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Rob Reviews… Zack Snyder’s Justice League

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a comic book junkie! As a young kid, I loved comic books because of the costumes and the larger than life superheroics. As an adult, I’ve come to realize that superhero stories are are modern day myths. That, and superhero stores always bring me back to my youth.

Batman is, was, always has been and always will be my all-time favorite superhero. In fact he may very well be my very favorite fictional character in all of American popular culture. While I don’t currently have any tattoos, the one thing I have always assumed I would eventually get tattooed on my body – if it’s not my father or my son’s – would be a picture of Batman. That character is one of the few that has remained sacred to me for my entire life.

For the better part of the last 20 years, we have been living in the golden age of comic book movies. Special effects have advanced to a point that it is now possible to present for colored superheroics in a semi-realistic, live action fashion. It has been a fan boys wet dream. No longer do we have to be content with whatever garbage we get in a feature length movie format. There have been a wide range of comic book-based movies, ranging from the exceptional to the waste of time.

I wanted so badly to love Zack Snyder‘s take on the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). While I like a Marvel Comics, I’ve always been more of a DC guy myself. And I wanted so badly for DC‘s shared universe of movies to be just as good, if not better than the incredible run that marvel studios has created in just the last 10 years with their Marvel Cinematic Universe. With all of this, I sat down to watch Zack Snyder’s Justice League (ZSJL).

Zack Snyder definitely had a vision for the DCEU. Visually it is impressive. It reminds me a lot of his work on the film version of 300. That movie happens to look like it took each of the individual panels that make up the graphic novel, turn them into storyboards, and then turn those in to live action sequences. And while there are some very good moments and sequences in ZSJL that I really like, the finished product is somehow less than the sum of its parts.

It has been said, by Snyder, and others, that his take on the DCEU is the idea of living gods walking on earth. The fight scenes in his DCEU projects: man of steel, Batman versus superman: Dawn of justice, and justice league, look almost biblical in their presentation. I feel like I’m watching a live action reenactment of a painting or an ancient tapestry, or a Bible story. The flipside of this, of course, is that the regular mortals of the DCEU likewise seem like humans out of the old testament. They are insignificant beings, devoid of personality and only serve as background filler for the gods battling on Earth; the obvious exception to this being Martha Kent, Commissioner Gordon, Lois Lane, Silas Stone and Alfred.

Zack Snyder’s vision of the DCEU is a dark place, literally. Blue skies and green grass are non-existent. The only reds you see come from blood and explosions. We expect grit from Batman. Volcanic, apocalyptic landscapes are a given with the movies main villain, Darkseid. In fact, it’s the best know trait in the comic book version of his base of operations, the planet Apololips. The problem is, in this movie it’s difficult to tell the difference between Earth and Apokolips.

Make no mistake about it: ZSJL is a much better better film than Joss Whedon’s 2017 theatrical version of Justice League (JL) Clocking in a just over four hours, it is a much more fleshed-out, complete story. For that run time, it better be! Cyborg’s story arc is fully fleshed out. Ezra Miller‘s portrayal of The Flash in this extended cut seems like an altogether brand new performance, completely independent from the Joss Whedon version of the film. No longer is this character bumbling, annoying and downright creepy. Now, Barry Allen is a confident and competent hero.

In spite of Zack Snyder‘s overwhelmingly dark view of the DC universe, I found myself wanting to see more movies set in the “Snyderverse“ by the time ZSJL faded to black. Even though both Snyder and DC/WB have said this would be the last movie in the “Snyderverse“ the director decided to keep the various cliffhangers he had originally written in tact. We see Bruce Wayne and Alfred make plans to renovate Wayne Manor and turn it into a new hall of justice. Bruce is also visited by Martian Manhunter who offers his assistance to the fledging League. And we also get one more look at the so-called “Knightmare“, the dark apocalyptic future of which Batman has nightmares/ visions of going back to Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. Even the fateful meeting between Lex Luthor and Slade Wilson, originally used as a post credits tease in the theatrical version of the movie, is left intact. Part of me hates to admit this, but I wouldn’t mind seeing how Snyder’s original vision for his proposed five-movie arc would play out. Both DC/WB and Snyder have said that ZSJL is the end of the road for their working relationship. Of course, the idea of releasing ZSJL was once a pipe dream too; so you can never tell…

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Rob Reviews: Heaven is For Real

DVD art.  Not to be confuse with the book or the true story.

DVD art.

Earlier this week, I saw Heaven is For Real.  I didn’t really plan on seeing it – it was The Auteur and 1B’s suggestion- but I think I might have gotten even just as into the movie than either of them did.

The movie and the novel from which it was adapted are based on a true story.  Here’s the story in a nutshell:  Greg Kinnear plays Todd Burpo a minister whose son Colton claims to have visited Heaven after falling ill.  Colton’s experience becomes the talk of the town forcing Burpo and eventually the town folk to examine their own faith. Like any good art, this movie got me thinking; not in the sense that it redefined or reaffirmed my spiritual faith, but it got me thinking about faith and spirituality again.

Let me be absolutely clear:  I am not a terribly religious man, but I do consider myself spiritual at times.  I am not a fan of organized religion.  When you stop and think about the whole concept of organized religion, the entire church hierarchy was established because people were generally illiterate and needed The Bible interpreted for them.

I used to think that I don’t need anyone to explain The Bible to me.  I’m educated, I’m a teacher.  I can interpret The Bible for myself, I thought.  While I was watching this movie, I realized how hypocritical that attitude is for me to have as a teacher.  People defer to me to teach their children because of my training.  People see me as something of an authority when it comes to education.  The least I can do is have the same respect for clergymen and clergywomen.

I think what really got my goat about this movie – and I can’t speak for the book or the true story – was the attitude that the members of Burpo’s church have about young Colton’s experience.  One would expect even the most religious person to have a healthy dose of skepticism upon hearing about a trip to Heaven.  However most of the community had the attitude of  “C’mon Todd, you don’t really believe in all this Heaven stuff do you?”   The film does a good job of demonstrating logical, rational explanations for Colton’s experience; but the churchgoers seem to reject Colton’s experience outright.  A question I think the director should have addressed is when it really comes down to it, how much do you believe in that which you claim to hold so dear?

This entry isn’t a pro-Christian piece, or even a pro religion piece of any sort.  But the fact is humans established religion(s) to explain those things that we can’t really explain.  Why are we here?  What is purpose in this world?  What happens when life ends?  These are all questions that religions are established and the answers require – no pun intended – a leap of faith.  There’s no scientific or rational evidence to back up an religious doctrine but that’s the point.  You trust in something when you don’t have all the answers.  That’s something the film makers should have preached to the audience.

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