Feature Article

Justice League Review: A Fresh Start

With great power…

Minor spoilers for Justice League below

On whichever side of the Great DC Debate you fight, there's no denying that Justice League has a lot to prove. DC diehards who insist there's nothing wrong with the direction and tone of the DC Extended Universe up to this point might worry that the pivotal team-up has been "Disney-fied" or made into a comedy to appease critics and Marvel fans; others that the beloved Wonder Woman was the exception to the rule for the DCEU, rather than a fresh start. Fans on all sides have followed the various controversies surrounding Justice League's production, like Joss Whedon taking over director duties from Zack Snyder at the last minute, and simply wondered how it will all turn out.

Through all the setbacks, uncertainties, reshoots, shake-ups, and drama, it seemed unlikely that Justice League would wind up anything other than a complete mess. And yet, here we are: Justice League is a pretty good movie.

The plot is basic: Batman and Wonder Woman sense an incoming threat, an ancient alien invader named Steppenwolf. They determine their best course of action is to assemble a super-team comprising Cyborg, The Flash, and Aquaman in addition to the two of them. The League comes together in fits and starts, but by the end, every hero--yes, all of them, wink, wink--shows up to do his or her part in a climactic battle.

It's Superhero Movie Plot 101, but crucially, it's more or less coherent from beginning to end. It's also fun, with plenty of huge laughs and some terrific (although CG-heavy) action scenes. Yet overall, it retains that serious, Zack Snyder-ish tone that sets the DCEU apart from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Much of Justice League's thematic focus zeroes in on the hopelessness of a world that's suffered defeat after defeat, of which Superman's death in BvS is only the latest. For a variety of real world reasons, from the current state of politics to the seemingly endless tragic mass shootings, this is going to resonate with audiences right now.

It would be condescending and unfair to simply heap Justice League with praise for these accomplishments, when it actually suffers from many of the same flaws that have plagued both DC and Marvel's movies for years. Like Hela in Thor: Ragnarok, Justice League's Steppenwolf has about as much depth as a shallow pothole. He shows up in search of the "Mother Boxes" with the sole goal of destroying the world, serving as nothing more than the catalyst for the Justice League to form.

Also similarly to Thor, Justice League's CG is occasionally distracting, especially where Steppenwolf is concerned. In close-ups the villain's face can look like a video game character's, and not in a good way. In addition, the movie opens with a cute smartphone video of Superman from before the events of BvS--not unlike the opening of Spider-Man: Homecoming--during which you should try not to stare too hard at Henry Cavill's mouth, given they had to digitally remove his mustache during reshoots.

The mad and the mighty

All that aside, Justice League's real draw is the epic team-up of this handful of super-powered heroes. They all have their time in the spotlight, including a surprising number of smaller, character-to-character moments that help flesh each one out and establish them at concrete points in their personal arcs that can be picked up in later movies.

The Flash, for example, gets a couple of scenes with his dad, imprisoned early in Barry Allen's life for allegedly murdering Barry's mother. We get to see Cyborg wrestle with his newly minted body, struggling with his father's decision to rebuild him--but also interacting with other heroes, including Flash and Wonder Woman, in believable scenes that add layers to all involved. Bringing this many main characters together isn't easy no matter who's in the director's chair, especially when half of them are being introduced here for the first time. Amazingly, Justice League mostly pulls it off, even if a couple of plot points get glossed over too quickly.

No Caption Provided

Ben Affleck continues to do just fine as an older, more hardened Batman. He lacks the charm of previous Bruce Waynes like Michael Keaton and Christian Bale, but you could also blame that on this Batman's place in the story as an underpowered hero who's been outstripped by god-like colleagues and foes. He's also taken to subtly self-medicating with presumably very fine brown liquors--watch how much whiskey he pours himself in one scene after a tough fight--which is a chewy little detail for those paying attention.

Wonder Woman has the second largest presence of all the heroes, though her role was reportedly not expanded in this year's reshoots, counter to speculation that she'd be made more prominent thanks to her standalone movie's success. Gal Gadot's youthful, idealistic, positive character is a perfect counter to Batman, and it often seems like she's holding the team together--if not leading them outright. She glows, and her presence is much appreciated.

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The three we haven't met before--Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg--hold up admirably thanks to some fantastic casting.

Jason Momoa may not be the Aquaman fans recognize from the comics, but he's one you'll want to get to know better. The hard-drinking, no-BS King of Atlantis is relatively early in his personal story arc, but the equal draughts of humorous pessimism and raw badassery Momoa brings to the screen should have everyone excited for his standalone film next year. At one point he rescues a drowning sailor, unloads him unceremoniously in the nearest pub, and downs a full bottle of whiskey on the unconscious man's tab. Yet later, Momoa shows off his comedic chops in a scene that may or may not involve Wonder Woman's confessional lasso.

