaimed comic book series.

The Plot:
In an alternate reality, Clark Kent/Superman has become a tyrant and established a new world order after the Joker tricked him into killing Lois Lane before destroying Metropolis with a nuclear bomb. In an effort to stop him, Bruce Wayne/Batman summons counterparts of the Justice League’s members from another universe to join his insurgency and end the totalitarian regime that threatens to subjugate the entire world.

Gameplay:
Just like Mortal Kombat, Injustice: Gods Among Us is a 2.5D fighting game; however, this time you’re able to select one of twenty-four characters from the DC Universe and battle it out in the game’s single-player story mode, one-on-one against another player or computer-controlled opponent (both on- and offline), tackle numerous arcade-style ladders, or take on character-specific missions in Scientific and Technological Advanced Research Laboratories (S.T.A.R. Labs) training scenarios. Just as you’d expect from a Mortal Kombat videogame, Injustice’s fights take place in a best-of-three format (although there are no longer announcements or screen text between each round) and against a time limit, though you can alter these settings (and many others, such as the game’s difficulty) to your heart’s desire in the game’s options to suit your playstyle.

Attack with strikes, grapples, and combos to pummel a number of DC’s most recognisable characters.

If you’ve played the Mortal Kombat reboot then you’ll be immediately familiar with this game’s fighting mechanics and controls, although there are subtle differences: X, Y, and A are assigned to light, medium, and heavy strikes, for example, and may be either punches, kicks, or weapon-based melee attacks depending on which character you’re playing as. You can still grapple and throw your opponent with the Left Bumper (or X and Y and a directional input), dash towards or away from the opponent with a double tap of the directional pad (D-Pad), but now you must hold back on the D-Pad while standing or crouching to block, which can make blocking a bit trickier as sometimes you’ll simply walk or dash backwards when trying to block. If your opponent is crouch-blocking, you can land an attack by pressing towards and A for an Overhead Attack, and string together light, medium, and heavy attacks with directional inputs and your various special moves to pull off quick and easy combos. As is the standard for NetherRealm Studios’ releases these days, you can practise the game’s controls and mechanics as often as you like and take part in a very user-friendly tutorial to learn the basics of the game’s simple, but increasingly complex, fighting mechanics. You can also view your character’s moves, combos, special attacks, and “Character Power” from the pause menu at any time, allowing you to also see a range of information (such as where and how to pull of certain moves, the damage they inflict, and frame data).

Utilise Character Powers and the always-annoying Clash Breakers to whittle down your foe.

Each character has a range of special attacks that are unique to them; these mostly consist of certain projectiles or grapples and strikes but can also include various buffs for your character or to slow down your opponent. Each character also has a specific Character Power that is performed by pressing B; this sees Batman summon and attack with a swarm of bats, Oliver Queen/Green Arrow fire different trick arrows at his opponent, Doctor Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn gain various random buffs, and allows characters like Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and Rachel Roth/Raven to switch between different fighting styles and thus access different special attacks. While some Character Powers have a cool-down period, others don’t, but they can also be detrimental to you; for example, Slade Wilson/Deathstroke can briefly give his shots perfect aim but, once the Character Power is expended, he’ll miss every shot until it refills. Another new addition to the game is the annoying “Wager” system; when the Super Meter is filled up by two bars, you can press towards and RT when blocking an attack to play a quick mini game where you and your opponent select how much of your Super Meter to gamble. If you win, you’ll regain some health; if you lose, the opponent regains health; and if you tie then you both lose. Personally, if find these “Clash Breakers” even more annoying than the usual “Breakers” seen in the modern Mortal Kombat games as I never win them and they generally just unnecessarily prolong a fight (and, even worse, there’s no option to turn them off).

Different characters attack and interact in different ways according to their strengths.

In a bridge between the differing character movesets of Mortal Kombat and the “Variation” mechanic seen in Mortal Kombat X (NetherRealm Studios, 2013), Injustice features a limited “Class” system whereby characters are split into two camps: Gadget- or Power-class characters. Gadget characters are generally smaller, faster, and rely on various tricks and weapons in fights while Power-class characters are typically bigger, often slower, and rely more on brute strength. One of the main ways you’ll notice the difference between playing as, say, Barry Allen/The Flash and Cyrus Gold/Solomon Grundy is that they interact with the game’s fighting stages in different ways. As in Mortal Kombat X, you can press the Right Bumper when indicated to use (or attack your opponent with) various environmental hazards, such as firing missiles at them or knocking them into the background. But, whereas Superman will wrench a car out of the air and slam it on his opponent, someone like Dick Grayson/Nightwing will rig the same car to explode or somersault off the environment to get behind their foe rather than try to crush them with a wall.

In addition to powerful Super moves, you can bash your foe into new areas using stage transitions.

As you might naturally expect, there are no Fatalities or gruesome finishing moves in Injustice (not even “Heroic Brutalities”). However, when your Super Meter is full, you can still press LT and RT together to pull off a devastating Super Move; while you won’t see bones breaking and organs shattering like in Mortal Kombat’s X-Ray Moves, it’s still pretty fun to see Hal Jordan/Green Lantern transport his opponent to Oa to pummel them with his constructs, Ares shower his foe with arrows and stamp on them while grown to gigantic proportions, Arthur Curry/Aquaman force his enemy into the jaws of a ferocious shark, and Bane demolish his opposition with a series of throws and grapples, culminating in his iconic backbreaker. Another way the game separates itself from Mortal Kombat is stage transitions; when near the far edge of certain stages, you can hold back and A to wallop your opponent through the wall or off into the background where they’ll be smashed up, down, or across to an entirely new area of the stage which often allows more stage interactions and new stage transitions available for your use.

The story involves multiverse shenanigans against corrupted heroes and features some QTEs.

You might wonder exactly how someone like Louise Lincoln/Killer Frost can survive being blasting through the brick walls of Wayne Manor or go toe-to-toe with the likes of Doomsday but the game’s entertaining story mode explains that, on this alternative world, the tyrant-like Superman has developed special pills that bestow superhuman strength and dexterity to his generals. As is also the standard in NetherRealm’s titles, the story mode is broken down into twelve character-specific chapters, which is again a great way to experience a wide variety of the game’s roster (though Batman does feature as a playable character in two chapters, which seems a bit lazy). You can replay any chapter and fight you’ve cleared at any time, which is great, and skip through the cutscenes after they’ve loaded a bit, and the story mode isn’t all constant fighting either as you’re asked to pull off a handful of quick-time events (QTEs) at various points, such as blasting cars with Superman’s heat vision. The story is a fairly standard multiverse tale of the main canon heroes fighting against their corrupted or misled counterparts but it’s pretty fun and easy to blast through in no time at all.

Fight to earn XP and level-up, unlock additional perks and modes, and take on a series of challenges.

Every time you win a fight, you’ll earn experience points (XP) that will eventually level-up your character profile. This, and performing a certain number of specific attacks, playing through the story mode, and tackling the game’s other modes and mechanics, unlocks icons and backgrounds for your profile card as well as additional skins in certain circumstances. You’ll also be awarded “Armour Keys” and “Access Cards” to spend in the “Archives”, which allows you to unlock concept art, music, more skins, and certain boosts that will increase how much XP you earn, to name just one example. Like in Mortal Kombat, you can also take on ten opponents in arcade ladders in the “Battle” mode; these range from the basic tournament-style ladder to specific challenges against heroes, villains, or battling while poisoned, injured, or with certain buffs (such as a constantly full Super Meter or health falling from the sky). We’d see a similar system be incorporated into the “Towers” modes in later Mortal Kombat games and similar scenarios exist here, such as a survival mode, battling two opponents, or being forced to fight against the computer set to the hardest difficulty.

Graphics and Sound:
Like its violent sister-series, Injustice looks fantastic; there’s almost no difference between the high-quality story mode cutscenes and the in-fight graphics (which, again, makes it all the more frustrating that NetherRealm Studios insist on having character’s endings represented by partially-animated artwork and voiceovers), though it has to be said that the graphics are much more palatable when in a violent fight. I say this purely because I am not a big fan of some of Injustice’s character designs: The Flash looks a bit too “busy”, for example, and Batman’s suit (and cowl, especially) look really janky to me, though I love the representation of Green Lantern and Thaal Sinestro.

In addition to various intros, outros, and Wager dialogue, characters also take on battle damage.

Each character gets a nice little fitting intro and outro for each fight and, between rounds, will perform and quip a variety of taunts to the opponent. In a nice little touch, different character skins get different intros and outros; when playing as the evil Superman, for example, he enters and exits the fight differently to his more heroic counterpart. When playing as different skins, like John Stewart or Hank Henshaw/Cyborg Superman, you’ll also be treated to slightly different dialogue and animations, which is a much-appreciated touch on the developer’s part. Although there aren’t any character-specific interactions in the intros, there are during the Wager cutscenes and, even better, both characters and the arenas will accrue battle damage as the fight progresses! This means that you’ll not only see Selina Kyle/Catwoman’s cat suit rip and her skin be blemished by bruises and blood but arenas will degenerate or change around you the more damage you dish out, which can also allow different intractable options to become available to you.

Stages include a range of recognisable DC locations and take damage as you fight.

Speaking of the stages, Injustice really goes above and beyond to make the best use of the DC license; while it’s a little disappointing to see Arkham Asylum and Wayne Manor feature twice in the game, they are made distinctive by having Joker-ised and night-time variants, respectively (and also being clearly modelled after, and featuring cameos by, the Batman: Arkham (Rocksteady Studios/Various, 2009 to 2015) videogames and villains). Additionally, the use of stage transitions really helps to add a whole new dimension to combat, with some stages featuring more than others (or even none at all), to help ensure that every fight can be a little different. Stages also feature a bevy of other little cameos and DC references, such as the Fortress of Solitude being clearly modelled after Superman (Donner, 1978) while also featuring a portal to the Phantom Zone and a cameo from Starro the Conqueror. Similarly, J’onn J’onnz/Martian Manhunter floats in the background of the Watchtower space station, Floyd Lawton/Deadshot is just hanging out at Stryker’s prison, and Amazons are preparing a boat to launch on Themyscira. Every single stage has a number of intractable elements and changes as you fight, cause damage, or smash foes around, with Gotham City being my favourite as you can battle on the roof with the Bat-Signal and then down to the grimy streets below and then blast your foe back up to the roof using a nearby truck!

