‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ review: Polishing a Turd

Zack Snyder’s Justice League
DIRECTOR: Zack Snyder
STARRING: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Jason Mamoa, Ezra Miller, Willem Dafoe, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Diana Lane, Connie Nielsen, J.K. Simmons
Available on HBO Max

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: the people running Warner Brothers’ DC Comics film division have no earthly clue which way is up.

Say what you will about Disney and Marvel, they not only know the right formula for success, they have it down to a science, patented, and they could bottle it if they so chose.

No, I’m not a Marvel fanboy. I am one of the biggest DC fans this side of the planet. ALL my comics are DC comics. Superman and Batman (and even Aquaman and Green Lantern) are in my collection, despite the mockery I face from my friends who all think I’m insane for continuing to worship these guys instead of Iron Man, Spider-Man, and the rest.

A few years ago, Warner threw us “Justice League”, an “Avengers” wannabe, based on the famed DC team headlined by Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman and whomever DC decided to toss in the blender for us. In the past, we’ve seen Green Lantern, Hawkman, Green Arrow, The Atom, and a few others. The Justice League we saw was comprised of Aquaman, Flash, and Cyborg, which isn’t a terrible choice. Flash is always great comic relief, Aquaman needs more play after being a decades-long punchline, and Cyborg is an interesting choice seeing as though he’s literally just a cyborg.

Consider the timing however: DC had only shelled out Man of Steel, a Batman/Superman “sequel” of sorts, a dead-on-arrival “Suicide Squad”, and the boring and safe “Wonder Woman” before releasing a movie where we hadn’t even gotten the story behind half of the other heroes who faced off against a one-note, boring villain even DC fans couldn’t care less about.

So, after listening to the multitude of fans who begged WB not to allow Zack Snyder anymore free reign over the “DC Extended Universe” because he simply doesn’t understand the comics, WB did the sensible thing: allowed Zack Snyder to paste together a “director’s cut” of a movie that is already god-awful, not even Steven Spielberg or David Fincher could have saved it.

Quick plotline for the uninitiated: Superman’s dead (just two films into this “universe”…I won’t get into this now…maybe later) and the world’s almost defenseless against what’s coming: an alien intruder named Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds). Bruce Wayne (Affleck) has a plan to put together a team to fend off Mr. Wolf and approaches Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller), Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Mamoa), and Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to make sure that the threat is neutralized. When they realize that the five of them aren’t enough to do the job, Wayne plots to resurrect Superman (Henry Cavill) — but in what form?

Let’s get to it:

I mean, I’m not really gonna get on Snyder for releasing this monstrosity in 4:3 format. I get the idea behind it. This is supposed to be in “IMAX” format or whatever…but I will say this: we’re in the middle of a goddamn pandemic. Nobody is going to see this in a movie theater. We’re all at home watching this thing. Almost everyone I know has a 16:9 TV. So, I can’t even begin to understand the logic here. Especially since other “IMAX” prints, when converted, fill one’s entire screen. “Fantasia 2000” and “The Dark Knight” come to mind as examples.

But, hey, Zack does Zack, so…

Second, while I welcome a comic book film to be four hours long, this particular movie by this particular director? No. Hell no. We tried that already when Snyder made “Watchmen”.

I still want my money back.

For your troubles, Snyder gives you loads of useless expository dialogue, tacked-on scenes of the Justice League doing Justice League-like things (Flash saves a woman from a fatal car-wreck; Aquaman defends Atlantis against Steppenwolf; Wonder Woman’s Amazonian women go into an even longer battle against Darkseid, etc.) along with a few scenes which didn’t make the original…

I am all for a good director’s cut, but this is a bit ridiculous. Whole scenes which mean absolutely nothing are just haphazardly shoved into the actual movie. No, we didn’t need a scene with Clark’s mom (Diane Lane) visiting Lois (Amy Adams) before transforming into (gasp!) The Martian Manhunter (Harry Lennix) nor did we need a random scene involving a future Justice League and The Joker (Jared Leto) before a “just-kidding” jump-cut to a hungover Affleck who had dreamt the entire thing.

