Justice for the Justice League.
A harrowing journey from Zack Snyder’s brain to our eyes, but at long last the true vision of JUSTICE LEAGUE has been realized. And it is everything a superhero movie should be: gods and devils, bombast and quietude, punching and mind-games, good and evil, sacrifice and hope, with the fate of the Earth hanging… on a glowy thing.
Writer-Director Snyder stepped away from post-production of JUSTICE LEAGUE in March 2017 after the suicide of his daughter, Autumn. He told Cinemablend, he was in the midst of arguing creative differences with the studio anyway, and had no energy left for that fight. “I was just kinda done with it… my family needs me more than this… and I just need to honor them and do the best I can to heal that world.” Out of respect, let’s not forget Deborah Snyder, Zack’s wife and Autumn’s mother, who also left the film. She was the producer – a heavy hand in any movie’s realization. With both of them absent, and a release date approaching, Warner Brothers brought in writer-director Joss Whedon, veteran of Marvel’s AVENGERS, not so much to deliver Snyder’s film on time, as to deliver the film that THEY wanted on time, tasking Whedon with massive re-shoots (which resulted in Henry Cavill’s philtrum malfunction – honestly, if the mustache imbroglio wasn’t leaked, no one would have EVER known). Cavill had to contractually retain a pornstache for MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT during the LEAGUE reshoots. So the LEAGUE digital artists painted over it. And the internet collapses over a CGI non-mustache that no one can see. Warners ran roughshod over Snyder’s vision with poor Joss Whedon caught in the middle. So let’s not pile on Joss too much – he was just doing his job… (Same excuse the Nazis made at Nuremburg – just sayin’…) And Snyder still retains the directing credit onscreen for that movie, with Whedon only credited as a writer, with Chris Terrio. Gotta admit, I enjoyed Whedon’s theatrical version – now being called JOSS-TICE LEAGUE – because we saw our childhood heroes in full flight. It wasn’t all bad. It was studio approved. Which means it wasn’t great either.
Zack stepping away from his superhero film – was a superhero move. And then, after his art was rendered as less than stellar, to return to it after such a personal tragedy to re-consecrate his vision and re-render it as mythic – proves he IS a superhero. The final title card: For Autumn.
This ain’t THE RICHARD DONNER CUT with 1981’s SUPERMAN II, another Superman movie where fan outcry prompted studio heads to cobble together Donner’s original vision 25 years after director Richard Lester made a hash of it – and it ended up just as mediocre as Lester’s – because it sometimes used test footage and cutting room fodder, but mostly because Donner was not involved. No, THE SNYDER CUT is Snyder at the helm, 80% of it previously unseen, all ORIGINAL footage – not re-shoots (so Superman has a stiff upper lip), dynamically fleshing out each character that limped flatly into the theatrical version. It’s rated R, so can be more blunt about arbitrary killing of innocents – something which I’ve always said DC movies have done better than Marvel, to highlight the LIMITS and SELF-REPROACH of super beings; there is swearing, imperiling children, cruelty to animals, nudity all up and down Wonder Woman’s thighs, the only thing missing is blackface – no wait – [Darkseid]. At 4 hours long, Snyder’s vision is a monument to what superhero movies CAN be if given the time to breathe, and also a shot across the bow to the moribund theater system that tyrannizes filmmakers into 2 hour releases; you know, so they can get a maximum amount of screenings in; with longer films, they lose income because less screenings equals less butts on seats per viewing day. So with all the new platforms for viewing movies, filmmakers – especially auteurs – need not bow to the stranglehold on their art. This epic movie proves: If you film it, they will come. But – a caveat that a movie has to be GOOD to sustain interest over multiple hours, so don’t all rush out and film 4 hour rob schnieder movies. Jesus…
In its first minutes, ZACK SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE impresses, as we see Superman dying at the hands of the monster Doomsday, yelling in agony (the climax of 2016’s BATMAN V SUPERMAN); and it is elegantly portrayed how his death cries reverberate around the world – waking three alien artifacts called motherboxes, and alerting the races who guard them – Atlanteans, Amazons and Americans.