Enemies and Bosses:
Injustice helpfully separates its character-selection screen into heroes (on the left) and villains (on the right) but, despite their different alignments (and that their loyalties change due to the multiverse shenanigans of the story), every single one of them will be an enemy of yours at some point as you play through the story, Battles, S.T.A.R. Labs missions, and on- or offline. Consequently, it’s worth keeping track of which character suits your playstyle as some have easier combos and special moves to pull off compared to others, or more useful Super Moves and Character Powers.

Play as, and against, the game’s characters to learn their strengths, weaknesses, and skills.

Additionally, the Class system should also be factored in; Lex Luthor, Doomsday, and Solomon Gundy may be powerful and capable of gaining armour to tank through attacks but they’re also a lot slower on their feet and with their jumps. Superman and Shiera Hall/Hawkgirl are much faster Power-class characters but can also have their own drawbacks at times depending on your playstyle (Superman’s Character Power, for example, simply powers up his attacks rather than being a more offensive move like, say, Areas being able to conjure massive magical weapons). Personally, I tend to lean more towards Gadget-based characters, like Nightwing (who can switch between using quick batons or a longer bo staff to attack) or Green Arrow (whose arrows and bow allow for both ranged attacks and blindingly fast melee attacks).

Take on the corrupted Superman and banish him to the Phantom Zone for his crimes!

Unlike Mortal Kombat, Injustice doesn’t really feature any secret or hidden fights or unplayable sub-bosses or boss characters; the story mode and basic arcade ladder culminates in a battle against the corrupted Superman that is a far fairer and more competitive fight compared to the finales of NetherRealm’s recent Mortal Kombat games. While Superman is definitely a bit more of an aggressive foe, even on the game’s easiest difficulty, he doesn’t gain inexplicable armour, can be stunned, and doesn’t deal ungodly amounts of damage or spam his attacks like a cheap bitch. Additionally, he doesn’t transform into some monstrous final form and, instead, the final battle is a far better use of the skills you’ve built up through regular gameplay rather than forcing you to resort to cheap tactics and tricks.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Because it lacks a “Test Your Luck” mode and “Kombat Kodes” for multiplayer fights, there aren’t really any in-game power-ups available to you outside of the various status effects seen in the Battle mode. As before, though, some characters can gain in-game buffs with their special attacks and Character Powers: Lex Luthor, for example, can erect a shield, Doomsday can cover himself in impenetrable armour for a brief period, and Solomon Grundy slows time down and drains his opponent’s health with his swamp gas. However, you’ll earn yourself additional XP if you mix up your fighting style and take advantage of stage interactions and transitions, which will allow you to unlock further customisation options for your profile card, and you can also earn additional skins and rewards by playing and linking up to the mobile version of the game.

Additional Features:
There are fifty Achievements up for grabs in Injustice, with three of which being directly tied to the story mode (50- and 100% completion and succeeding at all of the QTE mini games). Others are tied to the game’s online modes, levelling-up to specific levels, customising your profile card, and finishing Classic Battle with one (and every) character. There are also some character-specific Achievements on offer, including performing every character’s Super Move or a ten-hit combat and winning a fight using only arrows as Green Arrow, or landing at least twelve shots without missing as Deathstroke. Batman is the only character to have two specific Achievements tied to him, though, as you’ll get some G for winning a match using all of his special moves and his Super Moves and for defeating every villain as him.

Injustice included some surprising DLC fighters; even Scorpion showed up!

Another standard of NetherRealm Studios is their addition of further skins and characters through DLC; you can get skins to play as John Stewart, Cyborg Superman, and the Flashpoint (Johns, et al, 2011) Batman, among others, and they’re all easily applicable when selecting a character (no need for extraneous “Gear” here). While the game’s DLC characters have no additional Achievements tied to them, Injustice included some fun and interesting extra fighters; Lobo, General Dru-Zod (who also sports his Man of Steel (Snyder, 2013) look as a skin), Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, Zatanna Zatara, and the Martian Manhunter were all great choices to add to the roster and it was nice to see NetherRealm Studios exercise a little restraint and not overload the DLC with additional Batman characters. By far the most exciting DLC fighter was the inclusion of Scorpion, who sports a Jim Lee redesign and began a trend of DC and Mortal Kombat characters appearing in each other’s games.

Take your fight online or complete a series of increasingly tricky S.T.AR. Labs challenges.

When you’ve had enough of the story mode and regular battle options, you can take the fight online in a series of matches; here; you can participate in ranked and unranked fights and “King of the Hill” tournaments where you watch other players fight until it’s your turn and bet on who’s going to win. The S.T.A.R. Labs missions will also keep us offline, solo players occupied for some time; these are expanded upon when you download the DLC fighters, which is much appreciated and, similar to Mortal Kombat’s “Challenge Tower” mode, basically serve as extended tutorials for each of the game’s characters. You’ll take on ten character-specific missions, with each one getting a little bit of text and maybe a picture to set the context of the mission, and these range from performing certain combos or attacks, winning fights, or completing tricky challenges (such as guiding Catwoman’s cat through laser trip wires, avoiding damage or debris, or racing against Superman).

The Summary:
Injustice: Gods Among Us is a far better marriage of Mortal Kombat and DC Comics than Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe and a fantastic expansion of the gameplay mechanics and features NetherRealm Studios revitalised their violent fighting game series with in Mortal Kombat (2009). While Injustice is obviously not as gory or violent as its sister-series, that doesn’t make it any less fun and it’s still a very brutal fighter; the Super Moves, especially, and certain character’s outros (such as the Joker’s) are definitely in the Mortal Kombat mould. With gorgeous in-game graphics, a fantastic amount of variety thanks to all of the character’s different special attacks and gameplay mechanics and the stage transitions, and a simple to learn, easy to master fighting system, Injustice is an extremely enjoyable game for anyone who’s a fan of either franchise or fighting games in general. The story is a breeze to get through (thought it is essentially every basic multiverse story ever told in comics) and nicely varied with some QTE sequences; the S.T.A.R. Labs missions and different arcade ladders are much more enjoyable and challenging than in its sister-series and there are plenty of character options, variety, and unlockables to keep you busy. Best of all, the game isn’t bogged down by endless grinding to unlock Gear, skins, or other perks and is a much more user-friendly and accessible fighting game, and overall experience, than its sequel.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Were you a fan of Injustice: Gods Among Us? What did you think to it as a blend of Mortal Kombat and DC Comics? What were your thoughts on the game’s story and its depiction of a parallel world terrorised by a corrupted Superman? Which of the game’s fighters was your favourite and why? Did you buy the base game and all the DLC packs separately or did you pick up the Ultimate Edition when it released later? What did you think to the additional DLC characters and skins? Were there any characters or features missing from the game for you? Which DC Comics videogame, movie, comic, or other piece of media is your favourite? Are you a fan of multiverse stories and crossovers? Whatever you think about Injustice, leave a comment down below and be sure to check back in next Wednesday for more Crossover Crisis content!

Back Issues [JLA Day]: The Brave and the Bold #28


To celebrate the release of Justice League (Snyder/Whedon, 2017), DC Comics named November 18 “Justice League Day”. Sadly, this clashes with another pop culture holiday but, setting aside all the drama surrounding that movie, this still provides a perfect excuse to dedication some time to talking about DC’s premier superhero team, which set the standard for super teams in comics by bringing together DC’s most powerful heroes.


Story Title: “Starro the Conqueror!”
Published: 29 December 1959 (cover-dated March 1960)
Writer: Gardner Fox
Artist: Mike Sekowsky

The Background:
All Star Comics (1940/1941), brought together eight superheroes from a number of different publishers for the first time as the Justice Society of America (JSA). This not only heralded the birth of the first ever superhero team in comics but also allowed readers to see their favourite characters interacting all for the same price as reading any one comic. The JSA’s roster expanded and changed over the years but the team underwent their most significant change when, in the late 1950s, then-editor Julius Schwartz asked writer Gardner Fox to reintroduce and rebrand the team as the Justice League of America (JLA) to capitalise on the popularity of the American Football League and Major League Baseball’s National League.

Taking over from the JSA, the JLA became one of the most versatile and powerful super teams.

Though the team debuted in The Brave and the Bold #28, a title famous for featuring team-ups between various fictional and superheroic characters, the team’s actual origin wasn’t revealed until the ninth issue of their self-titled series, which became one of DC Comic’s best-selling titles. As with the JSA and other super teams, the JLA’s roster has changed over the years and many splinter groups and spin-offs have been introduced but perhaps there is no more iconic line-up than the JLA’s original roster that was comprised of DC’s heavy-hitters: Clark Kent/Superman, Bruce Wayne/Batman, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, Hal Jordan/Green Lantern, Arthur Curry/Aquaman, Barry Allan/The Flash, and J’onn J’onzz (referred to here as “John Jones”)/Martian Manhunter.

The Review:
“Starro the Conqueror!” begins with the odd choice to not detail the first time these superheroes joined forces and, instead, starts off with the seven heroes already having agreed to come together in times of crisis (they each have a signalling device to summon the others). I kind of like this on the one hand as it suggests that DC’s top superheroes already set aside their differences for the greater good without any real fuss and it helps speed things up but, on the other hand, it feels a bit out of place to not detail the first meeting of these heroes. Anyway, the first member of the team to become aware of an impending threat is Aquaman who, thanks to information provided to him by a puffer fish, is learns of the arrival of the gigantic extraterrestrial starfish known as Starro.