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Cyborg is the most dour of the bunch, which is saying something, for a team that also includes Batman. Granted, Victor Stone is also early in his arc, hooking up with the League shortly after being rebuilt as Cyborg. There's no faulting him for being less fun than the others, given his personal trauma and turmoil; the bigger problem is how his deliberately vaguely-defined powers allow Cyborg to serve as constant deus ex machina, hacking anything and everything that needs to be hacked.

Thankfully Ezra Miller keeps things light as The Flash. Miller has impeccable comedic timing, and although every characters gets a proportionate number of quips throughout Justice League, most of the big laughs come from him.

Hatchet vs. scalpel

Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad felt like giant compromises marred by meddling, half measures, and band-aids stuck on bleeding wounds. They were hatchet jobs. But while Justice League went through about as much production turmoil as either of those, the changes to it might have been made with a scalpel wielded by a skilled hand, cutting away only what was necessary to make it a stronger movie.

It's not trying to solve all the genre's problems--and it doesn't.

So the villain is uninteresting and the plot occasionally moves too quickly as Justice League juggles a half dozen main characters. These are small prices to pay. Like one of its many taglines, Justice League feels "all in"--a movie driven by a vision shared among its stars and filmmakers, that succeeds at the most important things it sets out to do.

Justice League is everything you want in a modern super team-up movie: a diverse crew of well-developed heroes coming together, butting heads, cracking jokes, and kicking butt. Despite the DCEU's sputtering start, Justice League coalesces in the end, and it works in many more ways than not. It's not trying to solve all the genre's problems--and it doesn't. But as a team-up movie and a fresh jumping-off point for the DCEU, Justice League is a 100-story leap in the right direction.

The GoodThe Bad
Fantastic cast of heroesFlat villain
Surprisingly funnyDistracting CGI
Plentiful character development for an ensembleSometimes moves too quickly
Aquaman!
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mrougeau

Michael Rougeau

Mike Rougeau is GameSpot's Senior Entertainment Editor. He loves Game of Thrones and dogs.

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lionheartssj1

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Pretty good video review, Michael. Felt like you gave it a fair take and addressed several questions I had myself, thanks.

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coldheart32767

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Edited By coldheart32767

Just watched it... all i can say is OP superman :D

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SpinierBlakeD

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Edited By SpinierBlakeD

So all the things that DCEU purist loved abut their universe is now gone?

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infiniin

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Edited By infiniin

@spinierblaked: Flashpoint (if Warner will even have a desire after such flop) should changed the "old" DCEU timeline into familiar comics reboot The New 52, just movies version.

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kanekan-slaugh

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Edited By kanekan-slaugh

Watched the movie. If you want to know if it's worth watching it is, but hear this.

Warner brothers didn't learn the first 20 goddamn times interfering someone's work will mess up the quality of it. Basically they ordered the movie to be 2 hours or under and it shows, the first 20-30 minutes is so rushed. The cgi is noticeable but still good. In that timeframe I was thinking eh, then after that it picked up really well. The movie is a really good time overall, even so better than most if not all of the comicbook movies this year.

The soundtrack isn't as good as BvS but hey that movie had composer gods Junkie XL AND Hans zimmer, Danny elfman impressed though.

The villain isn't bad, isn't good the start of the film his cgi was starcraft 2 cut scene levels of cgi and at the end it became heroes of the storm levels of cgi (if you haven't seen blizzards CG cutscenes, they're almost lifelike) other than that his motivations were just completely a matter of pride rather than anything else.

There's this one scene where you can notice a re shoot with jason mamoa but you wouldn't really notice if I didn't say it, also superman CG lip I couldn't see first time. Maybe on my second or third viewing.

The movie is also perfectly cast. Jason Mamoa killing it even though most of his scenes are in trailers and no he isn't some macho guy with one liners.

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tsuingosuto1985

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@kanekan-slaugh: is it really WORTH watching though... I wouldn't say so.. it felt like a made for TV movie and the CGI was atrocious xD the SFX where bad and the story was just boring.

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el_swanno

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Edited By el_swanno

@kanekan-slaugh: I thought it was a pretty solid film but I really wish they’d taken that once in a lifetime opportunity to do the Reign of the Supermen storyline. Cyborg Superman would have made a great villain.

And Henry Cavill’s CG mouth during that opening scene was some of the most appalling CG I’ve ever seen. That reshoot stuff seemed really sloppy and rushed.

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tsuingosuto1985

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@el_swanno: Solid how? it felt dated even if it was a late 90s movie xD worst CGI worst SFX and a pointlessly boring plot.

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el_swanno

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@tsuingosuto1985: For sure but there’s a lot it did right too. Unlike MOS abd BvS this was actually a superhero movie not a moody drama featuring some superhero action scenes. I mean what is the standard we’re judging it by here? The vast majority of superhero film are substandard. I don’t go into these things with high expectation. I’m also one of the few people who enjoyed Superman Returns despite its obvious flaws.

