In 2017, the World was in Shock. Round about this time. Justice League was a flop! And yet..Hope springs, eternal, it seems…
Two years ago, almost to the day, I sat in a Cinema and escaped from the world. I’d had a busy few weeks between India and Paris business trips and was naturally, tired.
Frankly I would have watched and enjoyed anything at a Cinema just to re-acclimatise myself. That said, I went into Justice League with genuinely open mind and low expectation (because whilst I adored Man of Steel, I HATED Batman V Superman in every way possible).
Turns out I really liked Justice League. Not ‘loved’. But genuine ‘like’. I thought it had warmth, wit, wisdom and wonder (woman). There was a sense that the film was somehow aware of its own limitations and was struggling along with us, in a kind of shared, meta-textual (love that term, btw) joke, whilst remaining, somehow, entertaining.
It’s all ‘there’ on the screen as an endearing commentary on its own completion against the odds.
We knew the movie had switched director for its post production /edits /re-shoots. Zack Snyder had faced a family tragedy in the loss of his beloved daughter and so, departed the project, giving way to Joss ‘Avengers /Buffy’ Whedon.
Nothing wrong with either director’s vision and both or either could have done a great job, separately or perhaps in a concerted collaboration from the outset.
Instead, Whedon had to pick up a film that Snyder had all but completed, thereby crafting and grafting a kind of Frankenstein’s creature of a melded messy medley.
So there are MASSIVE tonal and visual and pacing issues with the film, because the aims and methods of those entrusted with the film’s inception and completion, respectively, are quite wildly at variance. I ENJOYED that quality, nonetheless.
Was I biased? In a good mood? Tired in a stupor? No. I mean yes, ok, maybe a BIT. I had a lovely end of 2017 /first 3/4 of 2018 and Justice League happened to be playing back then.
But I’m not actually one for ‘watching’ bad films and have been known to walk out of a Cinema if I feel that there is a failure to entertain /engage / excite /enthral. I am also very picky about ethics and ethos in movies.
The pervading mood must, somehow, have a charming sense of humanity to it. Yes, a film, preferably even for ‘grown ups’ can and indeed MUST go to ‘dark’ places.
But the whole point of sitting and watching a movie is to absorb some sort of vicarious lesson, a ray of something resembling hope, even in the face of the most gruesome despair. Otherwise, why bother at all?
Even ‘horror’ really ought to have the villains vanquished, the monster slain etc and even the most devastating of true crime drama or death fixated biopic should, somehow, somewhere, provide at least an insight yo our human condition and thereby, comfort, even faced with pain or evil.
And in my humble opinion, Justice League is both a suitable family film AND verges on rather mature meditations on morality and mortality without ever having to go ‘dark’.
There is a substance and soul to it, even if its accidence was compromised somewhat by a choppy water of production problems and personnel shuffling.
Indeed, I would go so far as to say that I prefer this DC team up to the recent Marvel spectacular that was ENDGAME.
Yep, you heard me correctly. Do I mean it’s a ‘better’ film? No! Of course not! 🙂 But what I am saying, if I’m saying anything at all, is that Justice League is by no means an endurance test or a write off.
Whilst it lacks the cohesion and earned, epic scope of its Marvel counterpart team-up finales, there are individual qualities within the film which redeem the whole.
Just as the otherwise impressive A N Other super-hero /franchise products out there might seem flawless but are in fact, dare one say it, a tad overrated?
Seriously, though: 2008’s The Dark Knight might well be a nice visual ode to the Cinema of Michael Mann and have an innovative take on the Joker. It’s also bloated, preachy, grimly violent (despite no ‘blood’: whoopee; they have a man with a mobile phone sewn into his stomach ffs) and lacks the earnest promise of Batman Begins or the shamelessly sentimental yet soaringly feel good ending of ‘the cafe in Florence’ from Dark Knight Rises.
This year’s JOKER made a BILLION QUID! That’s HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS more than Justice League. Why? Well,one can of course cite the Scorsese heritage, crime and grime epic ambitions and the amazing Joaquin Phoenix etc. I get it! I just don’t have to ‘like’ it, either.