Aquaman’s summons is answered by some of DC’s greatest superheroes.

This monstrous being has travelled across the depths of space to Earth with one goal in mind: conquest. To that end, Starro…somehow…transforms three of Earth’s starfish into replicas of itself and spreads them across the world to begin its mad scheme. Aquaman’s summons are immediately picked up and answered by Wonder Woman (who is in the middle of an awkward conversation with her beau, Steve Trevor, regarding marriage), Green Lantern (who, as Hal Jordan, was in the middle of a test flight), the Flash (who quickly disperses of a potentially life-threatening tornado), and the Martian Manhunter (who was simply about to start his vacation…). Each of these introductory panels immediately gives the reader and idea of what each character is capable of: Aquaman can breath underwater and talk to fish, Wonder Woman has an invisible jet, Green Lantern’s ring allows him to perform virtually any task, the Flash is super fast, and the Martian Manhunter can shape-shift. Aquaman’s signal also reaches Superman and Batman but the two are unable to respond right away since Superman is busy taking care of a potentially dangerous meteor shower and Batman is in the middle of stopping a crime spree. You might think that Superman would have spotted Starro’s arrival from space but he was dealing with a great deal of meteors (it’s also entirely possible that Starro caused the meteor shower specifically to distract Superman) and I guess it’s in character for Batman to prioritise Gotham City’s safety over a JLA summons (though a JLA-level peril is surely more threatening for Gotham than a crime spree…)

Green Lantern is able to defeat the Starro duplicate with relative ease.

Regardless, the five heroes meet at the “modernistically outfitted cavern” that serves as the JLA’s headquarters. Having been informed of Starro’s threat and where it intends to strike, the Flash, as the JLA’s chairman, orders the team to split up and it is at this point that the story diverges from the team-based format and instead switches to cover each individual mission. The first sees Green Lantern battling one of Starro’s deputies in the skies above Rocky Mountain National Park; Hal arrives in time to see the gigantic creature but is too late to stop it from attacking a passing air force jet-bomber and relieving it of its payload: nothing less than an atom bomb! Green Lantern is able to save the aircraft when it goes into a deadly freefall but is unable to keep the Starro duplicate from detonating the atom bomb! Thankfully, Hal’s energy shield protects him from the blast and he watches in horror as the creature absorbs the energy released from the bomb. Hal pursues and is nearly blasted from the sky by a scorching beam fired from the creature’s tentacle. However, Green Lantern is easily able to avoid the creature’s thrashing limbs and attacks and reduce it down to a regular starfish by scoring a direct hit on its massive eye.

Starro’s duplicate falls before the might of Wonder Woman and the Martian Manhunter.

Next, the story switches to “Science City” where Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter (why Diana has to team up with another hero is beyond me…) find another of Starro’s deputies abducting the “Hall of Science”, where the greatest scientific minds of the United States are gathered. The creature intends to bring the scientists into the upper atmosphere so it can absorb their brainpower and knowledge; Wonder Woman attempts to use her magical lasso to prise the creature’s tentacles from the building but ends up being yanked off of her invisible jet and onto the Hall of Science thanks to the giant starfish’s incredible strength. Meanwhile, J’onn uses his super-breath to bombard the creature with fragments of the meteors Superman is destroying and uses the same technique to cause a torrential rainfall when flames from the building threaten his life. Starro’s deputy then attempts to destroy them both by firing bolts of nuclear energy their way but Wonder Woman is, of course, able to deflect them with her magical bracelets and J’onn shields himself using the building’s conveniently lead-lined roof. Diana then whips her lasso around her jet and uses the momentum to forcibly drag the building out of the sky. The effort of battling both heroes at once soon takes its toll on the creature, which plummets from the sky and begins to revert back into a regular starfish.

The Flash makes short work of the final Starro duplicate.

When then join the Flash as he confronts another of Starro’s deputies at Happy Harbour; this part of the story is easily the worst simply because it introduces one of the most annoying and aggravating characters ever conceived: the JLA’s “mascot”, Snapper Carr. Snapper is a hip, super cool teenager with the annoying habit of constantly snapping his fingers all the God-damn time who is shocking to find his family, and the entire town, enthralled by Starro’s trance. For whatever reason (possibly due to being high, judging by the way he speaks!), Snapper is immune to Starro’s influence so he needs to be saved from certain death by the Flash. Despite Starro’s best efforts to vaporise the Scarlet Speedster, the Flash (literally) runs rings around the creature and ultimately defeats it when it tries to hide in the sea. In the process, the townsfolk are freed from their trance and Snapper’s family are able to tell Flash where they were ordered by the creature to head to: Turkey Hollow.

The JLA defeat Starro with ridiculous ease and make Snapper an honorary member!

The final part of the story sees the team reunite to take on the real Starro at Turkey Hollow; despite the defeat of its deputies, Starro remains confident since it was still able to absorb the power of that atomic bomb, the knowledge of Earth’s scientists, and…whatever it is the townsfolk of Happy Harbour contributed to its mind (local Earth knowledge, I guess?) Starro plans to use all that it has learned to force humanity into destroying the world with nuclear weapons and then use the influx of nuclear energy would then allow it to conquer other worlds across the universe. When the JLA arrive, Starro immediately puts its abilities to good use by reading Hal’s mind and turning itself yellow to render itself immune to his power ring but the Flash notices that Starro’s awesome energy ray has absolutely no effect on Snapper (who he, of course, brought along for the ride!) Flash orders Wonder Woman and the Martian Manhunter to distract Starro while Hal uses his power ring as a spectroscope to discover that Snapper is covered in lime from when he was mowing the lawn earlier. Apparently, lime is deadly to starfish so Hal dumps a whole bunch of it onto Starro to weaken it. Martian Manhunter then uses his super-breath to blow a load of calcium oxide (which is, apparently, also lime) onto the creature and thus imprison it within an unbreakable shell of lime. With Starro’s threat ended, Superman and Batman return just in time to see the Flash making Snapper an honorary member of the JLA and…boy, do they look thrilled to be there!

The Summary:
I don’t mind telling you that I am a bit disappointed by “Starro the Conqueror!”; the story started pretty strong but fell off a cliff pretty quickly at the end, becoming little more than a science class rather than a big old fight between Earth’s greatest heroes and an alien menace. I suppose it speaks to the intelligence of the JLA (specifically Barry) to come up with a way to outwit, rather than outfight, the creature and the sudden introduction of lime as the might Starro’s one weakness is arguably no less lame than fire being J’onn’s weakness and yellow being Hal’s and there is a lot of action prior to the finale but still…the entire point of the comic is to see these heroes joining forces and we don’t really get that.

Aquaman is unfairly side-lined and does nothing except alert the JLA to Starro’s presence.

You might be wondering where the hell Aquaman was during this story; despite appearing to be a pivotal member of the team in the early panels, Arthur is little more than an early warning system to alert the team to Starro’s threat. Hell, when Barry is divvying out the JLA’s individual missions, Aquaman doesn’t even get to fight one of the creatures as he’s sent back to the ocean to watch out for any more of the duplicates and, when he does return to the story for the finale, he does absolutely nothing. It’s pretty sad considering the JLA were light on power with Superman out of the equation and when you consider that Arthur might have actually been really useful at Happy Harbour so could have easily teamed up with the Flash for that mission…but then we might never have gotten Snapper-fuckin’-Carr now, would we!?

Hal and J’onn are severely underutilised, with their powers reduced to the bare minimum.

Honestly, Snapper could have been dropped entirely from the story; he’s only there so the teenager readers can act like they’re fighting alongside their favourite heroes, after all, and it’s legitimately sad that he’s more important to the story than Aquaman! Seriously, drop Snapper, have Aquaman and the Flash go to Happy Harbour, and have Arthur get covered in lime while battling the creature in the water and reveal the key to Starro’s defeat. Seems like a pretty simple solution to me. Similarly, it’s pretty disappointing that Superman and Batman don’t play any part in the story at all. I can understand why as Superman’s power alone would probably be able to end Starro’s threat but it’s a bit of a let down that they don’t even join the team for the big climactic battle. Instead, we’re left with the likes of the Martian Manhunter, who is probably just as powerful as Superman if not more so and yet is reduced to simply puffing away with his super-breath. Similarly, Hal’s potential and power is also significantly reduced; his ring allows him to do virtually anything but, in the end, all he really uses it for is to fly about, rescue a falling plane, and zap at Starro with energy blasts.

Starro seems like a threatening villain but end sup being a massive disappointment.

Still, at least Wonder Woman gets a lot to do; she basically does all the work in her team-up with J’onn which, again, makes me question why she has to have a partner and no one else does. The implication may be that it’s because she’s a woman but she’s easily the most dependable and capable superheroine I’ve seen all year; she doesn’t even get bound or anything, which is refreshing. The Flash also gets far more chances to show off his abilities and competence; beyond his super speed allowing him to easily best one of Starro’s duplicates, Barry is portrayed as a decisive team leader and his intelligence is what ultimately wins the day over brute strength. Overall, Starro is just another in a long line of potentially dangerous foes that really don’t amount to a whole hell of a lot. It openly admits that its plot to conquer Earth is the first time it’s ever tried anything like that, exposing its naivety and inexperience in world conquest and battle. Its scheme seems pretty good to start with as it creates duplicates of itself and absorbs power and knowledge but it fails to really do anything with this beyond making itself yellow; it could have spewed flames at J’onn, bound Wonder Woman’s wrists, subjected Aquaman to intense heat, or slowed the Flash down with quicksand but it never does any of that. For all the power and knowledge it has, Starro ends up just being a giant alien punching bag that, arguably, the Flash alone could have defeated and, because of that, it’s simply a piss-poor excuse to see all these heroes band together and even then they spend the majority of the story working separately!

