Trying to write about Warner’s most important film of the year (not symbolically, but in a dollars and cents fashion) Justice League, is an almost surreal experience. I’ve spent the better part of four years writing articles about its casting, its up and downs, its re-writes, its re-shoots, and now it’s finally here as a living, breathing exercise in film craft.

The question of whose craft in particular is a notable one. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice director Zack Snyder oversaw all of the initial principal photography on this sequel that brings together Batman, 2017’s biggest action star Wonder Woman, and the subject of Lex Luthor’s early experiments in branding: Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg. Sadly, terrible circumstances forced Snyder to leave the production before reshoots were set to begin just ahead of post, and Snyder and the studio enlisted former Avengers front-man Joss Whedon to come in, knock out the reshoots that he himself wrote, and then oversee the final edit and vfx.

This unlikely marriage is not a graceful one, with more than its fair share of shaggy dog elements, but when the book is closed on it all – Justice League is largely a pretty fun time and the needed corrective this franchise has been desperate to receive. Not even Wonder Woman worked this hard to pivot the entire DC Films canon into a different, but welcome, tonal direction shift.

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The story of Justice League is no great stroke of genius, it’s your standard superhero template. After coming face to face with a Parademon, Batman and Wonder Woman realize they’ll need to pull together the metahumans they’ve been keeping tabs on (please don’t ask me how this connects to Batman’s appearances in Suicide Squad) to fight a particularly garish looking CGI-version of Steppenwolf. Taking a page out of the “collect the stones” uber-premise of their chief rivals, this take on the Apokoliptian General is aiming to combine the three existing Mother Boxes that were individually hidden in ancient times by the Amazons, Atlanteans, and the tribes of humanity (all three of which had previously resisted him). Thanks to the civil strife that has appeared in the wake of Superman’s death, the world is again ripe for Steppenwolf’s return, prompting Batman and Wonder Woman into full recruitment mode. But will it be enough?

The premise as presented is solid and straight-forward, if pretty safe, which is fine. It’s relatively clear that Whedon cut quite a bit of the film down to its barest essentials. There’s one mention of Darkseid, Apokolips is only hinted at, and if you didn’t know better, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking Steppenwolf was basically a lone agent. Just about all the other New Gods stuff, which presumably did exist in one form or another, was subject to the cutting room floor – including my favorite part of Batman v Superman, the “Knightmare/Batman in the desert/Flash travels to the past to warn him” sequence. It’s okay, Steppenwolf is deadly dull anyway, and it’s pretty clear Whedon (or whomever deserves that credit) realized that and the film takes a much tighter focus on the Leaguers and their interactions with one another.

One of my disappointments with the Avengers films, especially the first, is in how much time is taken to find ways to create conflict between teammates, eventually leading to a movie where the entire point is that conflict (a movie I liked a lot, but I digress). As the DC side of building this type of universe basically began with that conflict, this allows Justice League to luxuriate in the budding friendships between all these characters. It’s not quite what I’d call a “hang-out film” but there are times when it starts to butt up against it. Though a lot of the praise there needs to be heaped on Ezra Miller’s take on The Flash.

There was a lot of side-eyeing from fandom when it was announced that Miller would play the big screen version of Barry Allen, particularly from fans of his small-screen counterpart. But if there’s an MVP of this entire affair, it’s 125% Miller. With a constant sense of exuberance, enthusiasm, and a nice helping of deadpan, The Flash livens up just about every scene he’s in, be it his growing friendship with the forever boring Cyborg, getting tongue-tied around Wonder Woman, trading barbs with Aquaman, and his slight mentorship with Batman – Barry Allen is easily the most fully-formed character on screen and gets the most benefit from the film’s need to introduce three other heroes and induct them into the team before the action really begins. I can see why Flashpoint is being made a crucial film within the upcoming slate.

Aquaman doesn’t quite make as much of an impression, though he gets a few nice action beats and there’s nothing here that hurts his case as a solo film star. He also gets the movie’s funniest moment towards the kick-off of the third act. Cyborg though? Forget about it. Ray Fisher has the bad luck of having to play straight man, with an undercooked tragic backstory, while also looking like a cgi nightmare. I spent a good deal of the running time wishing Martian Manhunter was taking up this spot instead.

