Spoilers Ahead: We don’t live in a society.
If you love Zach Snyder, you’ll love this movie. Out of all the DC films he has helmed, this is one of his best. If you hate the guy’s work, then you’re not going to have a good time, especially with the 4:3 aspect ratio they chose to keep to “preserve the integrity of Zack Snyder’s creative vision.” I came in with low expectations, and to be honest, I was surprised with what I got. All I wanted was something better than the original, and Snyder delivered that. The plot is pretty much the same, just improved due to a more consistent tone, with extra scenes fleshing out the story, action, and characters. The movie returns to serve as an origin film for Victor Stone, AKA Cyborg. Steppenwolf is still trying to collect the three mother boxes, although this time, he is trying to do so to rewin favor to his master, Darkseid. Steppenwolf actually has some character in this aside from being the penultimate bad guy.
The movie continues with a tremendous battle between Steppenwolf and the Themyscirans. It’s brutal, and their struggle to keep the mother box from him really showcases how serious this film is. They packed a lot into these 4 hours, maybe even too much. They abuse so much slow motion that I thought Michael Bay was directing. They probably could have saved 5 minutes of footage if they saved all those slow-mo effects just for The Flash. There are honestly some bizarre scenes involved in this movie that really felt out of place. There’s an awkward scene at the beginning where Batman is trying to recruit Aquaman. Aquaman gives him a hard pass, and as he walks away into the sea, a choir forms, and people start singing to him. It’s hilariously out of place, but I get it. Snyder wants you to know these people are God among Earth, and songs are sung about them, and even the weird soundtrack follows this theme.
We get some solid backstory for the Apokolips invasion outside of Batman having a terrible dream. Wonder Woman narrates an epic encounter where the old gods like Zeus, Artemis, and Ares, and even a Green Lantern all make cameos. Darkseid gets his first scene where he literally lands, gets stabbed, and retreats barely alive. His first introduction is a colossal defeat. Afterward, She explains how the three societies took the Mother Boxes to safeguard. The Atlanteans took it under the sea to protect in a vault. The Amazons built an incredible temple under the guard of many warriors. You know what humans do to protect their box? They bury the mother box under six feet of dirt cause that’s the ingenuity of mankind for you. Another surprise appearance is The Martian Manhunter, and he looks awful. When The CW beats you in costume design, you gotta go back to the drawing board because this ain’t it, chief. Martian Manhunter must have been the sequel bait; his incorporation into the film is odd. Lois is rightly devastated after losing Superman from the events of Batman vs. Superman. So Martha Kent comes to give her a pep talk and tells her the city still needs her and to get back to living. Martha leaves, and in the hallway, she transforms into the Martian. This scene is so awful when the weight of their emotional discussion ends up feeling deceitful. The idea here is that Lois is critical to keeping Superman on the path of justice, but how does Martian Manhunter know this?
Cyborg gets his previously cut scenes returned, and it’s solid to see him get some real characterization as generic as it may be. He hates being a “monster” and needs to learn to accept the gifts his father had bestowed on him. They really should have redesigned him as well. The Flash gets more screen time, too, but it is honestly way too cringey for me to enjoy. I can’t recall if Ezra Miller was this hard to watch in the first film, but his dialogue is awful. The Flash is also literally tripping over himself and just happens to be incredibly inconvenient when they need to stress how dangerous everything is. I really can’t stand this version of the character; he doesn’t feel like Barry, he isn’t funny like Wally. Even his most epic scene in this cut is ruined by him just speaking over himself and not letting his actions speak for him. He runs weirdly, and it’s incredibly jarring. The whole speed skater running makes no sense when you’re running on the ground. It’s just super speed flailing.
Aquaman is pretty one-note, and his best scenes are during the final battle when he delivers fun one-liners and is diving headfirst into the battle. Wonderwoman gets a lot of screentime. Literally, every time she does an action sequence, you hear that familiar guitar riff, and the subtitles hilariously display [ancient lamentation music] as they play her theme. They do this every single time she shows up. Batman gets fewer quips, but overall, he comes off more remorseful over his actions in the last film, and his quest to build a team is less about his paranoia and more about making it up to Superman. Superman’s role is the same, dead for 3/4ths of the film but comes back in his awesome black suit to help save the day. The team actually argues over whether or not the resurrection is a good idea, adding a lot more to the scene than in the original. He still comes back, but there’s no awkward CGI over his mouth, making him look inhuman. It’s a good change.
In the end, Steppenwolf is still defeated, and Darkseid doesn’t do anything. The epilogue finally shows us what the trailers were showing, and in three and a half hours, it’s a drag. The worst Lex Luthor returns to awkwardly fumble about how Superman is back, and he is speaking to Deathstroke, who looked way too cool to be relegated to sequel bait. It’s a shame, he didn’t get a scene to do anything other than sip some champagne. We finally get to the Knightmare sequence from the trailer, and it’s The Joker and Batman awkwardly arguing with one another while everyone else stands around. The Joker doesn’t even say the meme he said in the trailer; he rather jokes about giving Batman a reach around. Yeah, I’m serious. Bruce then wakes up to realize it’s another bad dream about an evil Superman and bad Jared Leto Joker acting. Two things that hopefully never come true. The Martian Manhunter finally shows up again to tell Bruce he is there to help because war is coming. Well, why didn’t he help when Steppenwolf was already invading? He was too busy playing therapist and roleplaying as a grandma.
Overall, the film is better. It really is, but it’s a lot longer, and I felt it could have been a stronger film if they trimmed some of the fat. The film leaves me with a lot of questions for the future of the DC franchise. The story is set for a sequel, Darkseid is coming, and he is bringing an army. The League is going to need all the help they can get. Whether or not we get to see that happen is another question.
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