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What did you think to the JLA’s debut appearance? Were you happy to see five out of the seven joining forces for the first time or would you have liked to see all seven of them getting in on the action? What did you think of Starro as the principal villain and the introduction of Snapper Carr? Which era or incarnation of the JLA is your favourite and what are some of your favourite JLA stories? Who would you like to see in the JLA some day? How are you celebrating Justice League Day this year? Whatever your thoughts on the JLA, feel free to leave a comment below.

Talking Movies: Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Talking Movies

Released: 18 March 2021
Director: Zack Snyder
Distributor: HBO Max/Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Budget: $70 million (on top of the original $300 million production costs)
Stars: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ciarán Hinds, Amy Adams, and Henry Cavill

The Plot:
Following the death of Clark Kent/Superman (Cavill), Bruce Wayne/Batman (Affleck) scrambles to bring together a team of super-powered heroes when the disgraced New God Steppenwolf (Hinds) arrives on Earth and begins violently searching for the mysterious “Mother Boxes”.

The Background:
Oh God, where to start with this? Okay, so, after the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) became this super successful juggernaut, Warner Bros. scrambled to try and catch up and craft their own cinematic universe. The first step was Man of Steel (ibid, 2013); Zack Snyder was picked to helm the project and steer the direction of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) and, initially, the results were promising. Despite some mixed reviews, Man of Steel was a financial success but the cracks in Snyder’s vision started to form with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (ibid, 2016). Despite the presence of acclaimed superstar Ben Affleck and reaping a hefty box office, the film divided many due to its pace and bleak tone and Warner Bros. started to get cold feet regarding Snyder’s vision for the DCEU. As a result, they brought in Joss Whedon to lighten the follow-up’s tone and ultimately replace Snyder after the tragic death of his daughter. Despite a similar box office gross to its predecessors, Justice League (Whedon/Snyder, 2017) released to scathing criticism and the film was disowned by even DCEU collaborators.

After years of speculation, Snyder returned to complete and enhance his original cut.

The DCEU chugged along regardless but, very quickly, reports of Whedon’s reprehensible behaviour surfaced alongside rumours that a “Snyder Cut” was all but completed in Warner’s vaults and fans all over the world began campaigning hard for the release Snyder’s original version. While this did lead to a toxic community that I cannot condone, the movement gained serious traction when members of the cast voiced their support and Snyder finally returned to complete the film and was even afforded additional money and resources to film new scenes for his four-hour epic for the HBO Max streaming service. To the delight of Snyder’s fans, Zack Snyder’s Justice League finally released and drew a lot of attention to HBO Max. The general critical consensus, however, was mixed; though reviews praised the film as a coherent story and the culmination of Snyder’s vision, its length and excess were criticised. After the film’s release, Warner Bros. made the decision not to capitalise on its success and fans immediately campaigned to complete Snyder’s vision for the DCEU, despite his lack of interest in returning to the property, proving that some fans are just never satisfied.

The Review:
When I reviewed the original, theatrical cut of Justice League (no, I will not call it “Josstice League”), I gave it a ten out of ten. This was primarily because I am a massive DC Comics fan and, after years (literally decades) of DC’s live-action characters always existing in their own self-contained bubbles, I was just happy to see them all onscreen together and co-existing and felt that this was the most positive thing to take away from Snyder’s rushed attempt to build DC’s cinematic universe. Time, however, has changed this perspective; Justice League is by no means perfect but it was honestly never going to be. Warner Bros. scrambled about trying to play catch up to the MCU and, in focusing on cramming everyone together as quickly as possible and sucking the fun out of many of their most popular characters, they lost me a little along the way.

Snyder jumped into Multiversal shenanigans way too fast and put everything into his cut of Justice League.

So to say I was excited for the Snyder Cut is to lie, honestly. As much as I enjoyed Man of Steel, Snyder really dropped the ball with Batman v Superman, which was more a collection of ideas and themes than a coherent movie, and I took massive issue with his grandiose vision of the DCEU which jumped from Superman’s origin all the way to Multiversal shenanigans in, like, two films. Still, as a rule, I generally do enjoy a longer director’s cut as you get more bang for your buck and, in that regard, Snyder certainly goes above and beyond to present the closest version of his vision for Justice League as possible, even going so far as to present the film in a 4:3 aspect ratio.

Superman’s death cry activates the Mother Boxes and calls Steppenwolf to Earth.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League begins with an egregiously slow-motion recap of Superman’s dramatic (and, in my view, unnecessary) death in battle against Doomsday. His death rattle (which seriously goes on for about six minutes), echoes all around the world, activating the Mother Boxes stored in Atlantis and Themyscira and sending a beacon out into the void of space with a simple message: Earth is vulnerable. Steppenwolf (now dramatically redesigned into a hulking creature wearing razor-sharp armour that honestly looks just as ugly as his original design but for different reasons) once again arrives to reclaim the Boxes; this time, however, his slaughter of the Amazons is much more brutal, featuring far more Parademons and presenting Steppenwolf as a formidable and imposing force.

Steppenwolf not only looks more fearsome but is a far more interesting character now.

Indeed, compared to his theatrical counterpart, Steppenwolf is a much more well-rounded and interesting character; in the original cut, he was little more than a means to an end, an obscure and generic bad guy for the titular heroes to unite against in order to save the world but, here, he’s a driven, focused, and aggressive foe who is motivated not just by loyalty to his master and devotion to bringing about “the great darkness” but also desperate to regain his place among the New Gods after losing favour centuries before. Owing Darkseid (Ray Porter) a debt of fifty thousand worlds for his failures, Steppenwolf has been ostracised and forced to toil in endless conquest to regain his place at his master’s side; this desperation and motivation transforms Steppenwolf from a mere disposable hulk and into a surprisingly complex villain who seeks redemption and validation in the eyes of his master and will do anything to appease the will of Darkseid.

Superman’s loss affects each of the characters in different ways.

While the Man of Steel’s loss was felt in the theatrical cut, Superman’s death is a much bigger aspect of the Snyder Cut; carrying the guilt of Superman’s death on his shoulders, Bruce Wayne sets out to build an alliance of metahumans to combat this threat. While Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gadot) is reluctantly onboard with the plan and Barry Allen/The Flash (Miller) signs up immediately and enthusiastically, Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Momoa) basically laughs in his face and Victor Stone/Cyborg (Fisher) is busy struggling to reconcile his humanity after a horrific accident leaves him part machine. Furthermore, Superman’s loss is embodied here not just in Bruce’s guilt and desire to honour Superman’s legacy with a team of superheroes but in both Lois Lane (Adams) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane), both of whom struggle to adjust to life without Clark. Since Bruce has already been told that “Lois [is] the key” to reaching Superman, it makes sense to give Lois and Martha a little more prominence in the film, especially as her death is what causes Superman’s corruption in the dark future that looms over Snyder’s films.

Batman is now absolutely focused on bringing together a team to honour Superman’s memory.

Bruce Wayne is, of course, extremely different compared to his characterisation in Batman v Superman. Now driven by an obsessive desire to make good on his promise to unite Earth’s heroes in Superman’s name, he works himself tirelessly to track down the metahumans from Lex Luthor’s (Jesse Eisenberg) file, much to the continued chagrin of his faithful butler and father-figure, Alfred Pennyworth (Jeremy Irons). Since he works closely with Diana to find and appeal to these metahumans, there’s even a little (microscopic, even) bit of romantic chemistry between the two and there’s now a nice little scene of Alfred making tea with Diana and showing her Batman’s new Parademon-absorbent gauntlet (which replaces the original cut’s side plot regarding Batman luring the Parademons out with “fear”). Mostly, though, Bruce remains the same character as in the theatrical cut; he’s still blinkered in his focus on bringing the team together, resurrecting Superman, and preparing the world to face escalating threats but all of his weird little attempts at humour are thankfully gone (sadly, that God-awful “I’m rich” line remains but, thankfully, we get the return of his “I’m real when it’s useful” line).

Wonder Woman now warns the team of Darkseid’s intentions for Earth.

Wonder Woman, however, is noticeably different this time around; more time is spent showing her as a willing ally of Bruce’s and she is also part of a pivotal extended scene that explores Steppenwolf’s previous campaign against the Earth. This sequence, which expands upon the prologue seen in the theatrical cut, shows the forces of man, Gods, Atlantis, Themyscira, and beyond uniting not just against Steppenwolf and his Parademons but also their exalted and imposing leader, Darkseid. Darkseid received only a passing mention in the original cut but, here, Diana’s obvious fear of the New God helps to establish early on that an even greater threat looms behind Steppenwolf’s actions. Furthermore, when out in the field with the team, Wonder Woman directs the fledging Justice League in the best way to attack Steppenwolf and his Parademons, which places greater emphasis on her capabilities as a warrior and leader.

The Snyder Cut retains Aquaman’s characterisation but explores a little more of his world.

Aquaman is largely the same as in the theatrical cut except, unsurprisingly, more haggard and bleak rather than being an obnoxious jock. Though he claims to have no interest in Bruce’s crusade or working with others and has turned his back on Atlantis, he continues to do good and help those in need in his own way to get his hands on more whiskey. Bruce’s warning, though, compels him to return to the ocean and converse with Nuidis Vulko (Willem Dafoe), his former mentor, and ultimately to arrive all too late to help Mera (Amber Heard) defend the Mother Box from Steppenwolf. A couple of odd continuity issues are raised with all this, however, that fly in the face of DC’s directors wanting to align their movies with the Snyder Cut; first there’s Mera’s accent, which jumps from British to American to whatever the hell she likes, and second is the Atlantean’s ability to communicate using dolphin squeaks rather than just talking underwater as they do in Aquaman (Wan, 2018). Regardless, this version of Justice League does a far better job of setting up Aquaman’s solo film by showing more hints towards his world and Aquaman remains the film’s breakout character for me for me thanks to Momoa’s charismatic portrayal of the character.

