(Guest) Movie Review: Zack Snyder’s Justice League

I have something a little bit different today. A movie review… but not by me. Instead, I have fellow beardy-blogger and friend, Lord Badger Nimahson from Stoffel Presents doing this one. My first-ever guest reviewer taking a look at one of the biggest films of 2021, Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Let’s find out what he thought. I’ll just pop up a quick SPOILER warning.


The internet has been abuzz for months now with the anticipation of Zack Snyder’s Justice League. This release is 100% due to fan pressure online and I can’t help but wonder is it a case of being careful of what you wish for?

For those not aware, Zack Snyder was the original director responsible for the vision of the DC Expanded Universe (DCEU), this started with Man of Steel, moved onto Batman v Superman and was due to culminate in The Justice League. The devastating tragedy of his daughter’s suicide meant that Zack Snyder pulled out of directing The Justice League a fair way into the project and Warner Bros. handed the reins over to The Avengers director Joss Whedon.

Whedon’s time in charge of The Justice League was plagued with several issues. From accusations of “gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable behaviour” to THAT hilarious, utterly atrocious and frankly horrific looking CGI removal of Henry Cavill’s moustache (the reshoots clashed with Cavill filming Mission: Impossible – Fallout and he was contracted to keep his moustache).

CAVILL CGI MOUTH 2

Whedon implemented quite a few reshoots in order to finish The Justice League. Finally, the film was released in cinemas and whilst earning around $638m at the box office ($230m of that in the USA alone), it was considered to be both a commercial and critical flop.

Hence, fans on the internet bombarding Warner Bros. with demands for them to release the ‘Snyder cut’. At first, Warner Bros. denied any such cut of the film even existed. Then they said it would never be released, before finally announcing they had given Zack Snyder a budget of $70m to finish the Snyder cut and that it would be released exclusively on their own streaming service HBO Max. And so, on the 18th March 2021, Zack Snyder’s Justice League was finally released to the world… All four hours and two minutes of it!

It’s certainly a marathon that many people have failed to sit through. But thanks to a recent injury, I have had the time to watch the film in its entirety… Twice! So, here I am taking up this tiny little corner of Steve Perrin’s wonderful blog to give you my thoughts and feelings on Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

Cinematography

My overriding thought of Zack Snyder’s Justice League is just how unbelievably stunning the visuals are. Every fight jumps out of the screen at you. Every inch of this movie is quite simply beautiful. The use of colour in the darkness is sublime. Releasing the Snyder Cut on HBO Max will no doubt be a massive boost to subscriptions for the streaming service but I can’t help but feel this is a film that needs to be experienced on the big screen. That been said, the cinematography isn’t without criticism. For example, Snyder chose to release this film in a 4:3 aspect ratio, which has upset and confused quite a few people online. The best place to find out what the film is in this ratio is from the man himself:

“My intent was to have the movie, the entire film, play in a gigantic 4:3 aspect ratio on a giant IMAX screen. Superheroes tend to be, as figures, they tend to be less horizontal. Maybe Superman when he’s flying, but when he’s standing, he’s more of a vertical. Everything is composed and shot that way, and a lot of the restoration is sort of trying to put that back. Put these big squares back… it’s a completely different aesthetic. It’s just got a different quality and one that is unusual. No one’s doing that.”

SNYDERS JUSTICE LEAGUE TEAM

Personally, my biggest problem with the cinematics of this release is that slow-motion effects are massively overused. At first, it looks impressive, but by hour two of the film, it just becomes annoying. I get that they are predominantly used to highlight moments when Snyder has taken a splash page from a comic book and wonderfully recreated it on screen but it does just feel overused and slows the film down even more than it already is. To be fair this may be an issue with the length of the film rather than the overuse of slow motion. So that being said…

Pacing

Any film with a length of just over four hours is more than likely gonna struggle with pacing but by Nimah, Zack Snyder’s Justice League seems to crawl to a halt sometimes. I am not being hyperbolic, but it is actually around thirty-minutes into the film before we actually see any of the superheroes involved in this film. Now yes, you have to set the scene and convey the state of the world that this story takes place in, but it really doesn’t need to take this long! The action is spread evenly throughout the film and is genuinely impressive, but the times between the action seems to just sludge along at a snail’s pace. I understand that this is Zack Snyder’s epic but there is so much that could have, and indeed, should have been left on the cutting room floor.

