The Reel House’s review published on Letterboxd:
“I’m real when it’s useful.”
I remember when the first “trailer” for ‘Justice League’ (2017) was released, well.... actually it was called : “Justice League Special Comic-Con footage” (but it was basically the first trailer for the film). I was so in awe of this trailer. I wasn’t the biggest fan of ‘Man of Steel’ or ‘Batman V. Superman’ but I still was holding hope. Last night I rewatched both “BVS” and “JL” and.... I didn’t hate them. I didn’t love them. I don’t even know what I think of them, they’re conundrums on the highest level. Snyder isn’t a filmmaker that I usually enjoy, the only film that I really liked (and would even say love) is his film rendition of Alan Moore’s masterpiece : ‘Watchmen’, but I am extremely happy for Snyder that he is getting his vision shown the way he intended. We all know the tragedy that struck his family. This film isn’t for me. This film is for the fans, specifically the fans of the Snyder’s DCEU, and I hope that they woke up today and enjoyed the shit out of it. This review is not biased I’ve tried to be fair. I can’t give this film a rating because similarly to ‘BVS’ and ‘JL’, I just don’t know. Okay, on to the review.
Snyder’s visual flair is on full force here and it’s an extremely nice film to look at.
I remember when I saw the original cut of ‘JL’ for the first time, I noticed that the visuals were inconsistent with Snyder’s previous DC films and that was obviously because of the scenes that were shot without Snyder there. Although this film is really nice to look at, in my heart I do wish that Larry Fong (who was the director of photography for ‘Watchmen’ and ‘BVS’) came back to shoot the film as his cinematography is stunning and compliments Snyder’s flair better than any other cinematographer. Fabian Wagner’s cinematography is good but very inconsistent throughout. Some shots look absolutely stunning and on some others it really suffers from bad colour grading.
The ensemble cast for the film is perfect : Ben Affleck was a great Batman and it’s sad that he has now left the role (although apparently has a minor role in the new Flash film, we’ll see how that plays out), Hebert Cavill admittedly has very little screen time as Superman but he is quite good, Cavill has never been my favourite superman but he does a worthy job, Gal Gadot is very good and fits the role very well, Ezra Miller is an actor I really enjoy (regardless of what you think of him in his private life) and although playing an inaccurate Barry Allen : he’s the comedic relief and he’s quite fun to watch, Jason Momoa wins the coolest guy of the year award and Ray Fisher really is impeccable throughout the film and gets a lot of time to shine, everyone else is also really good. The cast is absolutely stacked.
A lot of scenes are changed completely and others, just changed slightly. Some of the scenes are significantly better in my eyes and the longer running time does allow the film to take it’s time, which I respected.
The film feels truly epic and I felt a lot more stakes compared to the original cut of the film. The long running time also pairs well with the films epic storytelling and grandeur.
Willem Dafoe has an appearance in this cut which was absolutely spectacular as do Kiersey Clemons and J.K. Simmons. This was really great as ever since I saw ‘Justice League’, I always wanted more scenes with J.K. Kiersey Clemons didn’t even get an appearance in the original cut so it was really nice to see a quick glimpse of Iris West.
Steppenwolfs design is a lot better this time around, he looks way more menacing and seems like a proper threat. They also humanise Steppenwolf, which I found to be rather refreshing compared to the original cut.
The film is a 4 hour CGI mesh, which isn’t my cup of tea. The films special effects looks commendable today but won’t hold up in 10 years like Spider-Man 2 does. Some of the special effects look shoddy but most work.
Junkie XL’s score is very good throughout and makes the film feel much more consistently resonant with Snyder’s other DC films compared to Danny Elfman’s score in the original film (although Elfman’s is my favourite composer and I believe that his score for the original film was good too.
The dialogue in the film is actually really bad. Some lines are worse than others but when it’s bad.... it’s really bad. The dialogue in the joker scene in particular is quite atrocious and cringe. Forced F-bombs, tons of exposition and some really artificial humour all hold this film back from feeling as visceral as it could.
For some reason in this film (and the original film) they used this idea that the Atlantean’s and have to open a waterbubble to speak, because oxygen is trapped in the bubble allowing them to communicate. This idea is stupid and I’m very glad that James Wan got rid of it in his Aquaman film. That may be a nit-pick but I really don’t like the idea and don’t find it to be necessary at all and only communicated the idea that Snyder thinks that Atlantean’s speaking underwater is silly.
The original film actually had a few music cues that I enjoyed, that were not present in this cut. Danny Elfman’s Batman theme and John William’s Superman theme being the two most notable. Both worked really well, the use of Williams superman theme specifically was great because it was like the film is saying “he is superman now”.
I thought that this whole trilogy was setting up the idea of the “Man of Steel” becoming “Superman” but now I’m uncertain that this was Zack’s intention at all.
The thing.... Snyder obviously has an affinity for these characters but he doesn’t seem to understand them at all. From my point of view : these are bad adaptations of these characters. It’s the same problem I have with the mcu. They don’t understand these characters and the worst part is.... they don’t really want to. Another weird thing is that Snyder is known for making watchmen which is one of the most comic accurate, comic book movies of all time.
Now this may be a controversial criticism but the film is way too long for its own good. I genuinely believe that this is irresponsible filmmaking on Snyder’s behalf. longer isn’t always better sometimes when you’re in charge creatively : YOU NEED TO LET SCENES GO. Pacing matters. If you know anything about making a film, you know that sometimes you need to know what and where to cut. Snyder threw every scene at a wall and expected it to work and sadly sometimes it doesn’t.
“You said the age of heroes would never come again.”