Just because it’s one director’s vision finally realized doesn’t necessarily make it a good vision.
I’ve said on here a few times that just because you’re writing books doesn’t mean you can only learn about storytelling from books. You take lessons from comics, video games, television, and, as you’ve probably already guessed by this title, movies. Especially movies based around characters you’ve known your whole life.
That’s ultimately the goal when we write. We want to create characters for people to immediately connect with, bond with, see their likes and dislikes, associate with them and their struggles, and, above all, like them. I don’t mean we want to be best friends with them, obviously there have been tons of movies featuring less than upstanding citizens (most of Martin Scorsese films say “What’s up?”). But certain likeable, associative traits-[ can be given to those characters, too.
And from the moment I started this 4-hour long dredge through the mind of Zack Snyder called, perfectly, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League”, I knew from the instant it started: I hate this.
Comic book movies shouldn’t be that hard to get right. You have over 80 years of story to pull inspiration from in many cases. There’s character, motivation, and look/feel all laid out for you. Sure, you can stray from the laid out course to mix things up (look at all the variations of Batman we’ve been given) but for the most part it’s all there.
When Zack Snyder gets a hold of something it’s very clear what his intention is: What looks the coolest.
This is a stunning movie to look at. I’ll start with a positive. Call it a leftover from my time working in a comic book store when I wouldn’t necessarily like everything that the customers bought, but you can always find something positive to say. If I wanted I could put this up on a giant screen in our office here at home, muted, and play some music over it and it’d be totally fine. As long as I don’t have to think about these characters and their actions I’ll be fine.
But once I do is when the problems start.
This was supposed to be the great fix for “Justice Snyder’s Zack League.” If you weren’t aware of the internet campaign to get this brought to screen, don’t Google it. The people who are the loudest about getting this brought to life are some of the worst of the worst when it comes to comic book fans. Sure, there’s been plenty of good that’s been done in the name of the “Snyder Cut,” most famously a charity campaign for suicide prevention and awareness, but god help you if you were a woman during these times and had a less than perfect review of anything Snyder had done.
Let’s not beat around the bush: Some truly terrible people were the major, driving force to bring this to life.
And they won.
They showed, like the past four years have, that bullying and threatening are the way to go. Honestly, since the election, I haven’t felt the kind of “Death Every Day” vibe I had when the orange guy was in office. But looking at these Snyder Bros, the way they tweet, praising the almighty name of Zack’s work, gives me that slimy, gross, culty feeling. I want to be clear, here. I think the bad guys won with the release of the film.
But what about the film itself? How does it hold up now that it’s been released? Ignoring the fact this is every creator’s dream, a chance to look at your work that’s already been released, go back, edit, re-do, re-shoot, add on, and tell everyone, “THIS IS WHAT IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE ALL ALONG.”
The problem is that the movie is…fine?
Not better. Just…the same. Same plot. Same beats. Just, longer. With more stuff added in. Not all of it good.
I’m not going to go scene by scene in “Zack Justice’s League Snyder”, point out the good and the bad, as every scene there’s either an improvement or something made worse. Instead, I’ll focus on what I think might be the biggest flaw in this film, something I think the Snyder Faithful will willfully overlook because they got their prize: his characters, which as stated in the beginning is the most important part of storytelling.
There’s two prime examples I’ll use: Cyborg and Superman.
Now, is it good that Cyborg’s full story was told? Yes. Was it a good story to tell? Sure, it was fine enough. We got to hit all the marks of a young man coming to grips with his new technologically enhanced powers in a world of meta-humans while understanding the world, the life, he was leading is now gone forever. All well and good. What might have helped this stand out more is if Fisher did more than stand there, stoic faced, giving us nothing.
There’s one scene where he’s given the full explanation of his powers, something in the theatrical release that was done in a few lines of dialogue. In this version its given a full, CGI treatment, showcasing how Cyborg sees his new world. It’s not just 1s and 0s, it’s literal bulls and bears fighting each other in front of the NYSE. Yet, Fisher doesn’t react. At all. I didn’t know what he was thinking or feeling as he learned that he could move money from bank account to bank account, seemingly to help the downtrodden. He just kept…staring.
There’s another scene in the film where *minor spoilers* a character dies, and he reacts a bit, but by the next scene he’s fine. He’s working. Someone even comments on how he shouldn’t be doing this since this character just died, but that’s just it. Cyborg just keeps on going. Detached. Robotic. Inhuman.
So, yes, there’s more Cyborg, doesn’t mean it’s more good Cyborg.
The second character I want to discuss is Superman.
I went to bat for Man of Steel eight years ago. That movie got a lot of heat when it first came out, which is funny now when you compare it to the amount of attraction this film is receiving (alongside a myriad of other comic films). People thought the infamous death of Zod at the end of the film wasn’t warranted, that it wasn’t something Superman would do. I defended the choice, seeing it as a potentially great bit of character work that could be paid off in future films. “Superman doesn’t kill. That’s gotta come from somewhere, right?”
I should never be afraid of Superman.
That’s just a law, something inherent to everyone everywhere. While my criticism of Cyborg was more technical, lying in his performance, this comes from a gut feeling. From watching, observing what Snyder was giving us, and interpreting it as, “You should be afraid of this man.”
When Superman appears on screen you should feel hope, calm, peace, and the comfort to know, “We’re okay. We’re in safe hands.” That’s not the case for Snyder’s version of the Man of Steel, which becomes amplified by his appearance in Justice League. Cavill is a great pick for Superman, and even more so for Clark, and every so often you can see the brilliance shining through the murky, gray tones. Yet, that’s of no interest to Snyder, as he chooses to reintroduce Superman to the film by fighting the Justice League (arguably in a really great scene showcasing character dynamics), have him exchange a feeeeew words with Lois in a cornfield, pick a black suit for no reason other than it looks cool, and punch Steppenwolf.
Like, a sickening amount.
Framing plays a large role in film, how you shoot things, what angles you pick, etc. When you shoot Superman, punching downwards, with glowing red eyes, again, and again, and again, and the audience is looking up at him as if they’re the one he’s attacking, he doesn’t look like a hero.
He looks like a bully.
He’s not a savior. He’s just another strong guy in a cape. There’s nothing from this final boss fight in Zack Leagues’ Justice Snyder that warrants the, “Let’s all stand in a row, heroically, because we are most definitely heroes!” pose at the end of the film.
They’re not. Superman’s not.
Not to Snyder.
Take those criticisms of Superman and Cyborg, stretch them over the entire film, and there you have it. Something to look at that rings hollow of character, emotion, depth, or any sort of joy.
A few final things about this film:
-*ancient lamentations music playing*
-That’s how you introduce Darkseid? THAT? IS HOW? YOU INTRODUCE? DARKSEID?
-This movie could have easily been 2 hours if he removed all the slo-mo. Look, I understand “style” and “that’s just the way he does it!” but it’s seriously detrimental. When everything else is shot in slow motion then it doesn’t look impressive when the Flash does it. The Flash looked most impressive when he was moving fast and we could tell when he was moving fast, like the scene when he stopped all the debris from falling on the people.
-Never let Jared Leto, or Zack Snyder for that matter, anywhere near The Joker again.
Sometimes you don’t have to say why specifically a movie is wrong. You feel it, like lightning on the horizon right before the forest is set ablaze. There’s something bad coming. That’s how I felt with every moment of this film.
That’s it. Don’t watch it. Or do. Either way, I’ll raise my boys on something a little better.
Thanks for reading,