And yes, Gadot is still excellent, and well suited as the leader of the team, more or less. You could tell there was a man behind the camera though, as we get maybe just a few too many shots of her backside that we were spared in her own outing earlier this year. Then again, Snyder, ever the equal-opportunity gazer, treats viewers to just about as many glimpses of Jason Momoa’s tatted torso.

But despite its individual parts, some better than others, the real core of the film is in how it attempts to meld Snyder’s action-centric chops with Whedon’s whip-smart ear for dialogue. Again, for the most part, it works. There’s a few insert shots that were clearly added by the latter to pump in just a little more levity, and sometimes there’s a few noticeable hitches in that process, such as slight differences in Affleck’s facial hair or weight, or the occasional flashes of green screen usage within an otherwise fully exterior sequence, but it’s a surprisingly smooth process, except for two clear issues.

  1. Henry Cavill’s digitally removed mustache is incredibly distracting when it appears, which is mostly in fleeting shots, but the movie actually opens with a full-on longer take where Cavill’s face looks like a cartoon. Not a great foot to start out on.
  2. Snyder and Whedon seem to have different conceptions of Batman in mind, with Snyder’s take playing a bit rugged and younger, while Whedon is pitching him a bit more tired and aching to hand off the reins to the new generation of heroes. These warring visions of Bruce Wayne never quite gel, and Affleck’s weight fluctuating between the two only serves to widen this gap. There are points where he just starts to look ridiculous in the suit, and if it wasn’t obvious already, it’s painfully clear that Batfleck’s time is coming to an end.

Not much can be done about the latter, but the former is bit of a shame, as this is the movie where Superman is finally done some justice. The color gradients on his suit are pumped way up, he gets to actually smile a number of times, and even crack jokes with his new teammates. This is the Superman you’ve been waiting to see on the big screen and Cavill finally gets to showcase just why he really is a perfect fit for the role. If you can look past the digital chicanery that crops up for him every other scene, Superman fans have a lot to look forward to.

In all, Justice League serves its purpose in transforming the formerly grim and gritty DC-verse into a brighter, more hopeful place – it’s not even subtle, it’s outright stated in the film’s text. It’s a mixed bag, but never not entertaining on its own terms. It doesn’t quite hit those same sublimes as Wonder Woman‘s middle act, but there’s a lot of pleasure to be gained in watching these heroes pair off and shoot the breeze. It’s the funniest DC movie, it has my favorite Superman in action moment on film maybe ever, and it paints an exciting way forward for the entries that will follow in its wake.

Also, for better or worse, this is the rare blockbuster I look forward in trying to analyze and get an even better sense of how its two filmmakers blended together. One of those examples where the process may be more intriguing than the finished product.

40 COMMENTS

  1. “…please don’t ask me how this connects to Batman’s appearances in Suicide Squad…”

    Even those of us who are unapologetic fans of the Snyder/Jenkins DC movies can’t justify a defense of “Suicide Squad” and just prefer to pretend that it doesn’t exist.

  2. Haven’t seen it yet (seeing it on Friday), so can’t comment on your views.

    But as someone who strongly supported “BvS” because, unlike others who reviewed it as a standalone movie) I viewed it as the middle chapter of a very distinct, formal trilogy (MoS, BvS, JL) that was the story of Superman (with everyone else as supporting characters to his lead character (much like the Star Wars trilogy was the Luke Skywalker story with everyone else (Han, Leia, Lando, etc.) as supporting characters to Luke’s lead), how does “Justice League” play as the third act of one, long, continuous eight-hour movie?

    In other words, not as a standalone movie (as most people seem to be reviewing it), but rather as the climax and denouement of a long story with a beginning (MoS), middle (BvS), and an end (JL)? The final episode of a three-episode TV season.

    Comments?

