Film and TV

Reviews For The Uneasily Quarantined:
Zack Snyder's Justice League

Title: Zack Snyder's Justice League

Describe This Movie Using One Simpsons Quote:

HOMER: I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are.

Brief Plot Synopsis: There is nothing brief about this movie.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 2.5 dicks in a box out of 5.

Tagline: n/a

Better Tagline: "The squeaky Tweets get the grease."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Mother Boxes! Steppenwolf needs 'em, but only so he can get back in the good graces of his boss, Darkseid. The boxes are guarded by the Atlanteans, Amazons, and, er, men who previously defeated Darkseid (with the help of actual Greek gods). Their strength turns out to be insufficient, however, forcing the uneasy alliance between Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg, and ... Barry Allen. What's that? What about the guy who could probably handle this issue single-handedly, AKA Superman? Doomsday killed him. And as we all know, superheroes *never* come back from the dead.

"Critical" Analysis: You know the story: Zack Snyder had to leave filming the original Justice League due to a family tragedy, Joss Whedon took over, and the finished product was ... not well received. Online backlash convinced the studio to hand the reins back to Snyder, and voila: Zack Snyder's Justice League was born.

Is it better? Short answer: yes? It's an improvement on the theatrical version in some ways. It's also four hours long for no discernible reason.

First, the good: Cyborg's (Ray Fisher) story is more satisfyingly fleshed out; Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) gets more background (in a scene that was done better in X-Men: Days of Future Past), but no one ever calls him "The Flash;" the fight between the Amazons and Steppenwolf feels like an actual battle this time around; the still ridiculously-named "Mother Boxes" get more explanation; and the "Knightmare" epilogue is hilariously bananas, which admittedly wasn't intentional.

The bad? Superman is still a joyless asshole; pretty much any moments of levity have been ruthlessly excised; cameos that seem cool when they first happen (Yalan Gur! Martian Manhunter! Joker!) make no sense after a moment's consideration (was Pa Kent married to J'onn J'onzz the whole time?); and the "Knightmare" epilogue is meaningless because WB has no intention of letting Snyder make any more movies.

And did we mention this thing is four hours long?

References to the "Justice League" are a little misleading, as well. Just like in the original, Superman is either absent or farting around for 90 percent of the movie. The reasoning for this is sound: once he shows up, the bad guys are effectively doomed.

Snyder continues to walk a weird line between reverence for the Big Blue Schoolboy's legacy/importance and apparent hatred for the character, whom he insists on portraying as a grim prick (in a black suit, no less) who still strikes Jesus Christ poses. Looking back at his three movies in the role, It's hard to imagine a more wasted casting opportunity than Henry Cavill.

Unless it's Ben Affleck as Batman ... not because he's bad — the failure to produce a standalone "Batfleck" film might be the biggest fumble of the DCEU — but because watching Affleck check out over the course of the movie is truly a wonder to behold. By the time we get to the (again, pointless) dream sequence, Snyder might as well have used recycled footage.

Jason Momoa gets a little more to do after his hasty introduction in the first JL, and Gal Gadot briefly reminds us why people were impressed by her prior to Wonder Woman: 1984, but the emotional heart of the movie is Cyborg. He gets the most tragic arc (not counting dead Wayne parents), though watching this it's hard not to think of this as ground already well covered by Joivan Wade in Doom Patrol (found on the same streaming service, no less).

And again: four hours. Snyder's love of slow motion reaches parody levels, to the point that speeding these scenes up to would've cut the run time down a good 45 minutes. But more than that, it's the inevitable result of trying to build a cinematic universe from the top down. Ignoring Nolan's Bat-movies aside (Junkie XL does briefly abandon the Orchestra of Ominous Portent to revisit Hans Zimmer's theme), the payoff is still unearned.

The only one of the League who seems like they even give a shit about humanity is Wonder Woman. Superman - the character with the longest arc in the Snyderverse — is less interested in truth, justice, and the American way than in pouting, Aquaman might rescue you from drowning for a bottle of whiskey, and Batman is a cynical misanthrope from the get-go.

Is this because Snyder has always preferred to view these characters as gods? That might explain why Cyborg and [The Flash] are the most relatable. Still, it's a curious way to launch a team-up, especially since we now know Warner Bros. has no intention of staying with Snyder going forward.

Zack Snyder's Justice League is now streaming on HBO Max.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar