We Finally Did It… #ZSJL.

I hate to be this person, because I know it probably just sounds irritating… but I just want to say a quick “thank you” to Zack Snyder for pushing his vision and staying true to both the fans of DC Comics and the characters within it. I know he is not everyone’s cup of tea, but you have to admit he is a hardworking individual who literally went through the death of his daughter and public slander in order to come out on the other side. What an incredible feat for film history. I woke up at 4:00 am for this, and I have a few initial takeaways from Zack Snyder’s Justice League, including (1) what the fuck was Warner Bros. thinking back in 2016–2017, and (2) it turns out DC films can separate themselves from their Marvel counterparts successfully. I have no idea how I am going to break down this 4-hour film, but… let’s try it anyway.

Before we start, let’s all try not to go online and spread unnecessary hate. I am a firm believer we can all love Marvel and DC at the same time. What’s the problem with that? Nothing. Feel free to talk to others but be constructive and think critically instead of hatefully. Great. There will be spoilers, so if you have not watched this film… beware.

PLOT:

Determined to ensure Superman’s ultimate sacrifice was not in vain, Bruce Wayne aligns forces with Diana Prince with plans to recruit a team of metahumans to protect the world from an approaching threat of catastrophic proportions. The task proves more difficult than Bruce imagined, as each of the recruits must face the demons of their own pasts to transcend that which has held them back, allowing them to come together, finally forming an unprecedented league of heroes. Now united, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash (and perhaps new faces?) may be too late to save the planet from Steppenwolf and his dreadful intentions.

A new threat has emerged from the darkest corner of the Universe: Darkseid, the brutal and unapologetic lord of the planet Apokolips. To stop this madman from unleashing his relentless army upon the Galaxy, The Justice League must unite as one and save the Earth from the Universe’s most dangerous warlord… but do they?

ZACK SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE: BREAKDOWN

  1. Whedon v. Snyder

I think it is no secret that Warner Bros. had no clue what they were doing back in 2016–2017. As much as I appreciate the Snyder verse, I understand wanting to change directions after 2016’s Batman v Superman. The incredible attraction to Marvel’s light yet thrilling stories weakened the perception of DC’s grittier, darker content — as well as the film just being a script and pacing nightmare. I love parts of that film for sure but I think Warner Bros. knew they had no competition if they continued down that path. Unfortunately, given Snyder’s family emergency after production, they had the perfect opportunity to bring outside counsel and retcon the entire project… and so they brought in Joss Whedon and co. I only partially blame Whedon for 2017’s Justice League because, honestly, I understand he was doing his job as commissioned by the losers at Warner Bros. Entirely changing a film to be something it was (quite literally) never intended to be was a tall order, and clearly it did not work in anyone’s favor. The film was a disaster. The script was too coincidental and low stakes; the introduction to new characters felt rushed and half-baked; and, yes, the CGI/effects were absolute shit. Just from the first moments of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, already the coloring and pacing was miles ahead of its predecessor. Cyborg, Flash, and Aquaman felt much more fleshed out and important to the story at hand. Their eventual participation in the Justice League makes sense. Their pasts all individually lead them to the end battle and, presumably, a future in the group. Snyder also fixed the pacing problem. Oddly, for a 4-hour film, I felt comfortable the entire time given how the story was set up. The individual chapters effectively compartmentalize the progression of the story, thus making viewing slightly less daunting. It’s still a 4-hour film, so this will probably deter some people. Oh well. I am not saying Snyder is perfect, but clearly his original vision for the arcs of his characters trump whatever Whedon and WB thought would “appease” audiences.

