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What Was Wrong With Joss Whedon’s DCEU Movie?

“Something’s Happening” and that something is a historically weird movie: Zack Snyder’s Justice Leaguewidely known as “The Snyder Cut,” the filmmaker’s four-hour reinterpretation of his own DC Comics superhero movie.

With Zack Snyder’s Justice League comes the rare example of an artist regaining creative control of a long-dead work, something many directors surely dream of, but few achieve. As the release of the HBO Max epic looms, offering Snyder a chance to restore his take on DC’s beleaguered response to Marvel’s Avengers, there’s no better time than now to revisit the original theatrical cut. of the film – and appreciate how absolutely odd It’s done.

Justice League: Road to the Snyder Cup

Landing March 18 on HBO Max, the so-called Snyder Cut comes four years after the original theatrical release of Justice League.

Although officially credited to Snyder, the 2017 version of Justice League is away from his job. (Actually, as it was recently revealedSnyder didn’t even see this cut, after being warned by his wife and Justice League executive producer, Deborah Snyder.) Just months before the film was released, Snyder left production following the death of her daughter by suicide. In his absence, Warner Bros. called Snyder’s replacement: avengers director Joss Whedon, hired to complete the film.

Whedon’s work on the film included two months of reshoots and a significant reworking of material that already existed, although the extent of the reworking has been debated since the film’s release. In November 2017, producer Charles Roven claimed that “80.85% of the film is what was originally shot”, but in December 2019, cinematographer Fabian Wagner mentioned the figure was closer to just 10%. According to New York TimesWhedon wrote approximately 80 new script pages, suggesting that the majority of the theatrically released version was indeed his own.

Nonetheless, the film only credits Whedon as co-writer, alongside original screenwriter, Chris Terrio, with Whedon not being credited for his directorial duties. Ironically, it may have been a favor: the theatrical version of Justice League is, to be frank, a deeply awkward mess — and not just for the reasons many would assume.

Justice League: What went wrong?

Like picking a batarang out of thin air, Zack Snyder’s Justice League offers Snyder a chance to redo his old job.Warner Bros.

Yes, the theatrical cut of Justice League is tonally uneven, to say the least. Yes, there are subplots and scenes that seem to go nowhere or make no sense. And, yes, it’s surprisingly easy to tell when Henry Cavill’s beard was digitally removed because apparently technology has advanced to the point where we can make any actor look decades younger, but no one knows how to digitally generate a fake upper lip. These things, each a long-standing complaint about functionality, are unquestionably true, and each does Justice League that little bit worse of a movie.

Which makes Justice League fascinatingly strange, however, are the less obvious bad decisions made during the final editing process.

The film, for example, is incredibly garish and colorful. Snyder’s first two DC films, Steel man and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justicehad been repeatedly criticized for their dull and dark color palettes, but Justice League wildly overcompensated with colors so high that almost every moment looks like a poorly done video game cutscene. Are the red skies in the climactic action sequence there to make things more dramatic, or to reference the “Red Sky crossover” trope from DC’s 1980s comic series Crisis on Infinite Earths – and does it even matter when the end result evokes a live-to-DVD movie from the 1990s?

Jason Momoa’s Aquaman Takes Action and Shows Up Justice Leagueintense stylization.Warner Bros.

The film’s musical cues are equally disconcerting. It’s one thing to reuse themes for specific characters, but Danny Elfman, who had worked with Whedon on Avengers: Age of Ultron, inexplicably uses his own 1989 Batman score and theme by John Williams from 1978 superman: the movie instead of music from the contemporary film series. Specifically, Elfman uses Williams’ “Main Superman Theme” during a scene where the newly resurrected Man of Steel battles the rest of the Justice League, causing major damage to Metropolis in the process… but shouldn’t this iconic musical moment have been saved for something a little more heroic?

And then there’s the fact that the film fails to deliver its own main themes not once, but twice. Audiences are told, repeatedly, that Superman’s absence is so detrimental to events that he must be resurrected to restore hope – but once he comes back to life, he essentially disappears from the film until the climactic moments, where he… only duplicates the efforts of the other heroes. Considering this is also a film where the team comes together but rarely works in unison, perhaps that should come as no surprise.

Justice League: A chance for redemption

In so many ways, theater Justice League is a failure. The idea that the “Snyder Cut” will solve everything is probably foolhardy, but it will be replace an adversarial, committee-driven process with a point of view, ideally adding some consistency to the process — surely a good thing, no matter your feelings about Snyder’s filmmaking skills or the culture war brewing behind the cut of this director.

Will be Zack Snyder’s Justice League actually be better than the theatrical cut? The jury is out on this until its release, but one thing is for sure: it couldn’t get any worse.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League airs March 18 on HBO Max.