To say this is my most anticipated movie of the year would definitely be an understatement. Superman the Movie, Super Friends, Wonder Woman 77 and Justice League Unlimited were all my favorites growing up. Like the rest of fandom, I never imagined I’d see the day where my favorite heroes would come together on the big screen. However, the journey of this dream has not been easy. I don’t need to spend time recapping the polarizing experience of Man of Steel, Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman. In general, my disappointment has grown with each installment with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice being the most egregious offender. The only bright spot has been Wonder Woman- but could she elevate the universe single-handedly?
In general, I really liked Justice League. With the monumental task of focusing more on Wonder Woman, ret-conning Batman & Superman and introducing Cyborg, Aquaman & Flash, I felt Justice League did it’s best given the circumstances. Limping along in a grim and dark Snyderverse, the DC Extended Universe was headed down a path it could not sustain. Justice League, while awkward and abrupt, just pulled the band-aid off in one mighty motion. Sure, there are so many problems with this movie and it’s obvious that there were too many chefs in the Hall of Justice. Tonal shifts, truncated origin stories and a bland villain really hurt what should have been WB/DC’s greatest moment in cinema. With that said, I think there was still a lot to praise about Justice League.
At the core, the cast is the best part. Each of the six are likeable and do the most with their few minutes to build their own story. They not only have charisma to fill out their suit but good chemistry with each other. Most notably, Superman is finally Superman- which is a refreshing change from Snyder’s original take. This version 2 is still not perfect but for the 15 minutes he’s on screen, it at least feels like Superman wants to help and save others. If he stands for hope he needs to act like it. Flash was probably my favorite new character and Ezra Miller did a great job. He had a big bolt to fill considering what Grant Gustin has built in the past few years on the CW. Miller’s wit and energy brought much needed fun and youth to the team. As I’ve seen in many colleagues’ reviews, Steppenwolf is a generic bore. He looked bad and brought nothing new to the world ending villain role that we’ve seen dozens of times. However, this minion of Darkseid was the least of my worries as long as the super friends worked- and I think they did. It was messy, loud and chaotic but to me, there was far more good here than bad. I would put this on par with Avengers: Age of Ultron. The individual ingredients were solid but the recipe was off and the end result didn’t meet it’s fullest potential.
For me, it was frustrating to see fans petitoning to see a Snyder cut of Justice League in hopes that it would be better. Even though an early cut by WB brass deemed Justice League ‘unwatchable’, there is still a fools hope that they were all wrong. There seems to be an assumption by some that everything that is wrong with the Justice League was because of Joss Whedon. Being brought in after Snyder stepped down due to a family crisis, Whedon ended up overseeing the final edit and reshot up to 25% of the film. Obviously, there was a ton left on the cutting room floor since much of the various trailer footage was missing from the final but. This has led to a ton of speculation and honestly, using Whedon as a scapegoat for all that is wrong with Justice League. I think there are two scenarios to consider:
- Scenario A: Snyder had an epic vision that would have propelled the DCEU to compete with it’s cinematic counterpart. But because of studio involvement and personal crisis, that version has been squelched and now will lay dormant unless we take the protest to the streets.
- Scenario B: Snyder has not made a critical success in over a decade. Given the keys to the WB kingdom, he was given the opportunity to architect the DC universe and it was finally accepted that he was not capable of doing it. Whedon, on the other-hand, has shepherded several successes as director, producer and writer. Having only the ability to fix up to 25%, he had to pick and choose his battles. Replacing the top 25% most egregious offenses, Whedon had to work with and accept what was left.
Scenario A is highly unlikely given Snyder’s track record. I pick Scenario B and Whedon should be lauded as a hero. Coming in at the 11th hour in less than ideal circumstances, it’s a miracle we got what we did. Snyder has not shown any ability to shape characters that are remotely fun, lively or inspirational. His dialogue and character development have always been flat with very little nuance. No doubt he is talented but he’s an auteur that should have been given a film like Suicide Squad to spread his wings- not Justice League. Believe me, you don’t want to see a Snyder version of this film. In fact, I think the studio is doing their best to protect the Snyder family during their personal crisis. The entitled and cynical response from fans is misplaced. Justice League is far from perfect but Joss should be strongly praised for getting it to a presentable state. I shutter at the thought of seeing this story without his 25% contribution. I consider Justice League very re-watchable and a solid first chapter for these characters. A lot still needs to happen to build a solid foundation in the DCEU and the pressure is on for the solo films. I get the frustration from fans. These are our childhood heroes and we want them to be celebrated as the pop culture gods as they are. I believe it will get there. As Snyder transitions out, a new guard will shepherd these characters and I think it will only get better from here. I am just relieved we didn’t get a Man of Steel or Batman v Superman. My inner chid is happy and I can’t wait for the future.
Agree or disagree? Leave your thoughts about Justice League and if you think the Snyder version would be better.