Month: April 2018

Justice League… what went so wrong?

So it’s official, after DC fanboys months of debating, conspiracies, sadness, anger and a plethora of other emotions over 2017s Justice League, we can conclude one thing, it is definitively the lowest grossing film of the DCEU, a somewhat head scratching and disappointing crescendo to DC films so far and a result that DC fans and probably Warner Bros thinking, what next?

I mean Aquaman is still coming out later this year, as is Flashpoint and a Wonder Woman 2 most likely but as far continuing the DCs continued universe, there are multiple questions going forward, some questioning the viability of the whole thing in fact but we need to look at how we got here, how did Justice League end up doing so badly? I say ‘badly’ with a caveat of course, JL has grossed about $663 million worldwide, no mean feat of course and a big worldwide tally but far short of what WB and DC fans would have expected for it, just shy of Man Of Steels total at $668 million and it didn’t come close to Wonder Womans‘ $821 million or Batman V Supermans‘ $873 million.

But how can this be? Not only are Batman and Superman teaming up but so did Wonder Woman played by the beloved Gal Gadot, Aquman, Cyborg and The Flash, a reduced roster but a roster of some of the most recognizable and well liked characters not only in DC but in all of comic books…. how could the film do so poorly in comparison to expectations? The answer is manifold but I think you can attribute the result to 3 main reasons that I’ll go into – hype, disjointed production and word of mouth.

Hype

Up there with The Avengers, Iron Man and Batman V SupermanJustice League was naturally one of the most anticipated films of the last decade, comic book fans, not only DC fans were clearly excited for the film and hoped it would be a good step forward after Wonder Woman knocked it out of the park, this may have been a problem in retrospect as too many people may have gone in expecting well, another Wonder Woman esque DCEU film – in quality at least. The film was probably never going to live up to that standard with all the hype laid upon it and I think this is absolutely one of the reasons why it is seen as a failure in many fans eyes.

We’ve got Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, surely the film wont flop

I feel like there’s this overall feeling that comic book fans are almost impossible to please (not true, look at all of the MCU pretty much) and with the DCEU you could argue this is the case, fans were turned off by BvS jumbled, overly bleak tone and supposed rush plot and clearly voiced their distaste, Justice League was decidedly lighter with a lot of jokes but again fans weren’t too pleased as it seems, ‘Batman was too jokey’, ‘flash was a cartoon character’ etc. Maybe it’s a bit unfair to put all of the blame on the final production and the fans have a part to blame in all of this, with a bunch of expectations so broad that the film could never possibly have pleased the majority of them.

 

Disjointed production

This isn’t WBs fault in the slightest… or maybe it is but either way, they went with Zack Snyder, he was championing the DCEU and was their leading man, due to unfortunate family circumstances and also because they didn’t like his work on the film apparently, Snyder left and or was fired which is a shame, Whedon took over and we know how the story goes. The result is pretty apparent though with a film clearly watermarked by two directors with prominent styles, Whedons quippy, bantery dialogue and lighter overall tone coupled with Snyders penchant for stylish visuals, sincerity with his characters and use of fantastic characters for real world metaphors and it just… didn’t really work. Justice League isn’t a terrible film in my eyes don’t get me wrong but I left it feeling like it could have been better myself, with more consistent characterisation following on from BvS for Batman, Superman was done decently enough but missed out on a cool black suit, any facial hair and specifically a mustache (which I don’t really care about people do!)

The film tried to be DCs The Avengers and it just didn’t translate well enough, if you’ve watched the Justice league cartoons or read the comics, they’re far from a super serious, boring group and they’re traditionally a fun going group of heroes… and Batman with great interaction and humour, especially from Flash and Green Lantern and that’s what makes watching them do their thing so cool. But with a reduced roster and just two films previously for Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman to be established – and just cameos in BvS for Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman, you do get the feeling things were rushed just a tad, people may know the characters from elsewhere but film going audiences may not and seeing them trust together so quickly may have been a bit jarring and felt derivative of y’know, Marvel.

Word of mouth

Last but not least, the curse of the bad word of mouth strikes again for the DCEU… Rotten Tomatoes absolutely played a part and you couldn’t get away from the furore and anger of DC fans for the rating be slow and the news about the rating in general… and the conversation around the film, in the digital age, word of mouth goes a long way and Rotten Tomatoes has all but killed a few prominent films box offices in recent years, which is an entire interesting topic on its own. But with more positive ratings across the board and especially on RT, would Justice League have done better commercially? Absolutely. And would the conversation looking back on the film now be completely different? Quite likely.

