Join superfans E. Stephen Burnett, Austin Gunderson, and Kerry Nietz as they react to DC’s Justice League. In real time since the film’s Nov. 17 release, we praise, complain, and above all hope for a better Ultimate Edition of the superhero trilogy begun by director Zack Snyder.
Full disclosure: we’re all big fans of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. These are required viewing for anyone trying to make sense of Justice League and its fans.
Read the complete series. In this part, we explore our favorite and not-so-favorite moments.
Kerry Nietz: Yep, I have been purposely avoiding this conversation until this moment. All the world seemed to want to play spoiler on this movie. (Including Focus on the Family. My wife was so upset at them , she sent an email.)
From what I see from skimming though … um, wow, fellows, good thing there isn’t a cliff near by.
I actually really liked it. Thought the Superman parts were great, all the individual parts were interesting, really. Some parts I just loved, loved. The main issue you have with any of these large ensemble movies is that there is scant little time for any individual character. Yes, it could have used more time. But compared to some character heavy movies (looking at you Star Wars prequels) I think they did really well.
Austin Gunderson: Heh. I wouldn’t say I disliked the film; just that it wasn’t nearly as good as its predecessors. It failed to clear the super-high bar for me, but it definitely cleared the “this is entertaining” bar. There were a lot of great moments.
Justice League vs. lackluster stakes
Kerry: If I had to name a fault, it would be in the stakes. They needed to create more of a sense of global peril. That could have been easily done with more small scenes in different locations. Possibly those are the types of things that were left on the cutting room floor.
I assume you guys stayed through the credits?
Btw, there were applause at the end of my showing. (Not started by me.)
The movie most felt like a 4th hour of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to me. A closing up of the loose ends and MacGuffins from it.
E. Stephen Burnett: My wife and I got back from a second viewing this afternoon. I enjoyed it more this time. Really, it’s all about adjusting expectations. But I still want a director’s cut by Zack Snyder, if they ever finish and release one. So much potential wasted otherwise. And so many more opportunities to tie the individual heroes’ own stories into the film’s meta-theme of uniting to prove that great darkness only makes greater heroes.
Kerry: I like that. Yes, that would be good.
It is 7.5 out of 10 on IMDB. I always say (with books) if you can please 75 percent of readers, you did your job.
Austin: That number will drop. It always does. The people seeing this movie on opening weekend are the ones who wanted to like it.
Stephen: There you go. I weary of the negativity. Really, really weary of it. People were clapping and applauding today, and that’s in a semi-full theater on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Methinks next weekend it will do better thanks to decent word of mouth.
Austin: I agree with you, Kerry, about the lack of stakes. As I mentioned earlier in this thread, the villain, Steppenwolf, obviously wasn’t at Superman’s level. So as soon as Supes showed up at the fight, what tension there was kinda evaporated for me.
Kerry: Yes, they should’ve brought Darkseid. He’s nearly impervious to Superman. But he’s a bigger bad. The Thanos of the DC universe. Steppenwolf gave them a way to introduce the “Fourth World,” though and set up a possible bigger bad later. The struggle for a new team, though, should be in seeing if they can work together, not necessarily in the villain they face. Think of the first Avengers movie? Aside from location, how different was the threat level?
Austin: Right. The scenes where the plot most engaged me were those leading up to the Supes resurrection. There seemed to be some real fissures forming in the team’s cohesion. There was a lot of potential for mutiny or defection. And honestly, I couldn’t tell whether that’d be good or bad.
But then everybody just sort of settled down and the uncertainty was lost.
So what were your favorite parts, Kerry?
Kerry: I wonder if there weren’t more dissension moments left on the cutting room floor too. And I wonder if they ever thought about going the route where Steppenwolf brings Superman back…as a weapon.
Or if that would be just too dark.
In the comics, Superman was resurrected by the Fortress of Solitude robots. Sort of behind the scenes. That would be hard to pull off in the movie … because how do you keep the audience from knowing?
Favorite moment was events immediately after the resurrection. Especially Flash running at him only to have him notice. Too cool.
Also the scene where Flash and Superman are “rescuing” civilians.
Did you have a favorite moment?
Austin: Yeah, I loved that eye-move moment. Flash’s face was priceless. Also loved him tipping Diana’s sword into her hand, then totally biffing it into the wall.
Other favorite moments include Aquaman sitting on the Lasso of Hestia.
Of course, it’s my strong suspicion that most of my faves were Whedon moments, which just annoys me.
