The absolute saddest part of Justice League: The Encore Edition is the new stuff’s not bad. It’s not great, but it’s not bad. You almost want to see the movie, which is basically Ben Affleck Batman teaming up the not even A-list for 2021 of DC Comics movies stars and roaming a post-apocalyptic wasteland. But then there’s even more new stuff with Affleck and it’s the best Affleck’s been in the whole four hours. He has a thirty second or so conversation without screenwriter Chris Terrio’s indescribably horrific dialogue and it’s fine. It’s kind of charming even and there’s no other time in all of Justice League: The Uncensored Version Affleck’s ever near charming. He’s obviously miserable in the rest of it, having realized after his last Snyder outing whatever he thought he was doing on set, it wasn’t ending up printed on film. Though Affleck doesn’t even get an arc, which is kind of funny. Like, Affleck, Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams—all the people who’d already had their solo movies—they don’t get arcs.
And it makes sense, because Justice League: The Commemorative Edition takes its time introducing its new superheroes. There’s Aquaman (before Aquaman) Jason Momoa, Cyborgman Ray Fisher (who got screwed the most in the theatrical version), and Flashman Ezra Miller, who’s done so well since Justice League: The Theatrical Version Warner had to beg him onto the TV shows the movie people all dissed. All three do pretty well with some lousy material. All three get extended introductions, with Momoa doing a cologne commercial set to Nick Cave—if you’re going to sell out, sell out big (and it’s actually the second Nick Cave in fifteen minutes because Adams’s D plot gets a Cave song too, so double up, sir)—Miller doing a lovely slow motion meet cute with Kiersey Clemons, albeit set to very annoying music—while Fisher gets a football success flashback. Snyder really can’t direct sports scenes. Whatever Zack Snyder thinks slow motion accomplishes, it does not. If you ran Justice League: The Special Edition at regular speed, you’d probably lose an hour.
The action in the first half is all very elaborate. None of it involves the superheroes. Snyder really can’t be bothered with the superhero action. He takes his time with the Amazons—led by an atrocious Connie Nielsen, but her level of atrocious doesn’t even get her in the top five—he takes his time with some of the Momoa stuff (Momoa’s stuff figures into the A plot, whereas Miller’s doesn’t at all and Fisher’s sort of figures in but only coincidentally). But there’s Atlantis stuff and there’s a lengthy flashback to ancient battles against a terrible CGI bad guy. Justice League: Untitled does a great job proving Marvel had the right idea all along (minus hiring Joss Whedon); build up the characters in solo projects, hire an actor to motion capture your inter dimensional blue bad guy. Justice League: The Bootleg Cut spends a lot of time on very pointless setup; at least the Fisher stuff gets closed off, but it turns out it’s because he’s the only one who’s not getting to come back after Justice League: Integral Version. The film leverages Joe Morton to get it done.
Joe Morton can get it done. No one in the movie makes the crap dialogue seem as reasonable as Joe Morton.
Even if he and Fisher never really get any good scenes together. Of the new three, Fisher’s the best (and actually good). Momoa survives unscathed. Miller survives… scathed.
So if Affleck’s bad, Gadot’s kind of fine but has no character arc and her characterization is very thin. Actually, more abrupt. Terrio’s scared to write people talking to one another so everyone just spouts declarative statements. Though Gadot does get a lengthy narration scene—when Thamos is fighting against Bronze Age super magic people—and she is terrible. It’s terribly written, but she’s really bad at it too. Like, maybe throw in some John Lennon to make a human connection. Wonder Woman does vaporize a guy in front of school children in her action scene though; Snyder wimps out on CGI’ing blood all over them.
Cavill’s fine. He’s in Justice League: Redux seemingly less than in the other one when he had the silly CGI jaw (they should’ve used all that footage but made it Bizarro). Adams is fine too. She gets the second biggest shit part in the movie though. Her part actually gets worse the more we learn about her, which happens because of the biggest shit part—poor Diane Lane. First they give her a shit part, then they change it Carrie Fisher in Star Wars 9 style and make it even worse. Plus all the Cavill, Adams, and Lane stuff is clearly not meant for the pan and scan. It’s a sad end to their trilogy and it’s kind of obvious Snyder cut more of their stuff than anyone else’s. Except maybe Gadot’s; even though she gets the terrible narration thing, her solo action scene gets trashed through editing. Also the music.
Thomas Holkenborg’s music is occasionally fine. Mostly for the Aquaman stuff, but in general it’s not too terrible. Except for Gadot’s stuff and Cavill’s stuff. With the latter, it’s like Holkenborg’s giving the old Hans Zimmer material the finger. With Gadot’s stuff, Holkenborg’s just got terrible ideas. He also completely avoids giving Affleck any music, which is too bad because it’d be great if there was some sad Affleck music whenever you can just see the dejection on his face. He’s painfully miserable. He can’t even keep pace with Jeremy Irons, who’s doing everything to try to keep their scenes afloat. Irons can save Gadot, but Affleck’s a sunk rock.
He’s terrible to the point he’s annoying to watch.
Oh, and J.K. Simmons. So bad.
Amber Heard’s fine. Willem Dafoe’s terrible but not in an embarrassing way like Simmons or Lane or, you know, Affleck. Meanwhile Billy Crudup seems to be doing an impression of John Wesley Shipp, who plays the same part (The Flash’s wrongly convicted father) on the “Flash” TV show.
Who else… Oh. So the voices for the CGI bad guys, who all look terrible because the visual concepts for Justice League: The Final Cut are all bad. But Ciarán Hinds. Not good work. Ray Porter, terrible. Peter Guinness, terrible.
Another misunderstanding I had about the theatrical version and Justice League: Extended Collector's Edition… I thought the lousy CGI backdrops, like when people are out on the street—I thought all those scenes were post-Snyder. Nope, there’s a bunch of shot in front of green screen instead of on exciting nondescript city street. It looks terrible. Worse, when they do the Kansas corn fields with the CGI backgrounds? It’s like a museum diorama where just a little further away it’s the wall with the painted horizon. Ruins the scenes.
Again, Justice League: The Reconstruction does no favors for the Man of Steel gang.
Fabian Wagner’s exterior photography is all exquisite. It’s just the composites. They’re all crappy. Every single one. If Snyder leaned into it more, the artificial, exaggerated distance between foreground and back, he might have something. But he never has something with Justice League: The R-Rated Director’s Cut because there’s just nothing to see here.