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– by Brian Jasper

In the comic book fan circle I run around, Zack Snyder has become a name associated with a bit of hand wringing. On the one hand, he created the uber faithful Watchmen, a movie which succeeds on style, even if its special effects don’t hold up today. On the other hand, Snyder infuriated fans of Superman with Man of Steel and then cratered the DCEU with Batman v Superman. I was among a loud contingent decrying that movie.

Look, here I am telling people to not see the movie in protest:

As hard as it is for me to accept, my compatriot in this dimly-lit video, Jason, was right about one thing: Batman v Superman looks a lot better now that Justice League is out. What he isn’t correct about is his intention behind that statement – that Justice League would give BvS the meaning and direction that movie lacked. Instead, the fans got the Justice League movie we got and now I’m left wishing we had more Zack Snyder. Why? Studio meddling.

RELATED – Justice League: WB Reportedly Changed This Joss Whedon Scene

Justice League benefits from BvS because of one thing: lowered expectations. The movie was entertaining in parts, and even plays like an episode of the popular DC animated shows. But it’s also — for me — vapor. I forgot most of that film right after I walked out of the theater, and have no desire to ever see it again. Worse still, its villain set a new low bar for superhero villains (a pretty low target to begin with!) and may have rid us of Batfleck, one of my favorite incarnations of Batman yet. I don’t blame Zack Snyder for this, though. I blame Warner Bros. Here’s my reasoning:

FrankenJoss

I can’t even believe they are trying to pin Justice League on Zack Snyder. I’m convinced that there’s much less Zack in there than Joss Whedon, and WB’s ham-fisted attempt to marry those two styles left Justice League with an uneven tone and no message. Say what you want about BvS, but it had a message and ideas. This movie has battle sequences and inarticulate characters.

Continuity

Henry Cavill says that the Superman we see at the end of Justice League is the character that he and Zack Snyder have been building up to over the course of three movies. That’s all well and good. Superman jokes lightly, shows no fear, and wears an easy smile, all things we want to see from Supes. But how that Superman came out of the events of the previous two films is so sudden that it doesn’t really make any sense. I’d bet that WB was in such a hurry to get to that version of Superman that they didn’t give any chance for real character development.

Color

I’m not the first to say it, but WB has definitely over-reacted to fan criticism of both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. Tired of grittiness, Justice League tries to pop into full color, including a vomit-inducing purple-red background in the final fight. This use of color doesn’t match Zack Snyder’s visual sensibilities and without his guidance, Justice League just looks terrible. Compare any scene in this movie to most of Snyder’s previous films and you’ll see a definite lack of texture and visual fidelity in Justice League.

Marketing

I blame all of the above on WB and their meddling. It was present in BvS too, I think, in the addition of Doomsday, a character that Warner Bros. has been trying to get into film for the previous fifteen years. How else to explain the puzzling addition of Doomsday other than marketing? And the even more puzzling decision to keep Superman out of advertisements for Justice League for so long, even though his resurrection was previously teased at the end of BvS? Warners, Warners, Warners.

So what can we hope from the next DC movies? Unless Warner Brothers gets out of the way, as they have with all of the Harry Potter films, I don’t expect much consistency. For every good movie that may come out, expect a Suicide Squad or two. At least that’s my take, but I’ve been wrong before.

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  • Moby85

    As a marketer myself, I though DC trying to fill the trailers with forced, un-funny humour was a major flaw. They seem to be like a car that thinks there’s only two-gears in the transmission (gritty or funny) and nothing else in between. That they can’t find their own identity is what really kills them.

  • claudiomario

    I loved Mos. The tone was done well. I enjoyed it. Then wb just had to go and do this crap.

    • Mad Barchetta

      I was fine with it, and really annoyed at all the overreaction about “Superman not caring about collateral damage” BS. Watching it a second time…I found it VERY boring. I just didn’t hold up for repeat viewings for me. Oh…and Jonathan Kent’s death…that was just dumb. I think it was the best of the Snyder films, though.

      • AmiRami

        To be fair, Superman made some damned stupid mistakes in MoS that shows he wasn’t thinking. I mean when an oil tanker gets thrown at a building, Superman stops it. Instead he casually floated in between the truck and trailer and gently floated back down.

        It was visually great but the story was God awful.

    • Jason Moody

      Agreed. MoS is easily the high mark if the DCEU. In fact, I’m noticing a trend of people coming out in response to justice league, singing MoS’ praise and saying that it’s extremely underrated.

      • claudiomario

        I rewatched it. The only thing missing was a trainig sequence imo. Otherwise very well done. Whoever bitched about the necksnap is ridiculous. The film was great.

  • Brian Moran

    My analysis was this: MoS was a really great film with some minor tone issues. BvS was a great film with some MAJOR tone issues. JL fixed the tone issues, but was overall a ‘meh’ film.