Positive sentiment and word of mouth goes a long way, a series or franchise associated with negative ratings and bad reviews will be seen as exactly that – bad and even if it’s slightly improving, people still go into each new film expecting the worst, while the opposite is also true for franchises with glowing, spotless reputation like the MCU for the most part. It’s an expected truth of the film industry and the fact of the matter is that the DCEU has always been on an uphill battle since Man of Steel and trying to ‘win over’ fans and critics alike ever since.

And well those are my thoughts, there may be more intricate reasons as to why the film ‘bombed’ and you may have your own thoughts and I’m sure people will discuss Justice League for years to come in relation to the DCEU and the dangers of trying to rush a cinematic universe into existence. I don’t know what WB will do going forward and how things will turn out but I just hope we get more diverse, interesting comic book films that come from places outside of a company that rhymes with ‘Garvel’, no hate but I just like my variety!

Ready Player One – review

Spielberg is back and directs Ready Player One, an adaptation of the popular novel from Ernest Cline, set in Michigan in 2045 in a technologically advanced future, entrepreneur James Halliday has invented the most popular VR program of all time which most of the population essentially live inside of. Halliday hid special easter eggs inside of his game that players are eager to find in order to win ownership of the Oasis, especially the enthusiastic teenager Wade Watts. Starring Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, TJ Miller, Simon Pegg and Mark Rylance.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t go into the film that enthusiastic despite the cool references littered through its marketing and trailers, I didn’t really get that much feeling for a plot and I thought it would be a bit too nostalgic for nostalgias sake but the story handles its nods quite well, yes there are a tonne of obvious in your face ones – King Kong, the T-Rex from Jurassic Park, a DeLorean but there are lots of cool smaller ones that you’ll probably miss, so it’s fun to look back on the film and see what was included. The easter eggs aren’t just in there for the sake of it either, with James Halliday including references to films, TV and games that he loved from the 80s and all the more modern things – they’re just avatars in the Oasis that gamers choose to look like, everything from Halo, to Overwatch to The Iron Giant, though I’m sure the more modern references were added with younger audiences in mind.

The core of the film is The Oasis, a very interestingly virtual world that you can do anything in to escape from the mundanity of the real world, it’s essentially all encompassing and an intriguing imagining of VR that may not be too far ahead in the future and in the Oasis is where the plot really gets going, let by Wade Watts (Percival in the Oasis, played by Tye Sheridan), an enthusiastic 18 year old who loves the virtual world and seems to only have friends inside there. His best friend and technical mastermind H (Lena Waithe) as well as pro gamers Daito (Win Morisaki) and Sho (Phillip Zao), none of whom he has ever met in real life mind you, this may feel somewhat sad but again entirely believable, with online exclusive friends absolutely a thing that exists in the real world. The performances are actually quite good on the whole, Sheridan brings an enthusiastic, driven performance and carries a lot of the story, somewhat naive in places, especially when he comes across Artemis/Samantha (Olivia Cooke) who he convinces himself he falls in love with, although their relationship does feel fairly organic, Cooke especially brings a lot of gusto to her role, bringing some grounded realism to Wade and the situation they’re in. She’s more concerned about the real world and stopping corporations ruining peoples lives via the Oasis while Wade just wants to find the easter eggs, this makes for an interesting dynamic between the two, despite their feelings for each other.

The drama compliments the action in the Oasis quite well, a world laden with fantastical elements, weapons and great action, with some interesting nods to online culture with players like I-ROK (TJ Miller), a high level and skilled player who’s quite a naive nerd who loves and hordes all the things he’s collected in game, it’s also great to actually meet Wades friends in real life who are all a bit different to what you expect. Aside from this and because the story is so important, it’s not really a deep dive into gaming as much as it is an adventure and exploration of James Hallidays life and mind with the vehicle of the Oasis and a touch of Spielberg, this isn’t really a criticism but looking at the film critically, some may feel The Oasis gaming rules are nebulous at best and non-sensical at worst/

Ultimately Ready Player One, is a fun ride, not too deep of a drama and very sentimental with convenient plot events that in a way feel very Spielberg, the world of the Oasis is fascinating and the visuals are great, with a truckload of fun references to boot for lovers of the 80s and 90s, it’s definitely not for everyone but I can enjoyed my viewing and I’d be keen to go back into the Oasis and the futuristic vision of the world present.

7/10

. Good performances all around, especially Sheridan, Cooke and Mendelsohn

. Interesting plethora of references, great visuals

. Some convenient plot points