  3. I’m taking my kids to see it on Saturday and I think I’ll enjoy it, but I don’t see myself loving it like I did “Man of Steel”, “BvS” (especially the true version on Blu-ray), and “Wonder Woman”. Just from what I’ve heard about it so far, it’s pretty clear the Suits got in the way once again and ruined what could have been a great movie. I eagerly anticipate the extended, true version of the film on the eventual and inevitable Blu-ray. Here’s hoping they don’t chickenshit out with future films, allow filmmakers to make the films, just provide the money, and keep their talentless, beancounting hands out of the process.

  4. It’s embarrassing according to Vanity Fair. Telegraph says it’s a mess. RT is leveraging their score’s release, fully aware of the traffic the negative reviews will bring. WB embargoed right to the bitter end, and still, STILL, we have apollogists?

    Snyder, and his wife RUINED the most beloved and important character of the entire D.C.. Universe, deconstructed and eviserated him., and it’s “just a movie, get over it.”

    It’s a public execution of the brand – I’ll not be buying popcorn.

  5. Daniel,

    To some degree I guess. There’s certainly a carry-over with Snyder playing with the idea of “Superman as God” and his absence has begun to plunge the world into chaos in a Nietzschian fashion. Steppenwolf, in turn, becomes the literal embodiment of the Fall of Lucifer painting that Lex Luthor seemed pretty enamored with in BvS.

    I get the sense, left to their own devices, Snyder and Terrio might have explored that just a bit more (then again, I really like a lot of what Whedon adds and how he reshaped the film). But if you’re looking for thematic touchstones between all three movies, that’s probably your best bet.

  6. I haven’t seen a movie in a theater since the Blade Runner sequel in early October (the last couple of months have been awful, in terms of multiplex offerings), but I may see this. I’m sure Gal Gadot will be riveting, no matter how bad everything else in the movie is.

  7. There are three major problems in this film.

    1. It’s an extended informercial that practically yells “SUPERMAN IS GREAT! YOU MUST LOVE SUPERMAN!” until the audience is deafened.

    2. It loses the best thing that BvS brought to the table, the genuinely damaged version of Batman. He’s been replaced by about four or five different takes on the character all smushed into one performance.

    3. For something so important to Warner, there’s a shocking lack of quality control. This review references it a few times but I just rewatched The Avengers again and it is astonishing how much better the CGI action is than in Justice League.

    Mike

  8. It’s astounding to think they want to replace Afleck with Gyllenhaal. Bruce Wayne getting uglier and shorter, again.

    Someday we’ll see the Neal Adams Bat. Sick of fatman and techman.

  9. (SPOILERS)

    Wow. Just…wow.

    This was an incomprehensibly terrible film. It wasn’t a dumpster fire. It was the ashen remains of a dumpster fire that a pack of wild dogs then came upon and shit all over.

    Geoff Johns should be fired. Kevin Tsujihara should be fired. Joss Whedon should never be allowed to write or direct another film.

    This was “Suicide Squad” level of bad. It’s on a par with “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.” But unlike “Suicide Squad,” which I’m fairly certain was a terrible script from the beginning, there are enough foundational core elements in the “Justice League” film and in the various trailers to make me feel that this started out as a good film which Geoff Johns and the WB execs shredded to pieces.

    “Justice League” is similar to what it would have been like if “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” were followed up by the “Batman ’66” film as the third part of that trilogy. That’s how incongruent it is to what came before.

    For those who say that you can’t tell what Whedon shot and what Zack Snyder shot: anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of film and the styles of the two men can tell immediately. It’s not just the Whedon “jokes” that are obvious (the man has never been as funny, witty, or clever as he and his acolytes seem to think he is), but also the visual style. The Whedon scenes are flat and dimensionless. The Snyder scenes use his signature style of shallow depth of field. One looks like a sitcom, the other looks grand and cinematic.

    (Representative of the Whedon footage is that truly embarrassing TV news report (about the woman whose husband was abducted by aliens) playing in the break room of what I assume to be the Daily Planet. Compare that to the news footage that appeared in the montage in “BvS.” In this film the Whedon-shot news report is embarrassingly and cringe-inducingly terrible.)