SNYDERS JUSTICE LEAGUE TEAM 2

The length of the film and the pacing of it is what kills Zack Snyder’s Justice League more than anything. The run-time is simply too long for most people to sit down and watch in one sitting (which ruins the flow of the story) and those who do find the time, will honestly, find their attention waning. I watched this film twice and both times found my attention drifting to my phone to check updates while watching. As I mentioned earlier, Zack Snyder’s Justice League feels like it should be experienced in a cinema and whilst four hours is a hell of a long time to be sat in an uncomfortable seat, I wouldn’t have my phone switched on and would pay more attention to the film regardless of its extremely slow pacing.

Story

It is probably unsurprising to discover that the story is essentially the same in both the Whedon and Snyder versions of the film, but the latter does have more depth and progression to it. The biggest difference is that Cyborg has an actual story arc. I know I know, shocking in this day and age for a character to have an actual story where we see their flaws, their struggles and ultimately their redemption. But that is exactly what we get in the Snyder cut and honestly, it is wonderful to see Cyborg explored in more depth and is a great performance from Ray Fisher.

SNYDERS JUSTICE LEAGUE CYBORG

One of the major difference from the Whedon cut is the inclusion of Darkseid. Whilst Darkseid isn’t in the film for that much, his sheer presence adds a completely different aspect to Steppenwolf’s story and character arc. Instead of being the big bad of the film, we now see him as a fallen favourite of Darkseid who is trying to reclaim the good graces of his master, after failing him in such a massive way. The fleshing out of Steppenwolf and Cyborg are probably the two biggest changes that impact the Snyder cut and make it infinitely better than Whedon’s version. Whilst I truly enjoyed these additions to the film, unfortunately, there were a few things I just couldn’t get over.

Plot Holes

There are a whole host of plot holes that, not only leave you scratching your head but sometimes they can jarringly snap you out of the film itself as you question why? I’m gonna attempt to cover these as briefly as I can:

  • Superman screams awaken the mother boxes.
    Why? As far as I am aware Superman has nothing to do with the mother boxes, isn’t connected to them in any way yet is dying screams (which take forever) awaken them.
  • Steppenwolf declares the planet will be easy to conquer as there are “No Kryptonians here”.
    How has Steppenwolf met Kryptonians before if A) Krypton is destroyed and B) every planet he visits he burns? We know Steppenwolf didn’t destroy Krypton and also why would he be scared of Kryptonians? They are only powerful on Earth due to our yellow sun. If he had visited Krypton he would have destroyed it.
  • Darkseid just lost an entire planet.
    We are shown earlier in the film that ‘The Darkness’ came to Earth and the heroes of Earth united and defeated it (Steppenwolf in the Whedon cut, Darkseid in the Snyder cut) and the mother boxes were left here and went to sleep. We are then expected to believe that Darkseid, the conqueror of over 100,000 planets according to his own boasts just forgot where Earth was! We see his ships fly away. Did they not record the path they took to fly home?
  • How did Darkseid conquer 100,000 other planets?
    When we see Darkseid defeated early in the film we are told that the three mother boxes unite into a unity and burn the planet. Darkseid lost the boxes on Earth but claims to have destroyed 100,000 planets in his search for them. How did he destroy the other planets and why couldn’t he just use that method of attack on Earth?
  • Flash gets shot.
    During the finale we see The Flash move so fast that the shockwave from an explosion passes him by. He just phase-shifts right through it. Yet when he is running at almost the speed of light a Parademon gets a lucky shot and shoots him!?
  • Wonder Woman knows Steppenwolf.
    Earlier in the film, we see Diana descend into the underground temple and learn all about the last time Earth’s heroes banded together and saved the planet from Darkseid. She even sees a picture of Darkseid. Yet when the reach Stryker’s Island and meet Steppenwolf for the first time Diana calls him by name!

Now, those points may seem petty upon reading, but these plot holes genuinely had a negative impact on the film for me. This is a shame because I enjoyed it for the most part. 

