Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Justice League: War (2014)

As this month has gone on, some of you readers had a singular query for me in regards to my film choices. Basically, the good classic stuff is great and all but...am I ever going to cover a shitty animated movie? Well, your wait is over, my friends, because we're here to talk about a movie born of a bad idea wrapped in another bad idea that was trotted out in the hopes that everyone would eat it up. Speaking personally, I found the taste of it to be rather lacking.

Kind of like their busy distracting redesigns.

Let's talk real quick about the real reason this got made. Back in 2011, DC Comics was pressured by people at their parent company to do things in the hopes of making the characters more marketable for films. This initiative was haphazardly tacked onto the end of an already planned story called Flashpoint and basically was a reboot of their comics with really rebooting their comics. See, they claimed then that it was a "soft reboot", which apparently meant they could change some things while keeping other things the same. This approach proved incredibly confusing and has irritated many fans to this day as they try to comb through the mire to find some semblance of sense. Also, everyone is in their 20s now, because even though they claimed they're really only marketing books towards older men...everyone needs to be young and angsty.

Have I mentioned it gets really hard to tell people I'm a comic fan sometimes? Painfully hard.
Yeah, the New 52 is the kind of initiative that clearly reeks of "focus group testing" rather than it being built on a foundation of good ideas and planning. And the longer it went on, the more the cracks showed. DC Comics is now on the cusp of a new reboot that totally isn't a reboot because they most assuredly had this planned all along (excuse my heavy sarcasm), so I thought it was long past time we talked about this movie that came out of the New 52's initiative. When it came out, I was actually dumbstruck because I couldn't fathom why they'd want to shoot themselves in the foot like this with such clear deviations from the iconic characterizations people actually were familiar with. The DC animated films have their own little cohesive universe and there actually was a movie in the line based on Flashpoint. We'll talk about that later on, but right now I want to touch on a major gripe right out of the gate.

"He'll have many more though, don't worry."
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox clearly ended in this new continuity, so logically it should've led into this film. But...it doesn't at all. Flash is not wearing his suit from the end of that film, he doesn't have an existing relationship here like he did there, and he doesn't seem to recall anything about it all when he clearly did previously. As such, I can only assume this film's writer ignored the much better film that preceded it and just decided to do whatever. Makes sense, I suppose, sense this story did that in both the comic version and in this film adaptation. So, prepare yourself by tossing logic and reason out of the nearest window. It's time to see the animated film that I desperately hope does not serve as an example of the live action one.

Wait...what the hell is this? We'll come back to...whatever this is.
The movie begins with reports of abductions that are clearly designed to make the viewer think Batman did them, except for the fact that the viewers are not complete idiots with no familiarity with him as a character. So yeah, obvious thing is obvious, he's not the perp. Said perp is actually a big gnarly beasty called a parademon. Remember them? I mentioned them back when I talked about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. They work for a big bad called Darkseid who is this god-like being from another world. Generally, he's the Machiavellian type, not usually interested in taking a direct hand in conquering worlds and sending his idiot son or some other crony to do it. He's strong as fuck, no doubt, but he doesn't need to use that power often. Yeah, there's a point to me telling you all of that.

Yes, it's going to highlight something stupid and out of character, but so is everything else.
Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) shows up to chase the parademon down and save its newest victim. FYI: parademons were shown to eat people in the comics. I remember a particularly haunting image of it from the Mike Mignola drawn Cosmic Odyssey books I read when I was younger. Parademons were a lot less robotic looking back then and more demon looking. Somewhere along the way that switched up. I'm not entirely sure why. Making them more machine-like takes away a lot of the horror of behaviour like them eating people, personally. When they seemed like larger deformed humans, it really made it creepier.

Especially when you saw their snack cabinet.
Hal saves the woman, who immediately acts like a bitch towards him for some reason, and then Batman shows up so Hall can be an asshole towards him. Well, at least that's somewhat consistent. Those two never did get along all that well. But it gets really distracting when Hal is clearly being portrayed as this young arrogant prick who is incredibly full of himself. Yep, that right there? That's basically the kind of characterizations we can expect in this movie. Young assholes being assholes because...the writer thinks young people are assholes? Hell, I don't know. I'm fairly young, all of my friends are on the young side of adulthood, and I wouldn't really call any of us assholes. Even when we can be dickish, it's not without justification of some sort. Is this what older people think younger people are?

"Hell yeah, it is!"
After escaping the police, who attack them unprovoked, they track the parademon underground where it attaches a Mother Box to a wall, then it turns and blows up while staring at them. The don't know what the Mother Box is yet, because reboot, so they just take it with them. Over in Central City, we see that Flash also beat a parademon and found a Mother Box, having left both in the custody of Star Labs. The head of the lab is Doctor Silas Stone, who is basically involved in this story because the new Justice League needs someone who isn't lily white and Cyborg got drawn in the lottery.

Don't they look so very happy to be here?
Silas is a bit of dick too (a running theme!) as he seemingly goes out of his way to skip his son's football game, despite it being important to his boy. Now, while he didn't approve of his son's interest in athletics in the comics either...there was a lot more to it. Victor was a literal genius, what with his parents genetically tampering with his DNA to make him such. Eventually he got to resenting the treatments and his parents, thus setting out to do things they didn't like. After the accident that killed his mother and left his body a mess, his father built him new cybernetic parts and he became a superhero with the Teen Titans. It's teeny bit different here, by which I mean that none of his original origin is intact. He's a jock who is resentful over his dad not approving of his love for sportsball. That's his motivation. His mom doesn't exist here either.

"I'm your mommy now."
But enough about the only non-white hero on the team, let's get back to the real star of the story: Batman. Because even if it's not a Batman movie, it's still a Batman movie. He and Hal have gone seeking out Superman, which gives me the chance to point out that while Man of Steel's Superman tried his best with very little experience against hardened soldiers, New 52 Superman actually lives up to many critics accusations of the character being a sociopath who destroys things on a whim. Our introduction to Superman in here is him literally destroying a bunch of shit while the other two basically make things worse by not making any real attempt to talk to him. I guess the modern hero is more about killing first and then violently shaking answers out of the corpse.

Well, at least no one does any bonding over the fact that their mothers have the same name, thus negating the extreme irrational hatred one had for the other.
Oh, before we go on any further, let's talk about my favourite thing I hate in this movie: Billy Batson. He's this kid who was given powers from an ancient wizard named Shazam, so that any time he called on the wizard's name he would transform into Captain Marvel. The Captain represents the best traits in heroes and likewise his human younger self Billy has always been the one kid who never acts like a complete twat, being a good example of responsibility and maturity for one so young. In this movie (and the comics) he's a little shit who curses, steals, and makes fun of his foster siblings who idolize him. Geoff Johns, what happened? Really, you were the guy who was all about respecting and loving the legacy of these characters. You handled Billy beautifully in the past...so why did you do this? I don't get it. It's not appealing, it's not funny, it's not even clever. You made the last good kid in comics into a generic jerk kid who I honestly felt like kicking constantly.

Mary not being white doesn't bother me. Her brother being an unwarranted ass towards her does though.
So, all of this bullshit here has just been setting up the excuse for the heroes to gather together, which happens when all of the Mother Boxes open Boom Tubes, which are basically portals, and hundreds of parademons come out of the various portals. Victor, the young jock, happened to throw a temper tantrum while talking to his dad and decided to grab one right when it was about to open so...yeah, he's not in great shape. We literally see his exposed muscle tissue and sinew. His dad and assistants take him and put in a pod that will fix him up with the various tech they've collected, meaning Silas doesn't invent his body at all. Even more vexing is the weird blue shit on him mixes with the tech and it the only reason he actually turns into Cyborg. It's rather underwhelming, being that there are only so many times you can hear the "accidentally got powers" story without it making you cringe.

"I'm the Juggernaut, bitch!"
Now, yes, I did kind of skip Wonder Woman, and that's because there's not really anything to tell. She's going to the White House to meet to meet the president with her longtime human boytoy Steve Trevor, people are protesting her because of...um...stupid reasons. Not joking, one person actually says she dresses like a whore. But, where Diana is normally a calm diplomat who inspires the best in others, here she acts like an excitable teenager on a sugar high who really likes stabbing things to death. She gets a guy to admit he likes crossdressing, she gets a little girl free ice cream, then parademons attack. There you go, summed up her opening intro.