    It’s not just scenes that are identifiable. It’s specific shots within scenes. The shots with Lois and Clark on the Smallville farm clearly shift between Snyder-shot scenes (shot on location) mixed with Whedon-shot scenes (shot on green screen), with Amy Adams and Henry Cavill obviously not even photographed together. (I’m almost positive that Amy Adams had a much more substantial role in this film before Whedon got a hold of it)

    Similarly, the much celebrated Luthor/Deathstroke post-credits scene is also a hack job, splicing together the Snyder shots (which (like Lois Lane’s storyline) which I’m guessing were part of a much larger subplot featuring Lex Luthor that was originally supposed to be a more substantial part of the story proper) with the Whedon shots (mostly of the unmasked Deathstroke and some awkward ADR voiceover work by Jesse Eisenberg used on the shots when Luthor is scene from behind).

    I loved “Man of Steel.” I loved “Batman v Superman” (which I consider to be the greatest super-hero film ever made). I loved “Wonder Woman.” I love the darker, more textured, more nuanced, grown-up approach that those films took. It was a clear and distinct alternative to the equally valid but very different approach that Marvel takes to the same material. And I believe that “Justice League” was originally supposed to be in a similar vein as “MoS,” “BvS,” and “WW”: a five-hour story split over two films that continued the thematic deconstruction of the source material, before rebuilding it again in “Justice League Part Two.” Instead, because of the relentless carping and complaining of whiny fanboys—people who were unable to accept an approach to these characters that differed from their own preferences—WB panicked and the result is an amateurish, infantile pile of dreck that has Geoff Johns’ fingerprints all over it.

    Johns is a terrible writer. Everything he’s written in comics reeks with the stench of self-indulgent, emotionally-stunted, fan fiction. And this film is no different. It’s a vile, putrid mass of incompetence that (in the reshoot footage) all of the actors look visibly embarrassed to be in.

    (Don’t get me started on that dumb, dumb, dumb Flash-Superman race midway through the credits that I’m positive was Johns’ idea. Not only is it stupid beyond all belief, but it is incompetently shot and framed.)

    Geoff Johns and Kevin Tsujihara have done the impossible. They have made this lifelong DC fan—one who defended them when others were unfairly criticizing them over “BvS”—lose all interest in the future of these properties.

    Good riddance to them and good riddance to the fanboys that complain over and over and over again whenever they are presented with material that is remotely artistically challenging (like “BvS”). Their relentless whining had the same effect that the pre-internet whiners had in 1992 when similar whiners caused WB to panic then and change course from the truly wonderful and original Tim Burton “Batman” films to the lowest common denominator approach taken by Joel Schumacher (which is the spiritual godfather of “Justice League”). It led to the complete ruination of what could have been a truly terrific film series that continued to push the boundaries of the genre. Instead we got a pile of dog cinematic dog shit. I hope they’re happy.

    (I really hope that WB eventually puts out a director’s cut of “Justice League.” I would love to see what it was originally supposed to have been.)

  10. “I loved “Batman v Superman” (which I consider to be the greatest super-hero film ever made).”

    People are entitled to like whatever they want but that is the equivalent of saying you think the “Baywatch” movie is the greatest comedy ever made.

  11. One critic recently rewatched “B v. S” and tweeted that it’s very strange, more like a bad dream than a movie. (Reminds me of Leonard Maltin’s description of “Batman Returns” as a “nasty nihilistic nightmare movie.”)

    Was that what Snyder was going for? Intended or not, he achieved it. It just wasn’t what the average fanboy wanted or expected, just like Ang Lee’s interesting Hulk movie wasn’t what they wanted or expected.

  12. I’d rather see a “Batman ’66” movie — although that movie has already been made, in 1966 — than another glum Nolan/Snyder rendition of the character.

    The ’80s works of Frank Miller and Alan Moore have been mined enough. Time to find another inspiration, moviemakers.

  13. “I loved “Batman v Superman” (which I consider to be the greatest super-hero film ever made).”

    People are entitled to like whatever they want but that is the equivalent of saying you think the “Baywatch” movie is the greatest comedy ever made.

