By Joseph Walter
I have problems though, and these problems ruin a lot of the fun I had in each screening. They're inescapable. They're frustrating. And worst of all, they create an atmosphere of "what could have been," which sadly hampers what is.
The Promise of the Score
Then there is Zimmer's tremendous ego, where he'll create obnoxious music, or feature odd solos and claim how daring and experimental he is, like the face-palm-supreme that came with his "truly evil" two-note motif for the Joker in The Dark Knight. Wow, so crazy.
But credit should be given where credit is due. Zimmer and Junkie XL's work on Batman v. Superman, while featuring plenty of dumb moments, also had some excellent additions that fit supremely well with the tone Zack Snyder started with Man of Steel, and continued into the sequel. I enjoyed it, but I can't say I was disappointed that Danny Elfman would be summoned for Justice League.
In fact, I nearly needed a diaper upon hearing he'd be using the original 1989 Batman theme, along with the John Williams' Superman theme.
My exciting started budding, and then reached a crescendo when Elfman released his "Hero's Theme" score sample on Youtube. I don't think I hooted and hollered as much as I did when I heard that for ages.
Not only was the ultimate Batman theme prominently featured, it appeared that it was going to be morphed into a main motif, and used as the emotional weight to Batman's quest of uniting the League. It was stellar.
Then the film came out and most of the score was poorly mixed and featured far too many ideas that lacked cohesion. The Hero's Theme wasn't even in the finished product in the form we heard.
Sure, there were a ton of winners, like Elfman's renditions of the Flash's theme, Wonder Woman's Zimmer-fueled motif, and yes, the cherished Superman and Batman themes. Hell, even the actual motif for the Justice League, which most prominently appears during the logos of the film was stunning. It only makes me question further why the score as a whole didn't pan out?
Danny promised to set up loads of motifs for future composers to expand or toss away, something that was desperately needed in the superhero genre (mainly Marvel, whose best and most cohesive score, Captain America, has generally been overlooked.)
Instead, we get something that's far from cohesive, features few gems, and a sickening failure of achieving the potential that was so clearly present. Though, to be fair, I'd likely blame the interference of WB and whatever crazy editing had to happen to this Frankensteined film (which we'll be getting to shortly.)
The Weak Villain
The best course of action would have been to have a more traditional Superman villain, such as the long-awaited Brainiac, which would then force the team to have to resurrect Superman to do battle with him since they'd be truly outmatched. Save Darkseid, Apokalips and so on for Justice League 3 (since 2 looks like it's going to have an Earth-based, Luthor-led team of troublemakers, which I can get behind.)
The Russian Family
One of Whedon's additions was the plight of a Russian family who is caught up in the final battle of the film, a completely unnecessary addition that does nothing but rob valuable screen time for character developing regarding the main cast of people you actually care about in a film that likely had an enormous amount of time cut out of it.
I couldn't find a way to care about them. I'm always down for saving people in superhero movies, but this really felt like a forced attempt to create some kind of emotional response... and it didn't work.
The Opening Scene
Who is this man that Batman is hunting? Is he a criminal? He's just a guy taking out his garbage. Although he does have a gun and shoots at Batman, he's taken down in a cringe-y, overly complicated and elaborate manner, only to be hung over the side of a building to draw the parademon out.
After the demon comes out and self-destructs, Batman and this random dude straight up have a casual conversation about alien invasions. It's awful. The writing is awful. The acting is awful. The entire scene is just horrible. Even on the technical side, the set looks crummy, the effects aren't great, the choreography is rubbish and the lighting looks like a TV show. And again, after the insane Batman warehouse beat-down in BvS, why is this fight so awful!?
Where BvS would just thrust viewers into a complicated world (to great success), JL wants to treat us like babies.
The Loss of Identity
Gone is the cohesive world where consequences matter. Gone is the brilliant interpretation of a battle-hardened, veteran, utterly obsessed Batman on the edge. Gone is the under-the-surface core of social commentary and relevance.
While much of the levity in the film feels genuine, thanks to the Flash, there's also a lot that feels absolutely forced. Low-brow jokes, weird butt shots, and Batman delivering truly cringe-worthy, out-of-character lines that, while still funny for the most part, are the absolute antithesis of the man we've come to know. And that sucks.
BvS and MoS have their critics, and many criticisms have their merits, but the grim tone of those films, and the focus consequences shaping a living world defined the DCEU, and showed that it stood on its own two legs, unafraid and uncaring of what goofy adventures Marvel was peddling. Now, the DCEU is on a trajectory to simply be a rip-off MCU. No one wins.
The Diluted Final Product
He is a master of comic book storytelling. His version of Watchmen miraculously does incredible justice to the dense graphic novel while managing to be an excellent film in its own right. It's exceptionally comic-book-y in its execution and stark contrast to its peers, even now.
Snyder was the right choice to helm the main DCEU films. And while I didn't agree with all his decisions, and certainly am not a fan of all of his work, I have to commend him on his story-telling style.
The DCEU felt like a live-action comic book, one that was made for hardcore fans by hardcore fans. It didn't care if you couldn't use your brains to figure out what was going on rather than being spoon-fed. It didn't care if it depressed you. It was a singular entity that told the story of men versus gods, and how that affected the utterly alive world in which those conflicts took place.
When Whedon came in and cut Zack's scenes while shooting new ones, something was lost. And it shows throughout the final product.
While many folks are likely pleased by the changes that were made, it crushes me as an artist to know that we'll like never get to see what Snyder intended for the world he shaped. JL was likely always going to be more accessible due to mandates from WB, but Snyder's patented story-telling, earned humor, intensely beautiful action sequences and general eye for the style of a graphic novel was sorely missed.
Especially the story-telling.
Would the final product be better if he were given full control? If I had to guess for me personally, I'd say yes. Would it be critically lambasted? Probably. But would it be a cohesive, defiant piece of superhero cinema that has a flavor all its own, regardless of irrational hatred? Absolutely.