2. The Holy Trinity

One of the best moments back in 2016 was seeing Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman finally all together in live action. I remember being fascinated with the momentous feel of the battle, especially considering how slow the film had been leading up to that moment. After Batman v Superman, I think many people were excited/anxious to see how WB and Snyder would follow up with these characters, considering the fact that (1) Superman had just died, (2) Batman/Ben Affleck had no solo project officially lined up, and (3) Wonder Woman needed her own origin story. Then history played out. 2017’s Wonder Woman was an unexpected hit for the studio, but then Justice League happened, followed by the insanity of the #SnyderCut movement, and the future looked slightly less hopeful for WB and the DCEU. How did WB continue this trajectory? Well, for the most part, like shit. Wonder Woman 1984 turned out to be a colossal failure from a editing/writing perspective, but mainly from a character one as well. Diana Prince was reduced to… nothing, honestly. Her determination and warrior image set up in 2017 was ruined by a wishing rock. Hm. Luckily, one of the best things about Zack Snyder’s Justice League is the fact that all three of these heroes benefitted from a longer runtime and more breathable scenes. For example, the bank robbery scene with Wonder Woman was 10x better just because we got an explanation for why the robbery was happening in the first place, how Wonder Woman defeated them, and what happened with the children after she saved them. There was a complete scene describing the situation, rather than just vignettes as to “mark off” certain characters. Superman’s resurrection was now much more important to the story because, not only do we now have Clark back to save the day, but we also now have Cyborg seeing the Knightmare future (that will probably play a part in a sequel… if we ever get it). Plus, the 2017 film tried infusing Superman as much as possible, and I like that this film steered away from that. Bruce Wayne’s arc felt much more emotional and he had motivation to not only save the world, but do it for the fallen Clark Kent. I also liked how the film started with the death of Superman. It connected the “trilogy” and allowed audiences to understand why his death was so significant, especially considering why Steppenwolf decided to come and conquer Earth for Darkseid. MAJOR SPOILER: I also loved seeing Bruce have little to no reaction when Martian Manhunter showed up at his lake house. I mean, come on, that’s hilarious. Bruce has been through a lot, so I guess he just doesn’t care anymore.

3. Steppenwolf/Darkseid

The villains in this film were TOTALLY a departure from the 2017 natural disaster. Benefitting from better VFX/editing, the lackluster Steppenwolf from before now came across brutal yet tormented. Even as he conquered the people of Earth, all he wanted was to return home to Apokolips and join his brethren… but not if Darkseid had anything to do with it. I think it’s hard to create villains in this industry without having those comparisons to Marvel’s Thanos. As part of the triumph of Infinity War/Endgame, clearly audiences are going to resonate with him over an unknown villain like Darkseid. I do not think people understand how powerful Darkseid is, though; the Knightmare scene displayed this to a degree. If this gets a sequel/continuation, Darkseid will play a major role and I look forward to his character being developed. Another “fix” I loved was Steppenwolf retrieving the Mother Box from the inside of Star Labs, as opposed to the parking lot. We got an emotional moment with Silas Stone dying in front of Cyborg, and of course we got Steppenwolf being a total badass as he ascended into the boom tube. I appreciate when villains are written effectively, and I look forward to seeing how things play out.

Ciaran Hinds as Steppenwolf
Ray Porter as Darkseid

4. Knightmare

HELL yes, we finally get a better explanation as to what is happening and why the Knightmare sequence is so significant. At first, I was slightly confused, thinking that future was a multiverse addition (as per Flash’s doing). Now I understand, from Cyborg’s encounter with the Mother Box, that Superman’s resurrection is what causes Earth’s downfall. It’s all so exciting. We see Wonder Woman’s dead body being burned and the Amazons watching with despair; Batman, Cyborg, Flash, Mera, DEATHSTROKE, and the JOKER all surviving together; and Superman unleashed (supposedly from Darkseid killing Lois and her unborn child). This is the DC lore that people crave — these are the stories and weird timelines that differentiate themselves from Marvel. I am surprised Snyder included this much, to be honest, because I am not sure how much WB is going to put up with this universe. With The Flash film “rebooting” the franchise, I wonder where this leaves Snyder and the rest of this Knightmare future. I loved how Snyder ended the film with this sequence as well. It really makes the anticipation for what comes next that much bigger. I know some people may find it boring or unnecessary, but truthfully, Superman being a villain is way more interesting to me than him being a heroic god. Plus, come on, that Batman and Joker interaction was incredible. I hated Leto’s Joker back in 2016’s Suicide Squad, so thank god (1) Snyder gave him another chance at the role and (2) he delivered something different yet true to his character. I mean, there’s just so much to pull from, especially considering how the film ended with Darkseid preparing to come to Earth himself (which means they’re fucked). All I know is I am pumped and, even if this somehow comes back as a series or individual project, I will be excited no matter what.