Though still very neurotic, Barry plays a pivotal role in the film’s events and finale.

Barry Allen also gets a bit more time to shine this time around; this includes the restoration of his encounter with Iris West (Kiersey Clemons) and just more time to explore his awkward, energetic, and socially inept character traits. Barry was very much the comic relief of the theatrical cut and those who disliked many of his annoying character traits will be disappointed to find most of them intact and given more prominence in his increased screen time but I can’t fault Snyder’s attention to detail in showcasing Barry’s superspeed: his shoes and clothes disintegrate, the street is wrecked by his footfalls, and he experiences time in extreme slow motion when utilising the Speed Force. While the Flash loses one of my favourite scenes from the original cut (the “Just save one” moment), he plays a far greater role in not just the rescue of scientists from Steppenwolf’s clutches but also the film’s finale where, faced with defeat at the hands of Steppenwolf’s forces, he summons all of his super speed to travel back in time using the Speed Force and ensure that the invasion is halted.

Cyborg’s role is greatly expanded, making him the heart of the film and fleshing out his character.

Of course, the character who benefits the most from the Snyder Cut is Cyborg; in the theatrical cut, Cyborg is a stoic, confused young man who resents his father, Doctor Silas Stone (Joe Morton), for transforming him into a machine-monster in order to save his life. While this remains at the start of Cyborg’s character arc in the Snyder Cut, Snyder restores not just Cyborg’s importance to the film as the “heart” of the Justice League but also his eventual reconciliation with his father and showcases excised scenes of his promising career as a college football player, his natural aptitude for hacking (which he used to help those in need), and the horrific accident which left him near death. While I’m personally not a fan of Cyborg being on the Justice League, it was clear that there was originally more to his inclusion and importance to the film’s plot; since he’s literally comprised on a Mother Box and Apokoliptian technology, he is afforded numerous abilities and insights into the invading New Box forces and, here, Silas actually guides and mentors him in exploring these abilities (which includes his ability to access every technological device and network and essentially makes him the most powerful man on Earth).

Superman returns, now in a black suit, and galvanises the team.

Finally, there’s Superman; as you might expect, Superman is absent for a massive amount of the film on a small account of being dead. Like Darkseid, Superman looms over the film but as a hero lost and much needed as a symbol for the world’s heroes to properly rally behind. Bruce’s plan to resurrect Superman with the Mother Box is discussed (and edited) far more competently this time around; although there’s doubt about the moral and ethical implications of the plan (mainly from Alfred this time around), Bruce and Diana don’t come to blows like in the original film but the outcome remains the same. Like before, Superman is disorientated upon returning to life and attacks the fledgling Justice League in his confusion; his confrontation with Batman is a little different (and not as good as in the original cut, in my opinion) and there’s more to his return to the Kent farm but, upon regaining his senses, he returns to action as the team’s ace in the hole for the finale. Cavill is an absolutely fantastic Superman and Justice League finally got the character to a place where he is the charming symbol of hope and strength that the world needs and, despite his new black suit, Zack Snyder’s Justice League only expands upon that (of course, Cavill’s natural charisma and the absence of a horrible CGI face play a huge part in that).

The Nitty-Gritty:
One word to describe Zack Snyder’s Justice League (apart from “long”) would certainly be “epic”; Snyder pads the film’s runtime out with not only an abundance of never-before-seen footage, alternate takes, and new content but also an overuse of slow-motion and long establishing shots. To help make the film more accessible to viewers, the film is also split into six chapters, which was probably a great way to view it on HBO Max, and the DVD version of the film is split across two discs but, either way you slice it, this is a slog to get through and I have to believe that Snyder simply milked the extra time and money he was afforded just to capitalise on all the hype surrounding his version of the film. The closest comparison I can make is with his director’s cut of Watchmen (Snyder, 2009), which was similarly epic and ambitious in its scope, presentation, use of music, and its presentation of its costumed adventurers.

Some shots effects, and inconsistencies negatively affect the Snyder Cut.

It has to be said, though, that Zack Snyder’s Justice League has quite a few faults; some of the new special effects shots understandably look worse than others (and Cyborg still looks like dog shit), it’s pretty crazy that Darkseid and his forces just forgot where Earth was for hundreds of years (especially considering how badly he wants the secret of the Anti-Life Equation), the score has been completely reworked to remove Danny Elfman’s contributions (though, thankfully, Wonder Woman’s kick-ass musical theme remains), and many of the new scenes shot exclusively for the film suffer from poor lighting, inconsistent editing, and stand out like a sore thumb to the point where I’d much rather Snyder hadn’t bothered including the likes of the Joker (Jared Leto) when it makes little sense narratively (you’re telling me that in a grim, apocalyptic future where Superman has gone bad the Joker is alive but Aquaman isn’t?) Personally, I have never been a fan of Snyder’s “Knightmare” timeline; it made no sense in Batman v Superman and, thanks to Warner Bros. having no interest in allowing Snyder to fully explore this alternate timeline in Justice League sequels, it makes even less sense to me that he chose to continue pushing this dark vision of a future ruled by Darkseid and a corrupted version of Superman in the Snyder Cut (but, at least, it’s mainly confined to the film’s final moments rather than being awkwardly wedged in the middle of the film like in Batman v Superman).

Snyder’s cut expands and recontextualises many of the film’s existing scenes and characters.

Although many scenes and sequences may be familiar to anyone who has seen the theatrical cut of the film, the Snyder Cut expands upon every single one of these and, in many cases, recontextualises them into this larger narrative. This includes a longer scene of Bruce Wayne meeting and attempting to recruit Aquaman (accompanied by a lengthy song of reverence for the Atlantean), an expanded version of Wonder Woman’s introduction (including the first of a handful of pointless f-bombs), a longer version of Steppenwolf’s attack on Themyscira and the recap of Darkseid’s defeat centuries ago, more scenes of Steppenwolf and his Parademons’ search for the Mother Boxes (including torturing Atlanteans for information and a far better sequence where he acquires the final Box), and even recontextualising the interactions between Lois and Martha with the reveal that General Calvin Swanwick (Harry Lennix) has been J’onn J’onnz/Martian Manhunter all along.

The Snyder Cut restores and dramatically changes excised characters.

One of the main selling points of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, however, is the restoration of scenes and plot threads excised from the theatrical version. This includes characters removed from the original film, like Doctor Ryan Choi (Ryan Zheng), Vulko, Iris, DeSaad (Peter Guinness), Cybrog’s mother, Elinor Stone (Karen Bryson), and more time devoted to side characters like Silas (who now gives his life to mark the final Mother Box) and the origins of the Mother Boxes. One of the benefits of this is that we actually get to see an in-depth look into Cyborg’s expansive abilities (which includes a deep dive into the way he now perceives reality). Much of the Snyder Cut’s hype was also built around the inclusion of Darkseid but, in truth, the character is little more than a cameo; he simply takes Steppenwolf’s place in the flashback of the war between the allied forces of Earth and Apokolips and looms over the film like an ominous shadow as the ultimate threat for the united Justice League. Sadly, despite Snyder choosing to push his Knightmare future throughout the film and concluding it with a tease of Darkseid’s impending retaliation against the Justice League, it seems like we won’t be seeing Darkseid (or any of the New Gods for that matter) in the DCEU again any time soon.

Snyder’s muted colour palette and bleak presentation makes an epic return.

Snyder’s vision of the DCEU remains extremely bleak in its presentation; for all the characters’ talk of “hope” and the better nature of men, Snyder continues to suck all the life and colour out of these vivid characters. One thing I liked about Justice League was that it did a fantastic job of bringing some life and colour to this world, allowing the costumes to pop out on screen but, here, everything retains the same muted look and sombre tones of Batman v Superman. This is best exampled in Snyder’s instance on garbing the resurrected Superman in his black suit; Superman wore this in the comics after returning to life for about three issues and it was later stated to have helped aid his recovery but, here, no real reason is given for his choice of attire and it honestly would have made more sense for the evil Knightmare Superman to have worn the suit instead. Additionally, Snyder removes the red tint and tumultuous skies from the finale of the film, which admittedly does make the climatic battle against Steppenwolf’s forces easier to see but I feel the original colouring worked a lot better as a reference to the red skies that were are of DC’s various Crises.

Thanks to the team, and time travel shenanigans, Darkseid is left humiliated.

Speaking of the finale, Zack Snyder’s Justice League slightly recontextualises the ending. Although there’s still an implication that Batman is heading into battle with the intention of dying, it’s not as explicit as in the theatrical cut; what is much more explicit, though, is the feeling of team work between the Justice League as they each play their part in breeching Steppenwolf’s defences (Flash, again, gets way more to do in using his Speed Force charge to help Cyborg interact with the Mother Boxes) before Superman dramatically shows up to again completely lay waste to Steppenwolf. I’m glad that this beatdown is maintained as it was always a glorious showcase of Superman’s return and of the team coming together against a common enemy but, here, things go slightly differently as the heroes fail to stop the unity between the Mother Boxes and prevent Darkseid’s arrival. With no other choice, the Flash enters the Speed Force and reverses time in a beautifully surreal sequence, allowing Cyborg to reject the Apokolips’ influence and Wonder Woman to decapitate Steppenwolf right before Darkseid’s eyes.

The Summary:
I went into Zack Snyder’s Justice League with low expectations. Toxic fans and a rabid, almost cult-like online community had beaten any sort of excitement and wonder out of me. I quite enjoyed the theatrical cut; it wasn’t perfect but, news flash: none of the DCEU has been perfect and few films really are. Knowing that Snyder got so screwed over by Warner Bros. stung and it definitely frustrated me that we didn’t get a concise and more accurate version of Justice League years ago so that maybe the DCEU would be in a slightly better place but it was hard for me to feel invested in the film when it was so self-indulgent and so clouded by negativity and entitlement.