So once again, JUSTICE LEAGUE opens with Superman, but not like the 2017 version in cutesy cellphone video for kiddies rather, depicting an elemental force whose power is so great it triggers the boxes which, we would learn, are “change machines” that sensed cataclysm in the very fabric of matter when such an extraordinary power was extinguished. Are you starting to perceive the high ground Zack Snyder is hailing us from?
– – – – – SPOILERS – – – – –
A lumpy, down-syndrome demon named Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciaran Hinds) wormholes to Earth, to collect the motherboxes that were lost here by his sugardaddy, a lumpier demon named Darkseid, the Thanos of DC (voiced by Ray Porter); originally slated to appear in JUSTICE LEAGUE 2017, Darkseid is reinstated here as the conqueror of worlds. (Also, just to be precise, Darkseid was created by Jack Kirby in 1970; before Jim Starlin created Thanos in 1973.) Not only has the silver-spiked Steppenwolf been upgraded from his X-box Liam Neeson version, he now has pathos and motivation; for betraying his sugardaddy in some way, retrieving the boxes is his penance to return home, but you gotta admit, the poor boy looks like he’s on the spectrum.
After Steppen captures the boxes from the Amazons and the Atlanteans – in battle scenes much better than 2017’s version, Batman (grizzled Ben Affleck) recruits a team of metahumans to repel him (it’s not kewl enough to just call them superheroes): The Aquaman (warrior Jason Momoa), and Barry Allen not-yet-called The Flash (hipster Ezra Miller), while Wonder Woman (salubrious Gal Gadot) recruits a man-of-steel-parts known as Cyborg (stoic Ray Fisher). But even with battle-posing as cheesy as a German cheese festival, their combined punching of Steppenwolf proves inadequate and they need the o-boy punching of Superman as well (Henry Cavill). But he’s DEAD. With Cyborg holding the last motherbox, the gang hits upon a great marketing ploy – bring back Superman. They realize that this instrument Darkseid uses for death can also be used for life – because it’s magic who cares fuck you.
After the resurrection of Superman, Steppen gets the last motherbox, and now it’s up to the gang to stop Steppen from joining the three boxes into one box called The Unity, which would destroy the planet. Hmm, three into one – how Christian of them! And just like Christianity – destroying the planet. Congruent with this evil quest for unity is Batman’s quest for unity – to unite the League.
Motherboxes are “made from a science so advanced it looks like sorcery.” Ah, Arthur C Clarke’s immortal dictum: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke.
Which makes all these Braveheart scenes pointless, no? They’re charging at SPACESHIPS with horses and spears. These ships crossed interdimensional space – and don’t have rocket launchers and laser beams?
The whole film LOOKS gorgeous – the color palette is muted, and they’ve overhauled its color grading and tonal lighting, rather than 2017’s splashy rainbow – in other words, it’s lit like a drama rather than a comedy – but there’s no sense here –
So these magic dudes could make motherboxes to destroy planets – and are taken down by arrows? You couldn’t scare up the ectoplasm to throw up a forcefield around yourSELVES, dudes? The only things that SHOULD be able to get you guys are the Green Lanterns or the Gods fighting alongside the humans, with their OWN magic who cares fuck you.
But everyone is missing the big picture: Steppen and Darko are meant to be “New Gods” implying they are ABOVE mere mortals, meaning their methods should be “indistinguishable from magic.” As an analogy, the modern military is set up for punching, that is, physical warfare, when ACTUAL warfare is now cyber. We’re not in the Agrarian Age any more; we don’t have to meet in a field wearing kilts to extend our domain; wars are fought on battlefields inconceivable to William Wallace. Thus, actual gods would conquer on a level incomprehensible to mankind. But no! – punching.
Zack and DC, these are all the inconsistencies and stupidities that critics point to and call us childish. This is why Martin Scorcese says Marvel movies – by association, all superhero movies – are not cinema. We’re gonna suspend our disbelief that beings can fly and shoot beams and run faster than light, and even possess magic who cares fuck you – but let’s have some consistency WITHIN this make-believe world.
