You guys, I just don't know any more. I think I have to do something different. I think I have to go and be a monk in the Himalayas or something. Do you think they take white guys from Australia? What is there to being a monk, anyway? I just feel like I need to get away from all this... everyday life in the Western world stuff, y'know? Hmm? What's brought all this on? Oh, I don't know. Probably a bunch of stuff. Oh, but I did just watch Justice League, though. Maybe that has something to do with it...
So a lot has been made of this movie's troubled production, how they were forced to switch directors halfway through from Zack Snyder to Joss Whedon (more or less polar opposites in style), how Henry Cavill had to come back and have his Mission Impossible moustache CGI'd away for reshoots, how the overall DC cinematic universe hasn't really been going great so far outside of Wonder Woman... You might worry whether that kind of chequered past would leave a lasting effect on the movie itself, but I'm here to tell you that, through the hard work and professionalism of everyone involved, it is 100% SUPER NOTICEABLE AND THIS MOVIE IS A STRAIGHT UP TRAINWRECK. Oh my GOD, this movie genuinely made me with I was watching Batman v Superman again, and I say that without a shred of hyperbole. Let's get into this.
Alright, so we open on an inexplicable scene of cellphone camera footage of Superman, back before Zack Snyder meaninglessly killed him off in the last movie, only something about it immediately feels off. For one thing, he's just standing around after saving people from a housefire, making polite small talk with emergency workers, when we know that this universe's Superman prefers to hover ominously in slow motion above screaming disaster victims, but that's not the big issue. No, much more distracting is his TERRIBLE CGI MOUTH that makes him look like God's horrific mistake or a half-built cyborg killbot or something equally terrifying. It's front and centre in the frame for the first full minute of the movie, and it might actually be the worst opening to a movie I've ever seen in my life. It looks so bad; you absolutely cannot concentrate on anything but Henry Cavill's CGI mouth. It would honestly be less distracting if they'd just let him keep his moustache in every reshoot scene and never explained it. It would be less distracting if they'd just painted his beard flesh-coloured. Hell, it'd be less distracting if they'd filmed all his scenes with Henry Cavill's stunt double, or just hired that guy from the 50 Shades of Grey movies to double him here and there because those two dudes look amazingly similar. Literally anything but painting a CGI mouth over Henry Cavill's actual mouth would have been better. It looks so bad. Did I mention how bad it looks?
(This is a REAL SHOT FROM THIS MOVIE. The OPENING SHOT, no less.)
Cut to Gotham City, where Batman is accosting a random thug on a rooftop in an action scene so poorly executed it made me wonder if Joss Whedon had directed this bit, too. It's also where we learn that the movie is going to be 16:9 rather than widescreen, which is... well, an interesting choice, I suppose. Definitely the wrong one, though; I don't know whether Joss Whedon went in and played around with all Zack Snyder's colour-grading and slow-mo moments, but this movie looks bad and the TV aspect ratio doesn't help. Whether you like it or not, that desaturated Zack Snyder look is at least a look. It's consistent. You feel like there's intent behind it, you know Snyder does it on purpose because that's the way he wants his superheroes to look. This movie has some of it, but then it'll just be completely gone in other scenes, and to be honest I actually miss it. Without that Snyder sheen you can see the seams of everything all too clearly. There are so many moments that look like behind the scenes footage of the actors in costume, rather than a bunch of superheroes, y'know? Like when Chris Evans and Chris Pratt go to visit sick kids in hospital dressed up as their characters, but without all the Hollywood makeup and the digital colour stuff that makes movies look like movies.
This movie's story is that a forgettable CGI bad guy I've never heard of, Steppenwolf, has come to Earth to gather three magic boxes that will allow him to conquer Earth. Diana huskily voiceovers some exposition about the three boxes having been hidden by the ancient races of
Middle Earth the last time he was here: one by the Amazonians in a fortress on their hidden island, one by the Atlanteans in a fortress under the sea, and one by men in a small hole they dug in the forest I guess. If Steppenwolf brings the three boxes together, Earth turns into Mustafar and everyone who dies turns into Parademons, and then I guess Steppenwolf moves on to the next planet? I think he mentioned Darkseid at one point, and he keeps talking about 'Mother', but I don't know who that is and this movie makes no effort to explain it so whatevs. I've seen every episode of the Justice League cartoon and I don't know any of this stuff, so I can't imagine how meaningless this all is to Johnny Randommoviewatcher. I guess all you need to know is that Steppenwolf is the CGI man they have to punch, and the boxes are this movie's equivalent of the giant beam of light blasting into the sky that they have to disable. You know: superhero movies.
