Unsatisfying sequels and a disappointing season: movies and TV

JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017) isn’t as much of a train wreck as I anticipated, and certainly an improvement over Batman vs. Superman but it still falls far short of even an average MCU entry. With Superman dead, the world is falling into despair (which I found a false note — Henry Cavill’s Superman in Zach Snyder’s DC Universe was hardly a shining beacon of hope); when an alien warrior named Steppenwolf steals three ancient Mother Boxes to xenoform Earth into a duplicate of his homeworld, an aging Batman (one of the film’s better ideas is that he’s been at this for 20 years) recruits Wonder Woman, Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman to stop him.

The cast is solid, but Steppenwolf is just a generic alien warlord; if they wanted to use someone from Kirby’s Fourth World mythos) (I presume this is based on the New 52 origin where the JLA comes together against an incursion from Apokalips) there are far more colorful adversaries (the Female Furies, Dr. Bedlam, Granny Goodness …). And I really hate Cyborg’s look, less like he’s part-metal and more like he’s wearing an Iron Man suit with his head exposed. Overall, not awful, but it left me with none of the enthusiasm for the team the first Avengers film did, let alone TV’s Arrowverse. “I can’t even understand the physics of me feeling my toes.”

RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET (2018) is the Wreck-It Ralph sequel in which Ralph accidentally disables best friend Vanellope’s arcade game which sends them onto the Internet seeking the needed spare part; upon overbidding for it on eBay, they have to then raise money to cover the bill. This has some good bits such as Vanellope testing her racing skills in a Grand Theft Auto-type universe, but the product placement is very heavy (that we also have made-up names like the videosharing site “Buzztube” alongside Google and Amazon presumably tells us who paid to play) and the satire of the Internet’s dark side (vicious comments, lots of cat videos) felt canned; while Vanellope meeting up with Disney’s princesses had its amusing moment, it still felt too much like bonus product placement (I assume Disney mocking princess tropes is as insincere as Kate and Leopold decrying marketing as immoral). While a lot of reviews liked the themes and the emotional arc overall this felt too canned. With Alan Tudyk as a search engine and Gail Godot as a wildcat street racer. “It’s sort of a Pied Piper codependent strategy.”

Although I enjoyed the first season of the CHARMED reboot, the second season has largely killed my enthusiasm. The new showrunners kick things off by relocating them to Seattle (their base is now under a shared-work space), destroying the Book of Elders and taking out their powers, leaving them ill-equipped to cope with the new threats arising. Which could have worked, but the Macy/Harry romance feels very unconvincing, like something the new crew arbitrarily decided was a thing; as it’s a mainstay of the character arcs, that isn’t working for me.

#SFWApro. Cover art by Murphy Anderson, all rights remain with current holder.

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