Thursday, November 23, 2017

Film review: Justice League

My plan to review movies seems mainly to be running along the DC Extended Universe set of films, because I love these characters very dearly, and some of the films, namely Batman v Superman and Wonder Woman, have been amazingly excellent. So I was waiting for Justice League with great anticipation. I was afraid to expect something wonderful, but hoped it wouldn't be as bad as Suicide Squad. The announcement of Joss Whedon's involvement troubled me, as he specializes in the kind of snarky banter that makes the Marvel movies so unimpressive to me, and he's one of the many Hollywood liberals unable to avoid spewing vitriol for a single moment since the last presidential election. I held on to hope, but deep down expected mediocrity. Turns out, my deep down expectation was correct.

Justice League

In short:
On my first viewing,

How good is it: Basically decent and fairly entertaining, dragged down by lame writing including political preaching, unremarkable cinematography, banal music; and more than anything, paling in comparison with past installments.

For whom do I recommend: Not suitable for children under around 12-13 due to foul language. I don't really recommend it, but it's an okay superhero movie for light entertainment. And of course, it will be a necessary part of this story, which I hope will get better again.

I'm placing the cut further down than usual on this review, because I have a particular piece of criticism for a scene that's a spoiler. (Albeit one I think everyone has guessed.)

The writing is full of that snarky, sarcastic Whedonian banter that I dreaded. Worse, there's political signaling, with wicked white males threatening a saintly female Moslem storekeeper and out-of-nowhere preaching about climate change. That's mostly at the beginning, however, and can be forgotten once the plot gets going. I had expected the worst offender in the snark department to be the Flash, played by Ezra Miller, but he was actually pretty funny, well balanced with serious moments involving his incarcerated father, as well as his interaction with Batman.

Ben Affleck's Batman was once again outstanding and the best part of the movie. A core part of the character, especially seen in the eighties and nineties comics but rarely seen in adaptations, is that Batman is extremely sad and extremely kind. While given a few poor lines in this film, Affleck still conveys this sadness and kindness better than any other portrayal I've seen, and the only one I haven't seen is George Clooney. The scenes where he instructs a panicked Flash on what to do in his first battle and where Wonder Woman tends to his dislocated shoulder are gems.

Cyborg, played by Ray Fisher, was okay, with some interesting characteristics. He could have used more energy and variation in his delivery.

The character that most disappointed me was Aquaman, played by Jason Momoa. The film can't seem to make up its mind whether to make him a gregarious, jolly fighter (as he is in Batman the Brave and the Bold); a grim eldritch warrior (as he is in Justice League Unlimited); or a loner lighthouse seadog (as he is in Throne of Atlantis); and he wavers uncertainly between all three. His scene with Mera in Atlantis is awkward and confusing, with backstory unnaturally shoehorned in when they should be talking about the monstrous conqueror who just attacked.

Said monstrous conqueror is Steppenwolf, voiced by Ciaran Hinds and played by a poorly-textured CG behemoth. I was greatly looking forward to a big screen portrayal of Jack Kirby's New gods, so brilliantly foreshadowed in Batman v Superman. I still have hopes for Apokalips and Darkseid himself, but Steppenwolf was quite unimpressive. He had no memorable lines and was not frightening.

But the thing that, more than anything, deprives the movie of the solemnity and emotional power of the previous films is the music. I do not know why they switched from Hans Zimmer to Danny Elfman, but it was a disastrous decision. Instead of Zimmer's throbbing, character-driven thematic tapestry, we get repetitive, forgettable fanfare that is just like any other Hollywood action flick. Scenes that could have been powerful are not, because the music contributes nothing.

I have one more evaluation of a particular sequence, which is spoilery and so below the cut. Overall, it was okay, but could have been so, so much better.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Morality of Fiction: Elsa and Quirrell

Image copyright Disney
Image copyright Warner Brothers
On this blogpost about the satanic evil of the song "Let it Go" from the movie Frozen, which declares "No right, no wrong, no rules for me I'm free!" there are several responses defending the movie by pointing out that Elsa's acts were portrayed as doing harm; she's not the good guy, they say.

It's true this is a mistake people frequently make: thinking that if a character, any character, voices a bad moral principle in a work of fiction, the work and the author are promoting that principle. I saw this mistake in action once when a Catholic publication, back when the books were new, featured an article making the common claim that Harry Potter was Satanic.

The article had a selection of quotes from the first book meant as evidence that it preached evil. Among them was the following, rather similar to the sentiment in "Let it Go":

"There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it."

I knew at once that the article-writer was not honest. That statement is said by Professor Quirrell, the villain of the first book, at the climax where Harry confronts him, the good vs. evil showdown. It is meant to show us how evil he is and tell us what Harry as the hero, and thus the moral of the story, stands counter to.

So, is Elsa a villain like Quirrell, voicing abhorrent moral principles for the hero to stand against and thereby teaching the viewers to likewise fight against such ideas?

Let's examine the differences between the characters, how they're portrayed. (I must note here that I have not seen Frozen and never intend to. But I know the plot, have read the lyrics to "Let it Go," and most importantly, have observed with great frequency (indeed, it is absolutely unavoidable) the manner in which the character Elsa is marketed.)

Quirrell is weak, cowardly, and smells bad. He sold his soul to evil in a disgusting bodily violation maintained by a cursed ritual involving the slaughter of unicorns. He is foul in deed and aspect. Nobody wants to be Quirrell.

Elsa, while she supposedly learns her lesson at the end, is all along an attractive figure. She endangers the land, yes, but in a pleasant-looking way. She's beautiful, sultry, wearing a gorgeous sparkly dress and living in an ornate fairy palace. Every little girl wants to be Elsa.

Now, there are plenty of beautiful and charismatic villains whose principles are still portrayed as wrong. But is Elsa's self-will really condemned? What is, overall, encouraged and glorified? Look at the way "Let it Go" is celebrated. Most of all, LOOK AT THE MARKETING. Are girls being encouraged to want to be the unfettered, selfish Elsa or are they not?

Parents, do not be fooled by Disney's family-friendly reputation. They have repeatedly promoted sodomy in their films and amusement parks. They preach self-will, pride, and rebellion against the laws of God.

Saturday, November 11, 2017


Specifically-movie Wonder Woman fanart for Armistice Day. I really liked that movie. It wasn't feminist at all after all! I just hope Justice League will be okay...

The background is my first try using gouache in a full piece. My results are rather amateurish, but I'm eager to learn its ways.