Bigger and more epic, Snyder’s cut is the definitive version of Justice League.

In this case, though, I am glad to be wrong; there are many benefits to Zack Snyder’s Justice League. For one thing, it actually feels like a coherent story (even more so than Batman v Superman) and each member of the team is given so much more time to shine and showcase their powers and personality. Thus, when the Justice League unite for the finale, it means that much more as we actually get to know them all a little better and see them grow as a team through their interactions; it’s still a rush job as so much had to be crammed into so few films but, as a big fan I am of DC Comics and these characters, it remains a real thrill to actually get to see Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg all in a big budget, live-action film rather than constantly existing in self-contained bubbles (which seems where the DCEU will be heading again going forward). I’m not a massive fan of Snyder’s vision for the DCEU or many of the decisions he made but it’s better than nothing and not seeing an interconnected series of DC films so, while I was initially hesitant to enjoy Zack Snyder’s Justice League, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised in the end. Had Warner Bros. not interfered and screwed things up, we probably would’ve gotten a two-and-a-half-hour long film that would have satisfied everyone enough to justify at least one more team effort but it is what it as and at least we got to see the closest approximation of Zack Snyder’s true vision of the film in the end and that’s something to be celebrated rather than simply, selfishly, demanding more.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic

What did you think to Zack Snyder’s Justice League? Do you think it lived up to all the hype or was it all style and no substance? What did you think to the additional, extended and recontextualised scenes from Justice League and how do you feel the Snyder Cut compares to the theatrical version? Which of the characters was your favourite and what did you think to their extended screen time? How did you watch the film; in sections or as one long movie? Would you like to see more from Snyder’s DCEU or are you happy with the direction Warner Bros. is taking? What did you think to the whole Knightmare timeline Snyder tried to push and were you a fan of Superman donning the black suit? Whatever you thought about Zack Snyder’s Justice League, good or bad feel free to leave a comment below (even if it is super toxic).

Talking Movies: Aquaman

Talking Movies
AquamanLogo



Released: December 2018
Director: James Wan
Distributor: Warner Brothers
Budget: Approximately $160 to $200 million
Stars: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

Plot:
Fresh off his efforts in saving the world from Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) in Justice League (Snyder, 2017), Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Momoa) finds himself called back to Atlantis when his half-brother, Orm (Wilson), sets in motion a plan to bring war to the surface world. Assisted by Mera (Heard), Curry is tasked with finding and retrieving a legendary trident and claiming his birthright as the rightful King of Atlantis.

Background:
Arthur Curry, the Aquaman, was created by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris way back in 1941. Over time, the Prince (and often King) of Atlantis has been the butt of many jokes; memes are abound poking fun at the character’s relative ineffectiveness compared to other superheroes and his ability to talk to fish. In recent years, DC Comics have worked hard to alter or wipe away many of the misconceptions and negative perception of the character but perhaps the best decision ever made towards making Aquaman a cool, bad-ass character was casting Jason-f’n-Momoa in the role. Momoa, who made his first appearance as Aquaman in a brief cameo in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (ibid, 2016), made an impressive debut in Justice League as an alcoholic, surfer-like loner. His character arc was about rejoining the world and sharing his gifts with the larger surface world but, at the same time, the seeds were laid to explore his half-breed background and the clear unfinished business he had regarding his heritage and in Atlantis. After Justice League failed to be the box office smash that Warner Brothers were expecting, Aquaman is the DCEU’s first attempt to course-correct and get back on track. With stunning visuals, a rocking soundtrack, and some choice alterations to the existing DCEU continuity, Aquaman represents the DCEU’s attempt to slow things down and bring some life, energy, and excitement back to their shared universe.

The Review:
Aquaman is, in a word, bad-ass. It takes all the best elements of superhero, science-fiction, and fantasy films and smashes them together in a glorious, over-the-top thrill ride that never slows down and never has a dull moment. Well, maybe there’s a little too much time spent exploring Arthur’s heritage and the relationship between his parents but this ties directly into the plot as Arthur harbours a grudge against all of Atlantis for ostracising him and his belief that they killed his mother, Atlana (Nicole Kidman). Plus, much of Orm’s motivation stems from his disgust at having a half-breed older brother and his quest to become the “Ocean Master” is layered in a desire to destroy Aquaman, dominate the surface world, bring Atlantis back to glory, and his personal lust for power.

AquamanMomoa.PNG
Jason Momoa will make you feel inadequate as a man!

Momoa is perfect as Aquaman; as we’ve already seen, this is not your typical fish-scale-wearing goody-two-shoes. This Aquaman is a snarky, binge-drinking, cocky guy who has little to no interest in helping Atlantis or even the world in general, despite the events of Justice League. Momoa is far from a macho meat-head, though; he carries a true sense of conflict and sadness over his unresolved issues regarding his heritage and you can tell that he is torn between wanting to be left alone and reclaiming his birthright.

AquamanMera.PNG
…I mean…just look at this Goddess!

Matching him blow for blow along the way is the incredibly gorgeous Mera; Mera, like Arthur’s childhood mentor, Nuidis Vulko (Willem Dafoe), has been feigning loyalty to Orm’s throne but secretly desire to displace Orm with Arthur, whom she sees as the true King of Atlantis. While Mera has no love for the surface world, she prefers Atlantis to remain hidden away and in peace rather than at war; however, she struggles to adjust to Arthur’s…unique…personality but is more than capable of holding her own due to her unique hydrokinetic powers.

AquamanOrm.PNG
Patrick Wilson brings a real gravitas to the film.

Aquaman also has the distinction of casting Patrick Wilson in a far more action-heavy role; underwater, Orm is an accomplished fighter who is more than capable of besting Arthur’s sloppier, less elegant fighting style. However, he is also capable of balancing many complex motivations; he is not simply a power-hungry dictator and, instead, you get the sense that he truly believes that his actions are right for the future and continued survival of Atlantis.

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Though not in the film much, Black Manta certainly makes an impact!

Orm forges something of an alliance with David Kane (Abdul-Mateen II), a pirate with a grudge against Aquaman, whom he outfits with advanced Atlantean technology that allows him to assume the identity of Black Manta. While Black Manta could have been featured a little more in the film, which juggles many different stories and ideas all at once, his appearance is a welcome one as he fully embraces the all-encompassing outfit and manages to project his rage and lust for vengeance despite being completely obscured.

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Atlantis is a gorgeous, fully-realised civilisation.

In fact, this is one of Aquaman’s greatest strengths; unlike a lot of comic book movies, it really embraces some of the characters most ludicrous aspects. Aquaman eventfully dons a very close approximation of his original, cheesy outfit; Orm fully garbs himself in a strikingly true-to-the-source Ocean Master armour; and Black Manta truly is an energy blasting bad-ass. At the same time, Atlantis looks absolutely gorgeous; there is a true sense of history that really expands the lore of the DCEU. The pacing is really fun, as well, as right as characters are in the middle of, or finishing, their exposition, a massive action scene will break out and things will really ramp up. it also mixes some contrasting cinematic genres; when Arthur and Mera journey to the Kingdom of the Trench, the film suddenly becomes a monster/horror movie but, by the time they return to Atlantis, it shifts easily into a massive full-scale war movie.

The Nitty-Gritty:
There isn’t really too much to spoil here, thanks to the trailers and posters showing us that Aquaman acquires his armour and wields the legendary trident, the only real twist was that Atlana turned out to actually be alive.
So, instead, I’ll briefly talk about some of the massive continuity changes this film makes to the DCEU. In Justice League, it was heavily implied that Aquaman was familiar with Mera, had spent significant time in Atlantis and had removed himself from his birthright because he was abandoned by his mother, and that he was essentially a self-ostracised king. Instead, Arthur indicates that Aquaman is the first time he has ever met Mera (and, trust me, I would definitely remember meeting a gorgeous redhead like her!) and his relationship with his mother is one based on loss and regret as he never actually met her; his grudge has shifted against Atlantis, as he believes they executed her.

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Aquaman blends many different genres seamlessly.


Furthermore, Justice League seemed to indicate that Arthur could not communicate underwater, as he and Mera randomly had a chat within a special bubble she created, but he has absolutely no issue with that here. None of these are major issues but it does make watching the DCEU films a bit jarring and it’s interesting to me that Aquaman spends so much time on these changes and showing Arthur’s training with Vulko but does nothing to address some pretty big plot holes. For example, none of the flashbacks establish when Vulko first met Arthur and it is explicitly said that Arthur has never been to Atlantis before so it feels like a few scenes were missing to help flesh all this out. Like, I would have had Atlana send Vulko to train Arthur, shown Vulko making numerous trips to the surface with various weapons, armour, and writing to help teach Arthur, and a scene where he gifts Arthur Atlana’s spear. These are minor things but it just seemed a bit weird that Vulko randomly appears with no explanation as to how he first met Arthur.

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In Summary:
I cannot stress enough how much fun Aquaman is; the film is bright, constantly moving, full of action, and has a real dramatic weight to the story. It’s not just a big CGI-fest, it’s also full of humour and hard-hitting action and I am so glad that Jason Momoa has the chance to bring this character into the mainstream in such a great way. After this, no one will be making jokes at Aquaman’s expense ever again; instead, they’ll see just how awesome Aquaman can really be!

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic


Game Corner: Injustice 2: Legendary Edition (Xbox One)

GameCorner
Injustice2Logo

Given that Warner Brothers bought Midway back when they were forced to shut up shop, it should have been seen as inevitable that a videogame would be made that mashed together characters from the Mortal Kombat series with those of the DC Universe. Of course, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (Midway Games, 2008) was quite the barebones, lacklustre effort compared to the spiritual successor, Injustice: Gods Among Us (NetherRealm Studios/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, 2013).

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Brainiac is coming to collect the Earth!

