Yes, it’s Weekly Wonder Woman – keeping you up to date on pretty much anything involving DC Comics’ premier superheroine, including how badly her latest movie is doing
Oh dear. Poor old DC/Warners. Last week, the signs were looking good for Justice League at the overseas box office. However, the US box office taking this past weekend has been below expectations: $96m, which although pretty good is the lowest ever opening for a DC Extended Universe movie. It also got a ‘40% rotten’ critics score on Rotten Tomatoes and is now projected to lose Warner somewhere between $50m and $100m.
All is not lost, however, since it’s Thanksgiving week in the US, and Justice League did eventually hit its domestic mark after another day’s takings. It’s also done $185m outside the US and has an audience Rotten Tomatoes score of 85%, meaning audiences liked it twice as much as critics did – in fact, they liked it more than Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, although not quite as much as Wonder Woman, naturally.
Still, already everyone and their auntie is weighing in on what went wrong. Previously, director Zac Snyder had been universally blamed for all previous failings of DCEU movies. However, a personal tragedy meant that he departed the movie after shooting a big chunk of it, upon which Warner hired Joss Whedon (yes, that one) to do some rewrites and reshoots.
Weirdly, a whole bunch of people are therefore putting Justice League‘s perceived failings down to there being not enough Snyder and too much Whedon. There’s even a petition by fans to have a Snyder cut of the movie that the movie’s own cinematographer is backing. Someone even claims to have a list of all the changes Whedon made. All the hints in Batman v Superman as to the original plot of Justice League are probably out the window – or maybe they’ll turn up in Justice League 2 if that ever happens.
Want to know what I think of Justice League? Well, I’ll tell you after the jump. But first, let’s talk about comics…
It’s a six-issue mini-series called The Brave and the Bold: Batman and Wonder Woman, out on February 21st. One week earlier and people would talk. The series will mix Wonder Woman’s Amazonian mythology with the legends of Irish and Celtic gods. “The story would involve the death of an Irish god, and Wonder Woman would bring in Batman, the world’s greatest detective, to help investigate.”
Sharp said this new story will be a continuation of his Wonder Woman series with [Greg] Rucka, taking place not long after their final issue. He said Wonder Woman and her classic supporting character Steve Trevor are still a couple, but that he was tempted to add a little of the romantic spark that has existed between Batman and Wonder Woman over the years in various adaptations.
“There’s a moment [between Batman and Wonder Woman] in it. It’s more of a nod than anything else,” Sharp said. “I fell very much in love with the Steve and Diana story during the series with Greg. We felt like we gave him a certain richness to his personality that perhaps he’d lacked somewhat previously. There was a sense that the fanbase said this is right and this is how it should be. So I don’t want to spoil that. That’s the [Wonder Woman] that we created and that’s the dynamic that we created, but at the same time there is a [romantic] nod [to Batman].”
Should be fun. And well drawn.
Wonder Woman #35
We learn how Wonder Woman’s brother Jason was born, raised and learned about his sister.
What does Diana do?
Appear on tele.
I do have to wonder whether DC are deliberately doing this or are just complete klutzes when it comes to scheduling. Justice League out in cinemas? Wonder Woman prominent in all the advertising, Wonder Woman having been this summer’s blockbuster? Right. Let’s have a two-part story in her own comic in which she barely appears.
A long, slow hand-clap for DC editorial, please. Well done, guys. Well done.
But what about the story itself? As per issue #34, assuming we have a reliable narrator, issue #35 appears to take a whole bunch of things from the nu52, DCYou, Greg Rucka’s Rebirth storyline and even Wonder Woman, stick them in a liquidiser, and then serve up the result as an entirely new, moderately nutritious, completely contradictory story.
Jason’s story is as we assumed set in the modern day, not Roman times as we literally saw in previous comics. Jason’s born, but since he’s a bit harder to hide from Hera on an island of women, he’s given to former Argonaut Glaucus to raise as his own son.
Here, writer James Robinson does his usual trick. No, not writing an issue of Wonder Woman that doesn’t feature Wonder Woman – the other one. No, not borrowing a bunch of forgotten characters from the 70s and 90s – he does that later. I meant the other other one.
Yes, he starts us off in medias res and then fills in some back story:
Yes, he’s the son of Hippolyta and Zeus, just like Diana. You’ll notice that’s not exactly the nu52 Zeus mind, being a tad older and whiter, but at least it’s the dark-haired Hippolyta of Rebirth. We then see baby Jason being handed over to Glaucus through the Wonder Woman Themyscira cloaking device:
Hercules drops by from time to time to feel a bit guilty about all the things he did when he was young. Oh yes, and to train Jason in the art of war.
Jason’s inner hero will out though, even if he has to wear a ski mask:
The observant will notice The Olympian is down for the count there. Judging by the outfit, that’s the Gail Simone version of The Olympian, which means Achilles (yes, that one) might be alive and well in the Rebirth universe. Whether his backstory is the same is a different matter.