    ———

    No, it’s the equivalent of saying that “The Godfather Part II” is the greatest gangster movie ever made. It pushed the boundaries of the genre into new, previously unchartered territory.

  14. “No, it’s the equivalent of saying that “The Godfather Part II””

    No, it’s like saying that about “The Godfather Part III.”

    Taste is individual. Some people prefer chicken over beef. No one, however, can live on spoiled meat of any kind. There may be elements of “BvS” that people like a lot but it is an objectively flawed film in multiple ways and on multiple levels.

    Mike

  15. Mike, I just disagree with you. I understand why people didn’t like the approach that Snyder and team took with BvS, but it’s an objectively well-crafted film, done with artistry, style, and narrative and and thematic complexity that extends beyond normal limits of this genre.. It is complex and it does requires you to pay attention to and engage with every detail, but if you do it’s a logically coherent experience.

    Justice League is not. Justice League literally does not make sense from scene to scene (and many times, from shot to shot). Justice League is everything that people complained that BvS was (but which it actually wasn’t). Geoff Johns and Joss Whedon essentially pulled a What’s Up, Tiger Lily? on Zack Snyder and Chris Terrio’s story, taking their original framework and layering on a completely different story on top of it. It’s not that I don’t like that story. It’s that that story doesn’t make any logical or coherent sense—not just in comparison to the previous movies, but even within its own “story.”. It’s incompetently made. And it’s a shame, because the Snyder footage (and I said before, it’s very, very clear which director shot what) is gorgeous and its clear that this was intended to be the logical conclusion to the story begun in MoS.

    And Godfather Part III is an objectively very good movie. The “sin” of Godfather Part III is that it’s not one of the ten greatest films ever made (like its predecessors were). Not being one of the greatest films ever made does not make it bad.

  16. Spoilers warning

    Went to see it last night. Not the best movie of the year. Not the best superhero movie you’ll see in your life…but… I must say…I really liked it. There are flaws and they could have been avoided, which is the sad part of this but, to me, the good parts did compensate for the flaws. My biggest issues were:

    – Superman’s resurrection should have been a much bigger deal than it was. The movie should have been 15-20 minutes longer to really dig into the moral conflict of it, the resurrection process should have been more elaborate and the impact of Superman coming back on his mother, on Lois Lane, on Superman himself and on the world should have been further explored.
    – we have once again a generic villain with a one-dimensional conquer-the-world plan. Just like with X-Men: Apocalypse, it just wasn’t very compelling.
    – the editing could have been a little better. It felt at times like a series of vignettes more than a single movie with a flow. But I did not mind it that much.

    What did work for me:
    – the League members themselves and their dynamic and chemistry. This was the most important aspect for the movie makers to get right and i believe they got it right, for the most part
    – several memorable scenes, mainly the flashback sequence explaining how Steppenwolf was beaten thousands of years ago, the current-day Amazons scene, the Atlantis scene, great dialogue scenes between Batman-Wonder Woman, Batman-Flash, Wonder Woman-Cyborg and a great intro to Aquaman. And two good post-credit scenes
    – good casting in general, even for smaller roles like Comissioner Gordon, Alfred, Superman’s mom and Cyborg’s dad
    – good action sequences, for the most part, with Wonder Woman stopping criminals at the beginning, Superman vs the League and Wonder Woman vs Steppenwolf as particularly good ones
    – great music and score

    And here’s what I found adequate, meaning stuff that was done well enough to not ruin the movie but not good enough to stand out as a highlight:
    – The visual special effects did their job, they were not particularly good or particularly bad.
    – The humor was OK, not bad but not that good either.
    – the story itself. Nothing memorable here, a bit generic but worked well enough as an excuse to bring the League together. Seeing these heroes together and their interactions was the main draw for this movie. In that sense, I am fine with a just OK story.

    All in all, we are very far here from Oscars-winning movie-making but I think the Justice League movie still deserves to be seen on a big screen and is, in my opinion, quite enjoyable and certainly undeserving of all the negative press it’s been getting.

