*. I don’t want to get too deep into the epic back story of this movie. Justice League had been released in 2017, after lots of reshoots, cuts, cost overruns, and other problems. Many of these problems arose after Zack Snyder had to leave the project in post-production due to the death of his daughter, with Joss Whedon taking over.
*. After a mostly negative response to Justice League, fans started asking for a director’s cut (or what came to be called the “Snyder Cut”) of the film. I was not one of that crowd, for various reasons.
*. First: director’s cuts aren’t that good, as can be seen by looking at the deleted scenes included with many DVDs. What gets cut is usually something that should have been cut. But every auteur imagines they’re Orson Welles and the studios have butchered their version of The Magnificent Ambersons or Touch of Evil.
*. Second: the studio had found the Snyder Cut “unwatchable,” and gone to great expense to fix what they thought was a huge problem. That’s not a good sign.
*. Third: Zack Snyder hadn’t shown me anything in his previous (or subsequent) work to suggest that more was going to be more. I mean, his previous effort, the lead-in to this film, was Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Enough said.
*. Fourth: there was a lot more coming in a Snyder Cut, with the run time ballooning to a full 4 hours. Put another way: the Snyder Cut was a block of film that seemed not to have been cut at all.
*. In any event, (some of) the fans got (some of) what they wanted, as this film came to be released, four years after Justice League, on HBO Max. So what is there to say . . .
*. I should say, first, that I didn’t see Justice League, so I can’t compare the two films. What I can say is that this is a dull, dark, poorly written and bloated turkey of a movie that does nothing to justify its four-hour length. Is this what fan culture hath wrought? Then to hell with it. Now I’ll quickly go through some of the pejorative adjectives I just employed.
*. Dark: There’s a moment in Deadpool 2 when Cable tells Deadpool that dubstep is for pussies and our hero replies “You’re so dark. Are you sure you’re not from the DC universe?” That was a joke everyone in the audience could be expected to get. Damn these movies are dark. I don’t mean morally dark, but just dark dark. Does the sun ever rise on the DC empire? If a scene here isn’t at night then the skies are overcast, giving everything the same grey tinge as the new uniforms. Where’s Batman’s Batman symbol on his chest? I can barely make it out. And as for Superman’s iconic red and blue tights with a big gold “S” you can forget it. Everything here is just . . . dark.
*. Dull: You know what’s duller than an endless parade of superhero fights and posing? Endless superhero fights and posing done in slow motion, all to the strains of what the subtitles tell me is “ancient lamentation music.” The Flash even runs fast in slow motion! Now imagine this stretched out for four hours.
*. And it’s not just the slow motion but the very structure of the story. The damn “epilogue” here (yes, it’s titled, like all the different chapters) runs half an hour. That’s not an epilogue, it’s a whole other movie!
*. Poorly written: Did they even try to come up with some original villains and a new idea to go with their massive budget? No, they did not even try. We’re right back with Sauron attempting to get his hands on all the Rings of Power, or Thanos trying to get his hands on the Infinity Stones, or Xu Wenwu trying to collect the Ten Rings. Thistime it’s Darkseid (or mainly his flunky Steppenwolf, not to be confused with the band) trying to grab hold of the three Mother Boxes. These boxes have been protected since the ancient days by the elves, the dwarves, and the men. Or the Amazons, the Atlanteans, and the men. It’s easy to get these mythologies confused.
*. What do these Mother Boxes do, you ask? Well, when they’re combined they form something called the Unity. Which, in turn, gives Darkseid the power of the Anti-Life Equation, which is apparently the key to controlling all life throughout the multiverse. What will Darkseid do with this immense power, when “all of existence shall be mine”? No idea. But in any event, the more immediate effect of the Unity is to — you guessed it! — open a portal to Darkseid’s dimension, so that he can invade Earth. No way you saw that coming!
*. Like I say, they weren’t even trying. And it gets worse. The team needs to resurrect Superman in order to fight Steppenwolf and the way to do that is for the Flash to run really, really fast, which will allow Victor Stone/Cyborg to use one of the boxes to bring Supes back to life. How? No idea. Then, at the end, the Flash has to run really, really fast (faster than the speed of light!) to reverse time so that the good guys win and the portal is shut. I got the sense this was an homage to the end of Superman (1978), which was perhaps the stupidest ending for a superhero movie ever. But the basic point is that running fast is really useful.
*. So we have the same idea they keep trotting out for all these movies, with bad guys who are all the same as well. Steppenwolf has moments where it seems like he’s going to be given a bit more depth because of some problems he’s been having with Darkseid, but nothing is made of it and in fact it’s never even explained. This makes the final battle with him a drag because I was starting to feel some sympathy for him before the League teams up to kill him four times over.
*. As for the heroes, there’s nothing much to them either that we haven’t already seen. Jason Momoa’s Aquaman and Henry Cavill’s Superman seem to be having a “biggest tits” contest (Momoa wins, but Cavill is looking pretty busty). Gal Gadot is on model-pilot. I actually did like Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne/Batman here. He comes across as having a kind of weary charm. Ezra Miller provides the only comic relief as the Flash. Ray Fisher as Cyborg has the most depth, but that doesn’t make him interesting. Superman for some reason turns full heel when he’s resurrected, which is just an excuse for another fight and to give Amy Adams as Lois Lane some reason for being here. She’s “the key,” you see. Bruce Wayne had a dream about it.
*. A waste not just of 90 minutes then, but 4 hours of my life. As I’ve said, the epilogue goes on for half an hour of that, introducing new characters like Deathstroke and the Martian Manhunter, plus marking a very unwanted return of Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor and Jared Leto as the Joker, in what appears to be an entirely new multiverse timeline. One which basically makes everything that happened in the movie we just saw moot.
*. As it stands, I’m not sure that timeline is going to get a chance. I couldn’t help but think of the possibilities of getting Will Smith’s Deathstroke (from Suicide Squad) together with Amber Heard’s Mera and Ezra Miller’s Flash (both members of the new team) so we could have a triumvirate of stars we lost in 2022, all in one picture. Will Warner Bros. want to spend $300 million on that? Wait and see!