Robinson seems to love resurrecting old characters. As well as The Olympian and Hercules, Jason also gets to meet the Deep Six.
Which is where our story ends. No suggestion yet as to how Grail managed to turn Jason to the dark side, which means we’ll be getting that next issue.
However, Robinson appears to be gender-mirroring Wonder Woman’s own upbringing, something hinted at by the cover. He’s raised entirely by men. He’s trained in war by Hercules, a man guilty of some bad man-crimes and whose cult in ancient times was one of the few male-only cults. He also uses his powers to woo women, so there’s a bit of an ego at work. Perhaps we’re going to get an allegory for feminism versus toxic masculinity?
One final note: the scenes of Diana on TV are from the nu52’s Justice League #3, not from Diana’s official first appearance on TV in Greg Rucka’s ‘Truth and Lies’ storyline. She’s even wearing her nu52 outfit, not her Rebirth outfit. So was ‘Truth and Lies’ all a bunch of lies, was the nu52 real, is Jason making stuff up or are we in yet another reality? Or did no one give artist Emanuela Lipacchino the right reference material?
Was it any good?
Despite the continuing continuity headaches and Robinson starting to repeat his toolbox of narrative tricks, a generally enjoyable issue, albeit one that doesn’t really explain anything or advance the plot, just fill in a bit of Jason’s background.
Rating: 3/7 (Artwork: 4/7)
Justice League (2017)
New God Steppenwolf wants to reunite the three Motherboxes he’s left on Earth, so that he can convert the planet into a hell hole like his own. The Amazons have one Motherbox, the Atlanteans have another and Star Labs has the third. It’s up to Batman and Wonder Woman to recruit a new team of heroes, including the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg, to save the planet. And maybe, just maybe, they can help bring a somewhat dead hero back to life…
Is it any good?
In a word, no.
However, that does undersell it considerably because Justice League is actually a set of five pretty good movies that simply don’t work very well when squished together into a two-hour runtime where nothing really has the chance to have any impact.
BEWARE: SOME SPOILERS AHEAD
Diana – and Gal Gadot – are, of course, great. She’s fun and funny, she’s what holds the Justice League together, and she’s the one who knows the right thing to do. Indeed, unlike her neophyte self in Wonder Woman, here she’s the one who knows everything and is filling all the other heroes in on the plot. She can go toe-to-toe with the other heroes and with a New God, she gets to do bullet and bracelets against machine gun fire, she can fly, and she appears to be very, very rich. She also seems to like to spend her weekends fighting crime in Paris and London.
Diana’s a given. But take Aquaman. As a character, he’s never been cool. In fact, he’s frequently mocked by comic fans for being rubbish. He’s even mocked for being rubbish in his own comic. TV versions of the character have been terrible, too. But in Justice League he is the epitome of cool. He’s Jason Momoa with tribal body tattoos, swilling whiskey from the bottle and lurking out among fishermen in Iceland. Sure, he can “talk to fish”, but he comes across more like a water elemental akin to Swamp Thing, he’s that cool. He makes Batman look like he’s wearing a Global Hypercolour T-shirt.
Speaking of Batman, he’s fun. He has some great moments as the only fully human member of the League, one who’s been fighting crime for 20 years and is now feeling his age. He gets bruised and beaten, but knows his limitations. Just like all the League, you feel his humanity for a change, not just his cowl.
The Flash is hysterical. The Speed Force effects are brilliant and make the Quicksilver effects in X-Men: Days of Future Past look like the BBC did them in the 1970s.
Cyborg’s great, with Ray Fisher giving a haunted performance akin to that of Lee Majors in the initial episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man – a former athlete brought back to life by technology against his wishes and who finds his cybernetic body changes with every passing moment in ways he can’t even control.
Superman’s in it, too. Gosh, was that a spoiler? I’m so sorry. Who could have known? And he’s great. He smiles. He’s fun, he makes jokes, there’s joy in him. He gets to use super-breath. Henry Cavill actually gets to be the Superman we know, a powerful alien who loves life and helping people, rather than some miserable quasi-god. He gets to be Clark Kent, too, which is a great touch. He’s also properly terrifying when angry.
Even the supporting cast get to be great. Amy Adams’ Lois Lane serves a function. She’s not there to be rescued. In fact, she does some rescuing herself. You’ll like this Lois Lane.
The Amazons show up. They get to fight alongside the Old Gods in a flashback, with Zeus and Artemis (and Ares according to the credit list but I think I must have blinked and missed him) getting to show off their powers, too. They fight a New God almost to a standstill in a long, impressive battle in modern times, too. Shame Diana’s got all the magic weapons with her, though…
New arrival Amber Heard is here as Mera, the queen of Atlantis. Now, speaking as someone who’s sat through a huge number of really terrible Amber Heard movies, I can confidently say she’s never been better. She’s actually great in this as Mera and the movie shows how powerful she’s going to be in Aquaman.
