I don’t like the work of Zack Snyder. I am consistently amazed that Warner Bros keeps going back to him for its DC superhero films when no one likes them. And despite the amount of feedback they get to do something different, they keep hiring Snyder and he keeps making the exact same movie. Then, with this one, which was supposed to be the culmination of their business model to “do exactly what Marvel did” and have their own Avengers-like team of superheroes, Snyder dropped out (his daughter committed suicide, a topic no one can address, but I suspect that there is much more going on, or more of Warner using it as an excuse to wrench Snyder out) and they brought in Joss Whedon, who made Avengers a super-success, to give them super-success too! And it didn’t quite work out, again.
So Whedon reshot what we are told is 15-20% of the movie, and rewrote enough of the screenplay to get a co-writing credit, the score was replaced, and Henry Cavill’s mustache was digitally erased. So the movie not only offers the fun of watching what it is, but sitting there trying to figure out which parts were the result of which director, working out how it all does, or does not, advance Warner’s business strategy, and staring at Cavill’s upper lip. I was there on preview night, ready to hatewatch the living shit out of it, when, to my shock, I found myself actually kind of liking it.
The difference is apparent from the opening, in which we see a friendly Superman that loves people, such as we’ve never seen in any of the previous new incarnations. Then we have a Batman action scene, where the backdrops have the fantasized “city” look of the Tim Burton Batman films, and the score features the Danny Elfman Batman theme. Other differences that are apparent immediately is that Batman knocks a gun away instead of firing it, and we show interest in common citizens, which the previous films were notoriously lacking. And we see that the whole feel is more upbeat and less laden in gloom. As it goes forward, we will see that Superman is suddenly very concerned about civilians, Batman finally eschews killing, saving people is suddenly a priority, and the team is presented as heroic and inspiring citizens, instead of just terrorizing them. And there’s much light banter, as opposed to grim pronouncements.
You know the plot, and you know that Superman is brought back, because only the smallest toddlers believed that he was actually dead. But it all generally works in a way the previous films didn’t. The action pieces are monumental and exciting, particularly the amazons defending the magic cube (the amazons continue to be completely badass) and the superheroes actually do work together in the course of their fights. I liked a heated argument that the heroes have, in which Wonder Woman gives Batman a good shove, and I liked the way they had to take down the newly-awakened Superman. Ben Affleck continues to be, completely non-intuitively, an excellent Batman. And overall it’s just a lot more fun and filled with awesome spectacle, as opposed to just dank and dark.
This is not to imply that it doesn’t have a lot of problems. You still have the Snyder misunderstanding that we shouldn’t borrow “awesomeness” from having millions of civilians die, so instead we have scenes taking place in remote, depopulated areas, which takes away any sense that these events affect real people—or that this is supposedly happening amidst a world of real people. It’s all still sort of scattershot and only barely cohesive (which actually makes me like it more), there’s no real stakes and the character arcs are truncated, but it’s still basically fun, and puzzling out all the behind-the-scenes problems at least gives you something to do.
As for Cavill’s mustache, I had to just consciously decide to ignore it, or I would spend the entire movie staring at his upper lip.
So anyway, there you go. Still a mess, but a fascinating one, and a fun time at the movies, even if half of that time is spent thinking not about the movie itself, but the mess of making it and how it all turned out this way.