Tag Archives: Ezra Miller

One Vision

Zack Snyder’s Justice League

by George Wolf

No matter what you thought of Justice League 1.0, the mere arrival of this “Snyder Cut” is fascinating on multiple levels.

It’s more than the Everest of fan service. There just isn’t any way Snyder’s DCEU epic – this version of it anyway – would exist without the Snyder/Whedon mashup mess of 2017.

It’s four freaking hours, people! You think Snyder’s gonna get that (and the extra millions for reshoots) without the whole hashtag campaign? But while the extended time and money giveth, they also taketh away, meaning that first JL debacle can take some ironic credit for all that’s better – and worse – about round two.

But it is indeed better.

More than anything, it’s a singular vision. The first was nothing if not a super-sized compromise, but this is Snyder unbound, no compromises. The 4:3 format is enriched with greatly improved CGI, specifically the “armor of scales” appearance of Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciaran Hinds), the underwater depths of Atlantis and the complete absence of Superman’s (Henry Cavill, again a perfect Clark Kent) distractingly altered upper lip.

The character development – as you would hope with this run time – is much more satisfying, especially with the two justice leaguers we know the least: Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher).

And while truly important moments (Superman’s death and rebirth, for example) get the extra time they need to resonate, Snyder can still linger too long (those mini music videos, ugh) when he could be moving on.

Ben Affleck reminds you he’s a fine grizzled Batman, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman gets more badass moments and fewer leering camera angels, and at its core, the basic plot remains the same. Steppenwolf is seeking to unite the three “mother boxes” that will conquer another world for his master Darkseid (voiced by Ray Porter). But with the nurturing of return characters and the welcome appearance of new ones (like Darkseid), the chaptered storytelling feels more natural and complete.

Yes it is dark and brooding, and this League may hold the mother lode of daddy issues, but it never becomes tedious. And while you can’t quite call it fun, it is super, and heroic, and sometimes thrilling.

The stinger (actually an epilogue)? It’s a humdinger (nothing rhymes with epilogue), one that will more than satisfy the die hards while setting a major hook for more justice, darkly served.

Cheap Tricks

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald

by Hope Madden

People really miss Harry Potter.

Maybe they miss the romantic notion of outsiders among outsiders, or the oh-so-earnest world of good versus evil. J.K. Rowling enchanted a generation with a densely populated world of magic and mayhem and an awful lot of people long to go back. So many, in fact, that they will mostly settle for the sloppy bastard Fantastic Beast series.

It is still Rowling’s words, after all—the author pens the screenplays, inviting us back into that wizarding world, albeit about a generation or two earlier.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald picks up six months after its blandly likeable predecessor, 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Odd duck Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is banned from international travel by the Ministry of Magic. Grindewald (Johnny Depp) is in prison. Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller)—who conveniently survived what was clearly his death in the previous effort—wants to know who he is and where he belongs.

The second installment opens well, offering more vitality, thrill and sinister mayhem than you’ll find in its predecessor’s full 133 minutes.

Redmayne is as adorable as last time. Depp brings something seductively sinister to the role. And Rowling’s clear distaste for leaders who bang the drum for racial supremacy and fear mongering is both understandable and nicely executed.

David Yates returns to direct his sixth Potter-verse flick. He finds opportunities for the visual flourish that was the only true strength of the first Fantastic Beasts film, but manages far stronger narrative momentum this time around.

All of which really only leads to the frustration of realizing at the 134-minute mark that this film doesn’t end. In fact, the last scene is basically the beginning of the movie. The 130- minutes previous basically amounts to exposition that sets up the next film.

Which is funny, since the previous entire film amounts to little more than a preface to an actual narrative.

Characters are quirky, wardrobe is glorious, Ezra Miller broods well—all of which is a lot of what we’ve already seen. What Grindewald doesn’t offer is anything new, or any reason to care.





Strike a Pose

Justice League

by George Wolf

Fair or foul, each new superhero film release spurs a check of the scorecards: Marvel vs. DC. Last year, Wonder Woman finally put a solid check in the DC column, one that Justice League only leaves frustrated and alone.

Nearly every facet of the film not only betrays a few promising avenues left undeveloped, but also its basic superhero tenets that are bettered by similar films (including the underrated Batman v. Superman). These friends aren’t super, they’re awkwardly forced and often helpless against some distracting CGI.

Perhaps even more than superpowers, big screen heroes need memorable villains, and the newly formed Justice League offers none. Instead, they have Steppenwolf.

Steppenwolf is a mass of weak computer graphics (voiced by Ciaran Hinds), born to be wild but currently in search of the three “mother boxes” he needs to unleash “the end of worlds” and send everyone back to the Dark Ages.

With Superman (Henry Cavill) still dead, Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) recruit the surly Aquaman (Jason Momoa), the young Flash (Ezra Miller) and the brooding Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to join the cause.

They have the bodies. What they don’t have are characters worthy of investment.

Director Zack Snyder has them pose, trade overly dramatic declarations, and then do some additional posing while you may be checking your watch.

Comparisons to the first Avengers film are inevitable, especially with Joss Whedon on board as a co-writer, but Justice League just cannot get any resonance from the darker tone of the DC franchise. The push to be heavy and meaningful is an empty suit, despite well-meaning lip service to refugees and the importance of science.

Ironically, as the Marvel films continue to lean more comedic, the humorous moments in Justice League, usually courtesy of Miller and Mamoa, are among the film’s best. Rather than undercutting any dramatic tension, the humor here feels more logical and organic, similar to the highly effective funny bone in the recent Spider-Man: Homecoming.

And, with Gadot back on board, the difference in Wonder Woman through a male director’s lens is hard to miss. Yes, she gets some bad ass moments that she’s more than earned, but she also gets a more sexualized, less earnest presentation.

There are two extra “stinger” scenes to send you out discussing who the JL is fighting next, but perhaps the lasting impression of Justice League is just how behind-the-curve it all looks. Steppenwolf seems lifted from an old gaming commercial you might find on that VHS tape still lurking in your basement, while Cavill’s digitally-altered mouth (to remove a contractually obligated porn ‘stache he had during reshoots) sits there proudly like a new zit on prom night.

There is substance to be gleaned from DC, Wonder Woman was proof of that. But for now, Justice League is two tired steps back.