  • Shmylan Shmendian

    I find 90% of the Snyder criticisms to be face value and low bar. I get some of the criticisms of the the theatrical cut of BvS (studio meddling once again), but once the Ultimate Edition there should have been a mass apology towards Snyder. This movie is criticized as a disjointed mess but in reality it’s one of the smartest, most cohesive superhero movies ever made. There are little to no plot holes. I admit, I would have given BvS a 70% rating after my first viewing in theaters. It is, by no means, a movie that can only be seen once or even twice to fully comprehend, but that’s what I love about it. Most of the criticisms I run into are simply misunderstandings of the plot or, even more so, people criticizing the movie for what they wanted versus what they got. I find people are incapable of realizing Luthor’s plan is two tier. The Batman versus Superman plot was thoroughly planned, while his creation of Doomsday was an off the cuff failsafe. It’s an unpopular opinion, but I think BvS UE may be one of the greatest super hero movies ever made. You just have to be capable of accepting different iterations of classic characters.

    That being said, it is thanks to the overblown, rabid backlash that we got the Justice League we did. It is a failed third piece of a trilogy and it truly breaks my heart that Snyder did not get to finish his trilogy. Worst of all, every single one or his Superman scenes were cut and reshot which was his baby and freshman entry to the DCEU. No one is willing to give him credit and I find it’s because of movie snobs who measure everything on the marvel movie scale. His Superman is far more human and guilty of far less moral crimes than Christopher Reeve’s Superman when you analyze their actions. People disdain for MoS only proves that fans define Superman by bright lighting and uplifting music more than his actions and emotions. Snyder gave us the truest version of what a Superman on earth would grow through. He managed to balance the alien raised as human on film better than anyone. Snyder’s Superman goes through the most human of emotions and the fans hated him for it. At least I got MoS and BvS, because it is safe to say that thanks to the overblown fan backlash, I will never get a new and interesting deconstructive and human version of the characters again in my lifetime and that’s what hurts the most. RIP DCEU.

    • Oklems

      ^^^ THIS! well said.

    • JZC

      One word: Martha

    • claudiomario

      Doomsday was a misused opportunity for a show down.

    • the50sguystrikesback

      I agree 100% especially about MoS.
      Man of Steel was the FRESHEST take on Superman I’d ever seen.

      Still…fanboys want what fanboys want and it’s not always LOGICAL. Like I’ve said before the people that bash Zack Snyder, BvS, JL and the DCEU are the SAME people that would tell you that Michael Keaton was the best Batman.

      And let’s not forget…
      The DCEU isn’t JUST Zack Snyder. It’s also Davis Ayer (Suicide Squad), Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman) and it is in the process of adding James Wan (Aqua-Man), David F Sandberg (Shazam), Joss Whedon (Batgirl) and whomever will be directing ‘Flashpoint’ and ‘Man of Steel 2’

    • Aaron James

      I feel your pain friend. I feel exactly the same way about the DCEU. Only I’ll bet I’ve been feeling that way for longer than you have.

      See, it was pretty clear, way back when the first teasers for Man of Steel were released, that WB’s intention was to be the prestige movie studio, in stark contrast to Marvel’s more lighthearted, fluffy approach. This was everything I could have possibly hoped for. I wanted the Superman movie that finally took him seriously, that wasn’t either campy fun (the Christopher Reeves movies) or an homage to that campy fun (Superman Returns). Those trailers where you got to hear Jor-El’s parenting approach contrasted to Pa Kent’s parenting approach! Wow. They were pressing all the right buttons.

      But it turned out that they backed the wrong horse. Snyder and Goyer’s vision for these movies was all wrong. And their scripts were terrible. The intent was clear. The execution just…inexplicably awful.

      And now what’s WB doing? Calling the whole thing a failed experiment and just aping the Marvel formula. Throwing the baby (more serious, prestige superhero movies) out with the bathwater (Snyder). Goddamnit. I’m not mad that Snyder never got to make his serious, dark superhero trilogy. I’m mad that Darren Aronofsky never got to. Or that David Fincher never got to. Or Denis Villeneuve. And now they never will. DC movies will be lighthearted fluff from here on out.

  • Kronx

    Snyder just wasn’t the guy to lead the way in the DCU. Though I love the action in MoS, I think someone else should’ve handled that one.

    Snyder’s the kind of director that needs source material. I LOVE Watchmen, and whenever I hear someone complain, I just think about how bad it COULD have been. Snyder kept it remarkably close to the source material, all things considered.

    (Just imagine the horrible PG-13 sanitized version of Watchmen you might have endured under someone else.)

    The thing about Snyder is that he gets really close to getting it right, and that makes it seem even worse. when he doesn’t. It’s like when the basketball circles inside the rim but squirts out the top again.

    It’s like when Sucker Punch promised dragon ninja fights but was 50 percent Jazz-age musical.

    Where was I? Oh yeah, Justice League. Justice League comes across as a live-action version of a direct-to-video animated hero film. Kind of by the numbers but with some bright spots.

  • JZC

    What is there to regret?

