Matthew at the Movies: Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)

I really don’t want to write about this movie. I mean, I have a lot of things to say about it and its director, but I don’t want to say any of them. Currently, I’m working on a personal essay about why his films don’t work for me. It’s 16 pages long and consists of over 7000 words analyzing his films, Watchmen, Man of Steel, and Batman v Superman, and, ultimately, about why I don’t like his work. The essay isn’t for anyone but me; it’s for my own personal, I guess, pleasure. Clearly, I’m a big fan.

Admittedly, I’m fascinated by the backstory of #ReleaseTheSnyderCut and how it became this behemoth of a film. To make a long story short, Snyder stepped away from the film after a personal tragedy and the theatrically released Whedon cut of the film was a ‘Frankenstein’s Monster’ of both Whedon and Snyder’s style. Afterwards, a movement stirred up, urging for Warner Bros. and DC to let Snyder finish his film. In May of 2020, Snyder announced that his version Justice League would be released this year on HBO Max. The film, eventually, released on March 18, 2021.

The film follows Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince, also known as Batman and Wonder Woman, as they hunt down and recruit other super-powered beings in preparation for an invasion from Darkseid, an evil tyrant from another world.

I followed the hype and sensation around the Snyder Cut since it became a thing. I was never directly involved, but I’ll support an artists’ vision, no matter how much I don’t like it. I went in with low expectations, and the only one being that it’s got to be better than the 2017 version, and honestly, it’s not that bad. It’s not great, but it’s not terrible. 

This film is a behemoth, it’s a little over four hours in length (242 minutes), and feels it. The pacing is a mixed-bag, it stumbles quite often and I found myself waiting for scenes to move on often, as they overstay their welcome a lot. You know, sometimes these movies can be a slog, but the action scenes can pick up the pace, well, not in here. About 15 minutes in, I got sick of the slow-motion stuff. It work in small increments and whenever the Flash is running, but otherwise, it slows down exciting action, or is just included for no reason. There are some engaging fight scenes, notably Darkseid’s first invasion and the last battle with Steppenwolf. 

The characterization fairs much better compared to the other version. Everyone, well, mostly everyone, gets a completed arc where they grow. However, the acting is pretty much the same. I enjoyed one performance in total, which was Jeremy Irons as Alfred, I felt he helped to add the much needed sense of humor these films have been lacking. Henry Cavill doesn’t really do much and the choosing of the black suit feels shoehorned in rather than a natural thing. It’s like they had him wear it because they’re doing the ‘Death and Return of Superman’ thing. I would’ve much rather see him in the old red-and-blue again. You can’t beat a classic. 

Ezra Miller is a mediocre Barry Allen, he had some good moments, but was mostly mildly annoying. Ray Fisher isn’t the best, but he’s not the worst. Ben Affleck is just okay. Gal Gadot, again like WW84, has the personality and charisma of a cheese grater. However, Steppenwolf has Gadot beat by actually looking like a cheese grater. Seriously, I really liked the designs for Darkseid, DeSaad, and even Granny Goodness (who doesn’t get a single line, which is criminal), but Steppenwolf looked just awful. 

Often times, the film feels more like an assembly cut than a director’s cut. There is a lot of unnecessary scenes that repeat information and pad out the runtime. It’s self-indulgent to the max and extremely earnest, which is admirable. I am sick of the bland-looking superhero films. This film’s color palette is muted blues, blacks, grays, and occasionally other colors. This is a superhero film; where’s the color? There are a few scenes I enjoyed watching, mainly during the last third, but it’s a shame the film is such a slog and it takes over three hours to get to those moments.

There are some details I need to talk about but they’re spoilers, so that’s your warning:

Let me talk about my favorite and least favorite scene. My favorite comes at the climax where Barry runs so fast that he travels through time to help desyncronize the Mother Boxes. It’s a really well done scene and Miller manages to be compelling. My least favorite is the last scene, the Knightmare segment. There is zero point to the Knightmare scene. You can try and convince me otherwise, but that’ll take a lot. It feels tact on, and it was as it was filmed after Snyder got the go-ahead on the Snyder Cut. The scene between Batman and Joker is insufferable. Leto’s Joker is just insufferable. Evil Superman has been done to death. It’s boring and adds an extra 30 minutes to an already over-bloated film.

(End of Spoilers)

The film appeals to my comic-loving heart with appearances from Darkseid, Ryan Choi, black suit Superman, and other such characters. Yet, despite all of that, I’m tired with the modern state of Superhero films. They’ve either become too commodified or too gritty. The Marvel films have become too safe and similar while the DC films, specifically Snyder’s work, is trying to “emulate reality” but it ends up being gritty and unrealistic.

Snyder’s Justice League is over-bloated, sometimes fun, but mostly misses the mark. I respect Snyder, but I really hope this doesn’t go to his head. This kind of achievement is almost unheard of, and I really hope his fans don’t feel entitled and demand more. Snyder deserves a break. (3/5)

The film is available to watch on HBO Max.

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