A weekly feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at “Justice League,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “Stegman is Dead.”
What’s it like playing Cyborg, the technologically enhanced human superhero of Justice League? Ray Fisher compares his excitement to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
“It’s like someone handing you the keys to the chocolate factory and saying, ‘Go ahead, it’s yours now,’” says the 30-year-old actor.
Before he was a superhero, Cyborg was Victor Stone, a sports-obsessed young man who was cybernetically reconstructed by his scientist father after a nearly fatal car accident. Cobbled together with technology that allows him to weaponize his arms and mind, he becomes a reluctant superhero.
Fisher first played Cyborg in a cameo appearance in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and audiences took notice.
“Fans have reached out,” he says. “There have been some who are amputees. There have been kids who have implants. For Cyborg to be able to represent the underrepresented in that way is a very special thing. I didn’t know the full scope of what he would represent when I took on the mantle.”
Fisher says he’s inspired by the fact that his character gives voice and power to those who feel marginalized.
“Cyborg represents not just people who are differently abled, he is also a representation of the Black community and people of colour within the Justice League. Being able to don both those mantles with the integrity which that character would need to be portrayed and was adhered to was something that was very important. I never felt that I was in too much danger of becoming a stereotype. I never felt like I was in danger of offending anyone with that particular portrayal because it could go wrong in so many ways.”
Growing up, he thought Cyborg was a “funny character but he didn’t resonate with me.” Live action heroes did, however. “I remember watching Wesley Snipes as Blade,” he says. “I watched Michael Jai White as Spawn. I even watch Shaquille O’Neal as Steel. I felt like seeing a physical representation, a non-cartoon representation affected me in a much different way.”
Although he didn’t read comic books growing up in the 1990s and 2000s, Fisher says he was a huge fan of the animated series and movies.
“It wasn’t until I booked the role of Cyborg that I was sent literally everything Cyborg-related from DC comics. I was able to fall in love with the original iteration of Cyborg from the Teen Titans. For me to be able to bring the character into the same sphere as the shows and the animated series I loved as a kid is coming full circle.”
Fisher, who made a name for himself playing Muhammad Ali in the Off-Broadway production of Fetch Clay, Make Man says he hopes his take on the character will make an impression on DC fans.
“Hopefully it resonates with people in a positive way,” he says. “I think there is definitely a message behind Cyborg that is needed for people to hear and what he represents and the resilience of the human spirit. I hope it means as much to people watching it as it meant to me to do it.”
Let’s face it, without the batsuit Bruce Wayne is just another billionaire playboy with some cool toys. With it, he’s the Caped Crusader, keeping Gotham and the world safe. The clothes make the man, or in this case, the superhero.
To play the Dark Knight in the new Justice League movie, Ben Affleck wore a variation on his Batman v Superman costume which was a variation on every batsuit that came before it.
Designed to conceal his identity and frighten criminals, the basic batsuit is usually blue-black or dark grey, emblazoned with the chest-mounted Batsymbol. Add to that a flowing cape, finned gloves and a utility belt with a variety of crime fighting gadgets. All batsuits are topped off with a cowl with ears that mimic a bat’s head.
Costume designer Michael Wilkinson says Affleck’s new look is, “a little more aggressive.” To pump up the suit’s armour, Wilkinson drew on Bruce Wayne’s history of studying martial arts in Japan, creating new gloves based on samurai designs. Inspired by the Wayne Tech esthetic, he also revamped the cowl, adding in new ways for Batman to communicate with his trusty manservant Alfred.
Like Rick Blaine’s fedora or Annie Hall’s wide trousers, long white shirts, vests and men’s ties, the suit is crucial to Batman’s brand but it’s not always a comfortable fit.
“The first time I ever put on the (suit) myself I thought, ‘Oh, Chris (Nolan) has to re-do the cast,’” says Christian Bale, who played the Caped Crusader in three movies, “because the claustrophobia was just unbelievable.”
The Batman Begins actor says he discovered a meditative process that eased the anxiety of feeling trapped inside the hulking suit and estimates that he spent a total of 21 months encased in Batman’s armour.
He claims the discomfort actually helped him play the brooding character because he was always in a foul mood when he had to don the suit.
“Batman, he’s this very, very dark, messed-up character,” said Bale. “I found when I put on the suit I went, ‘I just feel like a bloody idiot if I don’t use this as a means to (show) his true, monstrous self that he allows to come out in that moment.’”
When Affleck took over the role from Bale he says the Welsh actor gave him one important bit of advice. “He told me to make sure I got a zipper in the suit,” Affleck laughs, “which was valuable, practical advice as it turned out.”
Perhaps the most beloved actor to wear the batsuit was the late Adam West. For 120 episodes from 1966 to 1968, West was Batman on the most popular show on television. He called putting on the suit one of his most memorable moments on the show.
“One defining moment was when I first put on the costume for real and was about to leave my trailer on the stage and walk out in front of the crew and the press, and into the light,” he told me in a 2010 interview.
“I thought, ‘Oh Lord! Are they going to laugh? What’s going to happen here?’ Well, I walked across the stage as dignified as I could and there wasn’t a sound. People stood there in awe and I thought, ‘Yes, this will work.’”
The old truism “Less is more” has been thrown into the interdimensional void with the release of the new jam-packed superhero film “Justice League.”
