Review: The World’s Greatest Heroes Battle the World’s Shittiest Villain in “Justice League”

justice-league-steppenwolf-social

This guy is so unmemorable I can’t think of anything funny to write here.

Kevin: So CJ even though we both finally got around to seeing “Justice League” last week, we completely went against the whole theme of the film by seeing it separately, while if the entire Tough Guy Squad had seen it together we could have been the most powerful reviewing team of all time. For the record, if we were to compare ourselves to the Justice League, I would say that Mike would be the Flash because of his crowd-pleasing wisecracks, CJ would be Wonder Woman because he is also a symbol of female empowerment, Anthony would be Superman because he shows up super late (plus it would be too obvious making him Cyborg since Anthony is also black and part robot), and I would be Batman, because like Ben Affleck I would be able to get in amazing shape for one movie and then show up bloated and hung over for the next one after thinking “ehh, I’m sure I can go out and just nurse a couple of beers tonight.”

(By the way, is Ben Affleck possibly the most relatable movie star of all time? He looked like a Greek god in “Batman v. Superman,” and all he had to do was maintain that for a few months before shooting “Justice League.” Unfortunately that in-between period coincided with football season, and Ben obviously couldn’t resist reverting back to getting drunk during Pats games and staying up late playing online poker and trolling Jets fans on message boards. It’s like the movie star version of the guy who gets into shape for his wedding photos but then packs on 10 pounds before the actual wedding two weeks and one bachelor party later.)

the-justice-league-part-one_DAf1c0.jpg

I think that belt is getting a little tight there Ben.

But back to the movie, let me just start by throwing out a few random thoughts. First, remember that weird slo-mo shot in the original teaser trailer of Cyborg playing football? (1:24 mark):

I remember thinking when I saw that, “Huh, I have a feeling that this will not appear anywhere in the actual movie,” and I was right. Unfortunately for Ray Fisher I am guessing that the Cyborg stand-alone movie is probably not going to happen, but if it were I would propose it should be a prequel that exclusively focuses on his college football days at GCU. No superheroics, no foreshadowing of his future Cyborgness of any kind (except one “wink wink” moment when he does the “robot” at the school dance or something), just a self-contained story about Cyborg almost being corrupted by rich alumni but rediscovering his values and still winning the big game against Gotham State in the Luthor Bowl (with a shot of a beaming Joe Morton in the stands).

b45b62a448211163

Now what was up with that opening scene of Batman interrupting Holt McCallany in the middle of robbing some apartment, before being then interrupted by the flying mosquito monster? Considering Superman has been dead a year and the world has apparently turned to shit, you’d think Batman would have more important stuff to be focused on than stopping this one rooftop cat burglary that actually seems kind of quaint and nostalgic in retrospect.

We then get the dour opening credits in which we see exactly two examples that I guess are supposed to show how the absence of Superman has turned society into a fetid swamp of crime and corruption: 1) A guy knocks over some fruit and yells at a Muslim woman in a hijab (I’m guessing she’s Muslim, it could have been a southern Baptist who just likes the look). 2) A guy is homeless. That’s it. Uh, would either of these things really be at the top of Superman’s priorities list anyway? I’m pretty sure there were homeless people in Metropolis before Lex Luthor started creating unstoppable monsters and sending jars of piss to Holly Hunter.

Now CJ I think we both agree with the general consensus that The Incredible CGI Man (also known as ‘70s rock supergroup Steppenwolf) is the greatest villain in comic book and possibly movie history, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that we may look back and wonder someday if maaaaaaybe he was not exactly a worthy first opponent for D.C.’s finest. You know who would have been though? Ed Harris’ rocket-launcher-wielding Secretary of State from “Geostorm.” Now that’s a guy who I could actually see not only defeating the Justice League, but also the Avengers and the heroic monsters who will eventually team up in Universal’s Dark Universe. Oh, Universal just cancelled that after “The Mummy” flopped? Never mind then.

GEOSTORM

“Son of Jor-El, kneel before whatever my name was in ‘Geostorm’.”

I know I am getting ahead of myself here, but let’s talk about the scene later on when the Justice League use the last remaining Mother Box to bring Superman back to life (yes this is another superhero movie where a world-destroying villain needs several doodads in order to fulfill his evil plan). I will say that while I and the rest of America knew Superman would be resurrected somehow in “Justice League,” I did not expect that this would involve digging up his grave and stealing his corpse (by the way, how are they going to explain how Clark Kent is suddenly alive as well after a year?).

Anyway, after they revive Superman inside Zod’s spaceship (they really need better security in that thing considering how many times it has been broken into), they end up having to battle him while he’s still confused and disoriented in a pretty neat sequence, and after getting their asses kicked and watching him fly away, they turn around to see Steppenwolf – who apparently has been secretly following them while hidden behind a potted plant “Looney Tunes”-style – stealing the last box and using his Stargate portal to take him back to … wherever he hangs out when not stealing intergalactic MacGuffins and threatening to destroy the world. Honestly they could have practically done a “yoink!” sound effect here.

I have to say this is clearly on Batman, since as the only Justice League member without super speed or the ability to fly (by the way, can Aquaman fly? Seems like he can but still not sure), he should have been the one locking up the place and hiding the object that could destroy the world under the welcome mat before he left. Considering he was the one who convinced everyone to revive Superman – a plan that appears at first to backfire spectacularly – and he lectures everyone about the importance of not letting Steppenwolf have the last box, I would have loved if, after watching Steppenwolf be all “Ha ha, so long suckers!,” we got a scene of Affleck in the Batmobile re-enacting this moment from “Boogie Nights”:

CJ: I’d make a great Wonder Woman for two reasons. First, we have a shared dislike of Nazis (#TruthTalk), and second, we both love to beat up foppish British gentlemen who turn out to be the God of War. Also Kevin, everyone trolls Jets fans – why else would we have them?

Anyway, I was super confused by Cyborg in this movie. All he does for the first half is mope around feeling sorry for himself. Boy it must be tough being you dude, you can fly, have all the knowledge of the world, and are constantly discovering new and cool abilities every day! You know what I would do? I would run around seeing what kind of shit I could punch through; I bet it’s a lot of shit! After that I’d probably kill everyone who I felt had wronged me in my life. (Note to Kevin: Maybe delete this part where I freely admit I would go into full blown supervillainly within 15 minutes. That will not help me in court. Although I could probably blow up the court …)

Now going back to the beginning, the only thing missing from those opening credits would have been a shot of a five-year-old girl watching that very minor hate crime in progress as she slo-mo drops her lone daisy into a puddle. At which point the homeless man vomits all over it. Because he is drunk. And disgusting.

As far as Steppenwolf, as much as I enjoy the unstoppable villain type, they don’t actually show him doing anything to scare anyone. Think about it, every time he shows up he just screams “ARGH! I WILL DESTROY ALL OF YOU!” and then runs away while holding a box. We already have those types of folks in modern day America: they are called crazy people, and teens throw garbage at them.

But Steppenwolf does bring up one thing which has driven me nuts in other movies. For example, in “Thor: Ragnorak,” they show a brief snippet of a mega battle the villain Hela once waged, and in “Lord of the Rings” they show a vicious battle in which Sauron was first defeated. In “Justice League” we are once again treated to a snippet of what seems like an AWESOME battle royal of Steppenwolf vs. Greek gods, the Green Lantern Corps, Amazonians, Atlantians, Humans; basically everyone teaming up and kicking ass. And just like in “Thor” and “LOTR,” we quickly go back to a narrator who basically says, “but we all know that story, so no point in saying much more.” And just like in those movies, I must ask: “Why the hell don’t you make THAT the movie????”

the-lord-of-the-rings-the-return-of-the-king_80d35ddd.jpg

Kevin: Yeah it’s weird, in all of these movies the battle from way in the past looks super awesome in the five seconds we see, yet all the battles our heroes fight with Steppenwolf in the present are pretty lame; mainly they just attack him individually like henchmen in a Steven Seagal movie, get in a few good hits, then get knocked into a wall so that another individual superhero can get in their quick shot (I feel like you could do a drinking game every time someone gets knocked into a wall and causes it to crack behind them; this movie is like a contractor’s wet dream).

Maybe this is some sort of statement about how things are better in our memories, and when future generations recount the final Steppenwolf vs. Justice League fight it will be a lot cooler than some unmemorable scrap in a Russian shithole that is seemingly populated by one lone family, who apparently are doing their own version of the people in M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Village” by closing themselves off from modern society and living as if it was still the time of Rasputin.

(Oh I forgot, Superman rescues an entire building full of people by himself, which would have been a better joke if we had any indication that anyone else lived there other than that one loser family we kept cutting back to. Seriously, do these people have running water? Access to food or any communications infrastructure? Any contact with the outside world? Why were they there?)

