It’s been a while since I actually wrote anything, as you are no doubt aware. Please bear with me if this piece reads like a rambling mess, perhaps its the affect of losing 4 hours of my life to committing to the watching ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ in one sitting.
I would normally save my thoughts on a movie for our podcast, but seeing as my 2 year old has infected our household with the worst kind of cough/cold bug and I currently sound like I’ve been giving fellatio to a stinging nettle plant, I thought I’d save you all the torture of trying to work out what I’m actually saying, and put my thoughts to a blog post instead. I’m sure you are all aware by now of the back story behind this movie, so I’ll spare you all the recap. Rich & I discussed this on our podcast when the news broke that ‘Justice League’ was to return to our screens, so if you are interested in our initial thoughts about it, you can find them here;
So, where to begin? I suppose at the beginning with my initial take away and to answer the question, is it better than the 2017 theatrical cut? In a word, yes. It some ways, it was a more coherent viewing experience than I expected, so that already sets it above it’s much doctored predecessor. That said, it’s not like the bar was set particularly high, was it? The plot of this unfiltered version certainly made more sense to me, but it didn’t feel any less clunky in places. At times, it felt like certain elements and plot points were crammed into the story just to see if they would ‘stick’, and the lack of subtlety at times was very jarring. I’m going to avoid spoilers here as I know not everyone has seen the movie yet and Rich and I will probably break everything down in a spoilers chat on the podcast, so I’ll stick to general points here.
In general, the positives for me were few and far between. Cyborg finally felt like an actual character as opposed to a glorified plot device from the 2017 version. I actually think Ray Fisher did a great job of displaying the character’s justified confusion and angst, and his relationship with his Father (played by the always reliable Joe Morton) felt authentic and meaningful. The some of the action set pieces and special effects are stunning. The battle on Themyscira was visceral and thrilling, and I got a massive kick out of seeing the Amazons display their formidable skills against a powerful invading force. The Flash gets a brilliant introductory set piece that really shows off some of Snyder’s eye for detail and visual flair. The set piece design and CGI are great for the most part, though it is noticeable which scenes have been reshot and which haven’t.
And now for the negatives, and I can already feel I’m going to upset some people here, but I can only give you my honest opinion on these things, so bear in mind this is just my take. Did this really have to be 4 hours long? There is at least a good hour that I think this film could have lost without causing any further damage. As I mentioned before, it felt like there were many elements that were simply shoved into the story to either provide fan service or just because Zack Snyder and the writers felt like it. Some of these are distracting and seem to take us nowhere from a storytelling point of view, and this isn’t the first time I have felt this way about a Zack Snyder DC film. By the way, I’m not someone who has an issue with “fan service” as a concept, hell I’ve geeked out as much as the next person over a surprise cameo appearance of a beloved character or clever plot twist to introduce a new concept, but it has to be done in a way that feels organic to the story, otherwise it just doesn’t work for me.
The Justice League characters themselves are fine, I suppose. There isn’t really any surprises on that front, and a few throw away lines of dialogue are apparently sufficient to explain their different motivations and reasons for acting the way they do. It is very jarring for me to see them behave one way in this film, and act quite differently in their own films in the cases of Wonder Woman and Aquaman. If the justification for this is that the two films are aimed at different audiences, then fine, but for me the inconsistency just makes me lose interest.
I suppose I should get on to Steppenwolf, right? Yawn. I mean, the redesign of the character is quite striking, especially compared to the original design, and Ciaran Hinds gravely tones certainly add some menace, but my god, his dialogue was awful. It struck me as some of the cringe inducing rubbish we got from comic book movie villains of the 90s. The bar for comic book movies villains has been set very high in recent years, and it felt depressing to to see and hear a character spouting this nonsense, especially when they had an opportunity to course correct. He has a semblance of a back story now, but he frankly was just a walking, talking McGuffin, and not a very good one at that.
My biggest problem with ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ is actually the man himself. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I have a personal problem with him. To all intents and purposes, he comes across as a very nice man, and his actors all seem to have nothing but positive things to say about working with him, but I really don’t feel like I even understand or relate to his vision for these DC characters and the universe as a whole. I am a fan of some of his earlier movies, but the more I see of his DC work, the more I feel like he’s basically Michael Bay with a philosophy degree that he wealds like a weapon of mass destruction. I get that he sees these characters as Gods (and the religious iconography obsession with Superman is tiresome) but this treatment just leaves me cold. Putting them on a pedestal for worship is not how I choose to relate to a fictional character, and perhaps Cyborg aside, I really felt nothing for any of them.
If you enjoyed this movie and you got all you wanted from it, then I am happy for you and I mean that with all sincerity. To the true fans that wanted nothing more than to see a director’s true artistic vision realised, I hope you have got your wish. Zack Snyder has had to experience some awful trauma and loss in his personal life, and I congratulate him for having the determination to see his project through to completion. And on a personal level, I enjoyed him publicly blasting some of the more toxic elements of the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement. However, by the end of his marathon slog of a movie, I can came to the realisation that his vision for these characters and this world, is just not my vibe. According to the Rotten Tomatoes audience score, I’m very much in the minority on this, but I’m at peace with that.
Anyway, that’s my thoughts summed up. Rich & I will be back soon with a podcast breakdown soon.