At almost two hours and featuring the talents of not one but two high-powered directors—Joss Whedon took over for Zach Synder who stepped away in post-production due to personal issues—it features the top-line DC heroes like Superman (Henry Cavill), Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) plus a host of others like Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Mamoa) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher). Then there’s odds and ends like Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta, villains such as Lex Luther (Jesse Eisenberg) and the motion captured Ciarán Hinds as Steppenwolf and significant others like Martha Kent (Diane Lane), Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and James Gordon (J. K. Simmons).
Phew. That’s a whole lotta movie. I wonder, is there anyone left to make other superhero films?
“Justice League” takes place months after the events of the grim-faced “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Superman, apparently, is out of the picture—we see a newspaper with the headline “Disappearing heroes. Did they return to their planets?” accompanied with photos of David Bowie, Prince and Superman—so billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne (Affleck) and Diana Prince (Gadot) a.k.a. Princess Diana of Themyscira assemble a team of super-dupers including the world’s fastest boy, Barry Allen (Miller), merman Arthur Curry (Momoa) and man-machine Victor Stone (Fisher). “There are enemies coming from far away,” says Wayne. “I need warriors right now.”
Their job? To combat alien military officer Steppenwolf—“I am the end of worlds!”—and his army of winged shock troops called Terror Demons. How do we know Steppenwolf is the villain? He has big silver and says things like, “Praise to the mother of horrors!” These are bad dudes and if they lay their hands on the three earthbound Mother Boxes—perpetual energy matrixes that, if joined together, destroy as they create—not even the combined forces of all the DC superheroes will be able to save the planet and stop Steppenwolf from taking his place among the new gods! “One misses the days when the biggest concerns were wind up exploding penguins,” moans Alfred Pennyworth (Jeremy Irons).
The first hour of “Justice League” is essentially a long origin story, detailing the backstories of each of the new characters. It’s still sombre and underscored with a VERY dramatic soundtrack by Danny Elfman. At the same time it doesn’t take itself as seriously as “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” It’s hard not to find the humour in Bruce Wayne pseudo-seriously asking Aquaman if he can talk to fish. The funny stuff is a welcome addition. The downhearted tone of Synder’s previous film was oppressive, sending the audience on a one-way trip to Bleaktown, USA.
“Justice League,” by comparison, has hills and valleys. Moments of weight play off the lighter scenes, combining to create an overall more enjoyable experience. It even ends on a hopeful note. “Heroes remind us that hope is everywhere,” Lane writes at the end of the film. “You can see it. All you have to do is look up in the sky.”
“Justice League” features a typical-destroy-the-whole-damn-planet-and-bathe-in-your-blood style villain and there’s still way too much CGI but allowing the characters to acknowledge the ridiculousness of their situations—I’m looking at you Aquaman!—doesn’t make it a silly movie. Rather, it makes it a self-aware film that winks at the audience while providing a simple, action-packed story of good vs. evil.
It’s not a spoiler to let you know the Avengers save the world in The Age of Ultron. The spectacular six have rescued the planet before and, no doubt, will save it again in future. In superhero movies the globe is always on the eve of destruction.
The original movie, 2012’s The Avengers, saw the team protect the planet from Thor’s evil brother Loki while in Superman II the Man of Steel battles three Kryptonian criminals set to obliterate our orb. A baddie named M tries to wage world war in The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen and recently the Fantastic Four prevented a giant cosmic entity called Galactus from gobbling up the earth.
“I see a suit of armour around the world,” says Tony Stark in Age of Ultron. “Peace in our time, imagine that.”
The movies get bigger every time out and with thirty more superhero flicks scheduled for the five years—including Deadpool, Doctor Strange and Gambit—the mind reels at the ways villains might endanger our world. It sounds entertaining but haven’t we’ve already been there? Where do you go from the threat of total annihilation?
Diminishing returns in terms of audience reaction, that’s where. We all know The Avengers will pull out all the stops to save the earth. Buildings will crumble, trucks will go airborne and giant cracks will appear where city streets used to be but by the end credits you know everyone will emerge relatively unscathed, with the bad people vanquished and the good guys grinning from ear to ear. Viewers are left with CGI fatigue, but dammit a catastrophe was averted. Again.
But we’ve been there, done that. Why not freshen things up and turn back the hands of the doomsday clock a few minutes to create tension in the form of different kinds of situations? It sounds counter intuitive—bigger is always better, right?— but imagine Captain America going mano a mano with Kim Jong-un or Iron Man shrinking down to the size of a microbe to battle cancer from the inside à la Fantastic Voyage.
The real world is a very complicated place. Every day the news delivers more bad information than all the tragedies of Aeschylus and Sophocles combined. Stories of beheadings, terrorism and all manner of terrible behaviour flood the airwaves aching to be corrected by some sort of superhero. How great would it be to see warrior princess of the Amazons Wonder Woman unleash the Lasso of Truth on the Canadian Senate or weather maven Storm get all medieval on climate change?
An injection of real world issues might not make for big box office, but it certainly would infuse the movies with a sense of unpredictability—just like real life events. Real life is messy and volatile and that’s what keeps it interesting.
I understand one of the reasons we go to movies like The Avengers: Age of Ultron is to see things we’ll never witness in real life, but it’s hard not to agree with Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) when he says, “We’re fighting an army of robots and I have a bow and arrow—it makes no sense!” These movies try to dazzle our eyes—and they do!— but bringing them down to earth, literally, might help us engage our brains as well.