    His only vision as a filmmaker was to “look cool” (like killing Jimmy Olsen, because “it’d be cool man”).

    Seriously. as much as BvS is not a complete dud, the Martha plot device demonstrates how FAR off was everyone from quality storytelling. It feels like a terrible joke that does not land. HOW COULD NOONE SEE THIS? I have not watched Justice League, but how can you salvage a car that has already sunk?

    “Being cool man. being cool”

    • Shmylan Shmendian

      If you understand and love Batman, it shouldn’t be hard to understand the Martha scene. This is the point I’m trying to make. You’re making a surface level criticism of a film based on one word. Snyder eludes to the Martha plot device several times leading up to that scene. When Bruce has the Bat nightmare, he places the flowers so only Martha’s name is visible. The Batman biting him on the neck is meant to elude to the curse and weight the Batman takes on Bruce and shows how is new set of rules is haunting him and betraying his legacy. Bruce walks up to the Wayne mausoleum carrying the flowers in his left hand. Later, when he is carrying the spear to finish off Superman, the spear is in his right hand. The flowers are to honor his mother’s memory, the spear is to betray his mother’s memory. The name Martha is significant because it breaks him from his blind rage and reminds him of the reason he became Batman: to stop anyone from losing their family to murder. He is literally about to become Joe Chill and murder a man in front of his loved one. He it forces him to see Superman as a human for the first time, instead of a foreign invader. Your problem is that Superman said his mother’s name instead of just calling her mom? It is literally the only thing that makes sense to break his blind rage and restore him to the Batman he was meant to be. It’s an easy target of a criticism and would seem silly if you make no attempt to understand why that scene plays out the way it does.

      • Mad Barchetta

        I understood all that just fine. I still found it to be a convoluted and pretentious piece of forced scripting in order to provide an easy fix to a character who wasn’t being used correctly to begin with, largely because WB was in a big hurry to have Batman and Superman fight. They wanted the headlines-grabbing brawl and money-making star power of a battle between these two characters without building up the philosophical issues between them that led to the battle in the book from which they stole the premise in the first place.

        Altering character traits and motivations in the service of creating a story is not what I consider to be good story-telling. That’s what they do on daytime soap operas.

        Sorry, but you can tell me all about the left hand / right hand symbolism you want and it’s not going to change how I see this movie. Frankly, I would be skeptical of the idea that Snyder even thought it all through as much as you did. (If you point me to the interview where he says the specifics of what he was doing with symbolism, then I will back off that last statement.)

        • Shmylan Shmendian
          • Mad Barchetta

            Well, that lends credence to to the idea that he might have intended the specific symbolism you described. It’s not conclusive proof. I’d rather read/hear Snyder’s own words about it.

            But then I’ve said before that I think Snyder is a very skilled visual story-teller. This bit doesn’t really make up for weaknesses in a script, for me.

      • larry

        i think if you would have had Superman say “Please don’t let him kill my mother”, it could have jostled Bruce back to reality a bit and achieved the same conclusion without actually saying her name. In a million years i wouldn’t have believed he would have called her Martha at that period of time, how could he even assume Bruce would know who his mother was or that she was named Martha, he would have just said Mom or mother and it would have felt more natural to the scene, more organic. I am a huge fan of Zack’s work and am sorry we don’t have his version of Justice league to enjoy but that was a bad decision in BvS that takes me right out of the scene every time, doesn’t mean i don’t still love the guy though.

  • Storymark

    JL was indeed a mess, but Im not pining for any pure Snyder version, either. A train wreck is a train wreck.

  • claudiomario

    Too many cooks.

  • Mad Barchetta

    “The movie was entertaining in parts, and even plays like an episode of the popular DC animated shows.” Other than WW, these movies WISH they could reach the level of the DCAU.

  • LloydBraunSerenityNow

    Brian, please show me with this doll where the DCEU touched you. Seriously you guys need a different hobby other than shitting on the DCEU. Get over it already.

  • Jose Vicente Lainez

    Thanks for contributing to the mess
    A-hole.

  • Jason Tyler

    Saw justice league last night, finally have an opinion after digesting for 24 hours…JL definitely makes me appreciate BvS (ultimate) soooo much more.

    BvS had something to say, whether you liked it or not. There was a narrative beyond the plot. There were deeper threads and motifs. Justice League had really none of that. It was a pretty straight forward movie that didn’t really ask you any questions or challenge you in anyway. And when it did (about WW being a leader) it came and it went before you could really care about it.

    I think that was the one thing that DC movies, at least the recent bunch, (MoS, BvS, SS), have over the Marvel movies. There is a bit of deeper emotion and conflict within the characters. Not everything is straight forward, good vs evil and I think Snyder got that right.

    I am an admitted Marvel fanboy and love all the movies, and aside from Winter Soldier and Civil War, the movies don’t really challenge the audience much in that regard.

    I am really disappointing that Justice League abandoned much of what BvS set up.