  17. And just for the sake of it, here’s my take on the previous DCEU films:

    – really liked Man of Steel. I thought the final battle dragged on for a little too long but apart from that, great movie
    – i found BvS to be an intriguing take on the DC heroes but I thought it had many flaws. The ones I had the biggest problems with were mostly fixed by the extended edition so all in all, I ended up liking it. But I liked it as a one-time experimentation, a peculiar and interesting beast that’s interesting to see once, but I would not want the rest of the DC movies to be made on the same pattern and with the same tone. It did provide us with a good intro to Wonder Woman.
    – Suicide Squad had great characters coming together to form the Squad, played by good actors. I really liked the beginning of the movie in particular, with Amanda Waller introducing us to each character. But the movie really suffered from a lack of good villains. Enchanteress and her brother were just not very good. In the end, i consider it an OK superhero movie. My least favorite of the DCEU movies so far. This was also a case of the trailers actually being better than the movie itself.
    – Wonder Woman was great. I thought the digital effects could have been a little better as some scenes looked more like a video game than a movie, and the final battle with Ares was a bit disappointing to me as an action sequence, but that was not enough to ruin the movie, far from it. My favorite of the DCEU movies so far.

  18. I don’t really feel like re-litigating Batman v Superman, but for the record…it has a intriguing first hour that does some worthwhile work in investigating Superman’s place in the world, and then craps all over itself right around the time the title fight takes place and becomes a dull and ugly CGI slugfest. I give that movie more leeway than most, but a terrible back-half basically kills any potential good will.

    I’m not sure I get the complaint about Justice League’s story not making any sense. If anything, it’s incredibly streamlined and simple, which works in its favor. But I’m also of the belief that these things need to be shorter and tighter, as a rule. It’s first act is a little messy, and has to do WAY too much work to get the audience on-board with the new characters (to mixed results as I said above) but once the team gets together the movie starts to hit a nicer groove.

    Just a couple of quick other things:
    – The second post-credits scene is likely all Snyder, Manganiello was on-set during principal photography before Snyder left. It’s possible he was brought back for the re-shoots, but until we get a full accounting of who did what, we won’t know for sure.
    – The Flash/Superman race is a hallmark of DC Comics, I don’t know how anyone that’s a fan of classic DC couldn’t have found some charm in that. It being a part of “mustachegate” mars it a bit, but I loved that scene.
    – Just to stand up for Geoff Johns for a second, not that he needs it, but he’s written some very fine comics in his career. Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes being one of the best Superman stories of the past 20 years, just as an example.
    – I’m looking forward to really taking a scalpel to this thing and trying to determine what’s missing from previous reports (the black suit didn’t make the cut, along with a number of scenes from the trailers, as written here: http://screencrush.com/justice-league-trailer-shots-not-in-film/). But I doubt we’ll get any kind of Ultimate Cut this time around, given how the story had to be modified by Whedon. There’s a good chance whatever was left on the cutting room floor won’t make any sense within the context of the film as it exists now.

  19. “It’s an objectively well-crafted film, done with artistry, style, and narrative and and thematic complexity that extends beyond normal limits of this genre”

    No, it is not. I’m not going to waste time explaining to why it’s not because a kajillion people have already dissected “BvS” quite extensively. I know thinking you are so much smarter and more insightful than everybody else can be very intoxicating but put down the bong and stop embarrassing yourself.

    It’s one thing to argue that “BvS” isn’t quite as terrible as everyone says. Calling it the greatest super-hero movie ever made demonstrates that you are either a fool or the only other super-hero movies you’ve ever seen are “Suicide Squad,” “Spider-Man III,” and “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.”

    Mike

  20. Saw it. Liked it. I am seeing tomorrow in one of the 4X theaters. Had some very audience members in NY. People in various sections were clapping for scenes or when WW appear. Love the very very enc

  21. Mike,

    I’m happy to re-litigate the virtues of BvS if you want to get into it. I’m convinced that with his trilogy, Snyder was doing a modern retelling of the Christ myth by using Superman to represent Jesus. MoS was the birth, BvS was the death, and, had he been able to retain control of his film. I’m certain that JL would have focussed on the resurrection of the character.