There’s far too much padding. And it’s even weirder when you take a look at the stuff Snyder removed from the original cut (the opening with kids interviewing Superman using their cellphone video camera; the Flash/Superman race; Batman capturing a Parademon, etc.) and then you see pointless, extraneous “Assembly Cut” garbage just sort of pasted into the new cut for no reason. Almost none of the new scenes ADD anything nor do they move the story along.

That isn’t to say it doesn’t work all the time. Cyborg’s backstory is most welcome here, almost reminiscent of Zack Snyder’s “Dr. Manhattan” sequence in “Watchmen”. It’s much-needed because Cyborg is simply a boring character. Nobody cares about him. He’s obscure as hell, even by DC standards. Wanna know how obscure? His Wikipedia entry has a screencap from the recent film. Nothing from Teen Titans or the comics or even Superfriends, which I used to watch when I was a kid. He’s just a lame superhero.

One of my absolute favorite moments involving Cyborg is when he helps this woman pay her rent by being all Cyborgy and wirelessly transmitting money into her bank account. The scene is insanely movie — but it’s also ruined by the fact that Snyder treats his audience like they’re complete idiots and shows Cyborg envisioning stacks of cash in front of him like he’s entered a cheat code in Grand Theft Auto, before transferring it all.

In any case, that’s one of my biggest annoyances with this film: despite having all these extra scenes, everything here is too-little, too-late. Scenes with Diana investigating ruins in Greece, Flash saving that girl, Cyborg’s accident, Aquaman and his beef with Atlantis…most of it doesn’t belong here. A good hour of this footage belongs to other films.

And maybe that’s the point Snyder is trying to make here. One would think this is Snyder trying to show WB the worth in DC…

But, then, he does what he does and makes everything ultra-dark and grimy, sucks all the color out of the film, and then dresses New Reborn Superman in a completely black-and-silver suit like he’s giving Raider fans their new icon and I just facepalm all over again. Superman is LITERALLY THE HOPE OF THE ENTIRE FRANCHISE. He’s bright and colorful! How fucking STUPID do you have to be to take a look at his costume and say “We’re taking all the color out of this sucker because it doesn’t fit with our depressing death motif we’ve lined up the last three hours”?

Turning superhero costumes BLACK is not “hip” anymore. That might have worked with the X-Men franchise (though I still don’t agree with the move) and it definitely works for Batman — but Superman is NOT Batman. He’s the OPPOSITE of Batman. And, yeah, you can tell me “Superman has had a black costume with a silver logo before.” Yes, he has. The Kryptonian Regeneration Suit he wore after he came back from death at the hands of Doomsday was black and silver — but it wasn’t permanent. He went back to his trademark blue/red/gold after the ordeal. I OWN the entire Death/Funeral/Return collection from the 1990’s. I know of what I speak.

And then, as an extra “fuck you”, he has Superman behead a certain villain and send that head back to Darkseid like he’s some sort of mafia kingpin sending a message to a rival gang, all while glaring at Darkseid with this disturbingly evil look on his face — a look Wonder Woman and Batman also have.

And that’s the problem with Snyder: he doesn’t get it. Everything he presents has to be gritty and grimy even though this is supposed to be bright and chipper and our heroes’ finest hour. Even though the heroes are supposed to stand tall and be bright and colorful, Snyder has them in black and brown and shadow, chopping heads off, and giving a figurative finger to the camera.

Because that’s who Snyder is and who he will forever be: the ultimate edgelord.

I’m not going to say anything else about him here because he initially quit making this thing due to a horrible tragedy in his family and I credit him for coming back to return what he though was going to be some epic superhero opus.

It’s far from that.

So I’ll say this: Zack Snyder is a totally pretentious filmmaker who makes slop designed to manipulate movie bros into thinking he’s one of the most cerebral, stylish filmmakers on the planet.

And if there was EVER a movie which proves my point, it’s his “Justice League” rehash.

Fuck this giant turd of a movie.

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