Justice League! It’s finally here, a movie I was very much looking forward to as a fan of comic books and the movies based on them, a Snyder apologist and proud defender of the DCEU thus far, what we have is a superhero team-up movie featuring Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg going up against a big bad named Steppenwolf who wants to destroy the world, obviously, sounds simple enough if not for the most tragic and unfortunate production histories I have ever read about in my life; let’s see how it did.
Coming up with a rock-solid summary of how I feel about Justice League is about as difficult as deciding on what shoes to buy without actually trying them on, it feels unfair to judge it so soon without first seeing a more complete version first, free of studio interference and akin to the auteur’s original, uncompromised vision. This is a film I enjoyed, one with scenes of true cinematic brilliance worth recommending the whole thing for, the kind of craftsmanship I hope to see in a film credited to the underrated Zack Snyder; but that right there is the problem, when it’s allowed to be a Snyder film it works just fine but it’s not entirely a Snyder film is it? Outside of the scenes of greatness are several problems, much of the film feels desperate, disjointed and paranoid, but pointing the finger simply at whomever’s name lies under the director credit just isn’t sensible knowing the production history.
Snyder’s name may be at the helm and the film’s best scenes are all thanks to him, but because this cut of the film probably wouldn’t be his first choice and there are so many problems that aren’t his fault, I think reviewing it now, before seeing some kind of director’s cut, just feels a little premature. As we all know by now, Snyder finished the film, showed it to the studio, they wanted it shorter and funnier, Joss Whedon is brought in to rewrite some scenes, Snyder suddenly leaves production due to the death of his daughter and Whedon is tasked with directing the reshoots under the mighty studio microscope; what could possibly go wrong? This is a film that feels physically botched, one without a clear, singular vision and comes off more like a product rather than a film with an actual story.
As with every film I want to look past and forget about any kind of manic production process and just get on with it but in this case, with the studio fingerprints all over the picture, it’s really difficult to ignore. I want to stress, I enjoyed this movie, when what is obviously Snyder is able to go on for long stretches without interruption it’s legitimately great, the fights scenes in Themyscira, Atlantis and the big silo are a joy to behold. I love the costumes, the cast, the visual aesthetic (when it’s allowed to have one of course), the jokes are funny and when it comes to a possible release of Snyder’s original cut there is a solar system of potential and I wish I was reviewing that right now; but I’m not.
The footage Whedon shot sticks out like a sore thumb, the forced short runtime, that the studio must have been crazy to implement, robs the film of depth and character development, an important action scene that was set at night when it appeared in trailers is now set during the day and makes the CGI look fake, which it wouldn’t have if it took place within the light setting it was meant to and speaking of the CGI; oh dear. It’s not all bad, there are times where it looks very well done, close-ups on Cyborg are realistic, parademons often look seamless, the underwater stuff with Aquaman is pretty good and Steppenwolf, well… his close-ups also look alright, but poor Henry Cavill’s moustache, holy Christ is it embarrassing; why did they have to do that? I know the reasons but still, why?
It feels incomplete, all that missing footage doesn’t help the situation, I want to like the film more than I did, the creative forces tried very hard with this one and there’s undeniably a great film buried somewhere in here, other than the fact that this is Justice League for goodness sake, it’s finally happened and there are scenes, sequences no less, very worthy of such a moment in cinematic history but the studio went and soiled the bed, it’s terrible what happened to Snyder and his family and I applaud the man for his dignified handling of a horrible situation, but it looks like the studio went behind his back the moment he was gone and as a result we have a fun but flawed, entertaining but botched mishandled science monster that I want to give credit to for its troubled upbringing for lack of a better word.
It’s fun and easy to watch, the actors all do well, Steppenwolf may be a weak CGI villain but Ciaran Hinds’ performance is excellent, I could watch the action sequences all day and it is nice seeing a Justice League movie that leans more on positive than negative, at least for me, especially when a director’s cut could very well fix all of my problems. But for now those problems have to remain; it’s been cut to pieces in the editing room, has painfully obvious reshoot footage among other things and they hold it back quite a bit, I would give it thumbs up but that’s just me.