Man, what a weird movie. I knew going into the movie that it had faced an intensely tumultuous production once director Zack Snyder suffered tragedy in his family. The fallout of the tragedy included director Joss Whedon to step in and try to patch together a working product. In a lot of ways that is what this movie felt wlike, patchwork.
The movie roughly follows Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) as they try to assemble the first iteration of the Justice League to defeat Steppenwolf and collect three Mother Boxes. This eventually results in adding Aquaman (Jason “Khal” Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), the Flash (Ezra Miller), and, of course, Superman (Henry Cavill). The movie uses a similar formula to that of “The Avengers.” It spends about half of the movie getting everyone together, and then the end of the world happens. However, this movie is simply a lesser implementation of that structure.
This is not to say it was not an enjoyable movie. The first half had an “it’s so bad it’s good” quality to it; the second half was decent. The fights are decent. The graphics are good. Wonder Woman and the Flash are great, and the latter is the only source of wonder and true humor in this movie. Ezra Miller has never been bad in a movie.
But in the landscape of consistently good to great Marvel movies, it is a disappointment. The first half of the movie feels especially affected by the reshoots Joss Whedon held once he took over. Scenes where new characters are introduced feel incredibly rushed. We visit so many different iconic DC locations, but all within the space of about twenty minutes. I suppose the thought behind this is to try to keep the tone lighter, to keep it moving. Instead the result is a movie that seems like it is trying to put the puzzle pieces together.
To me, the most interesting aspect of this movie was how Zack Snyder’s style met with Joss Whedon’s. Snyder’s presence is most apparent in the fight scenes, which are epic in scale, but mostly consists of having people punch each other through walls as hard as they can in a picturesque
yet uncreative style.
You get punk Aquaman, a god of the sea in a tank top who feeds people fish, downs a beer and tosses the bottle in the ocean. And of course, you get Superman, who in Snyder’s iteration has permanently served not as an “American Superhero,” but as a Christ allegory.
Whedon’s presence is felt in the tone, and in all the attempts at heart and humor. Virtually every character attempts humor multiple times, but most jokes fall flat. Artificial heart is induced into the story, the most egregious example of this being intermittent scenes of a random family, who at the very end get to safety, all in the attempt to add human stakes for a group of people who are almost entirely unrelatable and inhuman. At least more screen time is given to Wonder Woman, the only truly great DC character on screen since 2008.
If this was Snyder’s movie, there would be an emphasis on the crushing burden on brooding heroes, these gods amongst men to save the world. If it was Whedon’s movie, I suppose we would have serviced each character more. Instead, we get this strange mix of both, and despite the stakes being the world, there is not enough emotion in this movie for me to care.