“He comes on the King Tide.” (I dunno – I just love that line!) Bruce Wayne meets Arthur Curry, The Aquaman, in an isolated arctic village. Cast your mind back to 2017, Movie Maniacs – this was the first time we laid eyes on Jason Momoa’s new testosterone take on the future king of Atlantis. Lion-maned, body-painted, leather-panted, Momoa ain’t your daddy’s orange-and-green sea-queen, as he polishes a bottle of whiskey before diving shirtless into the tempest. A tragic king without a kingdom, when it comes to rebooting, Aquaman – with his Haight-Ashbury ethos and roaring masculinity – is surely the coolest reboot in superhero history. And wettest. YOU know what I’m talking about!
Johnny Depp’s domestic abuser, Amber Heard, is Mera, queen of double-standards. When Steppen fishes out the Atlantean’s motherbox, why does she tell Arthur it’s HIS duty to retrieve it? His half-brother Orm is the reigning king. Anyway, why don’t all the sea people back up their most powerful of all sea men?
Amy Adams as Lois Lane has little to do amongst this sprawling epic – and so much gorgeous to do it in. Her poignant scenes as Superman’s love left behind, take us into her emptiness as she visits his monument, as she wakes in a lonely bed, as she meets Clark’s mother, Martha (Diane Lane aka “Why-Did-You-Say-That-Name?!” – That meeting scene has its own problems – sacrificing real emotion for fangasm – no room to discuss here – I just wanna mention: when Martha Kent laments, “Everywhere I look I see that S” a tiny knowing smile flits across Lois’s face – we’re thinking the same thing, “It’s not an S.” It was her first real connection with the Man of Steel and now it connects us to Lois. These are the small things that make this film brilliant.)
So when Lois is convinced to move on, and she visits Heroes Park “one last time” (giving coffee to Jimmy Olsen from 1978), when she turns back to see a small figure hovering high in the sky, we FEEL her trepidation: she is bereft, haggard with love lost, weeped out – DARE she hope that THAT is the love she has just decided to leave behind? Would it not crush the soul of any human if this was a hoax?
In the Snyder Cut, Lois is not brought in as “Batman’s secret weapon” – she is there! – about to turn her back. Until she remembered, It’s not an S.
the wonder woman…
Enter Wonder Woman and her vaguely Mediterranean theme song – every time she is onscreen. Every. Single. Time. It’s like they’re trying to wipe some other song from our memory (“…Imagine all the people…”). Her introduction is a fantastic scene, as a superhero vignette and a woman-empowering inspiration. (And notice how Snyder has crafted the shots so that we don’t get so many views of her black nun’s panties?) She stops terrorists from blowing up a bank – then she blows it up herself. Oh, but she needed to dramatically kill a bad guy, so that’s okay. A little girl asks, “Can I be like you someday?” And Wonder Woman lies to her, “You can be anything you want to be.” Are we still selling this shit? Or was the girl talking about being a murderer?
Her people, the Amazons – we feel their power. They are now not just toyt abs for us to drool over; we see the relationship of those toyt abs to their extraordinary strength and singleminded purpose. When Steppenwolf attacks the motherbox fortress, not only do they nearly bring him down, they sacrifice their lives for their queen and their cause.
The two Amazons holding up the falling rock slab so their queen might escape, and then being trapped inside as the edifice crashes to the sea – THAT is super.
But again, why don’t they help their princess in the “world of men”? Nah, just shoot an arrow at her and she’ll know what to do. I mean, you and the humans and Atlanteans all joined forces millennia ago – this new threat to your very existence isn’t a big enough reason to step outside your nunnery?
Without seeming like wokeness, the demi-god Wonder Woman is more integral to the fight against Steppen, and I do like the way he gets in her head with lies, about abandoning her homeland and placing their deaths on her head. In the end, she takes his, in Snyder’s original dynamic climax, as he tells us: “I use gods to kill gods.”
