*Spoiler Free Review*
Let me start by saying that if you go in not liking Zack Snyder, you probably won’t like this film.
It has all his hallmarks: slow motion scenes, lots of ambience and a slow build of layered themes.
If you do like Snyder, or if you thought that the 2017 version was shallow and disjointed, this movie is, quite literally, designed for you.
The first time through, I knew the plot would be the same: villain Steppenwolf wants to get back in the good graces of Darkseid and vows to find three boxes on Earth.
Bruce Wayne, still feeling guilty about Superman’s death, tries to honor him by putting together a team to fight evil.
Once he realizes the extent of the threat, he rallies the team to resurrect Superman. That much—the skeleton—is the same.
But as someone who taught a course called “The Works of Joss Whedon,” and ranks “Firefly” and “Buffy” as two of the best shows of all time, I felt…let down at the handling of JL.
If you didn’t know, Snyder’s daughter, Autumn, committed suicide during the filming of JL.
With increasing battles with the studio, and her death, he walked away, and the PR machine said that he had picked Joss to finish his vision.
Eventually, rumors began that what was released was little to none of Snyder’s work.
In the end, about 25 percent remains—and without spoilers, a few of the scenes I liked were Snyder’s, such as the fight scene with Flash humorously realizing that Superman can track him at light speed.
But what is most troubling to me is that the parts that were written by Whedon, as a whole, did not add to the film.
With a few jokes aside that I liked (again, no spoilers), what he re-wrote was a convoluted mess.
Steppenwolf is really a non-entity, and the new heroes, The Flash and Cyborg, are cut dramatically. And my gal, Lois Lane, has absolutely no agency and is in a scene that I knew Snyder would never write. I have talked about that stupid “thirsty” scene non-stop since 2017. (See my comics blog, too.)
But what about this 2021 version?
This 4 hour opus is the vision of an auteur who wants to impart a message, a very specific one for our day.
Each character—from Bruce Wayne to Lois Lane—has an arc. They grapple with loss and grief and finding their place in the world.
The film works as a parable about a world divided, too: Darkseid’s only loss (the Big Bad that Steppenwolf serves) in his world domination has been an Earth long ago—where armies gathered and worked together.
The theme that apart we fall and united we stand is presented over and over, and in this political environment, it is especially powerful.
The second time through, I was able to fully relish the themes rather than spend the time comparing the two versions in my head.
Standouts to me: Victor realizing he still has worth, Bruce thinking he could finally do good, and Barry—oh, my adorable Barry—finally seeing what his father has always seen in him.
This film is about loss, resurrection of many kinds, of rising after you fall, and realizing you are not alone.
It’s hard not to think that Snyder’s daughter was an influence in this final creation, as the concept of “you are not alone” is everywhere. You make your own future; you can be whoever you want to be.
I often feel like others see there are movies and film, or literature and Literature—and never the two shall meet.
I would argue that this divide is a fake distinction; film and movies can both be great; they can give us everything that great literature can: heroes, depth, life lessons, and art.
To me, that is what I find in Snyder’s work.
So, to wrap it up, I thorough enjoyed #ZSJL, and if you want to discuss after you’ve watched it, hit me up. I have lots more to say!
Professor Sandra Eckard teaches in the English Department. She is also director of ESU’s Writing Studio and editor of the Comic Connections series.
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