What’s The Movie? Zack Snyder’s Justice League
What’s It All About, JG? Following the death of Superman in Joan V Betty: Dawn Of Handbags the world is under threat from Steppenwolf, a hilariously be-spiked bad guy who has come to Earth in search of three Mother Boxes. They’re devices that can literally destroy the world and were left on Earth after a previous invasion failed. Racked with remorse, it says here, Bruce Wayne puts together a team to fight him off consisting of Wonder Woman (excellent), The Flash (fine), Cyborg (certainly in this), Aquaman (appealingly silly) and an eventually-resurrected Superman (poorly served), plus his own Batman (OK). It all ends – can you imagine the surprise? – in a big CGI slug-fest where Steppenwolf is defeated but it turns out he was only working for Darkseid, the real power behind (well, on top of) the throne. And there’s a stupid Epilogue about a wasted world and the Joker for no apparent reason, but that need not detain us.
Why Did You Give It A Go? There’s been such a fuss round the whole thing it seemed positively impolite not to give it a go. So I did.
Is It Any Good? “Good” feels like a relative term here, even more than usual. It’s not “this is excellent cinema” good, that’s for sure, though the first hour or so is genuinely terrific. Beyond that it’s a pretty solid superhero movie and, first Wonder Woman movie aside, it’s the best thing to have come out of the DCEU. Not a stratospherically high bar, sure, but if nothing else this movie is a vast improvement on the original cut put together by Joss Wheadon after Snyder’s original departure from the film.
That’s also not a high bar – the original theatrical version was complete garbage, with characters coming and going at random, no coherent through line and a very obvious “just get it done” feeling. Here, for better or worse, there’s a consistent tone throughout, characters have actual arcs instead of just being in it – The Flash and Cyborg are the biggest beneficiaries of this, but even Steppenwolf gets more development here – and this is clearly the work of one person and not something apparently assembled at random from the cutting room floor. “Good” still remains an elusive adjective for Justice League but it earns “better” easily.
How Many Of These Have You Watched? I’ve watched all of the DCEU movies, for my sins. I have rarely been quite so disappointed at a movie I paid actual money to see than I was with Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice, so original hopes for the 2017 Justice League were not high, to put it mildly. That even those low, low expectations were not even close to being met shows just how abysmal that movie is, so at least this is a clear, conspicuous improvement on the original unwieldy mess.
Would You Recommend It? It’s interesting, certainly, and the whole process of bringing the Snyder Cut to life has really shown what a difference things like a single creative voice can make, and how films develop and change depending on editing. Taken simply as a movie, separated from all the internet kerfuffle about the how’s, why’s and fanboys of things, what you have is a four hour movie that could stand to be about three but is otherwise a divertingly OK way of spending a few hours. It’s obviously a different aesthetic to the MCU and that’s not going to be for everyone, but it does what it does perfectly acceptably.
Damned with faint praise? Maybe, but really, there’s little to get that upset about here. It helps that the cast are mostly excellent – Gadot is simply a terrific Wonder Woman, Ezra Miller is a pleasingly dweebish Flash and, at least as far as Bruce Wayne goes, Ben Affleck is solid. Aquaman is still ridiculous and the movie could stand to lean into that a bit more to give greater tonal variation, but the character works well enough. This Batman isn’t one of the greats – not really Affleck’s fault, that suit looks ugly, however comic-accurate it might be – but he’s not dreadful either. Nice car though. Cyborg is fine here but of all the characters he’s the one that feels most superfluous, despite an expanded backstory and a makes-sense character arc.
Superman’s the one who comes out of this worst and at least some of the criticisms here are really deserved. He’s relegated both in terms of screen time and character, but Cavill gets a few moments that really land (his happiness with Ma Kent back on the farm) and the scenes of him post-rebirth simply tearing shit up is the closest that Snyder gets to fulfilling his “these are barely understandable distant Gods” approach to the character. It’s not a great approach, let’s be honest, but at least in that sequence there’s a brief sense of how that could be made to work in the hands of a better writer. Show what he could be to contrast with, and give insight into, his innate goodness. The problem is we never get the “innate goodness” side of the character, and that’s where the whole approach to Superman in these movies falls flat.
Elsewhere, Steppenwolf is a silly villain but at least this version of the movie seems to largely understand that and his dispatching in favour of a proper bad guy in Darkseid is pleasingly dismissive of him. In the end, yes this movie is too long, yes the Knightmare sequence is an utterly pointless indulgence that adds nothing but runtime and actively detracts from a movie that’s already concluded, and yes the film gets carried away with itself sometimes. But it’s still a decent-but-no-more-than-decent superhero movie. What a shame that, after all that time and money, it couldn’t be more than “fine”.
Scores On The Doors? Another tough one to call. 6.5 / 10 feels slightly too harsh, 7/10 feels slightly too generous. Um. Let’s go with 7, since I do like all those Amazonian warriors and the whole sequence trying to keep the first Mother Box away from Steppenwolf is really inventively put together.