Cyborg/Victor Stone was created in 1980, while the original Justice League of America premiered in 1960, with Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Aquaman and Flash. No one from the Silver Age grew up with Cyborg – he was retconned as a founding member in 2011, so I don’t really like the guy. [Victor: “Fuck the world!”] — I like the guy!
Victor has a … complicated relationship with his father, physicist Silas Stone (the excellent Joe Morton) – he was never a caring parent, busy with work, yet he saved Victor’s life with that work – a motherbox – but to do so, he had to make Victor a cyborg. Later, we see them gaining trust for each other when Victor creates a diversion and Silas supports him against his own scientists.
Silas would make the ultimate sacrifice for his son. And the heart-rending scene of Victor lamenting, “I didn’t save him – I couldn’t!”– which I love, showing the downside of super powers – they have limits.
Not only an orphan, but feeling not even human, the League would help Victor realize he was not broken – and not alone.
Victor is not just a simple Iron Man ripoff; in Snyder Cut we can now fully understand his role: as a futuretech hacker in this digital age, striding amongst the cyber world like a Colossus. Remember what I said about the new wave of warfare being cyber and beyond? So Zack got it right when he rebooted Victor as a CYBER-entity – the machine-man who could infiltrate the motherboxes… well, half-right, because how does Victor’s digital prowess access the magic of the motherboxes?
Uuuh, okay everyone – keep punching!
As far as I’m concerned we got gyped out of a proper MAN OF STEEL trilogy AND a proper BATFLECK trilogy, from the two best proponents of their superheroes ever. I said it. I mean it.
And it’s sad that in Snyder Cut, Batman is actually diminished by what Snyder leaves OUT: his arc from BATMAN V SUPERMAN, of becoming more ferocious to match the intensity of the criminals he was up against, has been negated with this movie because he’s facing off against supernatural things. I hate to complain because we get to see this best combat Batman in action, but it’s not as compelling when it’s all CGI. I would have been more invested had he been fighting thugs – that’s his forte. That’s what his batsuit was built for – to scare humans – when the things he’s fighting are beyond human, they’re probably just laughing at his Halloween costume, like Aquaman does.
The 2017 film opened with Batman capturing a parademon. It was a good scene – lost here, not necessary. And I’m very sorry that Snyder removed the scene where Flash confesses to Batman his fear of battle, and Batman’s empathetic reply, “Save one!” – but I understand. It made Batman look big and Flash look small; and Batman doesn’t need to be bigger, but the unknown filmic property Flash needs every foot of his presence right now. (Every foot – see what I did there?)
Also removed, Bruce saying, “Even if there’s a fraction of a chance…” to revive Superman, which was a nice mirror image of his rationale to kill Superman, “Even if there’s a fraction of a chance” that he would burn down the planet… And here, Bruce does not voice that Superman is, “more human than I am” which again, would have been a good arc from him regarding Superman as alien. His guilt is, after all, fueling his drive to unite the League. So yes, there WERE a few good characterizations in Whedon’s script.
An observation on roles for aging men and women: In 2006, Ben Affleck played Diane Lane’s illicit lover in HOLLYWOODLAND, where he actually portrayed the George Reeves Superman –making him the only actor on Earth to have played both Superman and Batman (and Daredevil!). Now, I love Diane Lane, but 14 years on, Affleck is still a hulking symbol of sex – and Lane is playing someone’s mother. Don’t hate ME – I’m just the observer.
When Bruce introduces the League to Alfred, “Everyone, this is Alfred. I work for him,” that was touching. Jeremy Irons is not only the funniest, snarkiest Alfred, Bruce himself just testified to him being the brains of the operation, not just the manservant who darns his cape and butters his croissants. Obviously a veteran, Alfred stands equal to Bruce in creating tech and bringing down crime. Makes that line in BATMAN V SUPERMAN more poignant, (“We’re criminals, Alfred. We’ve always been criminals.”) WE… I mean, Alfred never said, “Who’s WE, sucka?!” I always wanted more of this Alfred, and our wishes are granted.
