Zack Snyder Presents His Idealized Vision Of Justice League

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is the culmination of over three years of an internet campaign that started soon after the release of the much-maligned Justice League from 2017, a movie that I personally liked, but that was seen as not in tune with the previous two movies directed by Snyder that came before it, Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Joss Whedon was brought on to finish and reshoot much of what Snyder had done after he left the project due to the death of his daughter. The rise of streaming services, in this case HBO Max has allowed this long-awaited version to be completed and finally see the light of day.

The basic plot points from the theatrical version of Justice League are the same here. Batman gathers together the Justice League by seeking out Aquaman, the Flash and Cyborg with the help of Wonder Woman, resurrecting Superman and confronting Steppenwolf. He is an alien attempting to steal ancient technology called the Mother Box, which is hidden throughout the world in three parts and if the parts are united he will be able to conquer Earth in the name of his master, Darkseid.

The differences between Zack Snyder’s Justice League and the theatrical Justice League are the fact that the Snyder cut is a much deeper experience with backstory added for each character, especially Cyborg whose relationship with his father is given center stage on many occasions, as well as The Flash rescuing his future love interest Iris West, and Aquaman speaking with his mentor Vulko, who was previously seen in the Aquaman standalone movie. We had glimpses of these backstories in the theatrical version, but with its studio-mandated two-hour running time, things had to move at a quicker pace. The extra time in the Snyder cut allows for more of these characters to be established which makes it an enjoyable experience, provided you have four hours to spare. The fact that this is meant to be seen at home is a big plus since you can stop and start at anytime. This is helpful due to the fact that the first two hours set everything up, which can make the film seem slow.

The action picks up at the halfway point in an underground tunnel battle, which shows the League fighting as a group for the first time. The fight scenes are more visceral in this version and are a highlight. This is also true for the other action scenes, such as Superman’s resurrection and battle with the other League members, and the final showdown with Steppenwolf. Speaking of which, the main villain has undergone a redesign and has a kind of flowing metal armor which is more interesting and menacing than his design in theatrical cut. Another highlight is the on-screen, live-action premiere of DC supervlillain Darkseid, who is shown in his home world directing Steppenwolf in his quest to unify three Mother Boxes to conquer Earth. This whole plot point is fleshed out in this extended version and explains Steppenwolf’s obsessive desire to acquire these artifacts and sets up Darkseid’s attempt to conquer all of existence. This is one of several other plots that are hinted at in the original version, such as Lex Luthor teaming up with Deathstroke to take on Batman, as well as the onscreen debut of Martian Manhunter, who warns Batman’s alter ego, Bruce Wayne, of Darkseid’s coming invasion. Lastly, some new scenes showcase the anticipated Knightmare sequence of a future world ruled by Darkseid and an evil Superman similar to the Injustice storyline. Here Batman is leading a resistance and allying with his nemesis the Joker, played by Jared Leto. This finally gives viewers these two versions of the iconic rivals interacting for the first time.

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WandaVision Brings Back The MCU With A Magical TV Twist

For too long (only about a year and a half but it felt like eternity), fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) were deprived of new content. But that ended when the Disney+ TV show WandaVision premiered last January and the series finale just streamed yesterday. By the time the finale, appropriately titled “The Series Finale”, streamed WandaVision became the latest water cooler show to talk about as many theories (most of which did not pan out) were discussed, and for good reason. Some spoilers will follow.

WandaVision stands out from the normal MCU fare by focusing more on character, plot twists and mystery. It still is an MCU offering but it took full advantage of its new television medium and tantalized viewers with questions and character studies with each episode. It also was quite unconventional as a TV show.