Henry Cavill as Superman… oh boy

5. Let’s Talk About Cyborg and Flash

I was shocked by the end of the 4 hours to feel somewhat drawn to both Cyborg and Flash as characters. Not that they aren’t great — they are, for sure — I just have always been a Batman and Wonder Woman fan by far. This film, though, fought to make these characters developed, driven, and significant. Cyborg’s abilities were far more impressive in this version of the film, and Flash’s sequences were visually stunning. When Flash ran faster than the speed of light to turn back time, my god… it was incredible. I loved how the visuals were paired with his inner monologue of wanting to be something great for his father to be proud of. I didn’t cry, but I definitely was moved by how Ezra Miller played certain parts. I also loved when he got shot down and was basically crying like a child as he tried to heal his wound. He didn’t want the rest of the League to see him as weak, and you could just hear the pain in his voice. Ugh, so good. On the other hand, Cyborg watching his father die by activating the Mother Box was… really sad. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. Just the fact that he watched both his mother and his father die really weighs on me. The father/son relationships in this film were dynamic and tragic, which I think helped raise the stakes of the plot. That’s what this film needed from the start — the human connection. Where were these characters coming from and why did they need this story to save them? Each and every one of the Justice League members lost something in the process of the film, and Snyder smartly chose Cyborg and Flash to highlight this idea. Ray Fischer and Ezra Miller, brilliant job.

Ray Fischer as Cyborg
Ezra Miller as the Flash

6. Favorite Scenes/Parts?

  • The introduction with Superman’s screams echoing throughout the universe
  • Flash’s running sequences. Literally all of them.
  • Batman v. Joker (then Superman showing up)
  • Bruce meeting Martian Manhunter
  • Martian Manhunter posing as Clark’s mother Martha and encouraging Lois to get back to her life
  • The Amazons v. Steppenwolf (thank GOD Snyder redid this scene)
  • Wonder Woman v. Steppenwolf (when she decapitates him as his body flies through the boom tube? Holy shit)
  • Wonder Woman’s old and new theme songs
  • Seeing even just one Green Lantern!
  • Lex Luthor telling Deathstroke Batman’s identity (which would have played into Ben Affleck’s Batman film… ugh)
  • Cyborg helping the mother win the lottery at the ATM then instantly being gawked at by random people walking past him
  • I’m usually not drawn to Snyder’s cinematography, but it worked in this film (for the most part)
  • The Omega Beam???

7. What Could Have Been Better?

  • Even with improvements, the color grading/tone was a bit bland throughout (and that’s been an issue with Snyder for awhile)
  • A LOT of slow-motion sequences throughout…
  • Given how rushed this film seemed to be, the CGI looked odd at some moments (especially with Wonder Woman, weirdly enough)
  • Still some terrible line deliveries

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is not a perfect film, but I don’t think he ever intended it to be. This movement has been more than just wanting a film released — it is also about respecting the characters, stories, and messages of the DC universe and creating thoughtful content around them. I still can’t believe it happened, and I loved every moment of it. Even if I am biased, I think it’s an incredible feat for Snyder and the fandom, one that will definitely impact Warner Bros.’s and the industry’s future. I am so excited to see where this takes superhero content, hopefully leading to new series on HBO Max. I think there is ample opportunity for new stories, and Snyder just opened that back up with his ideas. Justice League is not for everyone; but it definitely has brought a needed light to today’s reality. Hopefully some can see its impact. If anything, how incredible is it that this version is literally a night and day version of Whedon’s? Wow. If I was rating this film, I would give it a 9/10, maybe a 9.5. I don’t see all movies equally, and this one kept me glued to my screen the entire time. Its unabashed brutality and mythology is what makes DC Comics so incredible. With time, maybe Warner Bros. will see its mistake and allow these ideas to continue. Who is going to show up later? Martian Manhunter? Green Lantern? The Legion of Doom? Is this the continuation of the DCEU — or the end? For now, though, let’s celebrate and also support Falcon and the Winter Soldier (which I’m stoked for). Great job, everyone.

-H

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Henry Said It.

Henry Said It.

Business of Cinematic Arts student at USC. I talk about film, TV, music, entertainment. Instagram: @thehenrycinematicuniverse. Letterboxd: @henrykorneffel.