JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017) – T.’s Take

justiceleague

When Man of Steel was released in 2013, I saw it four times in theaters because it was such a dang cool spectacle with christological symbolism and pro-life themes. Later the following year, I realized that none of that stuff is enough if the characters aren’t interesting, with my last rewatch of Man of Steel revealing itself to be the bland destruction fest it is. I didn’t have expectations for Batman v. Superman or Suicide Squad, so I can’t say I was let down by those; however, as I’ve covered earlier on this blog, I was let down by the DC Extended Universe again when Wonder Woman fell apart on repeated viewings. So, all my expectations were set to expect nothing but disposable entertainment from Justice League.

Actually, my expectations for superhero movies period have been set at have-fun-watching-with-your-friends disposability since Age of Ultron turned out to be just alright after all the hype. Heck, Justice League is less of a DC movie than it is an Avengers movie with DC characters, though one closer to Age of Ultron than The Avengers in its occasionally forced humor. Gone is the admirable if failed ambition of the overly gloomy, too-much-too-soon Batman v. Superman; Justice League is generic, fluffy prevent-the-apocalypse stuff we’ve all seen before, complete with a CG cardboard cutout villain who looks like he stepped out of a PS3 game.

Nonetheless, I’ve known about the team members who haven’t gotten their cinematic due until now since I was a kid, so seeing The Flash—especially with the comic relief he brings here—, Cyborg, and Aquaman team up with Batman—who’s cooler here than he was in Batman v. Superman—and Wonder Woman team up is often a joy to watch; heck, I was having the most fun when their dynamics had me forgetting that this series’s mopey and cynical Superman was a thing. Unlike The Avengers, there’s no SHIELD-type organization bringing the League together; they’re on their own, and there’s only one instance of in-fighting, which has my favorite moment in the movie in the form of The Flash’s reaction to unexpectedly meeting his match.

So yeah, Justice League was beaten by The Avengers to what it’s trying to do, and it’s also trying to apologize for its predecessors’ mistakes while having to remind us of the wrong foot this DC universe started on. While I’m not entirely persuaded by the ending narration which means to promise this universe’s more hopeful future (a narration that ironically starts with the word “Darkness…” to which my friend and I both whispered “NO PARENTS“), I can call Justice League satisfyingly fun, if as forgettable as most superhero movies these days.

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THE DARK KNIGHT (2008) – T.’s Take

the dark knight

When Batman Begins was first released, a pre-teen me biased by Tim Burton’s retrospectively “Dang, those were messed up!” Batman movies found it so goofy due to Christian Bale’s portrayal of Batman that it didn’t take until The Dark Knight‘s release for me to appreciate Batman Begins, with the irony being that Batman Begins has become one of my favorite comic book movies since, favored above The Dark Knight. Even Christian Bale’s performance has grown on me.

That’s not to discredit The Dark Knight‘s cinematic achievement. There’s a reason why many call it the greatest superhero movie ever made, holding it at #4 on IMDb’s top 250 movies list. Whereas Batman Begins is a masterful comic book movie with crime movie elements, The Dark Knight is a masterful crime movie with comic book movie elements, with the Batman mythos used here being grounded just enough for such grimness and grit to work. It offers perhaps the most serious examination of good and evil the genre has yet offered; even when Batman compromises his morality in order to stop a seemingly unstoppable evil, we’re meant to question his choices.

The evil in question is, in the role that got Heath Ledger a posthumous Oscar win, Batman’s definitive nemesis: the Joker, a terrorist with a soul so deeply corrupt that he’s setting out to prove that everyone, deep down, is as corrupt as him. He’s irrational on the surface, yet he’s always planning ahead in steps that pay off in perhaps disbelief-stretching ways, and he knows what seeds of despair to plant in the hearts of Gotham’s protectors. And yet, while Batman makes an ultimate choice that may or may not be ethical, which is the aspect of this film that really conflicts me, the film reminds us that even if our heroes fail us, we still have the potential to combat evil in our own ways.

In the near decade it’s been since the same summer Iron Man set the template for how superhero movies are made today, The Dark Knight‘s ambition perhaps has become even more poignant, an ambition that the pretentious Dark Knight Rises tries so hard to match that it ultimately collapses under its own weight. While I think the title for the greatest superhero movie ever made should go to a film that offers a more aspirational vision of heroism, The Dark Knight is still legendary in its own right.