Why Justice League became a bad Marvel movie

When the opening scene of the film happens to be something that wasn’t in the original vision for the film, the patchy nature of the film really begins to show (Upper Lip). I’ve been a big fan of Man of Steel but since then have been consistently disappointed by where Zack Snyder and company took the story. He chose a niche for these super beloved characters, He was going for a very specific and niche tone. But then something happened that really messed with that original vision. MOS, BvS and Justice League were supposed to be a part of a trilogy which Zack Snyder wanted to tell. Each bigger in ambition than the last.

The ‘something’ that I refer to is the involvement of Chris Terrio. He was brought into re-write parts of BvS. I don’t know why critics or general people don’t consider that as one of those bad hires that really spoiled the films. As far as I know he isn’t a comic book nerd and he took the steering away from Zack to redirect it into that god awful Martha Scene who everyone makes fun of now. Sure, he won Best Screenplay for Argo with Ben Affleck but this these films won’t ever be remembered as his best work.

Let’s get into Justice League. It’s a mess. Structure wise, Joss Whedon had an impossible task especially with the mandate by Warner Bros CEO to bring the film to under 2 hours to enable more theatrical screenings. They wanted money to be made from the most expensive super-hero film ever made. With a 93 Million dollar opening being the lowest ever for any DC film we all know how that turned out. It feels like vignette after vignette and skims over the origins of each of the new characters. You’re left wondering where do these people come from exactly? What do they feel about being who they are? And how do they reconcile with the fact that they happens to be gods now with these invulnerable super powers? The flash, Aquaman and Cyborg just happen to walk into scenes fully costumed and ready to fight. Another problem is the fact that most of the good moments were included in the trailers but that happens with most of these films now. Why do these films feel like extended trailers nowadays?

Danny Elfman was brought in to score the film after Junkie XL was fired from the project. He chooses to go backwards and not forwards with the choices he makes. Only Wonder Woman’s super popular theme is retained (in a weak fashion) and everything Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL did was all thrown out of the window. This score is mediocre at best. I think the score for Man of Steel is so nuanced and emotional and it still resonates with me. Anyone who has ‘an eye’ could see the reshoots and the change in the way scenes injected witty lines and characters started making self aware jokes. Maybe Zack wasn’t at his best when we was conceiving this epic plan but his vision was tampered with from the start. He needed a cohesive screenplay to support his grand visual storytelling instincts.

It was meant to be an epic on paper with a wasted cast like JK Simmons, Diane Lane, Amy Adams and Jesse Eisenberg who barely make it past two short scenes or less. Steppenwolf was always planned to be a part of a two part epic perhaps where the real baddie Darkseid tests the League to their limits. Everyone online has mentioned about the weak fully CG villain and I won’t get into it again. The death of superman is perhaps his motivation to return to the world again. A couple of scenes between Diana Prince and Bruce Wayne work and one with Jason Momoa when you look at them in isolation. A couple of scenes do make you smile with The Flash and Superman as well. But the razor thin plot, I don’t think, will make them stick. Now let me examine the crux of my feelings here. The twin director problem.

WB took a massive critical hit after BvS so they looked for what makes other films in the genre work. Everybody knows they looked at Marvel. Everybody knows they hired Joss Whedon to rewrite scenes. And Everybody knows he injects these godlike beings down to earth with humour to make them relatable. That’s fine but that was the foundation he built for the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the first two phases of films and culminating in the Avengers films. He was asked to do that again here. But what makes DC films different is the grit and realism with which it treats its worlds. That’s what made TDK movies and Man of Steel work for me. Both those films involve a story treatment by Christopher Nolan. That’s what these films don’t get now. A unique voice which has the confidence of what story it’s trying to tell and then going ahead with conviction. Unfortunately DC are trying to be like Marvel now for the approval of the general public and its moving towards mediocrity to say the least. That’s not what I’ve come to expect from these films.

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded… And everybody knows that they’re in trouble.

Batman V Superman (Ultimate Edition) — A Retrospective

Warner Bros received heavy slack after the release of the theatrical version after having made fantastic initial trailers and then messing it up with the 3rd act reveals in the final trailer, which was in many people’s opinion (and mine too) a poorly made film.

Removing or adding little bits and pieces here and there makes so much of a difference, doesn’t it? Well that’s exactly what happened with me as I saw this version. As I am a film student, I try to delve for the issues of rhythm and time when one is watching nay experiencing a film. First of all this version starts to move in a more comprehensible way. That I think was lacking in the theatrical version. There were so many abrupt cuts and the sense of who’s coming from where and who’s going where was very weak. In a broader sense, this version gets to see more of the Africa Sequence, more of the bullet investigation, more of Clarke Kent being Clarke Kent, a journalist (thank god!).

Problems even after the extended Cut

  1. Jesse Eisenbergs character has weak motivations. What does he know of The Batman? Why does he want to kill Superman? When was the inception of his idiosyncrasies?
  2. I think there definitely could have been a better way to introduce elements from the Justice League than an email from Bruce Wayne.
  3. I accepted the mystery surrounding the play with Wonder Woman but her character doesn’t have a well defined self sustained arc in this film. Yeah all entertainment these days is serialized I know but I’m sure we’ll love at least a subplot ending within a movie. Wonder Woman came back for the picture of hers that Luthor Had. Did she wipe that data out within the course of the movie? No.
  4. The weight of importance of events still feel shifted a bit too much towards Lois Lane and lesser towards Alexander Luthor. I think if the narrative curves would have been more of a triangle between Batman, Superman and Luthor it would have been a more engaging battle.

Problem but not really a problem

  1. I now trust the tone that these two movies have had. This cut made me put aside my notions of Batman (Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale/Animated Series) and let me think, Hey! Show me what story you’re telling. Let’s see how it goes with this Batman. Man of Steel wasn’t linear (I enjoy that movie a lot) and this is a complicated series of events too. We haven’t seen the past of this branding, murdering and fucked up Batman. Which is fine! He has a solo movie coming. I know! So there’s a story for that perhaps.

Problems solved after the Ultimate Cut

  1. The Martha moment somehow for the first time felt less cheesy to me. It felt a little more weighted but not enough. I guess the point was to introduce the idea to Bruce Wayne that Superman also has a mother (He is human) and he sees himself as the criminal who killed his own mother which makes him piece it all together (because he is “the” detective).
  2. Clarke Kent is developed a little more as a journalist which was seriously lacking before so I cared more for his sacrifice.
  3. A couple of very “comic book brought to life” moments are added like the opening of bottles in the Africa sequence, cops watching a Metropolis vs Gotham football game, new introductions/shots to many such scenes.
  4. Superman wants to care about people (He is shown coming back down after the bomb blast at the senate hearing to help people which is crucial information) but he’s been in a sort of a depression (forever it seems cause he doesn’t smile!) except for the bits in Man of Steel when he first flew.
  5. The warehouse fight involving Batman and Doomsday fight involving the trinity has more intense shots (Rated R) are more cohesive/flow better. More Fun.
  6. The funeral sequence has beautiful slow motion shots of empty roads and the Daily Planet and a lot of Man of Steel recall. I think this is a nice end for the non smiling/Self Serious Superman and we’ll see him smile more in Justice League I’m sure.

When I look back at this (edited post) I do feel the film tried to do too much in one movie. It felt like little bit of a setup for Justice League and Wonder Woman and The Batman while trying to a Man of Steel sequel. Visually its brilliant but plot wise convoluted.

Overall the film feels like an operatic epic with huge ambitions but maybe some of us still won’t like that very thing.