‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ or — The Joys and Tribulations of Isotropic Polishing?
Sitting down to watch all of ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ (2021) last night one question was vibrating away inside my mind — Can you polish a turd? Turns out that given four years and over $300,000,000 you can polish it to an inch of its fucking life (if turds can live that is, which could’ve also been this movie’s alternative title) because Zack Snyder has burnished this turd to a level that no other turd has been polished before in human history. There must’ve been splatterings of excess shit flying about all over the place during the final refining process of this movie because you could hold this turd up to the light in admiration. Just make sure you’re wearing gloves.
The result of this hysterical polishing process is that ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ is shockingly consistent, and I mean consistent in every direction: the narrative, plot, characters, visuals, design; all of it has a consistency that only years of extra time, money and love can produce. Nobody should be allowed to make a movie under such indulgent conditions.
Another result is that, compared to the Whedon version, ‘Justice League’ is now also finally coherent. In fact it might be TOO coherent because every plot point, story beat, character arc, etc is explained with aggressive clarity. Didn’t know who Steppenwolf was/is or what he/it wanted? Well, know you know… in excruciating detail. Christ, Steppenwolf even has a character arc and a motivation this time. Its flimsy as hell but it’s still there, so that’s something I guess.
This consistent coherence also provides a shock in demonstrating just how much of a mess the 2017 Justice League was. I found I was having a blast with this movie purely by watching scenes that previously were visually ugly and nonsensical now looking decent and actually making sense. It was a fun experiment, but it shouldn’t take over three million dollars and four hours to make the point that Zack Snyder is a better cinematic story teller than Joss Whedon. Still, it’s not my money being sprayed everywhere so let’s sit back and enjoy this financially berserk cinematic bukkake.
And you know what; I DID enjoy ‘ZSJL’. I think it was because it’s evident that Zack Snyder has put a huge amount of care into this project and when I start to get the feeling a filmmaker cares about their work then I do too. I was impressed by ‘ZSJL’ not by the effects or bombast but the attention to detail, every edit, every moment and I became aware that this movie was being made with love. I’m using the word “love” when talking about a Snyder film?! It’s a Wagnerian migraine of a movie but the affection on display is undeniable, and that’s always a plus for me.
So I was sitting there watching this meticulously put together movie and loving what I was seeing. You know what, this might just be Snyder’s best work, and by quite some way. By the time the movie had almost finished I realised I desperately needed a pee so paused the film so I could enjoy the climax in comfort… only to discover there was still another TWO FUCKING HOURS TO GO!!!!
The last time I experienced a temporal shock like that was in Edinburgh several years ago during a performance of Morton Feldman’s Second String Quartet which is six hours long and, in many ways, similar to the Snyder Cut in that it is finely crafted and detailed although when you realise you’re three hours in and only halfway through you want to put a bullet through your head. That’s what happened last night because I suddenly became exhausted, as though I was the one being furiously polished and was just wanting the process to stop, no matter how shiny I’d be afterwards (even if in every direction).
There are other problems too, namely Snyder’s tendency to include god-awful song choices as well as his fetish for including the word “fuck” in a super hero movie when he can (aren’t these movies for kids, too?). On the plus side the editing is seamless, the camera work relatively subdued for this type of project and some of the villain design seems inspired by Michael Mann’s ‘The Keep’ (1983) which is quite cool.
‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ is a masterpiece purely in terms of comparison to the utter train wreck that had came before, but it might also genuinely be his best film yet purely because of the time and devotion he was able to bestow on every frame. If that’s not your bag then this won’t win you round, but if you’ve been itching for this to come out for a while then you’re not going to be disappointed, just maybe overwhelmed as you don’t so much watch this movie as get waterboarded by it.