Also, I’m surprised that after three movies that Wonder Woman has still not been called Wonder Woman yet. As hacky as it is, I would have expected by now we’d see some reporter saying, “The fact that so many people have been wondering who this woman is has led many in the media to dub her ‘Wonder Woman.’” Also no one refers to the Flash as “the Flash” or Cyborg as “Cyborg.” They do have that annoying thing though where they refer to everyone else as “the Batman,” “the Aquaman,” “the Superman,” etc.

On that note, let’s talk about our heroes:

Batman: I really liked Affleck in “B vs. S,” but man does it seems obvious his heart is not in these movies anymore. I think with the first go round he felt like he had something to prove to all the naysayers who criticized his casting as Batman, so he stepped up his game in both the gym and on screen and gave a really committed take on the character. But even though he was considered one of the bright spots of that film, I think the general audience and critical reaction to “B vs. S” really got in his head.

the-justice-league-part-one_Pn9vwR.jpg

Wonder Woman: As good as Gal Gadot is in the role, I’m starting to think that Wonder Woman may not be that versatile of a character in a modern-world context. Maybe in the upcoming sequel, director Petty Jenkins can again give her more nuance besides “fierce asskicking female,” but I have a feeling her chemistry and interplay with Chris Pine will be sorely missed.

wonder-woman_IETlch.jpg

The Flash: I was prepared to find Ezra Miller really annoying, but even though they lay on the comedy relief a bit thick, most of his jokes land. Plus he has some great facial reactions, especially when he notices Superman tracking his movements even in superspeed, and when he is the only one on the roof who finds it odd that a half robot man has just randomly shown up. I actually would pay to see his spin-off, but I have a feeling any stand-alone Flash movie will actually be a de facto “Wonder Woman 3” with Flash running all the way back to 1920 and helping Diana Prince register women to vote.

the-justice-league-part-one_YLEmNN

Aquaman: At least Aquaman’s spin-off is already in the can and thus is unaffected by “Justice League’s” poor box office, because I enjoyed Jason Momoa as well. The moment with him pouring his heart out and then realizing he’s sitting on the lasso of truth was great, and I totally would be down if he and Wonder Woman hooked up someday. Seriously though, can he fly, I’m still not sure?

the-justice-league-part-one_x8P4FE.jpg

Superman: After two movies I finally like Superman. I remember watching “Man from U.N.C.L.E” and thinking “Man, Henry Cavill is really fun in this, why can’t they do that for Superman?” Well in this they finally did. Superman at last seems to enjoy being the most powerful person in the world, and when he showed up at the end I was glad to have him back. This version of the character is one that I would actually like to see in the future, which again based on the box office though is somewhat in doubt.

the-justice-league-part-one_4Ftbuz

Cyborg: I have no idea how to describe his powers, other than that they are a screenwriter’s dream since they can use him to write themselves out of any narrative hole. The Justice League is about to be overrun? Cyborg can suddenly fire a tactical nuke out of his arm! Can’t find the giant mythological world-destroying bad guy? Cyborg turns into a human Google Maps and locates him in Chernobyl! The Metropolis Mustangs are thin at running back? Give Cyborg the ball and some protection on the offensive line!

1ziqdat7g0gwdgivt0cnzba

CJ: I think my biggest disappointment with Batman is that he doesn’t kill anyone (avoids comic fan daggers).

But yeah, the whole “Batman doesn’t kill” rule is quite possibly the dumbest thing that people cling to, especially when everyone these days demands with frothy anger that all movies be 100% based on logic and reality. Well sorry guys, in that case Batman should shoot people. If there is a serial killer on the loose terrorizing and murdering everyone, Batman showing up and being all “Hey good news, he is hanging from a loose rope right over there. Ok, gotta jet!,” pretty much guarantees some other bad guy will cut him down, allowing him to probably stab that guy and whoever is nearby.

Now, if he’s there long enough for the cops to get him and put him in jail, we are still fucked since it is firmly established in comic book lore that if you are a criminal locked up in Arkham Asylum you will probably be out of there in about 49 minutes. No one does hard time in these things. So shouldn’t we prefer Batman show up, toss him off a building, and then shoot him in the head? This guarantees 100% that you will never have to deal with him again. But nope, enter hippie Batman who believes in giving people 19th chances, because THIS time they’ll get it together.