Final Thoughts 

There is no denying that Zack Snyder’s Justice League is an epic masterpiece. This film will be dissected and discussed in film schools across the world for decades. For the wonderful and interesting debates about composition and lighting, framing and delivering and artistic vision to the screen. As well as used as warnings for cutting unnecessary and unneeded footage to keep your runtime tight, the overuse of slow-motion special effects and the importance of pacing. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is in no way a perfect movie but it is a fantastic example of the wondrous results when a studio allows a director to make a masterpiece unfettered. I came away from watching the Snyder cut feeling that this is a Lord of the Rings moment for the current generation.

SNYDERS JUSTICE LEAGUE TEAM 3

A film longer than any of conventional release, an epic trilogy that conveys the director’s vision and about a million and one bloody endings! Seriously why so many endings? The film finished an hour ago why are you showing me Martian Manhunter when it could have easily gone into the next film? Why are you showing me a nightmare sequence for a film that is never going to be made?

Zack Snyder’s Justice League should be applauded for so many wonderful things. It should also be criticised for an equal amount of errors.

Is it epic?… Yes.

Is it Zack Snyder’s masterpiece… Probably.

Will it save the DCEU?…. No way.


Big thanks to Lord Badger for doing this review. I did watch the first two hours of the flick myself, before boredom set in. I will try to watch the rest of the film and maybe give my own view in the future, but it’s just not very high on my list of things to do right now.

Movie Review: Coming 2 America

Thirty-three years ago, the ‘fish-out-of-water’ comedy flick, Coming to America hit cinemas. It was made at the perfect time too, as director John Landis was riding high after a string of successful and popular comedy films. Then there was its main star, Eddie Murphy. For me, this was Murphy at his very finest. Coming to America fast became one of my all-time favourite comedy movies ever, still is too. Now, a little over three decades later, we have Coming 2 America. Same title, just written in that really obnoxious and annoying way of using numbers for letters/words. Was Coming to America II such a bad title? In fact, I’ll be calling the film Coming to America II for this review from now on.

This sequel has been a long time coming, with news of it being worked on several years ago. It had many false starts and for a while, it very much looked like a dead project. But here it finally is and with pretty much all of the original cast back too (sadly, Madge Sinclair who played Queen Aoleon died in 1995). But gone is the original’s director, John Landis… And that instantly put a huge cloud of uncertainty over the film for me. Then there’s the rating. The original flick was rated for adults due to nudity and swearing, but this sequel was given a more tame PG-13. And of course, let’s not forget that (let’s be honest) these sequels to films made decades after the original very rarely, if ever, work.

COMING 2 AMERICA POSTER 2

So, as an avid fan of the first Coming to America, will I enjoy this sequel? Well, there’s only one way to find out. Order a McDowell’s, get some Soul Glo for my hair and watch Coming to America II myself.

Quick pre-warning. There could be some slight SPOILERS here. So if you don’t want anything ruined, stop reading now.

The Plot

King Jaffe Joffer is on his death bed and reveals that Akeem has a son called Lavelle that he never knew about, living in America. Needing a male heir to the throne (as is tradition) and seeing as Akeem (now King) only had three daughters, he has to go back to America and bring his bastard son (that’s what he’s constantly called in the film) to Zamunda to be Prince and heir to the throne. Meanwhile, evil General Izzi (who is the brother of Akeem’s arranged bride from the first flick) turns up to cause trouble with the royal family, wanting to take over Zamunda for himself. With Akeem’s son and native New Yorker in Zamunda, the challenge is to turn him from a typical New York street-rat to a Prince.

In fact, now thinking about the plot and the film’s awkward title. This really should’ve been called Coming to Zamunda, because that’s basically what it is. Coming to America but with the fish-out-of-water trope flipped to the Americans in Africa. In fact, I’ll be calling this film Coming to Zamunda for this review from now on. Because let’s be honest, it’s a far better and more accurate title than Coming 2 America.

The Cast

As I said in the intro, pretty much the entire original cast returned for the sequel, even some of the smaller actors came back over three decades later. Of course, we have both Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall return as all of their previous roles… All of them. There’s even a new character played by Hall too. Shari Headley as Lisa is back and now Queen of Zamunda. Paul Bates also returns as the royal aide, Oha. And all of them do a great job of sliding back into their respective roles and ones they haven’t played for over thirty years.