Then there is the moving scene of Alfred meeting Superman, removed in the 2017 version. From its music, to the staging and dialogue, everything about this controlled, integral scene screams, “Removed by asshole Warner Bros. execs who know nothing about telling an inspiring story.” From the deference they show each other, to the underlying joy on Alfred’s face, to that word, hidden in Alfred’s final line: “Now let’s HOPE you’re not too late.” It’s not an S.
Is there such a thing as the perfect superman? Look at that face! Look at that jawline! Look at that nose! Look at that manner! Look at his flight! Look at those lats! The way he wears those bellbottom sweatpants– Look at– What was the question again?
The plot point with the largest potential for being idiotic – the resurrection of Superman – is handled much better in the Snyder Cut. It’s not a quick “Let’s do this, Scooby!” – it’s a conflict until the very last second, as the computer incessantly warns “This process is irreversible” fighting Cyborg’s override all the way.
And what was originally the absolute best scene – Superman battling the League and Flash trying to outflank him – is now just one of many great vignettes that make up this colossal movie. But why is Aquaman surprised? Superman is confronted by people he’s never met (except Wonder Woman briefly), all ATTACKING him. And they’re saying something’s wrong with HIM? What would Jesus do? Well Superman IS Jesus, so…
Shirtless Clark is calmed by Lois, and they visit his farm, to get his mind back. Then Lois does a terrible thing – she gives him a shirt.
In his short screentime, even Superman has a powerful arc. He comes back alone, afraid, lashes out. Then he connects with his love, his mother, his past, and finally, comes into full power when he joins his “family” of metahumans, the League.
Clark visits his Kryptonian ship to get – his BLACK SUIT [dun dun dah] But hold on, fanboys, this is not the Regeneration Suit from Reign of the Supermen – this is just a “black suit” – that Snyder uses here to link to Kal-El’s homeland, where everyone, if you remember, wore black. And here’s the kicker for this scene: as Clark walks the hallowed corridors, we hear two voices in his head inspiring him to Be Best – his blood father Jor-El and his adopted father Jonathan Kent, in alternating lines, preaching their truths. Russell Crowe, great in the role of Jor-El, and Kevin Costner even greater in the role of Jonathan Kent. Man, every time Kevin Costner speaks, I cry. Every time I think of the perfection Henry Cavill brings to the role of Superman, I cry. Every time I hear this soundtrack, I cry. I cry more than a grown man should.
This movie’s ORIGINAL slogan was, “You can’t save the world alone.” And everyone, including me, made the joke, “Well, you can if you’re Superman.” But in Snyder Cut, they truly are a team.
In 2017, Barry was introduced by Bruce throwing a bat-shuriken at him. A spectacular scene, just for the sound design alone – but we go even deeper in the Snyder Cut, as we meet Barry saving the life of a young girl – she’s meant to be Iris West – Barry’s love interest since the Silver Age. As her car slams a truck and she is thrown forward, Barry smashes through a window to save her. This glass smashing is actually part of Barry’s arc – he has not yet learned to vibrate his molecules through matter. Snyder has chosen his source music perfectly, in this scene, “Song To The Siren” by Rose Betts; I noticed that the song isn’t quantized – it breathes with its own timing; Barry is so fast he can take the time to marvel at the girl’s face and hair, as the song takes its time as well – brilliant! – as he eases her gently to the ground, and her car triple-flips like a Michael Bay movie.
I love the breathtaking representation of Barry’s speed, with the arc-lightning searing the air around him – definitely some physics tied up in that, like the friction with the air molecules creating static electricity – and I love the way his body strides, tilted forward, arms swinging, really unique and cool. His quirky personality, though not canon, is very entertaining – Snyder has made HIM 80% of the comic relief, and removed a lot of the clumsy humor from other characters in the 2017 version.
Also very refreshing – we see these heroes performing small heroic deeds: Aquaman rescues one man from a sinking trawler, Cyborg fills a poverty-stricken mother’s bank account, Wonder Woman nullifies a hostage situation, and Flash saves one girl from a crash; whereas Whedon showed muggers kicking over fruit stands to represent crime running rampant in the streets, when that’s the bottom-rung SYMPTOM of the true crimes being perpetrated in high office – Snyder opts to show unfortunate people just being beaten by the exigencies of life.
