Justice League…ayayayaya!! I can’t leave it alone. Went to bed thinking about it and woke up still thinking about it.
Listen, I have been pretty vocal in my support for the DC Extended Universe because I legitimately find their take on superhero mythology the most interesting… I love that they’re looking at things from a more sober perspective and fusing real-world implications with out of this world spectacle and fantasy. I’ve enjoyed going into Zack Snyder’s DC films not knowing at all how things are going to turn out or where we’re going to find these iconic characters’ emotional state, but trusting that wherever things land, the action of the film will have lasting and impactful consequences on our ideas of heroism and idolatry. Seriously, I’ve been fully on board…
…until now. The Justice League movie is just… okay.
While never quite “Suicide Squad” level terrible, the film REEKED of executive interference, a nervous studio trying to protect it’s most valuable players and in the process, extinguishing ANY chance of the film having some sort of identity, or anything new or interesting to say or at the very least a style all of its own. It’s a weird mix of some genuinely intriguing elements and some mindboggling, inexplicably terrible choices, wrapped up in a loud and entirely underwhelming finale.
Point in case: The very first shot of the film is Henry Cavill and his now infamously CGI’d moustache-less face that’s jarringly, disastrously done, and to think they spent millions of dollars “Fixing” this altogether unnecessary scene (it’s meant to set the tone after the death of Superman in the previous film but the oddness of Cavill’s face is so distracting, it takes you right outta things). And this $300m film is littered with dozens of such cringe-worthy decisions and yet the good things almost save it from being awful.
In fact, I can’t say it was ever really boring.
I’d say it suffered from being poorly set up in the first place, and then tampered with by bringing in former “Avengers” director Joss Whedon to radically alter the tone in reshoots and post. Not Whedon’s fault but entirely unsuccessful. The reality is WB simply has no workable layout for the universe they’re trying so desperately to get off the ground, and they threw this movie together about 3 movies too soon. You know what Marvel’s secret weapon has been? Kevin Feige, the executive producer on all their movies and the architect of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Know how he got his job? By being the hugest comic book nerd blockbuster cinema has ever seen! This guy has what’s been described as “an encyclopedic knowledge of the Marvel comic books”, which has allowed him to be the grand architect of the most successful cinematic universe in movie history because HE LAID ALL THAT SHIT OUT TILL LIKE 2025! On the other hand, Warner Brothers just seem to be doing things in a reactionary way to how the last movie was received and peeking over at what Marvel’s doing. ( I know they have Geoff Johns on board who they only brought on after “Man of Steel” underwhelmed at the box office but where’s the 4 phase plan?)
Not a bad idea if you’re looking at the long-term structuring of your rival and not just stealing their colour scheme.
Look, there are quite a few things to love about this movie. I was hesitant to call it so soon after BvS but I can do so now; Ben Affleck is the coolest Bruce Wayne/Batman we’ve seen on film and I will fight you if you try and tell me otherwise. Gal Gadot has entirely won me over as Wonder Woman, Ezra Miller and Ray Fisher are excellent additions as The Flash and Cyborg, respectively, and… it has to be said, Jason Momoa manages to make Aquaman fuckin badass! I can’t believe I’m genuinely looking forward to an Aquaman movie but there it is. He’s a fuckin rockstar. That said introducing all 3 of these characters (outside of their minute-long cameos in BvS) was a colossal mistake as there are scenes where they interact with characters outside of this story that you’d have to have read the comics to make sense of (I haven’t) and as they are, have no impact without context. THAT’S why Marvel made standalone Captain America, standalone Thor and 2- fucking TWO Iron Man movies before they got to “Avengers”! Tremendous misstep #1 by DCEU.
What about Henry Cavill as Superman, you might be wondering. Surely Superman is in the movie? Why, yes he is, although you wouldn’t know it from the trailers BECAUSE THEY FUCKING LEFT SUPERMAN OUT OF THE TRAILERS FOR A JUSTICE LEAGUE MOVIE!!! They had Clark in one of the last ones, ONLY ONE, and only for a split second, walking through a cornfield or some shit, but other than that NO SUPERMAN. In the buildup to the release of a movie about THE FUCKING JUSTICE LEAGUE. No. Superman. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME??? That’s like if the Refugee Camp was reuniting and they had Pras and Wyclef there, and they got John Forte and Pacewon and them in the background but NO LAURYN HILL in any of the promos or posters or nothing! I mean, why would you leave Superman, THE most celebrated superhero of ALL TIME out of the buildup to a movie about his team of super friends? This is a $300 MILLION product but I swear, just the level of bafflement at the way it was rolled out is astounding. Tremendous Misstep #2.
