While appreciating Gareth Edwards' aspirations with 2014's Godzilla and becoming perplexed by how Michael Dougherty's 2019 sequel could be so little fun despite its reactionary take to criticisms leveled against the first film, it seems the only movie in Warner Brother's new monster-verse that knew exactly what it was and what it needed to be was Jordan Vogt-Roberts' Kong flick. This may then explain why in Adam Wingard's (You're Next, The Guest) clash of the titans that Kong is made to be the center of attention; the lynch pin on which every cockamamie human character's quest hinges. That isn't to say the king of the monsters doesn't factor into the match of the century in any meaningful capacity, but more that Wingard takes up Vogt-Roberts' mentality of embracing the absurdity in this universe and then lets his imagination run wild more so than he does try to either ground this in any kind of reality as Edwards did or let it be brought down by the human characters as Dougherty did. There is little to no regard for logic and no one - especially screenwriters Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein - seems to have been bothered with the semantics of how a "sci-fi quack trading in fringe physics" is able to convince Rebecca Hall's Dr. Andrews AKA "The Kong Whisperer" to have military assets escort Kong from his home on Skull Island to Antarctica in order to enter a portal to Hollow Earth on the whim of a tech billionaire (Demián Bichir) who is looking to harness the energy of this "ecosystem as vast as any ocean" so that he may power a weapon that can compete with Godzilla who recently became a threat again after a seemingly unprovoked attack. The best part of it all though, is that none of this matters, not really, and only exists to prop up reasoning for how the two titular titans come face to face with one another. Whereas Edwards elicited Dante's Inferno in the Halo jump sequence in his Godzilla film, Wingard elicits a Saturday morning toy commercial in Godzilla vs. Kong and naturally - it's more fun than anything this monster-verse has produced thus far. One could complain the creative team behind the film doesn't take great pains to make any of this thought provoking in terms of Godzilla beginning as an allegory for nuclear war or discussing Kong's origins in analyzing colonialism and man's need for dominance over others, but this isn't about those things or even those characters individually. This is a movie about a giant gorilla and a giant lizard coming to blows with one another and it's just as stupid, ridiculous, and thoroughly entertaining as something with that simple premise should be.
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The thing about hidden camera/prank-based bits is that I typically enjoy seeing the strings being pulled as much as I do the execution of the gag itself. Bad Trip replaces the behind the scenes shenanigans with a narrative thread that initially feels unnecessary, but ultimately stands to extend the premise to its feature length and prevent it from becoming tired or trite. It doesn't take long for Eric Andre and co. to convince us this is going to work either as the minute he starts executing a Disney-like musical number on unsuspecting mall patrons I was all in on whatever they wanted to try.
Lil Rel Howery and Tiffany Haddish each have their moments and display more dedication to bits than some of the bits themselves deserve, but this is all on-brand for Andre and the man doesn't miss a chance to make a fool of himself. The Electric Cowboy, the Chinese Finger Trap, the gorilla encounter, hell-even Haddish's seemingly quaint excursion at the donut shop-is all gold and that's not even making mention of this film's appreciation for the equally ridiculous White Chicks.
The greatest lesson this documentary taught me is just how incredible it is that Tina Turner became Tina Turner as she's known today because growing up it was an assumed destiny that Tina Turner was one of the biggest stars on the planet.
Granted, as a kid I probably would have said anyone who wasn't obviously a child or teenager was likely somewhere around forty years-old, but the fact Turner was actually fact forty-four when she became a true popstar is legitimately remarkable.
Here's the thing, this version of this movie was never meant for public consumption. This may have eventually landed on Blu-ray as the "Ultimate Edition" of Zack Snyder's Justice League had some version of Snyder's vision actually been released in theaters, but even that form wouldn't have been this form exactly. I may never understand why Warner Bros. didn't simply break this up into two parts and release them separately, give us a few standalone movies a la Aquaman, Flashpoint, as well as something like Shazam! after which releasing the conclusion to Snyder's Darkseid saga with the Justice League, but if the 2021 release of The Snyder Cut proves anything it's that "what ifs" actually have the chance of becoming reality. Additionally, when considering Zack Snyder's Justice League one also has to consider the context with which it has now been received and how it is completely different from how it would have been received in 2017. Is it better than Josstice League? Of course, but is it good on its own terms? Is it even a movie that can exist on its own terms? The answers to those questions are a little more complicated.
Given Snyder's penchant for renaissance-like visuals and his mentality that approaches these comic book heroes with the seriousness of Greek mythology I was completely in the bag from the moment Chris Nolan and WB named him the man to take up the DC mantle at the studio. Dawn of Justice and Man of Steel are at the top of my DCEU rankings and I wrote several thousand words on the theatrical cut of Justice League in 2017 regarding its overcorrection to the complaints logged against Snyder's vision, but now that you know the context from which I come from you should also know that I really loved a lot of what Zack Snyder's Justice League offered...even if we'll never see any of it paid off.
Most surprising in this new cut is the different tone Snyder's film carries from that of its DCEU companions. Yes, things are still dark are dour for portions of the runtime, but overall there is certainly a more hopeful vibe to the proceedings especially given the addition of Ezra Miller's Barry Allen and the fleshed out arc offered Ray Fisher's Victor Stone. These two characters saw the most drastic changes from what was released in theaters to Snyder's version and the restoration of their stories gives way to a story as much about loss, the trauma of such loss, and re-discovering one's self in the wake of tragedy as it is about the intergalactic CGI monsters trying to take over the universe. Of course, the CGI baddies are still something of a mess as it's difficult to conjure any kind of tangible feelings toward Steppenwolf as he's very much still a lackey to Darkseid and garners little sympathy despite Snyder and screenwriter Chris Terrio attempting to graph a redemptive arc onto his journey. On the upside, Snyder's film isn't really about the villain as Steppenwolf is present solely to serve as a function of the plot while the story Snyder is telling, the essence of what he wants to do with these characters, is to focus on that throughline of exploring what it means when Gods come to earth that began in Man of Steel; continuing to explore the system of checks and balances these heroes bring with them. The building of this team allows for Ben Affleck's Bruce Wayne to share in a power and responsibility he's carried for too long on his own, a passing of the torch in some respects to the trinity of Jason Momoa's Aquaman (the most slighted of the leads in this version), Cyborg, and Flash who each are finding their literal and figurative footing. Whereas Wayne is the head of construction, Gal Gadot's Diana Prince is the architect who uses her experiences and ever-evolving understanding of growth to meld these disparate parts into a cohesive team. Zack Snyder's Justice League has and takes the time necessary to establish these dynamics making the eventual culmination of the league's resistance to Steppenwolf that much more magnificent.
So yes, taken as a continuation of Snyder's DC films and a study on the full circle of uncertainty, doubt, and fear alien beings and caped crusaders would initially bring upon society as opposed to the assumed relief and inherent trust, this version of Justice League is absolutely a good film on its own terms that stands on the shoulders of the two Snyder DCEU films. There is real heart and thought in these proceedings, genuine investment in what these super-powered people mean to and for the universe they exist in, and even when Snyder's work inevitably devolves into a finale filled with an onslaught of CGI there is still an eloquence to his visual storytelling that lends each frame a panel-like quality that speaks volumes without any character having to utter a line of dialogue. One glance at any shot in this, his cut of Justice League, exemplifies Snyder's adoration of this material and like any of those individual frames - Zack Snyder's Justice League is something beautiful to behold.
There's a moment just under an hour into Ilya "Hardcore Henry" Naishuller's Nobody when Bob Odenkirk's Hutch Mansell returns to his home where, moments earlier, he took out an entire squad of Russian goons; their bodies still lay strewn about the house as Mansell's family awaits a verdict in their secured basement: will the father and husband return, will he set them free, and also what the hell is going on up there? Mansell's wife, Becca (Connie Nielson) along their two children (Gage Munroe and Paisley Cadorath), have zero idea what kind of predicament their father's gotten them into and the children seemingly have no idea there dad was once one of the baddest mofo's on the planet. It was at this moment in the movie though, some fifty or so minutes in, that I hoped Mansell might - instead of cleaning up after himself or burning the place to the ground - reach for his phone to order the services of "The Cleaners" from the John Wick franchise proving indefinitely that screenwriter Derek Kolstad (a writer on all three John Wick films) had connected Mansell's universe with that of the Keanu Reeves character inevitably leading to a cameo from Odenkirk in John Wick Chapter 5: Whatever Unnecessary Subtitle They Come Up With. Unfortunately, said "Cleaners" do not show up and Mansell, as he does with most things in life, takes care of it himself. It's easy to say this "missed opportunity" is unfortunate, but is likely - ultimately - for the best given Kolstad is clearly attempting something a little more knowing here than he's done with any of his previous efforts including the Keanu Reeves actioners or the other random, B-level action movies he's written that no one ever knew existed until they saw them at a Redbox and only seem to exist to answer the question of, "what has Dolph Lundgren been up to since The Expendables 3?" With Nobody though, Kolstad is looking to enlist the ambiance of a traditional genre movie only to upend tropes such as the pounding score or the grizzly narration with the mundanities that make Hutch appear to be the "nobody" he aspires to be, but can't help but resent. While its protagonist could easily be described as a wolf in sheep's clothing the opposite is true of the film in that Kolstad and Naishuller set the movie up as if it were a serious, R-rated action flick whereas in reality the movie couldn't take itself less seriously. It's a clever little conceit that becomes more clever the further it's executed amounting to something akin to a top-tier, late-stage Liam Neeson actioner with the self-awareness to stop and wink at the audience from time to time.
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