Comic book writers love their heroes, and are less likely to give love and attention to their villains. That’s human nature, I suppose, but boy does it hurt modern superhero movies. “Justice League” (2017), now available for home viewing, is the latest film to suffer from a bland, predictable villain, and it keeps a fun blockbuster from becoming something substantial. Steppenwolf – no, not that Steppenwolf – wants to destroy the world because, as a Geico commercial would say, “If you’re a supervillain, it’s what you do.”
There were a lot of great films in 2017. So many, in fact, that this year I have decided to do a top 20 list instead of my usual top 10. It means more writing, but trust me, this is a problem any movie buff loves to have.
2017 was a good year for superheros and small indie films, for action and drama and comedy alike, sometimes all within the same movie.
For me, 2017 goes in the books as the year when we don’t have to comment on special effects anymore. In major motion pictures, they are almost universally good now, and if they aren’t, it’s because the studio purposely cut corners. As such, several blockbuster science fiction movies find spots on my list, starting with the year’s most pleasant surprise.
Now a franchise of five films with the addition of “Justice League” this week, the DC Extended Universe launched in 2013 with “Man of Steel.” Written by the Dark Knight Trilogy’s David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan and directed by “Watchmen’s” Zack Snyder, “Man of Steel” attempts to balance everything we love about Superman with a fresh examination of his character and place in the world. Every subsequent DCEU film – despite having a variety of writers and directors — has followed that formula, to varying degrees of success. Here are three things that have become trademarks of the saga, for better or worse:
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2106) is the epitome of a movie where the end result is less than the sum of its parts. The three-hour Ultimate Edition, when watched at home in about six sittings, is better than the theatrical edition, but it still has problems at its core. It also has some cool stuff – when separated from the movie’s overall context. In advance of this weekend’s “Justice League,” here are six cool things and six dumb things about last year’s DC Extended Universe blockbuster:
For the sake of getting up to date on the DC Extended Universe, I watched “Suicide Squad”(2016), which is now available on HBO. It’s the most maligned of the four DCEU movies, rating a 6.2 on IMDB, compared to 6.6 for “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” 7.1 for “Man of Steel” and 7.6 for “Wonder Woman.” It has some major problems, but I actually connected with the characters faster than I did with Supes or Bats in their DCEU debuts, and I wouldn’t mind following this bunch into sequels so I can get to know them better.
“Wonder Woman” — now available via Redbox and streaming — poses the question: What would happen if a superhero was dropped into the middle of a human war? The easy answer is we’d get lots of cool action scenes. In the film’s centerpiece spectacle amid the Great War, the Allies and the Germans are entrenched, with 200 yards of no-man’s-land between them. The Germans have taken civilians as slave labor. Diana (Gal Gadot) wants to rescue them, but it’s tactically impossible – except for the wild-card factor of her superpowers.
I asked my friend Jeremy if he had checked out Entertainment Weekly’s 50 Most Powerful Superheroes list in the latest issue and he said he doesn’t “pay attention to those crap lists.” But then he quickly noted the oddity of a 50 Most Powerful Superheroes list where “powers” count for 10 out of 100 possible points.
Here are the 10 movies I think look the best out of the summer lineup:
“Elstree 1976” (May 6) – This Kickstarter-funded documentary features interviews with “A New Hope” (and “The Empire Strikes Back,” as Jeremy Bulloch is featured) supporting actors, convention clips, re-enactments and archival footage. It looks like a treasure trove for Lucas-era “Star Wars” buffs.