    Every major character has an allegorical equal to the characters in the Jesus story:

    Superman = Jesus
    Jor-El = God
    Jonathan and Martha = Joseph and Mary
    Lois = Mary Magdalene
    Zod = Herod
    Luthor = Pontias Pilote
    Batman = Judas (and, I’m convinced, he would have equaled Paul in Snyder’s JL)
    The Justice League = The Apostles
    Steppenwolf = Satan (which, despite the criticism of Steppenwolf as the villain, is why I’m certain Snyder chose a horned villain for JL)

    On top of that, I think Snyder was presenting BvS as an allegorical commentary on the politics of our time. Superman represented Barack Obama (someone who does good but keeps getting labeled a villain and “an other” by half the population), and Batman represented Dick Cheney (someone whose worldview was corrupted by an attack on the city and who became driven by fear and anger). If half the public literally thought that Barack Obama was the anti-Christ for doing bureaucratic health insurance reform, I’m pretty certain that a god-like being would be reviled by at least half the population, just as Snyder and team presented. He was holding a mirror up to ourselves and showing us the ugliness of our current selves.

    On top of that, Lex Luthor was meant to be a commentary on the authoritarian tendencies that have been bubbling up in our country (and which manifested themselves later on in the year the film was released with the election of Donald Trump).

    It also presented villain in Luthor who was not a mustache twirler. Despite being morally vacuous, there was a logic and a coherence to his worldview (no matter how vile it was). And his scheme was also more complex and nuanced than your typical world domination villain plot from your typical super-hero movie. It was layered with multiple contingencies upon contingencies. You actually had to pay attention to what was happening on screen.

    This is far more interesting and engaging (both thematically and narratively, not to mention visually) than just about any other super-hero film (with the exception of X2, which I think is quite brilliant and criminally underrated in the super-hero pantheon). Compare this to the numbing literalness of your typical MCU film (which are entertaining but otherwise artistically and thematically vacuous).

    On top of that, the film itself was structured like a Swiss watch (particularly the longer Ultimate Edition). Not a single scene was wasted. Every single scene paid off later on in the movie (OR set-up plot points that were reconciled in Wonder Woman (OR, I’m convinced, were foreshadowing for the next film and meant to be reconciled in Snyder’s cut of Justice League)).

    The Whedon cut of Justice League had none of that. Multiple scenes existed in isolation with no connection to anything that happened later in the film (the scene with Wonder Woman and the terrorist, for instance, which I’m convinced, had a strong connection to the paranoia of the impending invasion in Snyder’s cut). Dozens and dozens of scenes shot by Whedon are literally just characters standing around spouting exposition without every showing it visually. It’s incompetently made.

    I understand that people don’t like BvS. But I stand by my analysis and celebration of it as a significant work of art with a level of depth to it that most “grown-up” movies don’t possess. Critics can be, and often are, wrong. In 1958 most critics and the public were disappointed by Vertigo (which wasn’t even nominated for a Best Picture Oscar), and yet 60 years later it’s considered the best film every made in the Sight and Sound poll. Contemporaneous views of works of art are often shortsighted and wrong.

    Thanks for playing along, Mike.

  22. “No, it’s the equivalent of saying that “The Godfather Part II” is the greatest gangster movie ever made. It pushed the boundaries of the genre into new, previously unchartered territory.”

    Only if that territory was a hundred dumpsters, full of used diapers full of Indian food, at the center of a tire fire.

    But I agree that Johns and other DC execs who protected and enabled Eddie Berganza should be fired.

  23. Why do people think Superman needs to be a Jesus allegory? It doesn’t, and shouldn’t be, anymore than he should be Mohammed, or Vishnu.

    Superman, is Superman, and hopefully this puts an end to Snyders ugly shit, forever.

    Expect this to end the Superhero genre, for decades. It’s over.

  24. Daniel, people have been comparing Superman to Jesus (and to Moses) for many, many decades.

    If you want to see a GOOD movie that’s a possible religious allegory, see Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! when it turns up on DVD or streaming.