At the end of the day Justice League entertained me for 2 hours. That’s all I was ever looking for.

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kanekan-slaugh

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@el_swanno: There was only one scene with the CGI lip and it's noticeable.

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el_swanno

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@kanekan-slaugh: It was more than the lip. The entire lower half of his face was CG. The mouth animation was terrible but I suspect time limitations were a factor. Those reshoots were pretty close to the release date.

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kanekan-slaugh

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@el_swanno: That'd be the reason. Otherwise they wouldn't CG a goddamn mouth in the first place. You can also tell Joss messed up the colour grading.

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el_swanno

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@kanekan-slaugh: Yeah, there were inconsistencies in the colour of Superman’s suit. It was anywhere from cyan to Zack Snyder blue. Still, if you’re gonna nitpick to that level you’re never going to enjoy any movie. I saw Richard Donner’s Superman when it first came out in theatres and I was just amazed that I couldn’t see the wires. That was mind blowing stuff back then.

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kanekan-slaugh

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@el_swanno: true. It's just that I can't help but see these things as I've learned film and know the way Zack does his films. He doesn't use Filters or messes with shots (depending) in post, he uses picture profiles and a few lighting tricks and that makes his stuff look pretty on camera, also dark. Joss, who had control of all post production obviously messed up the colour grading to make it brighter. The problem with that is it makes every shot look fake or re-shot.

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el_swanno

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Edited By el_swanno

@kanekan-slaugh: Every films has problems like that although JL is a fairly extreme example. Even if they get the visual right most major films these days have some pretty shoddy writing that’s just as glaringly obvious. At the end of the day you have to just accept that filmmaking is a flawed process otherwise you’ll never enjoy any film ever. Not even Stanley Kubrick.

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kanekan-slaugh

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@el_swanno: true.

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scottyp360

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@kanekan-slaugh: "even so better than most if not all of the comicbook movies this year."

Are you sure about that? This was possibly the best year for superhero movies ever.

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tsuingosuto1985

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@scottyp360: Spiderman homecoming and thor blew it out the water.

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el_swanno

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@tsuingosuto1985: Homecoming was an exceptional film. It’s possibly the best superhero movie ever. For me it’s neck-and-neck with “mother!” as my favourite film of the year.

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kanekan-slaugh

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@scottyp360: Yeah, I'm sure. remember what everyone likes is subjective.

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CptJohnnyRico

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Superman is the REAL leader of the Justice League.

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nparks

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Question: at what point are any of the members of the "Justice League" going to do something vaguely related to Justice? Superman fought aliens. Batman fought Superman (who is an alien) and an alien. The Suicide Squad fought interdimensional aliens. Wonder Woman fought Germans and the god of war. Nice change of pace there. Now, the Justice League is back fighting aliens. Are they ever going to fight any crime?

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parabol69

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@nparks: Maybe the next one? There's an after credits scene that alludes to it.

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Jules__Badguy

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Not quite Avengers 1 good but still excellent imo... go see it and enjoy.

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MJ12-Conspiracy

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@jules__badguy: not quite Avenger 1???? hell this isn't even Avengers AOU quality.....

*Kelso appears* OOH BURN!!!

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Jules__Badguy

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@MJ12-Conspiracy: Don't kid yourself dude this shits on Ultron

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tsuingosuto1985

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Edited By tsuingosuto1985

@jules__badguy: It really didn't shit on ultron xD atleast ultron had a personality, steppenwolf was completely forgetable.

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Jules__Badguy

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Edited By Jules__Badguy

@tsuingosuto1985: Ultron was a terrible punchline. Steppenwolf was "I'm here to slap some Amazons on the ass and get them loot boxes." A No frills, jokeless buttkicker. I liked that.

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MJ12-Conspiracy

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@jules__badguy: Ultron had Scarlet Witch and all the awesome that is Hawkeye/Jeremy Renner, for me the farm sequence was the best and elevates it above just being a low spot in MCU, Iron Man 3 is harder to defend....

all I mean is given AOU's issues it still had very strong character development and great action scenes, they should have added about 20-30 minutes run time to it just so they could space the action out a little better and give the action better context....eh

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Jules__Badguy

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@MJ12-Conspiracy: I'll give you that. This is the one movie that should've been at least 2 1/2 hours long.

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Barighm

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I guess this means Family Guy and Big Bang Theory will stop making fun of Aquaman.

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greaseman1985

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@Barighm: Aquaman still sucks fish pee.

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MJ12-Conspiracy

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@greaseman1985: Aquaman rocks.....when new 52 rebooted DC Aquaman was turned into a badass who could stand toe to toe with Superman and if you don't believe Aquaman is all that, watch Throne Of Atlantis or the Justice League animated series, even there they made Aquaman a real hero....