Injustice was generally applauded not only for its graphics, gameplay, and competitive fighting mechanics but also its story mode; NetherRealm Studios have seemingly perfected the art of infusing their fighters with an in-depth and genuinely captivating single play story and Injustice 2 (ibid, 2017; 2018) continues this trend. After the Justice League travel to a parallel world to help end the reign of a dictator-like Superman and his regime of similarly-evil former heroes, the Injustice-world faces a new threat in the form of Brainiac. Though Batman attempts to rally a new generation of heroes against Brainiac, they have no choice but to free Superman from his red sun prison cell in order to combat the threat and enter into an uneasy alliance.

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A good roster, bogged down with one-too-many Batman characters.

A fighting game is only as good as its roster; like Injustice, Injustice 2 has an unhealthy obsession with Batman characters – Batman, the Joker, Robin, Poison Ivy, Red Hood, Scarecrow, Bane, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Deadshot bloat out the roster. While it is a little disappointing that this appears to have caused other, unique characters such as Booster Gold or Doctor Sivana miss the cut, Injustice 2 does bring some welcome new faces to the game; Firestorm, Blue Beetle, Atrocitus, Gorilla Grodd, and Doctor Fate are just some of the new heroes and villains available to play as. The Legendary Edition also includes some fantastic downloadable characters, such as Hellboy, Black Manta, and even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

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Every character has a unique play style.

Every character boasts their own unique combos, special moves, and super moves and plays a little differently; Darkseid, for example, is slow and methodical, Supergirl is a much faster character, while characters like Green Arrow and Batman rely more on their gadgets and skills to succeed. Successfully pulling off combos, counters, and landing attacks allows players to build up their super meter and power up their special moves or execute a world-ending super move. Each character starts with three loadout slots, which can be increased to five, that allow you to gear up Aquaman, for example, to have one loadout the favours attack, one that favours health, one that favours special moves, and so on, depending on the gear you apply. You can also apply this gear to AI Loadouts and have them fight for you, which is kind of weird and I’m not sure why you would want to do that rather than play the game yourself but it is useful for the game’s Endless and Survival modes.

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Injustice 2‘s stage selection levels much to be desired.

While Injustice 2 has a decent roster, it doesn’t have much in the way of stages; there are only twelve stages to pick from and they’re not really that dynamic or interesting. You can still send characters flying to other parts of the stage, which is fun, but it seems there’s a lot less opportunities to do this than in Injustice. There are also some fun stage interactions to be had, like smashing Swamp Thing over the head with a crocodile in Slaughter Swamp, but, again, it seemed that there were more and better stage interactions in Injustice.

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Customise each fighter with the Gear System.

The primary selling point of Injustice 2 is the Gear System; winning matches not only earns experience points for each character and the player’s profile but also awards numerous gear. Players can then apply this gear to each character to boost their attributes, gain performance buffs (such as greater attack strength against Metahumans), alter the character’s costumes, and even unlock different special moves. Winning matches also earns the player coins and crystals, which can used to buy Mother Boxes and unlock more gear, transform or combine gear to make it stronger, or unlock Premier Skins for certain characters.

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Premier Skins are available…at a price.

Premier Skins allow you to play as new characters; Cheetah, for example, has a Premier Skin that turns her into Vixen and Raiden’s Premier Skin is Black Lighting. This is great, as it effectively adds even more characters to the game’s roster; the only downside is that, to purchase Premier Skins, you need Source Crystals, which are few and far between. You’re therefore forced to grind over and over, levelling up your profile and characters, to earn a pittance of Source Crystals or spend real money. This latter appears to be what NetherRealm Studios want you to do as it is extremely difficult to earn enough Source Crystals as the Premier Skins carry a hefty price tag, and only the best Mother Boxes and rewards can be earned through spending real money, it seems, making the in-game currency all but worthless. Unlocking gear and applying it to characters is fun but, let’s be honest, you won’t be applying all of your gear to every character as some characters are better than others and some or just dead weight. The biggest downside to the Gear System is that, unlike in Injustice, it is the gear that determines what your character will look like; therefore, you can’t just select Green Lantern and choose to play as Yellow lantern, you have to unlock the correct gear and colour palette (which also require Source Crystals), which is quite disappointing and annoying.

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The clash mechanic as as annoying as ever.

In terms of gameplay, Injustice 2 is very similar to its predecessor with a noticeable increase in AI competency; I played the entire game on Very Easy and, on more than one occasion, noticed that the AI doesn’t take any shit. If you spam moves or favour a certain tactic, the AI calls you out on it and gives you a competitive match more often than not. The story mode is fun to play through but a breeze; I finished it in within two casual days of gameplay and only went back to it to finish off the branching paths. The clash mechanic returns from Injustice and it’s just as annoying as ever; as you take damage, you can spend your super meter initiating a clash and pressing a button in a rock/paper/scissors type of mini game, which will either deal additional damage or restore your health. It seems that the AI always busts out a clash at the worst or most annoying opportunities and it’s easily to most frustrating part of the game.

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Take on the entire Multiverse…once you’re levelled up enough…

Similar to Mortal Kombat X (ibid, 2015), Injustice 2 utilises an ever-changing Multiverse mode that allows players to fight a number of opponents and obtain better rewards. These change hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly and often carry certain themes that will be familiar to DC Comics fans; you can also use the Battle Simulator to play traditional tournament modes or battle endless opponents. One thing I will praise about Injustice 2 is that every battle is different; I don’t think I ever fought the same version of a character twice as it seems every match sees random gear and colour schemes applied to the opponent. You can also join a Guild and take part in Guild Multiverses and challenges to unlock even more Mother Boxes and rewards; these are far more challenging than the regular Multiverse modes and, similarly, the best Multiverse rewards are only available when you’ve levelled a character up to level twenty or thirty, meaning that you’re going to have to play again and again and grind over and over to reap the benefits.

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Unlocking stuff is time-consuming and random.

Honestly, maybe I’m a bit jaded, but I don’t find myself particularly enthusiastic about stepping up to this challenge; Injustice 2 features a wealth of Achievements, many you can sweep through regular gameplay, but the more specific ones (such as maxing every character’s level out) just seem like too much of a chore. I really don’t like that I have earned so many in-game coins and yet I cannot use them to purchase Premier Skins or extra colour palettes; I don’t really want to spend my actual money buying them, was disappointed to see that they weren’t already unlocked in the Legendary Edition, and am not sure I can be bothered to grind over and over to unlock them.

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Want the best stuff? You better have deep pockets!

In the end, Injustice 2 is good; it’s fun to play, the story mode is decent, and the graphics are very impressive but there’s not too much calling me back to it. I played Injustice pretty much to death working my way through the challenge mode but you have to put some serious effort in to challenge the best Multiverses and the motivation is severely lacking this time around just because the best gear and rewards are either really rare or too expensive. Maybe, next time around, NetherRealm Studios should limit the in-game currency to two forms (one to buy stuff, one to upgrade stuff) and move away from forcing players into spending their real-world money on additional extras, especially if they’re going to bring out a Legendary Edition after the initial versions.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

Talking Movies: Justice League

Talking Movies
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It’s no secret that DC Comics and Warner Bros. are a bit late to the superhero renaissance we are still experiencing thanks to the runaway success of the films put out each year by Marvel Studios. They lost a lot of ground with films like the dull Superman Returns (Singer, 2006) and Green Lantern (Campbell, 2011) – even though I personally actually enjoyed Green Lantern and thought the movie was worth salvaging in further DCEU films – and often focus too much of their attention on Batman at the expense of their massive cast of superheroes. However, amidst the many and ongoing critical debates surrounding Man of Steel (Snyder, 2013) and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (ibid, 2016) and the disappointment of Suicide Squad (Ayer, 2016), they apparently scored a far more meaningful success with Wonder Woman (Jenkins, 2017) and their films have been profitable enough to keep the idea of a cinematic universe alive, even if rumours abound every day that it is on life support. Now, I never saw Wonder Woman, for reasons of my own, and I actually really enjoyed not just Man of Steel but also Batman v Superman so, for me, anticipation was high for Snyder’s third cinematic effort, Justice League. While a personal tragedy saw him leave the production process and be replaced by formal Marvel guru Joss Whedon, the film is still credited to Snyder and carries many of his themes and ideas over but does it deliver?

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An invasion from Apokolips is all-but inevitble!

Justice League begins in a world still mourning the loss of Superman (Henry Cavill), which hasn’t resulted in world-wide chaos but has resulted in appearances of insect-like Parademons across the globe. Having witnessed a glimpse into a nightmare dystopian future where these creatures have overrun humanity, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) has been investigating the creatures and their weaknesses amidst attempting to recruit a superpowered team alongside Diane Prince (Gal Gadot) to fight what he believes to be an inevitable invasion. On Themyscira, Diana’s home island of Amazons, the ancient Mother Box suddenly awakens and opens a Boom Tube, through which appears Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) and an army of Parademons. Slaughtering the Amazonians, he claims their Mother Box and promptly disappears, forcing Bruce and Diana to step up their timetable. Bruce is initially unable to convince Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa) to join their cause due to his desire to be left alone but has far more luck in recruiting Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) who, disillusioned by the wrongful incarceration of his father (Billy Crudup) and struggling to live in a world that now seems painfully slow in comparison to his superspeed, joins up as the Flash without a second’s hesitation. Meanwhile, Diana is able to channel her own experiences with isolation and loss to convince Victor Stone (Ray Fisher) to put his recently-acquired and still developing cybernetic powers to good use in the fight against Steppenwolf.

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It’s going to take everyone to fight off Steppenwolf.