Kerry: Oh yeah, those were great. The Aquaman confession. Beautiful.
Austin: I was like, what is even happening right now?! And then it all made sense.
Kerry: Flash’s talk about understanding people and brunch was good too. And then the callback to it later. “That feels like betrayal.”
Austin: Heh, yeah. Flash basically stole the whole movie. He was the fanboy everyman, the relatable Hobbit character.
Kerry: Absolutely. That was a good way to play it. A solo Flash movie could be really good.
Even the Lois “you smell good” line was solid too. And it was nice to see Superman smile a little. Because again, if you can fly, you’re going to smile. (Though maybe not at the same time. Bugs!)
Austin: “Did I not before?” 😜
Back to potential improvements: Something else that might’ve gotten cut out was a subplot wherein Cyborg’s allegiance is in question. At one point, we hear somebody refer to him as “a guy who might be working for the enemy,” and it seems completely unmotivated. But when you think about it, it makes sense to be suspicious: he was given life by the alien power source now possessed by Steppenwolf. That could have been another major source of tension that just seemed to evaporate.
Kerry: Right. Aquaman said that.
That did seem a little out of place.
The one big advantage Marvel had in Avengers was having individual films for the characters first. We really could’ve used an Aquaman and a Flash first. And probably also a Batman to more cement who this version of the character is.
Austin: Yeah. There’s also that moment during the climax when Cyborg grabs the boxes and then goes all googly-eyed, and Steppenwolf leans over and says, “Now you understand,” or something like that, and I was all like, “Okay, now Cyborg’s gonna get reprogrammed and things are gonna get interesting,” but then nothing happened. I’m pretty sure there was a whole scene that got cut, there.
Kerry: Oh yeah! I’d forgotten about that. I was like “what did he see? what did he learn? what!”
Justice League vs. character humor
Stephen: Austin, I suspect you liked those Whedon bits because even Whedon doesn’t just do “jokes” for their own sake. He uses humorous dialogue to develop characters the same way Snyder uses action to do the same.
Kerry: Yes, the dialog is part of what made Firefly great.
Another good line (paraphrased): “Okay, what do you need me to do? I know you didn’t bring me back because you like me.”
And then Bruce’s sort of blubbering response.
Wow, there are lots of interesting character threads that could’ve used a bit more…
Austin: Oh, I didn’t mean that the jokes’ deliverers were interchangeable: Whedon excels at character-based humor, and each gag was tailor-made for the characters involved.
What I meant was that the jokes were almost entirely extra-plot.
For instance: Aquaman could have sat on the lasso under any circumstances and it would have been just as funny. Ditto Flash’s brunch-babble. Ditto Superman’s rivalry with Flash (as demonstrated by their mid-credits scene). Strip away the plot, and the jokes still stand by themselves. They could have been pulled from HISHE’s Superhero Cafe. They are, literally, “throwaway gags.”
A significant exception to this rule is Flash’s comic astonishment when Superman can match his speed, and their subsequent fight. Which is why I’m pretty sure that that scene, at least, was present in the original script. It’s not only character-specific, it’s situation-specific.
Stephen: Similarly, anything Alfred says, or the “Is she with you?” exchange in Batman v Superman.
Austin: “Is she with you?” could’ve only happened in that initial meeting. Granted, the meeting itself could’ve happened under slightly different circumstances, but the joke was about how the two guys who each think they’re the singular hero are suddenly out of sync with the plot. (It also reveals and gently mocks their instinctively masculine possessiveness; Diana isn’t “with” either of them.)
Kerry: Everyone answering the bat signal was fun too. It almost would’ve been more fun if we didn’t know three of them were together prior. Like, what ho, why are you all here? This is my shtick.
Stephen: Also, Bruce’s line (paraphrased): “Complete this mission and you can go back to the shadows. Dress up like a bat. I won’t even sue.”
Aquaman: (smirks) “Dressed like a bat. I dig it.”
Barry Allen: “What are your superpowers again?”
Bruce Wayne: “I’m rich.”
Kerry: “They all left, huh? That’s sort of rude.”
Stephen: Also y’all … Commissioner J.K. Gordon. For the win.
Kerry: Was Clark Kent’s middle name always Joseph?
I never had heard it before. Joseph would be another biblical connection, of course.
So, I looked it up, and his middle name is sort of a writer discretion thing. Either Jerome or Joseph. Not names of his creators. The more you know!
“Both” names of his creators. Yeesh, autocorrect.
Next: how come Justice League felt so rushed, and why couldn’t it have lasted longer?