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tsuingosuto1985

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Edited By tsuingosuto1985

@MJ12-Conspiracy: Aquaman was always a bad ass dude.. you clearly don't read the comics MJ12 because it was only in the animated show superfriends that aquaman was camp and laughable.

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kanekan-slaugh

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@MJ12-Conspiracy: Aquaman was great since the late 80's or early 90's can't remember exactly but Peter david took over story roles for his character and made him amazing with probably the best run I've ever read. He was uber hardcore then too and fully utilised his powers.

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MJ12-Conspiracy

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@kanekan-slaugh: Ahh, I pretty much only read X-Men, Spiderman & GI Joe back then lolz

and i am a weird one cus back then i was pro marvel screw the rest and now i'm more open but i more or less just read DC when it's a choice between Marvel and DC lol

I'm cool with all the comic publishers....my fave is image though and aside from Spawn my fave image comic is Aphrodite IX, basically Dollhouse but way way better....

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kanekan-slaugh

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Edited By kanekan-slaugh

@MJ12-Conspiracy: Ah, I wish I had time to read many comics these days. there's so much yet I'm so busy. I hear most of marvel's properties are going downhill though, that's all anyone tells me so I can't confirm.

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SLAMMIN23

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I'll be seeing it tomorrow but this movie should have been longer then 2 hours under 2 hours is way to short for a movie like this shame on you wb for making this under 2 hours but ill be looking forward to this tomorrow.

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kanekan-slaugh

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@SLAMMIN23: They don't seem to learn. There's a pattern with Zack snyder films, he's ambitious and has everything going for him other than being a household name. Basically he has no pull or choice into anything when the company he works for WB just tears apart his work and wonder why people aren't liking it as much as in house screenings.

Not even joking there isn't a movie he directed other than 300 that hasn't been torn apart before release by WB and his name always get's the blame for it.

If he left WB or had someone with enough to to stop it, maybe things like the original cut of BvS would've been released. You know the original cut screened in house got a standing ovation which is rare.

But no, because people have shorter attention spans than goldfish (based on a study not too long ago) they cut his stuff to shreds.

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tsuingosuto1985

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Snyders problem is he DOESN'T like comics... he literally can only stand very obscure dark broody stories, which is why watchmen was good, but the justice league just isn't that and he is trying to force it to be so by mashing a load of darker justice league characters stories together and making a mess of it, ruined doomsdays dark origin completely, made batmans fight with superman pointless and based over literally nothing, next movie batmans calling superman clark and acting like they where best friends xD

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inebriantia

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@SLAMMIN23: No, ppl don't want to see movies that long sadly, at least in theaters. You can't pause to pee, grab a drink, gotta pay a sitter, ppl just don't like long theater movies. There was some movie actually just a while back actually where ppl threw a fit bc it was so long.

I don't mind, but many do :(

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kanekan-slaugh

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@inebriantia: Sad and everytime Zack get's the blame for it when it's the studios fault. You know the original cut for BvS got a standing ovation right? Rarely happens in house. People have shorter attention spans than goldfish which sadly is reason for this.

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berzerk0912

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@SLAMMIN23: I'm sure there will be an extended edition around the corner when it hits blu ray.

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Rwmgamer85

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People need to realize that most comic book villains come down to wanting power over everything and/or to destroy everything. This goes from Hela, Thanos (which is just a shortened version of the greek word for death Thanotos), to Steppenwolf, Atrocitis, and even Steppenwolf's more powerful nephew Darkseid. I think Steppenwolf was just used as a path to get to Darkseid later anyways.

Also if there's cheap looking CGI it's likely because WB is uncertain of how much money they'll get back and wanted to keep the price of making the film lower for an already expensive film. (Also, look what happened with Blade Runner 2049: Great visuals but it cost them over $150 million to make and only brought in around $85 million domestically.

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Ish_basic

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@rwmgamer85: Nah. Thanos just wanted to get the girl. What'd you get your girl for Valentine's day, Thanos? "Earth."

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MJ12-Conspiracy

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@Ish_basic: HA!

Mistress Death only cares about the dead and has little time for the mad titan.....

Thanos brought thee flowers

meh

Thanos brought thee offerings in thy name

meh

thanos brought thee Earth....

meh

NOTICE ME DEATH!!!!!!!

lolz that's sort of how the story went in the comics, on a simplistic level....he tried to woo her, tried other things then got pissed then the war.....heroes won the end.....well with losses but eh...

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Ish_basic

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@MJ12-Conspiracy: So basically Thanos is like Screech Powers + infinity stones

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MJ12-Conspiracy

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@Ish_basic: naww it was just his motivations, he's actually super powerful, also i was being ultra simplistic....plus it was a joke

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