The series was an intriguing hybrid of MCU action and world building and a tribute to American sitcoms. We got to see the evolution of sitcoms from the 1950s to today with various episodes taking on a tone which was appropriate to the era it evoked. Starting with the first two episodes, WandaVision emulated 1950s shows like The Dick Van Dyck Show and I Love Lucy then the 1960s with I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched with a narrow television ratio, laugh tracks and black and white photography in the first two episodes. The following episodes were in color with changed lighting that evoked the bouncy and colorful TV world of the 1970s like The Brady Bunch; the schmaltzy and corny overlit family comedies in the 1980s as seen with Full House, Growing Pains or Family Ties; the more in-your-face and goofball vibe of Malcolm in the Middle from the 2000s; and contemporary comedies where characters talk to the fourth wall as in The Office and Modern Family. Each era/episode came with an opening title scene that fit perfectly for the era it evoked. 

It was a lot of fun to watch these episodes which brought back memories, although the earlier episodes could have actually been funny. This flaw was a turn off for some viewers but others were rewarded when the series expanded beyond the bizarre artificial world created by the superpowered Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen, who has never been better at this role) and we learned what was going on. 

WandaVision truly began to stand out when we began to get answers and the world opened up. Essentially, the series takes place in the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame as Wanda is struggling through her grief over the loss of her lover, the android called Vision (Paul Bettany) and the events from the last two Avengers films. In her emotional pain, Wanda retreated to a fantasy world that inserted herself and a resurrected Vision in a sitcom world.

This draws the attention of the real world in the form of an agency called S.W.O.R.D., and people who investigate Wanda’s world. These included familiar MCU faces like scientist Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) and FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) and new faces such as Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and S.W.O.R.D. director and all-around tool Tyler Heyward (Josh Stamberg). It is remarkable that this show was able to take minor and annoying MCU characters who detracted from their films and made them so endearing. Darcy and Jimmy have to return in one of the other Disney+ MCU shows. Meanwhile, Monica made a brilliant impression as the newest MCU hero, the future Photon/Spectrum and the episode that focused on her return to life during Avengers: Endgame provided a fullfilling look at what the impact the events of the Avengers films had on normal people. 

Events quickly elevated and intrigued us when Wanda’s deceased brother Pietro/Quicksilver (Evan Peters reprising his role, sort of, from the Fox X-Men films) turned up out of the blue. Meanwhile, tantalizing clues and Easter eggs engaged us to try to figure out what was going on in the show and its characters, namely Wanda and Vision’s nosy next-door neighbor Agnes (Kathryn Hahn), who showed a wide range of depth from comedy to villainy. 

However, the true stars of the show was of course Wanda and Vision. The actors reveled in their roles and ran audiences through the emotional gamut as their scenes ranged from goofball comedy to horrifying heartbreak. But the emotional pulls were genuine and did not feel forced (unlike many of the attempts at humor). Their story was the heart of WandaVision as the series grew darker and darker when she processed her grief.

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Who Will Be The WandaVision Surprise Cameo?

By now, most fans have heard of a recent interview with actress Elizabeth Olsen where it was revealed that there will be a surprise cameo at the end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) Disney+ show WandaVision. Supposedly it will rival the shock and magnitude from the surprise guest appearance of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in the second season finale of The Mandalorian.

Of course, Elizabeth Olsen did not elaborate on this and only confirmed to the interviewer that there will be a surprise cameo. In another interview, Paul Bettany who plays the Vision mentioned he will work with an actor he’s always wanted to work with, so take that as a clue or a misdirect. This MCU show is already proving to be adept at the art of misdirection. It could be this already happened with the appearance of Evan Peters as her brother Pietro aka Quicksilver. But it is doubtful that actor’s appearance is of the OMG scale many are now expecting. Then again it could be and all this could be a misdirect, which would be a huge disappointment for many WandaVision viewers.

However, let’s assume that the final episode of WandaVision will have a surprise cameo appearance that will keep the internet busy with buzz and hype for months. Who could that person be?

By now, most fans have heard of a recent interview with actress Elizabeth Olsen where it was revealed that there will be a surprise cameo at the end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) Disney+ show WandaVision. Supposedly it will rival the shock and magnitude from the surprise guest appearance of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in the second season finale of The Mandalorian.