Speaking of assholes, let’s talk about Joss Whedon, the man who has Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, but decides what we all have come to see is jokes (as opposed to what he usually thinks we want to see, which is a disturbing focus on female high school characters from a middle-aged man). If I could put my critic’s hat on for a moment: fuck this guy.

dollhouse_1795ed27

When you have people who can punch through ships, shoot lasers, are masters in hand-to-hand combat, and hold tridents, YOU FILL THE WHOLE MOVIE WITH THAT SHIT! I didn’t need Flash wasting my time boo-hooing over his father and proclaiming he will get a law degree. Run and steal the keys and break him out, it’s been proven no one will see you. What “Justice League” should have been was 10 minutes of the heroes going “sup” to each other after meeting for the first time, then Steppenwolf shows up, flips them off, maybe kicks a dog, and then the League spends a good hour-plus beating the shit out of him, his army, and Russians.

Then, after defeating him, they spend 30 minutes showing off cool things they can do with their powers, like lasering trees in half, throwing heavy shit, and maybe creating huge tsunamis that destroy terrible places like Florida as they all laugh and high-five. THE END.

mv5bnjkynjlhndctzmmwyy00nzrjltkzmgetzjhmmdu2nddlyjkzxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjuzodaxmta-_v1_

Kevin: Regarding your first point CJ, we’ve already touched upon the scene in “Batman Returns” when Batman burned a weird circus asshole to death merely because he was kind of annoying. Let’s not forget about when he also blew up a guy in the same movie and smiled about it:

And guess what, no one at the time gave a shit because it was awesome. Speaking of regard for human life, remember when the comic book nerds previously got offended at Zach Snyder for having Superman kill Zod at the end of “Man of Steel,” because Superman also has a no-killing policy just like Batman and that useless pussy Jeff Speakman? Apparently it was totally out of character for him to kill Zod, except for that time he killed Zod in “Superman II” :

Not only does he nonchalantly toss Zod to his death in his bottomless dry ice pit (hey maybe put some tape around that or something so a kid doesn’t fall in there by accident), but he crushes his hand and puts him in agonizing pain before letting him plunge. Personally that seems way worse than quickly snapping his neck (by the way, I felt that “Man of Steel” was a nice throwback to the days of “Lethal Weapon” when snapping a bad guy’s neck was as easy as cracking your knuckles). But apparently the casually murdering Christopher Reeve version of Superman is what every depiction should aspire to, except for when Bryan Singer did that with “Superman Returns” and we were all bored as shit.

And I will not have you say anything bad about Joss Whedon. He is a strong male feminist champion of women in Hollywood, and I know that mainly because he never stops saying he is. Oh yeah, remember before “Jurassic World” came out and he felt the need to call out the director on Twitter for an out-of-context clip of Chris Pratt flirting with Bryce Dallas Howard? And then two months later he had to abandon Twitter after angry feminists lashed out at his portrayal of Black Widow as a childless monster in “Age of Ultron”? And then how his ex-wife called him out for preying on “beautiful, needy” actresses? Where was I going with this? Never mind, fuck Joss Whedon.

© Copyright 2008 Corbis Corporation

Hmmm …

Somewhat related, apparently a number of people have noticed that Gal Gadot is filmed in a more objectified, male-gazey way in this compared to “Wonder Woman.” Whereas Jason Momoa was dressed in three-piece suits the entire movie. Oh wait, he had several shirtless scenes and no one apparently cared about how those of us men who don’t look like Jason Momoa would feel about seeing these unrealistic beauty standards. Or maybe we can admit that Gal Gadot and Jason Momoa are perfect physical specimens of both genders and we would like to see them in as little clothes as possible.

the-justice-league-part-one_5l04gT.jpg

Also I’ll note that unlike “Batman v. Superman,” Affleck did not take his shirt off at all in this movie. Whereas while we had the Crossfit montage in the earlier one with him sweatily working out with the giant tire, I’d have loved seeing a similar montage in this of him stress-eating entire gallons of Haagen Dazs and boxes of Krispy Kreme. Although while we’ve seen a lot of heroes in either action or comic book films who are supposed to be alcoholic washouts yet they have six-pack abs and clear skin, Affleck in this actually looks like a guy who fights crime and who also perhaps drank a few too many beers the night before while adding a bunch of shit to his Netflix wishlist without actually watching anything.