Same way I absolutely love moments in ENDGAME but think the whole to be needlessly dour and dark (two character deaths). So it is I can appreciate, objectively, that the movies in question are of merit and adored.
But I can also cite flaws that uncouple notions of their perfection.
Flip that principle on its head and I can accept that Justice League is, prima facie a ‘bad’ movie.
It is paced poorly. The colour scheme, especially in its conclusion, is all over the shop. There are characters that simply do not need to be there and bizarre absences of DC Mythology big players who are nonetheless teased at the film’s start (Lanterns).
The Flash is overplayed; may as well hold up a card saying ‘I AM DIFFERENT AND SOCIALLY INEPT’. Superman is underused, woefully and should have been the movie’s initial villain before a triumphant return to a John Williams‘ fanfare.
Danny Elfman strangely incorporates yet does not orchestrate fully or unleash the classic Superman theme from Williams though is equally erratic in deploying his own Batman theme here.
Why is there a random Russian family thrown into the final battle? Why is the villain so rubbish? IS THAT A CGI UPPER LIP ON CAVILL/ SUPERMAN?! I could go on but I suspect you ‘get’ the idea that this movie is a mess.
And yet, messy can have tidiness in it; gems of genius and hints of inspiration that shine so brightly and fly so high, one can actually forgive the failings and even let the piece play when it features on television / streaming etc.
One can simply fast forward the bad bits (granted, that’s quite a lot, but) and embrace the overwhelmingly good vibes that pervade and redeem the product.
Amy Adams’ interaction with Diane Lane is moving. HENRY CAVILL IS PERFECT AS SUPERMAN! ANY notions of replacing him, even if one must soft reboot the brand, should be abandoned. You will not find a better guy for the role, even Michael B Jordan!
Ben Affleck is not QUITE in the shape here that he was initially as Batman. But so what? He USES that, offering a more vulnerable, human, wounded Dark Knight, whilst remaining a leader onscreen. ‘I bought the Bank’: lovely payoff line at the film’s close.
This ensemble also allows one to see how and why Gal Gadot appeals to generations of young girls as Wonder Woman and we get the foundations of what would become the breakout, billion dollar AQUAMAN in 2018, c/o Jason ‘MY MAN’ Momoa, here.
You see the seeds of what COULD have been great in the Batman /Superman dynamic; and you also get a glimpse of the best that was then to come, across the Warners/ DC brand.
There is now a campaign to #RELEASETHESNYDERCUT and even cast, crew and assorted other personnel associated with this ‘league’ are joining a Twitter campaign.
COULD that work? Sure! But my point is that such an endeavour isn’t really necessary. We know Snyder would have done better under different corporate regimes and personal circumstances.
We know Joss Whedon could have written this better had he been asked to do so and agreed, from day one.
And it’s also clear, now, that the movie helped to re-jig Warners and DC into a new strategy, within which iterations FROM this film can co-exist, alongside self contained takes on other properties and THAT is their new USP relative to Marvel’s micro managed shared universe of connectivity.
The story had a kind of happy ending; so investing possibly millions in restoring, re-colouring, re-editing and re-packaging things might not pay off. It could be a needless waste of effort by Snyder and a financial and marketing misfire for the backing studio.
This is not QUITE the same as the situation with the ‘Donner cut’ on Superman 2. But a special edition blu-ray mark 2 / streaming centred content parcel might ‘cut’ it for now: commentaries, documentaries, maybe and work in some explanation / lost footage there? Maybe. There is no virtue in looking back, though and everyone will go onto bigger and better things, I have no doubt.
The film was released much like any other as it was, as it existed and in effect, as it was ‘meant’ to be by chance if not by choice. It is a product and a reflection of its times; box office warts and all. My point is that, in this case? There is a kind of successful failure on display; a heroic loss and the timeless charm of an underdog, performing to the best of abilities against the odds, with a spirit of sheer good will and hope.
And so, to me? Justice League is fine. Just fine. Just(ice) the way it is.
Happy Thanksgiving, American friends. X