Okay, but the villain? Steppenwolf. Steppen-who? Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with him because you don’t read comics, you’ll get to know him and understand him quite well in the movie. By which I mean he literally could have been anyone, anything, he could have just been a box of nails labelled “Obstacle” and he would have had exactly the same impact on the film as he did in the current iteration. Oh and he’s entirely CGI except the CGI looks like shitty claymation. Don’t believe me? just watch. It’s a well known fact that villains have been the most poorly conceived part of superhero movies (heck even Thor 3, which was fucking awesome – thank you Taika!!- did next to nothing with 2 time Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett as the main baddie) but Steppenwolf is… phew… man did he suck. He’s already being called the worst villain in a superhero movie ever and I wouldn’t go that far – hello, whoever was the villain in Thor 2, that aggressively forgettable film- but yeah, Steppenwolf was Tremendous misstep #3. (Notice how I avoided the pun on his name there? I too can be a superhero sometimes.)
And then a bunch of other bizarre twists and turns that smothered the awesomeness of the main characters interacting ( I… I don’t think there were any scenes at all involving characters outside of the main heroes which is actually quite strange. Oh yeah, a pretty heartbreaking one between Lois and Martha communing over their shared loss of a still dead Clark.)
I don’t believe this was Zack Snyder’s vision. There’s an 80,000+ strong petition of fans out there demanding Warner Bros release Zack’s cut of the film, so I’m not alone in my thinking. I mean it’s painfully obvious as the tones clash so transparently it’s impossible to draw any other conclusion. The reality WB has to face is that Zack Snyder is not the man to deliver the kind of populist but ultimately disposable blockbuster Marvel churns out on the regular… don’t get me wrong, I enjoy those movies too for the most part but outside of “Guardians of The Galaxy”, none of them really exist beyond the moment. Remember at the end of Iron Man 3 when Tony destroyed all the suits (as if giving up the reins) and Pepper had become a superhero herself? That was 4 years and 11 Marvel movies ago – never addressed even once. Do you know what I mean? They are tremendously fun and a good old time at the movies… but ultimately meaningless. On the other hand, fans are still debating the ethics of Superman twisting Zod’s neck off at the end of “man of Steel” which came out the same year.
Not because it was in any way better (which I think it was but I can see the counter-argument to that), but because Zack’s always been more interested in challenging viewers than necessarily entertaining them. I mean he made fucking ‘Watchmen”, the best and most-polarizing comic book adaptation to date! Warner Bros wants a multi-billion dollar franchise to replace Harry Potter. Give Geoff Johns the reins and let him map that shit out like Feige did. And then find hired guns to bring that vision to life.
OR, let Zack Snyder be Zack Snyder. Give him the chance to grow his vision to its peak potential. “Man of Steel” $668m. “BvS” $873m. Zack Snyder’s “Justice League”? We’ll never know cos instead we have this Frankensteined- cut confounding fans and box office pundits alike right now. It is what it is, this film’s gonna lose a lot of money and even if it somehow played well through the holidays and had a surprisingly healthy multiple that saw it through to the black, it remains a heavy stain on what should be Warner Bros surefire hit machine. It’s proven all the Snyder haters right and taken the wind out of those of us who continue to support his vision.
Not because it’s awful, it really isn’t. Seriously. But because it never once aimed to be anything better than “not awful”.
P.S. Remember like a year ago when photos surfaced of 60-something-year-old J.K. Simmons looking fucking RIPPED lifting weights in the gym and they said it was in preparation for his role as Jim Gordon in the Justice League film? He literally wears a trenchcoat in each of his very brief scenes and the heaviest thing he lefts is a pen I think he hands someone. WHAT THE FUCK WARNER BROTHERS??