Aquaman is finally convinced to join the team when he is forced to return to Atlantis to defend the second Mother Box from Steppenwolf, only to be suitably humbled. With two of the boxes in the hands of the enemy and the countdown to the destruction of the planet imminent, Batman struggles to galvanise the team in using the final Mother Box to resurrect Superman to lead the final battle for the fate of humanity. I’m going to say something now that may cause a stir; I’m a fan of both DC Comics and Marvel. Yes, it is possible; for me, just seeing comic book superheroes on screen and coming together is a thrill in and of itself. I don’t get weighed down with debates between which company is better or criticise DC for failing to follow Marvel’s gameplan; however, I do admit that they are very clearly playing catch-up. This was massively evident in Batman v Superman, where Wonder Woman was introduced with a lot of intrigue and mystery surrounding her but which also wedged in cameos from the Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg. It felt like the movie was trying to do to much but, at the same time, those small glimpses served the purpose of a larger narrative and didn’t distract from the film at all; instead, they were weaved into Batman’s character arc of moving past his misguided vendetta against Superman and towards rejoining the world and uniting a team.

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Ezra Miller brings some welcome levity to the DCEU.

While Justice League does suffer form some pacing issues in the first act, each member of the team gets an ample amount of screen time to shine and show some layers. Although I could’ve done without it as we have seen the tale of Barry’s father played out in the first season of The Flash, it nevertheless helped to establish that Barry is currently in a very lonely and confused place in his life and that his powers only make things more difficult for him. Barry primarily serves as the comic relief, once again being infused with more of the characteristics commonly associated with the Wally West version of the character, but shows significant growth when he admits to Batman that he’s never actually been in a real fight before and, upon Batman’s prompting, learns how to be a superhero by simply saving one life.

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Probably the greatest interpretation of Aquaman we’ll ever see!

Before the movie came out, I hedged my bets on Jason Momoa’s Aquaman being a kick-ass, breakout character; for years, people have ridiculed Aquaman because “all he does is talk to fish” when that’s simply not the case. Now, I’m not the biggest Aquaman fan because, honestly, he can still be pretty lame for other more pressing reasons, but I am a fan of the Peter David version of the character, which had long hair, a beard, a more armoured outfit, and was a no-nonsense, stern ass-kicker. Momoa’s Aquaman may not have a harpoon for a hand but, man, is he bad-ass! He’s more like a rock star than a clean-cut prince, revelling in the heat of battle, carrying himself with a sense of narcissism, and generally approaching every situation with a nonchalant attitude. He looks fantastic and really brings the muscle to the team in Superman’s absence, but there’s also a sense of a much larger world and backstory behind him through his return to Atlantis and interactions with Mera (Amber Heard).

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Obviously a character mostly created in CGI is going to be CGI!

Probably the character with the most controversy surrounding him is Cyborg; personally, I’ve never liked the idea of Cyborg being on the Justice League, primarily because he’s so closely associated with the Teen Titans and I feel it’s a just a reason to have racial diversity on the team. However, for the purposes of this film, he serves a key purpose; having been created through the machinations of a Mother Box, Victor’s cybernetic parts are constantly evolving and hold the key to interacting with and stopping the Mother Boxes from uniting and destroying the world. Everywhere I look people are bad-mouthing the CGI on Cyborg and, honestly, I don’t see why; Justice League is filled to the brim with top-notch special effects, to the point where even a $300 million budget can be stretched pretty thin. Cyborg is a 90%, at least, CGI character so, obviously, he’s going to have a lot of CGI used on him. Would it have been better if they’d tried more of a Robocop (Verhoeven, 1987) route? Probably, yes. Did I think the sleeker, Teen Titans-inspired look he adopted at the end of the film would’ve looked better than the Transformers (Bay, 2007 to 2017) look? Definitely, but I never let the fact that he was largely comprised of CGI parts distract me from the film and, honestly, if you do then you’re clearly not that interested in the film to begin with.

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Gal Gadot continues to impress/surprise.

Gal Gadot continues to impress as Wonder Woman; despite my reservations about her, she is an extremely attractive young lady and her accent actually becomes less distracting the more you hear it. Diana’s arc here is directly tied in to the events of Wonder Woman as she is still apprehensive about rejoining society in the spotlight. Bruce even calls her out on it and accuses her of not being able to move past the death of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), which only galvanises Wonder Woman’s resolve. Henry Cavill also returns after the team successful manage to resurrect Superman using the same Kryptonian birthing chamber that spawned Doomsday. Unlike the comics, he does not sport a mullet or a black costume, but his memories are briefly fragmented, leading to an awesome fight between Superman and the rest of the team. Superman is actually amazing in this film; he’s clearly overjoyed to be alive again, smiling and cracking jokes, and finally shines as an optimistic symbol of hope to rally behind. His initial period of disorientation also showcases his intense rage as he spits Batman’s “do you bleed” line back into Batman’s face as he is poised to crush Batman’s head. The only things I slightly disliked about Superman were that they didn’t make any effort to address how they explained Clark Kent’s sudden return to life and his resurrection felt like it came too soon; I expected him to return right at the very end, but it comes just before the third act, so it does raise the question of why kill him off in the first place (though I’m glad they did because at least it meant they got that aspect of Doomsday right).

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Seriously, how can you not love shots like this!?

Ben Affleck returns as Batman, despite a new rumour springing up online almost every day saying that he wants out of the franchise. When he was first cast, I had my doubts that he would stick around for sequels and, honestly, the more I hear about him wanting to leave the more annoyed I am that he was ever cast in the first place. The fact that he is a fantastic Batman makes it all the more annoying; Warner Bros. seem to want to evoke Marvel Studios’ attitude towards Robert Downey Junior and build their DCEU around Affleck so I really hope that they do everything they can to convince him to see it through because he put in another brilliant performance here. Now focused on facing Steppenwolf’s impending threat, Batman has turned his mission from vengeance and death towards forming a team, saving the world, and atoning for the decisions he made that led to the death of Superman. The guilt he feels is evident and he even descends into some trademark Bat-dickery by manipulating Diana into following Superman’s example and being an inspiration for others. Additionally, the idea that he is so worn down and beaten up from twenty years of being Batman and that he now craves an honourable death continues in Justice League as, even with the team assembled, many of his plans revolve around him making a suicide run; during Superman’s resurrection, Batman even faces him head on with the intention of dying so that Superman can take his place as the more suitable leader of the team, and his joy at seeing Superman returned to life is clear on his face even if he quickly adopts a more stoic façade to save face.

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The traditional bland villain does equal fleshed out heroes…

The action in Justice League is very big and very loud; explosions happen all over the place, water crashes everywhere, buildings topple, and hits land with a satisfying impact. Amidst what could be described as chaos, but actually is a far more cohesive end-of-the-world scenario than the one seen in Suicide Squad, is a fabulous score by Danny Elfman. Elfman even weaves not only his classic Batman (Burton, 1989) theme into the score but also John William’s classic Superman (Donner, 1978) theme; as much as I enjoyed the score from Snyder’s previous films, hearing the return of those classic, iconic, and irreplaceable themes brought a warm feeling of joy and nostalgia to my heart. Probably the biggest issues with the film are easily the most predictable; pacing and the villain. With the film being mandated to be two hours long, there’s a real sense that a lot of content was trimmed back and I look forward to seeing it inserted back in for an extended cut. While I did not experience any jarring leaps in continuity or pacing, it is unavoidable that a large chunk of the film’s early runtime is devoted to introducing and fleshing out not just the new characters but also existing ones; the plus side of this though is the clear influence of Joss Whedon, who not only infused a bright, vibrant colour palette but clearly worked on the film’s dialogue, resulting in a truly enjoyable rapport between the protagonists. As for Steppenwolf, he’s there for the team to unite against and defeat and his motivations are as one-note as possible; he wants to destroy the world, no more and no less. Diana relates his backstory through a pretty impressive flashback that shows that Amazons, Atlanteans, tribes of men, Old Gods, and even a Green Lantern fighting against Steppenwolf and his Parademons, which helps give a sense of the scale of his threat. His name-drop of Darkseid hints that a greater threat could be looming on the horizon but it cannot be avoided that he largely disappears for a big portion of the film. Again, though, this results in better characterisations of the protagonists and, unlike some Marvel villains, Steppenwolf actually makes up for it in the third act by not being a complete push-over and taking on the entire League all at once.

Given the after credits scene, in which freshly-escaped Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) recruits Slade Wilson/Deathstroke (Joe Manganiello) for a League of their own, I really hope that Justice League does well enough to continue the DCEU and help flesh the protagonists out even more in future films and therefore allow for better characterisations of the villains when they appear. While I may have criticised Eisenberg’s Luthor, I am still glad that he returned as it means there is a chance for the character to grow and evolve beyond Eisenberg’s madcap portrayal; if they had simply recast or abandoned the character, that hope would have been completely dashed and we would be forever deprived of the possibility of a good interpretation of Superman’s greatest nemesis. Honestly, the fact that I’ve heard so much negative criticism about this film really bugs me. Similar to Batman v Superman, I just don’t get it; sure, it isn’t perfect and it has flaws, but it’s actually a really good action romp, with some witty dialogue and some fantastic cinematography. Also, unlike the films of Marvel Studios, the thrill of seeing DC superheroes onscreen individually and as a group has not worn thin yet; it’s pretty amazing to finally see Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Flash, and (I guess) Cyborg all together onscreen at last. I really hope Affleck sticks around and that Justice League does well enough to continue to DCEU as this felt like a massive step in the right direction towards forging the distinct big screen superhero universe that they have wanted for so long now.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff


Recommended: For comic book fans and DC fans, definitely, for the thrill of finally seeing the Justice League on screen, and also for fans of action movies. For those expecting something other than a fun action romp? Maybe stay away and keep your mouths shut.
Best moment: Any time the entire League is onscreen together is always great, especially in the finale, but also the scenes involving Batman and Commissioner Gordon (J.K. Simmons).
Worst moment: Three things were annoying: Steppenwolf, as you’d expect, though again I’d rather have more screen time for the protagonists in a team-up movie; Cyborg, just because I prefer him on the Teen Titans, and all the Amazonians except for Diana were pretty disappointing actresses.