“Millionaires Who Should Be Billionaires”
DC and Marvel have a long-standing history. In fact, this rivalry dates all the way back to the 1940’s. Like any good grudge match, both companies did their best to become the dominant force back in the day, with DC coming first and managing to captivate with its much darker and multi-faceted stories compared to Marvel’s early work. This soon changed.
With the explosion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe back in 2008, many people eagerly awaited what DC Comics would bring to the table.
What ensues from here is a rivalry that draws a lot of parallels to another in recent history – wrestling federations WWE (then known as WWF) and WCW. For those unaware, these two were locked in a bitter ratings feud back in the 90’s, dubbed the “Monday Night Wars.” For a while, WCW were unstoppable.
Questionable management decisions, botched storylines and a lack of vision eventually saw WCW fall by the wayside. This inevitably led to “business as usual” for WWE, becoming the stale product it’s become today (at least away from NXT).
So what on earth does wrestling have to do with DC Comics? Well, after the incredible success of the Dark Knight trilogy, Warner Bros and DC Comics’ attempts to compete with Marvel were met with questionable management decisions, botched stories and no clear vision for the future.
Unfortunately this led to several movies that should have been the beginning of something bigger but fell short, leading to problems both on and off the screen.
To stick with the wrestling analogies for now, Zack Snyder’s Justice League feels like a pipebomb moment. This is Synder’s way of telling us that DC are “millionaires who should be billionaires.” It’s a proverbial jolt to the system that DC could – and probably should – be seriously competing with Marvel.
“The Story Of Three Boxes”
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a movie with a long history, something we won’t get into in this review. What you do need to know however, is that this movie follows the events of the “SnyderVerse”, with the plot of both Man of Steel and Batman VS Superman relevant to what’s going on here.
While you can jump in blind, you’ll almost certainly benefit from revisiting those pictures. Likewise, a brief recap of the original Justice League helps to get a feel for how much has actually changed.
The story is spit into 6 distinct parts, with a 30 minute epilogue tacked on the end with a teasing glimpse of what could have been. Given DC’s line-up of movies on the horizon, it seems unlikely that this will see the light of day (and we won’t spoil any of that here.)
Unlike 2017’s picture, Snyder’s Justice League skips all the moments in Gotham that opened that film and instead begins with a montage of Superman’s death.
With shockwaves literally felt across the globe, Batman rides out on his horse to recruit his team after Supe’s death triggers the three Mother Boxes to awaken. This, unfortunately, brings a much more menacing and well-rounded Steppenwolf to the table; a powerful being intent on bringing these three boxes together in order to appease his Master, Darkseid.
What follows is a fetch quest of sorts, as Steppenwolf tries to take over the world while Batman recruits his team and attempts to thwart the threat. Basically it’s DC’s Infinity War but missing the same level of emotion.
One of the biggest problems with 2017’s Justice League came from the run-time and tonal inconsistency with characters. The weird juxtaposition of brooding drama with Marvel humour fell short, while the characters cracked jokes that betrayed their personas. Here though, everything feels a lot sharper with characters acting and feeling a lot more like their previous movie counterparts.
Sure, there’s a couple of jokes in here (and that hilarious “My Man!” quip from Aquaman is still) but none of them really feel that forced. Everything flows a lot more organically, with lots of screen-time dedicated to both Cyborg and Flash to flesh out their backstories outside of Alfred’s exposition in the previous movie.
Snyder’s cut is not perfect though, and given the heavy run-time, there’s a lot of bloat around the better elements of this picture. It also doesn’t help that almost every character seem to have Daddy issues.
Cyborg, Flash, Bruce Wayne and Aquaman all have backstories pertaining to their Fathers and because of the way this has been cut, it’s much more noticeable than it otherwise would be with standalone films.
You really get the impression at times that this was supposed to be cut as a mini-series but somehow exists in that weird gray area between movie and TV show. Because of that, the pacing really doesn’t do this movie any favours.
Thankfully, the split parts actually help to break things up quite a bit; this is a movie that feels like it’s been designed to watch in parts rather than sitting through for 4 hours straight.
Zack Snyder’s Achille’s Heel
For all the good work this film does with its characters and more action-orientated story, there are still some annoying stylistic issues that carry over from previous movies. There are so many slow motion shots that at times they completely detract from that aforementioned action.
An early bank heist with Wonder Woman, for example, has been slowed down to a crawl with every painstaking bullet blocked and parried with precision.
It also doesn’t help that every time Diana rocks up on screen – especially during big battles and set pieces – an accompanying musical riff reminds us that she’s there. She is the only character that this is tacked onto, and by the end of the 4 hours it does become grating.
Another couple of instances see several musical montages appear – most notably with Aquaman and Flash. Both of these feel ripped right from a perfume ad and honestly, I half expected “I don’t wanna miss a thing” by Aerosmith to play. These moments are so tonally jarring that I found myself incredulously laughing out loud.
Editing The Re-Edit
What’s perhaps more surprising here though is how different this movie feels to its 2017 counterpart. There’s a much better flow to everything that’s happening on screen, although this does still feel overlong. There are multiple scenes that drag on that could easily have been trimmed.
Did we really need a 4 minute conversation between Diana and Alfred about making tea? How about a sudden jump back in time for a 20 minute battle in the past?
These moments are only exemplified when Cyborg and Flash’s back-stories crop up and one can’t help but feel DC could have struck gold had both Cyborg and Flash been given previous movies prior to this cut. Both characters are incredibly important to this version of Justice League but they’re in desperate need of time away from the big bad Steppenwolf and his world-ending threat.
“But This…Does Put A Smile On My Face”
There are a lot of parallels here between Infinity War and Justice League – and for good reason too. Both movies are epic in scale and the action is really well shot.
However, this also feels like watching Infinity War if Marvel released that movie right off the back of Iron Man and Captain America’s first films. Sure, there’s a lot of action and some incredible set pieces but there’s also discernable missing blocks to the puzzle.
It also doesn’t help that Justice League still relies on Superman as the Deus-ex Machina element to all this. With no kryptonite in sight, his presence is every bit as overpowered and suspenseless as one would expect. I won’t spoil anything here but the final 45 minutes of the movie feels very paint-by-numbers.
The Closing Chapter Of The SnyderVerse
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is quite simply the definitive cut of a 4 year old movie that deserved better. It’s a film that shows one Director’s true vision and does so with as many of Snyder’s trademark cuts and ideas along the way.
Justice League is as good as one could expect given the circumstances; a movie cobbled together from the ruinous ashes of 2017’s Frankenstein’s Monster and assembled in a way that looks less grotesque and more competent.
Between the epic action, much-improved characters and a clear Directorial vision, Justice League is a win for the fans. It’s also a long-fought one too, and with a run-time of over 4 hours this film sags almost unbearably in the middle chapters.
Despite all that, this is a great example of what a powerful tool editing is. Justice League is far away from the best superhero movie released, but it is a shining glimmer of hope for DC’s turbulent universe.
Justice League launches on March 18th on both Now TV and HBO Max!