Of course, Elizabeth Olsen did not elaborate on this and only confirmed to the interviewer that there will be a surprise cameo. In another interview, Paul Bettany who plays the Vision mentioned he will work with an actor he’s always wanted to work with, so take that as a clue or a misdirect. This MCU show is already proving to be adept at the art of misdirection. It could be this already happened with the appearance of Evan Peters as her brother Pietro aka Quicksilver. But it is doubtful that actor’s appearance is of the OMG scale many are now expecting. Then again it could be and all this could be a misdirect, which would be a huge disappointment for many WandaVision viewers.

However, let’s assume that the final episode of WandaVision will have a surprise cameo appearance that will keep the internet busy with buzz and hype for months. Who could that person be? Be sure to leave a comment or two

Quicksilver: We Didn’t See That Coming!

Spoiler Alert: If anyone reading this has not seen the latest episode of WandaVision and do not want to be spoiled then click away!

With that out of the way, it’s time to go over the latest WTF moment in the Disney+ TV show WandaVision, which is the kickoff to Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The show stars Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany as the Avengers Wanda Maximoff and Vision. Unlike previous MCU incarnations the show was in a sitcom format but recent developments have revealed WandaVision to be much more than a comedy.

Apparently, Wanda has experienced some kind of emotional breakdown and used her powers to create an alternate reality in a New Jersey town called Westview where she lives a sitcom existence with her husband, Vision, complete with a laugh track. However, cracks have manifested in her reality as we are fed clues as to what is actually happening. Each question answered led to new questions including the shock reveal at the end of episode five of WandaVision called “On a Very Special Episode…”, which was a true head spinner.

In the MCU, Wanda’s superpowered brother Pietro aka Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) died during Avengers: Age of Ultron and Wanda is still mourning his death. But at the end of the episode Quicksilver shows up in her front door as her long-lost brother (complete with audience cheers at the revelation of the special guest star). The true shocker was that Quicksilver was not portrayed by Taylor-Johnson but by Evan Peters who played the same character in the Fox X-Men films, a completely different film universe unrelated to the MCU.

Needless to say, fans online are geeking out over Peters’ reprisal of Quicksilver because it now creates a link between the two film universes and is just a taste of what is to come with the MCU films. The next Spider-Man film will bring back several actors from the Sony Spider-Man films to reprise their roles and the sequel to Doctor Strange tells us that the sorcerer will be up to his ears with alternate realities by the sequel’s title, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. However, the crossing over of film universes actually began in the most recent Spider-Man film (Spider-Man: Far From Home), which showed J.K. Simmons reprising his role of J. Jonah Jameson from the Sony Spider-Man films.

Quicksilver’s appearance in WandaVision raised many questions such as is that actually the Quicksilver from the Fox X-Men films? He acted differently than the speedster featured in the last X-Men films. Or is that his personality has been supplanted by Wanda’s powers? In “On a Very Special Episode…” it was revealed that the townspeople in Westview had their true personalities supplanted by fictional characters to serve the comedic hijinks in Wanda’s sitcom reality.

Also, if this is the Fox X-Men Quicksilver then he is replacing the MCU version of Quicksilver because he is dead and Wanda clearly makes a point in the episode five that she cannot resurrect the dead. That contradicts the fact that Vision is alive in the Westview reality and she is aware that her husband is dead in the MCU. then again Vision is an artificial being so she may have been able to bring him back to “life” with her powers. Also, since the episode takes place in the 1980s, Quicksilver in the Fox X-Men films was alive during this time period and it would have been easier to transport him to the 80s setting of the Westview reality.

The special guest appearance of Quicksilver gives us hope that other Fox X-Men characters portrayed by the original actors may appear in the MCU. Olsen has said WandaVision will feature a surprise cameo on the level of Luke Skywalker/Mark Hamill appearing in The Mandalorian. Who could that be? Patrick Stewart as Professor X? Hugh Jackman as Wolverine? There were reports a year or so ago that those actors met with Marvel Studios for undisclosed reasons. Maybe it was to negotiate them returning? On the other hand, both actors made it clear they were done with their roles. Perhaps Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) will be the surprise. His breaking of the fourth wall would fit in well with the meta nature of WandaVision, if one thinks about it.