    I also don’t want to relitigate Batman v. Superman, except to say it’s not the masterpiece Daniel seems to think it is, nor is it a worthless piece of dreck. It’s one of those movies that is more “interesting” than good. I liked the opening recap, with Superman and his foe as distant figures in the sky, as people on the ground would see them (reminded me of “Marvels”). Ben Affleck’s middle-aged Batman was better than I’d expected. But there’s the awful CGI mess that Kyle mentions.

    The movie is saved (almost) by Gal Gadot’s terrific Wonder Woman. You could definitely sense (and hear) the audience waking up when she appeared. When she first appears in costume, Snyder gives her the sort of entrance that John Ford gave John Wayne in Stagecoach: an entrance that says “a star is born.” A year and a half later, it’s the main thing I remember from B v. S.

  25. “Why do people think Superman needs to be a Jesus allegory?”

    It doesn’t have to.. But it doesn’t not have to either. It was a legitimate creative and thematic choice.

    “Daniel, people have been comparing Superman to Jesus (and to Moses) for many, many decades.”

    I’m not denying that. But Snyder is the first artist to go all in on the allegory. Most creators stop at the “Father in sky sends son to Earth to save the world.” Snyder integrated the entire lifecycle of the Jesus character and built the supporting cast to tie in more literally. (Or at least he would have had he been able to complete Justice League to his vision) I find that impressive. Haven’t seen “Mother” but I’ll check it out when it’s available on home video.

    I’m not asking people to agree with my assessment or for people to like what Snyder did. But it’s willfully ignorant to deny that there was a clear vision and a depth to that vision, not mention an artistry and a mastery of craft behind it.

    I don’t like Tarantino’s films. I personally find them off-putting. But I still recognize and respect the artistry and craft behind them. I acknowledge the depth beneath the visceral, superficial thrills of his work. I’m not denying that Tarantino is a legitimate artist and craftsperson. I don’t think most people give Zack Snyder the same credit or benefit of the doubt because they allow their own preconceived biases to get in the way.

  26. “But it’s willfully ignorant to deny that there was a clear vision and a depth to that vision, not mention an artistry and a mastery of craft behind it.”

    Snyder is not a talentless buffoon and I think many would agree that there were elements of “BvS” that were good or at least non-horrible. But you are demonstrating an immature understanding of both filmmaking and storytelling by slobbering over what you think Snyder was trying to do instead of focusing on what he actually did do. Great art has to work on multiple levels and stuff like theme and vision don’t really matter if you suck at basics like plot, pacing, and understanding that if you are going to spend $200 million to make a film, you need to give the viewer something they want to experience and not wank around with nonsense from a freshman year “Religion 101” class.

    A Superman as Jesus analogy isn’t new. It isn’t profound. It isn’t interesting except in how it reveals the person making the analogy doesn’t understand either Superman or Jesus as narrative characters.

    Personally, I don’t think “BvS” is quite the entirely worthless pit of suck some make it out to be. But it is much closer to that than “greatest super-hero movie ever made.”

    Mike

  27. Posted this on the wrong thread to respond to Daniel:

    I can’t understand why Daniel would say that the movie makes “no sense from scene to scene.” It has a few minor plot holes– like, how did Aquaman unerringly track the other heroes to their underwater location– but it isn’t close to having any of the truck-sized plot holes found in BVS, MAN OF STEEL or WONDER WOMAN.

    If one wants to complain that it lacks visual stylization, sure,. In terms of style, BVS has it all over JL. I’ve even argued that the script for BVS was an interesting juxtaposition of material from two very different works, DEATH OF SUPERMAN and DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, adjusted for the purpose of birthing the tentpole franchise.

    http://nummtheory.blogspot.com/2016/04/batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice-2016.html

    But it’s still a movie with a lot of flaws. Maybe JUSTICE LEAGUE simply doesn’t attempt as much, but it seems to be trying to give fans what so many of them SAY they want (only to not give the film a chance in the clinch).

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