And now we have a more conventional trailer for Zack Snyder’s Justice League. The 146-second pitch wouldn’t have been out of place had the finished product released into theaters in November of 2017 been essentially whatever it was going to be before Snyder stepped down and Joss Whedon took over. Even with a four-hour running time, well above both the theatrical cut’s 118-minute runtime and what I’m presuming was Snyder’s intent at an over/under three-hour runtime for Justice League, the core story seems unchanged.
Superman is dead, leaving the world vulnerable to an invasion by the forces of Apokolips, and Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) has to recruit a handful of super powered beings to save the world. What’s worth noting is that most of the scenes of seemingly expanded scope and scale seem to be digressions set on Themyscira, Apokolips (featuring Darkseid) and during Bruce’s Knightmare dream sequences (featuring a cameo by Jared Leto’s Joker). The actual “set on Earth” present-tense sequences thus far seem pretty damn familiar to those of us who saw the theatrical cut in 2017.
The only reason I care is that A) I wanted more visual oomph from the theatrical cut and B) I wanted a bigger and grander action finale from that abbreviated version. The scenes where the Super Friends talk to each other and bonds over their mutual depression and under confidence work well enough, trading the workplace melodrama of The Avengers for a surrogate family melodrama. But the visuals and scale left something to be desired, and the current emphasis on digressive material reminds me of David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, where all the neat beats from the marketing were from the introductory flashbacks.
I’m beyond curious to see what’s new, what’s changed and what’s different in this variation of what was supposed to be Warner Bros.’ big shot at a Justice League movie. With all the talk about fewer jokes, a darker tone and R-rated violence (which I’m guessing is going to be akin to Peter Jackson’s extended cut of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies), we should remember that much of this footage was shot back when there was at least some attempt to lighten up after the grim Dawn of Justice (where most of the jokes came from gallows humor).
The “jokey” intro between Bruce Wayne and Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen was shown off at the 2016 SDCC as proof that the film was less Empire Strikes Back and more Return of the Jedi. And even before the changeover, it made sense that the middle film of a would-be trilogy would be the darkest and grimmest of the bunch followed by a comparatively triumphant and crowd-pleasing finish. As far as a Justice League movie for adults or grownups, that’s something of a contradiction. I imagine actual kids will be more excited for a long and violent grimdark Justice League flick than will grownups.
Nonetheless, I’ll watch whatever it is, hopeful that the film has a scale closer to Return of the King and a tone closer to Excalibur (of which Snyder’s fandom obviously informs his notion about R-rated content based on kid-friendly IP) and probably enjoy myself. Absent the obligations to advance a cinematic universe, Batman v Superman has aged well as a gonzo-bananas Elseworld story, and I’m sure this Justice League will continue that “thing unto itself” mentality just the same. I still would prefer to see this in an IMAX theater, but I digress.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League arrives on HBO Max on March 18. Will it be a whole new/entirely different movie, or the same core film with a bunch of fantastical digressions? Either way, I’m as curious as anyone, especially if this version becomes the “official” Justice League film in the DC Films continuity. And most importantly, will anyone outside of the hardcore fanbase or those in the entertainment media care enough to watch it? We’ll find out soon enough! As Lex Luthor might say, the bell has been rung. All that’s left to do is watch it play out.