Of course, there could be another explanation and Quicksilver could be Mephisto in disguise or another hapless townsperson whose personality was altered to becoming Pietro, but not his appearance. In other words, Peters is playing a Westview resident forced to assume the Quicksilver personna and the fact that Peters is playing the person is just a nod and wink to viewers and fans. Still, the casting was a bonafide treat not just for MCU fans but for those fans of the Fox X-Men films who can take heart that those films have not been forgotten.

Memo To Marvel Studios: Release Your Films!

OK, the title of this post does come off a might hyperbolic, but the feeling is justified among many fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) who have been without any new MCU films in over a year and a half.

Of course, this is not the fault of Marvel Studios or even Disney since the COVID-19 pandemic has been so disruptive in our society. Disney cannot do any widescale release of films in theaters because most of them are closed for safety reasons. Who wants to go to a crowded movie theater during the middle of a pandemic? Even if Disney was inclined to release a film widescale now they would lose money. Just look what happened last year when Warner Bros. released Tenet in the summer.

Last month, Disney and Marvel Studios announced a release schedule for their films for this year with Black Widow due on May 7th. This announcement was done with the understanding that the pandemic would be under control. However, at this point it will take some more time, with the latest estimates of widescale vaccine distribution happening during the late spring, summer and early fall. This jeopardizes the release schedule of the MCU films with Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (due on July 9th) and even Eternals (November 5th).

The problem with the MCU films, and one of its strengths, is their interconnected nature. To fully appreciate the films they have to be watched in order as certain scenes connect with the other films. For example the post-credits scene in Captain Marvel deliberately led into the next MCU film Avengers: Endgame. Another example can be seen with the Infinity Stones. The Reality Stone was the main macguffin in Thor: The Dark World and was seen been placed in a specific spot for safe keeping at the end of that film. But in Avengers: Infinity War, the main villain traveled to that spot and obtained the Reality Stone.

A new wrinkle is that are the new MCU TV shows on Disney+ are certainly part of the MCU, and what happens in those shows will be referenced in upcoming films.

Rumor had it that even though Black Widow was a prequel film, it set up future events in the MCU from the introduction of the Thunderbolts or Dark Avengers to Black Widow’s sister, Yelena Belova, becoming the new Black Widow. Yelena has already been confirmed to appear in the Disney+ show The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. So this is a strong reason why Marvel Studios wants Black Widow to be the first MCU film out of the gate and not launch the cinematic part of the MCU’s Phase Four with Shang-Chi or Eternals.

But the problem is that pushing back Black Widow pushes back other slated MCU films. Some of us are eager to see the next Doctor Strange film, which was already delayed to next year, as an example. What would be the reaction if it got bumped to 2023? Would this imperil other announced films in pre-production to the point of them being cancelled?

The delay also could jeopardize the release of the Disney+ shows and in fact already has. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was supposed to be the first Disney+ TV show to stream followed by WandaVision. Now that has been reversed with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier coming out this March as WandaVision is currently streaming. But who knows how more film delays would affect the future Disney+ shows?

Something has to be done. At this point it would be best if Black Widow and even Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings were released on Disney+ this year. This would satisfy fans who are eager for new film content (though many are pleased with WandaVision), entice more subscribers to the streaming service, free up the backlog of films piling up now, and maintain the viewing order of both films and TV shows. Also consider this, is there a great demand to see Black Widow knowing the character’s fate or Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which features a character who was last popular during the 1970s?

Yes, this will hurt Disney financially but the company is already losing money and are going all in with their streaming platform. Releasing the films on their app would generate revenue so it would not be a complete loss. Of course, this endangers the filmgoing experience later on but this is inevitable. No matter what Marvel Studios and Disney decides, this situation cannot continue, but we’ll know soon what they decide. 

It could have been worse. Take comfort that at least we got to see Avengers: Endgame in theaters before all this started.