Everyone gets some great storylines. Everyone gets some great dialogue and some kick ass moments. There are some wonderful scenes, such as the throw-away mid-credits scene of Superman and The Flash having a race. Our superheroes may be fighting a New God who could kill them all, but they’re still going to take time out to save civilians – clearly, they’ve all seen Man of Steel and Batman v Superman and know better now.
The trouble is when they’re together. Now, the set-piece of the movie is when Superman comes back to life a bit shook up and confused and the rest of the League have to fight him. That is genuinely cool and a real demonstration of everyone’s powers.
There are also some great character-developing conversations that make our heroes worthy of our concerns.
But that aside, together, everyone ends up being a guest in another genre in which they don’t quite work. Momoa’s Aquaman is going to be wonderful underwater and having flirty chats with Mera, but he’s a sulky dick with the rest of the League.
He’s not the only dick. Even when he comes to his senses, Superman’s rubbing his mightiness in everyone’s faces. The Flash may be able to rescue one family in a car, but look, there goes Superman carrying an entire building of them.
Diana, of course, has gone from being the centre of things in Wonder Woman, surrounded by Amazons and directed by a woman. Here, she’s the lone woman being directed by men. Off duty, she’s always wearing skin-tight trousers, while as Wonder Woman, her skirt’s a bit shorter and bottom-hugging. Maybe not a problem were it not for the fact that the camera seems to want to swoop low and follow her from behind the whole time. And while presumably she’s holding back a bit in the fight with Superman, she seems a little out-matched by him, which is never good – she might be faster than many speeding bullets but Superman’s the only one who’s able to keep up with the Flash.
She’s also forced to endure the “I accidentally sat on the Lasso, ‘Gosh you’re gorgeous. Why am I saying this?'” routine that so many superheroes have put her through over the years. Still, at least it makes you appreciate Patty Jenkins’ work so much more by contrast.
The quick runtime doesn’t help. Now, I have to admit to being excited when I heard that Justice League clocked in at a mere two hours. Remember, the ultimate edition of Batman V Superman was just over three hours. No human being should have to endure three hours of Batman v Superman.
But here, with so many characters, two hours is way too short. There’s just not enough time for even a basic Jesus metaphor, let alone to make much feel like it has import. Initial scenes about how everyone in the world is sad now Superman is dead get brushed away pretty quickly and never get fully developed. It takes about five minutes for the Justice League to come up with the idea of bringing Superman back to life using a Motherbox to actually bringing him back to life. Not even three days. Then we’re on to other things. Planet being terraformed? We’ll have that fixed for you in a jiffy. More trivially, it means all Snyder’s usual lingering, wonder-filled, moody shots just don’t have time to sink in.
Also not helping is that pretty much all the movie’s plot has been done before, usually by Marvel. Comparisons with The Avengers are obvious, but the Steppenwolf war backstory is the Asgardians v Ice Giants plot of Thor; assembling hidden alien artefacts is Captain America and everything involving the Infinity Stones; East European countries and their plucky inhabitants being decimated by aliens and rescued by heroic groups is Avengers: Age of Ultron; and terraforming by alien baddies is Man of Steel.
You really will have seen it all before.
CGI isn’t great either. Some of the fight scenes lack impact and feel as weightless as the superhero films of the early 2000s, but more noticeable are the shots of Henry Cavill where CGI has been used to remove the moustache he had during Whedon’s reshoots. He looks like a robot and that’s from the very first shot of the movie onwards. You won’t believe a man can shave.
The last odd choice is Danny Elfman. Elfman composed some great tunes in the 90s for Michael Keaton’s Batman, as well as The Flash on TV. He’s a good composer for jaunty little, quirky things. But going from Hans Zimmer’s superb, bombastic, hyper-important compositions to Elfman makes everything feel throwaway. With a Zimmer score, this cut of Justice League might have got away with its other problems; with Elfman, it can’t.
There is probably a better cut of this that could be done. While Snyder’s somewhat soulless and ponderous previous efforts don’t fill me with huge confidence, he’s a better director than Joss Whedon so I’d be interested to see what he could do with Whedon’s words.
But we have what we have and it’s… okay. It’s a Marvelising reboot of the DC cinematic universe that restores some semblance of fun to it. I’m probably damning with faint praise to say that it’s not great, but at least it’s not Batman v Superman bad, but that’s probably the best summing up of it I can muster.
Nevertheless, what it is good at is acting as a springboard for the next set of DC Extended Universe movies. I’m now properly looking forward to Aquaman and The Flash. I’m intrigued by Cyborg. Even a Batfleck movie wouldn’t be out of the question.
Wonder Woman’s in a good place at the end of the movie (even if that place appears to be a Sensation Comic) so even if Wonder Woman 2 isn’t a period piece but set in the modern day, that would work fine now. I’d love to see another Henry Cavill movie with him as this Superman – a romantic or a platonic Superman-Wonder Woman would be great, too.
But let’s see what we get.