Also not sure why this bugged me, but remember at the end when Clark is thanking Bruce for saving his farm, and he’s all “I don’t know how you did it.” Really? I think you can imagine a few ways billionaire Bruce Wayne could have saved one shitty farm there Clark.

man-of-steel_cfdd78.jpg

CJ: Yeah, isn’t he a reporter? No wonder Morpheus only has him covering sporting events and tells him his headlines beforehand.

batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice_xskxpa.jpg

Kevin: Then when Bruce tells Clark he bought the bank, it’s supposed to be a great laugh line, but seriously, I know he has billions but this has to impact the bottom line at some point considering he seems to constantly make $40 million investments based on a whim. The steak is overdone at some hotel restaurant? Bruce buys the hotel. A movie he wanted to see is sold out? Bruce buys the entire theater chain. I would love to see in a sequel Bruce getting the financials back on First Bank of Smallville a few years later and being like, “Fuck, these assholes never pay their bills, I’m foreclosing on all of them!”

Seriously though, I think I am on the same page as many people in saying that after a totally by-the-numbers first act, I really enjoyed these characters and would like to see them in another adventure, which unfortunately is up in the air right now because the threat they deal with in “Justice League” is shockingly dull and unoriginal considering how important this film is to Warner Brothers.

As with “Batman v. Superman” and “Suicide Squad,” it also bears all the hallmarks of a movie from a director with a distinctive filmmaking vision that got nitpicked to death by constant studio interference and post-production meddling. I look forward to the superior three-hour director’s cut of “Justice League” considering how much better the longer Snyder-approved version of “Batman v. Superman” turned out to be (the longer “Suicide Squad” still sucked).

Now CJ you actually stayed for the final post-credit scene, so did that give you hope that if we do get a “Justice League 2” that they will get some worthy opponents this time?

batman-and-robin_3e9aea

Like these guys maybe?

CJ: I liked “Man of Steel” and I liked “Batman v. Superman,” and I have no shame in admitting I also liked “Justice League.” Sure, I’d cut 20 minutes from the first act and put it in the third act, and drop four of Flash’s jokes, but it was fun seeing them all interact but also not feel the need to fight over who is a better stand-up comic.

The post-credits scene actually does set up something interesting. While most people assumes they would be setting up the next villain as Darkseid (who I assume is Thanos except he will win in the end and slaughter mankind), it is actually Lex Luthor talking to Deathstroke and discussing the idea of their own league of supervillains to fight the Justice League. That could be cool! Imagine Luthor, Joker, Deathstroke, Riddler, etc., all teaming up to launch a full out assault on the Justice League. Count me in!

Then again, Warner Bros. will probably tease that and it’ll just be Luthor hurting the League by crippling them financially and through intolerance.

batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice_mez5BE.jpg

Post Script:

CJ: Hold up, I just came up with a great sequel/crossover. It’s called “Fast 9: Furious Jus9ice.” In it, all the Furyverse people realize they need to steal the world’s greatest tanks, put in super high-end turbo jet engines, and zoom those puppies around to steal all the nuclear launch codes (as they have been hired by Lex Luthor).

But wait, they’ve been warned about the Justice League, and how they are now out and about and ready to stop bad guys. Vin says something cool like “They may be a league, but they ‘aint a family!,” as he drinks a warm and delicious Corona. Vin details how they will always be one step ahead of the League because they got a guy who can talk his way out of anything. It all culminates in a standoff where all the Furyers are revving up their tank cars, and on the other side is the Justice League. At this point Flash says “I can’t fight them, I don’t even have my learner’s permit!” (hold for laughs)

Then, the Furyers take off, heading right for them! Vin screams “FOR PAUL, I MEAN BRIAN!” through his rolled up windows as the team is ready to roll right over the Justice League. It is at this point that Superman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, and Aquaman take three seconds to grab, throw, crush, and laser their cars into smithereens. Flash quickly runs to grab all the drivers and line them up, at which point Batman shoots them all in the head. Vin laughs because his bullet goes right through, and thus he will live. So Aquaman tridents him in the dick. The end.

the-fast-and-the-furious_1333f2b5 (2)

Thanks for joining the discussion, and to get regular updates on all our content hit the Follow button and check us out on Twitter

One thought on “Review: The World’s Greatest Heroes Battle the World’s Shittiest Villain in “Justice League”

  1. Pingback: TGD Trailer Round-Up: New “Avengers,” Spacey-less “All the Money in the World,” and … Paddington 2! | Tough Guy Digest

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s