"Diana, why am I even here? We all know they're going to shove you and Superman together because of stupid reasons, so I am literally just here to remind the audience that you're flighty in the movie."
Her and Superman save the president and flirt, because a group of people seem to think that the two beings who have always maintained that no matter how powerful they are, they're still equals to everyone else...yeah, they should be a couple because clearly no one else could survive sex with them. Two problems with that. First by having them romantically involved with human characters, they always had a grounding element that made them feel more relatable. Taking that away makes them less relatable. Second, both of them have had active sex lives over the years with people who weren't as strong as their selves. I'm going to just lay this out there, because I am allowed to: Superman and Wonder Woman being a couple is one of the shittiest ideas to come out of the reboot. And don't you dare try to use Kingdom Come as an example of me being wrong. That's a story about them later in life after they have lost many loved ones and their coming together there made fucking sense because it happened naturally. This shit here is so forced that I can practically see someone pushing them together with their hands.

Let's be real, it's probably Frank Miller again.
The group all ends up together fighting parademons, Batman points out the obvious, and Darkseid shows up to blow shit up because it's something he never usually does and they'll be damned if any character will escape this story acting anything like who they actually are, so he takes them all on himself rather than sending any of his many underlings. They get beaten badly, Superman gets taken, batman goes after him, and Darkseid sticks around to keep blowing shit up just because he can. It's super compelling. Really, I mean that. I was compelled to turn it off and scream into a pillow the whole time. They take Batman's advice and try attacking as a group...until Billy just attacks on his own, fucking the plan up entirely. And since we'\re on him again, he's not called Captain Marvel anymore. No, he's called Shazam now. This is the stupidest fucking thing in the movie and easily one of the dumbest concepts to come from the New 52. Why? Well, remember how he turns into the magically powered Captain Marvel? He says Shazam. How does he say his damn name without turning back into a little kid?

"Uuuummmm......."
That's not nit-picking, that's a glaring problem with the way this is all handled. These are rational questions to ask. What keeps Billy from saying his superhero name in mid-air and falling horribly to his death? Fucking bad writing does. Moving on, the decide they should stab out Darkseid's eyes after Billy makes an ass of himself (again) and it works for stopping his eye beams. Not so much him berating the shit out of them though, as it seems he can find and follow them easily without having eyes. Lucky for them, Cyborg figures they can send all the baddies and big bad back to Apokolips by opening Boom Tubes since he's basically now a giant living Mother Box. Superman and Batman show up to help drive him back and Billy almost kills himself to give Cyborg the power for the portals, because he says Shazam in mid-air and gets turned into a little kid again who then plummets towards the ground. Cyborgs saves him and agrees to keep his secret and everyone celebrates them saving the day, even though they actually a massive amount of property damage just because they we dealing with one another earlier.

Superman really does come off as a psycho in here at times.
After the credits, we get a teaser for the sequel that based on an Aquaman story but it now Justice League movie, because Aquaman can't carry a movie on his own, right? I mean, who would give Aquaman a movie? It's not like he's able to punch out Superman or summon a massive megalodon to eat his enemies or anything. Surely they'd never give him his own movie.

Oh yeah...go fuck yourselves.
Overall, I had a hard time sitting through this movie. While it does have some solid animation, it has some very visible hiccups at certain points that really stuck out. Even without those though, the animation is not enough to make me encourage watching this. This movie does do one thing well though, which is painting a clear example of why the New 52 is so annoyingly bad. The movie, like the comics initiative, tries so hard to be cool that it feels like it is lacking any real substance or coherency. It's all style and little else, with almost no proper characterization of the cast, making me feel that much more disconnected from it. How do I feel connected with people are in name only versions of these iconic characters. Flash, Batman, and maybe Green Lantern act like the real ones. The rest of the cast are not who they are said to be, rather instead being new characters using the same names that previously belonged to legends. In closing, it was a shitty movie based on some shitty comics. It's not worth your time or your money. Go watch The Flashpoint Paradox or Justice League: Doom instead. Later days, bleeders.

At least it wasn't a motion comic. Seeing Jim Lee's over rendered art move would give me an even bigger headache.

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