Image courtesy of IMDb
While I don’t respect Zack Snyder in any way regarding his films (they’re more often than not dumb, selfaggrandizing schlock which smells worryingly like Ayn Rand), I can’t deny that there’s something very impressive about tricking droves of people into thinking your mass-appeal superhero movies are art films. “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” – four excrutiating hours of dull, over-produced garbage – is being received shockingly well by a good portion of its audience. As of Mar. 19, it’s already at #77 on IMDb’s Top 250 list, meaning its average user rating is higher than that of “Citizen Kane” (1941), which is considered by many to be the greatest movie of all time. This will take some explaining…
So, what is this movie, and why do I keep prefacing it with “Zack Snyder’s”? Well, to make it brief, back in 2017, “Justice League” was released to universal critical and audience dismay, in part because Zack Snyder’s directorial duties were given to Joss Whedon (though too late for Whedon to be given a directing credit) due to the tragic death of Snyder’s daughter. Now, that movie was terrible for a whole host of reasons separate from the directing, but much of the DC Extended Universe fanbase pinned the blame entirely on Whedon. After that, the popular hashtag #ReleasetheSnyderCut was born, because Snyder’s loyal fanbase believed that giving him full directing control would fix a movie that was deeply flawed from the script level. Somehow, it worked.
Four years and $70 million (on top of the original budget of $300 million) later, and the Snyder Cut has been officially released onto HBO Max. Along with the movie’s already painful dialogue and characters about as interesting as the taste of a very clean rock, it’s now four hours long with a 4:3 aspect ratio. Additionally, Snyder has filled the film to the bursting with so much self-congratulatory fanservice that it would make “Mank” (2020) blush. All of this just to make the movie less confusing (at the cost of brevity) and a tad less silly (at the cost of saturation).
So, for the sake of fairness, what does the movie have going for it? Not much, really. While Zack Snyder hasn’t been within striking distance of subtlety for his entire career, I can’t deny that the occasional image in this movie is, while devoid of meaning other than “look at how cool this is”, quite pretty. Most of the film deals in musty, low contrast greys, but when Snyder decides to stray from his monochromatic color scheme, there are some images which approach beauty. Hmm, let’s see, what else is there… I suppose the sound is pretty good. While the score is painfully generic, and Snyder’s jukebox is laughably sappy, I can’t deny that the sound mix functioned very well, and the sound design was good (except when the villain was on screen).
Okay, back to why this movie blows. While a terrible script is common parlance in the world of superhero movies, I should at least be able to expect good action scenes, right? Well, no. The fights are never quite as bad as Snyder’s recreation of a toddler smashing toys together in “Man of Steel” (2013), but the action still lacks all semblance of creativity. Every character is a blunt instrument who takes the path of least resistance to cause harm to their combatants. The only character who doesn’t just bash, slash, or shoot their opponents into a pulp is The Flash, who consequently is the only character with fun action scenes (despite the fact that his bullet-time gimmick is ripped off from the new X-Men franchise). And don’t even get me started on Steppenwolf, who, besides having one of the single worst character designs in recent memory (even worse than it was in 2017), is dull to watch. He’s stricken with horrible weightlessness, which is one of the many symptoms of poor planning and a rushed visual effects team.
So, what makes people like this movie so much despite how flawed it is on various levels? Well, I think it’s mostly sampling bias. The people who go out and watch a four hour slog like this aren’t the average Joe who wants to watch a fun superhero movie, especially if it’s just a longer version of a movie they already didn’t like. Instead, they’re the sort of sad guy on Twitter who proclaims Snyder as a filmmaking genius who was robbed of his “ultimate artistic vision”, and thus already predisposed to give this movie five stars. “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is just as poorly written, acted, and filmed as the rest of these DCEU movies, but since it’s 4 hours long in an ill-suited aspect ratio, it’s being heralded by a very vocal minority as a masterpiece. It’s a crying shame that $70 million went to making a bad film newly bad for different reasons instead of funding someone who could’ve used it to make their dream project. Miss it.