When people complain about DC trying to run before they can walk, and having the big teamup movie before ever introducing the team, I don't think you necessarily can't do it that way. I don't think it's completely impossible to have a large cast of interesting characters all introduced in the same movie; plenty of non-franchise movies manage it. It's just that DC's ones don't. Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman is still the life of the party, while Batman, Aquaman and Cyborg are all just the same gruff, miserable dude in different colours. There's this teeeerrible scene where Aquaman arrives at Atlantis for a dumb underwater fight and then he and Amber Heard have a huge exposition dump 'conversation' about his whole life up to that point. Cyborg just talks about having been in an explosion, and that's that, like it's taken for granted that we all already know the story of this D-lister who looks like a tacky gamer PC with LEDs all over his face. Flash is the same autistic-but-played-for-laughs character from every movie and TV show of the modern era, and I couldn't tell you about Superman because I was just staring at his ghastly mouth the whole time. I guess he does have a couple of moments where he feels like a real Superman, but he also goes crazy and tries to kill the whole team so I feel like that might cancel it out.
Superman is revived by one of the magic boxes, btw. This movie tries really hard to retcon the fact that Batman and Superman have only said like five words to eachother in DC movie canon; they tried to kill eachother, then Martha, then they barely spoke again in that movie until Superman died. Now we're expected to buy that Bruce feels super conflicted and guilty about it, that he considers Clark Kent a good man who was "more human than he is", which is just the worst. I didn't ask you to kill Superman in the second movie, Zack Snyder, but you made that bed and you've gotta sleep in it. This movie is basically a soft-reboot in all but name. They have a very low energy scene where the team half-heartedly argues over whether they should resurrect Superman (WW doesn't approve but doesn't offer any meaningful objection and just goes along with it anyway), and then they get down to business. Apparently resurrecting Superman involves dunking him in the goo of the crashed Kryptonian ship in Metropolis (which is still sitting there, unmoved, since Man of Steel), dropping the box into the goo, then blasting it with Flash's lightning at the instant it splashes down. Superman wakes up and immediately fights them all, and it's just a bunch of CGI slo-mo rubbish. There's one cool bit where Flash comes running in and is stunned to find Superman can follow him in super speed, but other than that there is nothing memorable about evil Superman fighting the Justice League. Honestly, how do you screw that up?
All the action in this movie is rubbish. It's all super-strength characters punching eachother for miles, and there's no way they can depict that with anything but CGI, and the CGI looks really bad, so it's just all around trash. And there's so much slo-mo! Remember when we thought Zack Snyder might be done with slo-mo when we saw Man of Steel? Here everything's slo-mo, and paradoxically it's never slower than when we're watching the Flash do something in super-speed. There's no memorable choreography, because every fight is just "character A punches character B, B crashes through seven concrete walls" ad nauseam. Batman has nothing to do in the action scenes but drive vehicles, and then at the end he gets one of the bad guys' laser rifles and just perches up on a catwalk shooting demons until his gun goes dry. You know, Batman stuff. "What should fan-favourite character Batman, noted martial artist, do in this fight, guys? Oh, shoot guys with the weapon he swears not to use? Just like he did in the last movie, too? Great idea!"
I honestly think this movie is worse than Batman v Superman, and I think that movie's like shockingly poor. I mean, at least you had some things to hold onto with BvS, y'know? The titular fight scene was pretty good until Martha, and then you had that great Batman vs. goons fight scene right after. Bruce had that shirtless scene where he was doing his powerlifting workout; that was pretty cool. I still think "Do you bleed" is a cool line, though evidently Joss Whedon does, too, because he brings it back in this movie in a reshoot scene only coming out of Superman's horrible CGI mouth this time. BvS was an awful movie, but it was... I don't know, confidently awful? Like, awful, but in a way that made you think that Zack Snyder had made it that way because he thought he was making his magnum opus or something and he just went too far down the rabbit hole. It was the kind of movie you felt like you had to see, because you just couldn't imagine how someone could botch a movie about two of the most popular fictional characters in history so badly. I don't think anyone needs to see Justice League, though. It's just the kind of innocuous bad that'll leave you feeling like you wasted two hours of your life.
At least it isn't three wasted hours, I suppose.