I wanted to extol the virtues of Wanda Vision this week. Truly. I wanted to expound and extrapolate vividly how Marvel was able to slow down their relentless phase-after-phase serial storytelling to truly stop and explore the power of grief in the superhuman world. It was 9 episodes of brilliance capped off with a decent-if-by-the-numbers finish. Ultimately though, I made the mistake of following the zeitgeist over the last two nights and watched Justice League, as envisioned by its original helmsman, Zack Snyder. And now, all I desire to share… is my snark and malaise.
For those that watched The Snyder Cut and enjoyed it? Please exit to your left. Make sure to visit the gift shop. For those who sat through the 4 hours and 2 minutes of relentless angst and left embittered? Please strap in and join me on my quest to crap all over it. My therapist said this is good for me to let it out.
The Snyder Cut is a 242 minute experiment in auto-erotic asphyxiation by way of moping and misogyny. From the opening shots to the third epilogue, the grey-blue desaturated nightmare chugs at a pace that somehow slows down time itself. The cut contains no fewer than 787,947 shots digitally slowed down to a pace so inane, you can watch the molecules vibrate between pixels. You’ll sit in disbelief as The Flash’s every action sequence is delivered at a pace that removes speed from the equation; instead rendering thousands of carefully designed lightning bolts miraculously striking every surface but where other characters occupy space — including characters literally encased in electric current-friendly metal. But I digress. I’m only a few opinions in and I’m already splitting hairs. If Zack Snyder were turning this article into a movie, you’d be able to see that split. It’d take 27 minutes, and come with a maudlin soundtrack to boot.
For those who thought that Zack’s original vision would somehow snuff out the somehow-worse Joss Whedon version of the film, you’re surmising hope where there should be none. Snyder recutting the movie is built off of the original bloated and depressed script he penned alongside Chris Terrio and Will Beall. I’ll spare you the imdb search. Terrio’s other credits include Batman v Superman and The Rise of Skywalker. Beall wrote some episode of Castle and the Aquaman movie. You remember that’s the movie where they remade Black Panther but underwater.
Hyperbole aside, Justice League is just zagging into angst where Marvel zigged to optimism (and a bright and cheerful palate). In the aftermath of Dawn of Justice, Superman is dead, and the entire world has apparently fallen into mourning. I’d love to point out that up until that point, Superman wasn’t depicted as a well-known, well-worn world savior. He effectively decimated dozens of buildings in Metropolis in Man of Steel, and returned to wreck havoc again when Lex Luthor unleased Doomsday. Perhaps the world was left sad because they no longer had sweet insurance payouts due to property destruction. In every single scene, non-metas scowl, grimace, and plod through their lives. Batman, now sad that he basically screwed the planet over with that whole do you bleed gambit, has chosen to unite what available superhumans he can find. Why? Because it’s what he best friend Superman would have done. Sure he would.
Soon enough (you know, somewhere around hour 2?) Bruce Wayne has assembled his pitiful league. This includes: Wonder Woman — who can’t be shown on screen without an awful musical sting of what can only be described as what white people think ‘ethnic’ sounds like in musical form. The Flash — the only character who teeters close to ‘audience proxy’ because he cracks a joke or two. We get Aquaman, who trades in his Whedon bro-isms in for generic stilted dialogue — but don’t worry, we get all of his brooding and drinking because… I guess… he’s sad because his mom was an Atlantean and all he got from it was some sick abs and a big fork. Finally we get Cyborg. Vic Stone in the Synder Cut is given what might be only good characterization in the film. With all the cut material shoved back into place, Cyborg’s boo-hoo-I’m-a-monster attitude has a bit more context. It doesn’t make Ray Fisher’s scowly monotone performance any better. But I suppose if I was mistreated on set as often as he was? I’d not be apt to do much more than phone in my performance either. It doesn’t help that Synder’s fetish not only includes slow motion… but Michael Bay-esque overly complex metal suits that look like crumpled paper put through Photoshop’s chrome filter, and then coated once over in jizz and grime.
The league assembles to stop the villain of our piece, Steppenwolf. In the comics, he is a Kirby-drawn emerald-tunic-clad huntsman of sorts. Like many of Darkseid’s lieutenants. In Justice League, Snyder painstakingly remade Whedon’s awful looking bridge troll with a Maleficent-inspired helm… into an even worse looking baby-faced ogre who now sports two erect dicks for horns, and dons head-to-toe scalloped metal armor — akin to the Destroyer from Thor, if it was drawn by my 5 year old. Steppenwolf arrives on Earth to unite 3 MacGuffin boxes, err, Mother Boxes which apparently is necessary for Darkseid to show up and take over.
I’d like to point out that Steppenwolf has complete access to boom tube technology. If he wanted to destroy the world? He’d need only boom into the capital cities of the planet, drop in a few dozen parademons (he comes with hundreds of them) and start killing. But he follows movie logic, and chooses instead to erect a worthless fortress, and assemble his movie-ending prop when the plot deems it necessary.
And how could I finish my thoughts without touching on all the Darkseid stuff! Whereas Whedon’s cut of the film attempted to keep the biggest bad at arm’s reach (you know, like Thanos?), Synder actually correctly introduces the world-beater into his draft so that we can see the motivations of the sub-villains. But Snyder’s Darkseid isn’t the cold, calculating dictator properly produced in countless episodes of Superman: The Animated Adventures or Justice League Unlimited. Rather, the stone-faced slaughterer is just another screaming brute. Our first introduction comes by way of a 20 minute masturbatory prologue, complete with Wonder Woman providing limp narration. Because of course Darkseid was once Sauron, and came to Earth but was defeated when divided tribes united to stop him. Thus the One Ring was to become Three Boxes, given to the Atlanteans, Amazons, and Man… because… uhhh… reasons? It’s hard to tell. The implications were that Darkseid had found the antilife equation he was seeking, but apparently needed to be reminded of this fact now thousands of years post-prologue. Maybe it made sense and I missed it. Forgive me. Did I mention the movie is a bit overlong?
Trust me. I could go on. My therapist would say it’s for my benefit. But frankly, I assume you’re bored now too. Superman is resurrected. He’s mad until he’s not. The League defeats Steppenwolf. Darkseid sets up the sequel. Batman has an unnecessary nightmare that further belabors “Evil Superman is Evil”, which would now be the fourth time we’ve had to deal with the notion of Evil Superman. Martian Manhunter comes in as a cameo, and Snyder unapologetically and unironically fades to black, rolls credits over a slower-sadder cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.
I get that Snyder’s departure from Justice League was fraught with controversy and legitimately awful tragedy. And Whedon’s rewrites and direction didn’t save the film from being a male-gaze-driven special effects massacre. But making the hullabaloo that nerddom demanded for Snyder to get his chance to deliver what he truly wanted only cements the saddest truth of all. Justice League is sad for sad’s sake. It somehow makes 23 films from Marvel seem shorter in their total run time than this single clusterfuck of sepia-toned trauma. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is an object lesson in sadness. It’s message of hope is buried under a metric ton of plot holes, looping logic, cardboard performances, over-complicated CGI, and a script devoid of humor or humility. Was it better than Whedon’s cut? Sure. But that doesn’t mean it was good, or even watchable.
I should have stayed in Westview.