Y’know, I coulda regarded JUSTICE LEAGUE as a kiddie film all the way up to… Flash. Turning back time to save the world. They got me. The culmination of Flash’s arc is the culmination of everything – As the motherboxes achieved unity – so did the League: it was Flash who yelled in their first battle, “Guys, this is NOT together!” – at the end, they are together. The first battle, Flash tripped, now, sure-footed. He was an outcast from society, now, society’s only hope.
With the resurrection scene, we saw a foreshadowing of Flash’s powers to turn back time as the motherbox rose from the liquid to meet his electric touch – didja notice that?; now…
The ticking clock runs out. The Justice League fails. The boxes annihilate creation. In that nanosecond, Barry sees the shockwave heading towards him – he once broke glass to go through it, now, he vibrates his particles so that the shockwave passes through HIM! That eerie soundtrack as Earth’s disintegration expands into the distance behind him – Tom Holkenborg’s orchestral score is a sweeping exhilaration that makes you wish you had done more with your wretched life.
And Barry runs. Faster than he’s ever run. Toward the source of the explosion, faster than light, faster than time, pulling the particles backwards, re-integrating reality.
During this arc lightning, his arc is achieved – all his life he’s been trying to make something of himself – to please his dad (the great Billy Crudup); he’s even trying to earn a law degree to litigate his father’s wrongful imprisonment. Now at world’s end, his thoughts turn to his father, telling him he fought alongside the best of the best. We were ALL this guy! Seeking the approbation of our parents, and then one day, finding that we were running toward our destiny!
In 2017, Flash pushed a truck out of the way – here, he saves Earth… KNEEL BEFORE FLASH!
JUSTICE LEAGUE is told in 6 chapters and 1 epilogue with seven LORD OF THE RINGS endings, and Amber Heard speaking British. I personally think Zack blew it here. There’s too much setup for future movies and nothing of substance. I loved the 2017 ending: “All you have to do – is look up in the sky…” with Superman ripping from the ground into a sonic boom – but then, I’m partial to Superman, and I realize he did NOT play a big part in this movie, so I understand the decision.
Here… it’s touching narration by Silas Stone. Fitting, considering Cyborg’s major role.
We also see Jared Leto’s Joker (from SUICIDE SQUAD) in a dream sequence. Taking a cue from Heath Ledger, his makeup is now smeared. And fanboys, he only says, “We live in a society…” in the trailer – a phrase from a Joker meme. Then 2 cents worth of Martian Manhunter. All of this tease and setup is just conjecture at this point, because we’ve lost the two best top-tier superheroes we will ever have – Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill. Unless some hashtags can save the day.
… because no matter what Martin Scorcese or Bill Maher say, a great superhero film should fulfill every aspect of what makes any NON-superhero film great – excellent production, sincere intent, compelling story, identifiable characters, nuanced performances, adult themes of existential crises, and arcs of redemption or damnation. Check. Check. Check. / Check. Check. Check. Check. And if there is sacrifice– bonus. If the soundtrack makes me weep- bonus!
It’s grand enough filmmaking to take us along for the ride once we accept its contradictory world. [aside]: Exhibit A, Your Honor: STAR WARS A NEW HOPE is in the same bucket.) Yes, there will always be fanboys complaining about SOMETHING, however, as far as DC aficionados are concerned, ZACK SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE is canon now. Warner Bros. disagrees, maintaining that, even though Snyder just proved how big his balls are, they’re still gonna throw him off all future DC projects.
Onto the next hashtag: #RestoreTheSnyderVerse.
Movie Maniacs, use the Speed Force and buy it, rent it, steal it – what I’m saying is: “If you seek his monument, look around you” – it’s the writing on the dais at Heroes Park, it is originally from the tomb of architect Christopher Wren at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Look around you, Movie Maniacs – JUSTICE LEAGUE is Zack Snyder’s monument.
KNEEL BEFORE ZACK!