COMING 2 AMERICA AKEEM AND SEMMI

Along for the ride are a handful of new characters. Jermaine Fowler plays the bastard son, Lavelle Junson, with Leslie Jones playing his mother, Mary. Wesley Snipes plays bad guy General Izzi and (spoilers), he steals the entire film.

My View

Okay, let’s get the bad out of the way first. Leslie Jones is not funny, she actually manages to suck the comedy out of everything she’s in. She can’t act and her only ‘joke’ is that she screams her dialogue as she tries to be the loudest person in any film she ever does. Why people keep hiring Jones I have no idea, she’s shit! And I quite liked the Ghostbusters remake… Where Leslie Jones screamed her way through the film.

The fact this sequel has a lower age rating that the original is also a sore point. The first Coming to America was rated for adults due to the nudity and swearing. The nudity was so slight, a few seconds of Akeem’s bathers at the beginning that it’s not really missed here. But, I do have an issue with the lack of swearing in the sequel. Swearing can be really effective when used properly and Coming to America used it brilliantly. A couple of instances that spring to mind are when Akeem is in New York and talking to his neighbours, wishing them a good morning. He gets a “Fuck you!” retort, for Akeem to reply with the classic, “Yes, yes and fuck you too!”. It’s a great joke because Akeem doesn’t understand swearing, he’s proudly screaming “fuck you!” thinking it’s a term of endearment and the way Eddie Murphy plays it by speaking so proudly just adds to the humour. Then there’s the old guys in the barbershop. They get into an argument and the main guy, Clarence (Murphy) just screams “Fuck you, fuck you and fuck you… who’s next?”. It’s that quick switch of character from swearing old man, to nice and polite barber that makes the joke work. The quick jump from “fuck you” to smiling, softly spoken barber makes me laugh every time and it worked because of the swearing. After seeing a really bad TV edit, trust me, it’s the swearing that sells the joke.

COMING 2 AMERICA BARBERSHOP

The lack of swearing in Coming to Zamunda really does damage what could’ve been a much funnier flick. Now, there is some swearing in the film (mainly the word bastard), it’s just not used as well, as much nor is it as effective when it feels so diluted. I never understand why directors/producers do softer sequels to adult films, it makes no sense. Those who watched and loved the original did so because it was more adult for an adult audience. So why make a sequel that isn’t as adult if your audience is an adult one? And even if you were a kid when you saw the first flick (I was around 13-14), you’re an adult now thirty-two years later. So make the film for adults.

This film just lacks any truly great laughs and most of the jokes are poorly written and executed. I mean, there’s a part in the flick where a character talks about how great American cinema is. And they get the retort of:

“What do we have besides superhero shit, remakes and sequels to old movies nobody asked for?”

Seriously? You really want to try to get meta and trump folk who are inevitably going to call this it for what it is? I’m sure that on paper, that joke looked good. But in practice, it’s just terrible and a real eye-rolling moment. The only time I genuinely smiled at Coming to Zamunda was when it referenced the original, something it actually does really damn well. There are loads of nods and references and admittedly, some of them are really bloody clever too. So much so that I don’t actually want to spoil them here. But there is a scene I really need to address and spoil.

So, you are probably questioning just how did Akeem sire a son, thirty years ago during the events of the first film? Well, that’s covered in both a brilliant and really stupid scene. There’s a flashback to the club scene from the original film. You know the one where Akeem and Semmi are looking for possible brides? Anyway, new footage has been shot and some de-ageing (cos every film does that now) tech is used to show what ‘really’ happened that night. So, it turns out that Semmi wanted to dip his wick, so he found a woman, Mary (Leslie Jones) to keep Akeem busy while he got busy himself. While back at their apartment (lovingly recreated from the first film, complete with chalk lines of the dead guy and his dog), Mary drugs and ‘takes advantage’ of Akeem, becoming pregnant with his son.

COMING TO AMERICA CLUB

The scene is actually really well done, what with the whole de-ageing and all that… But, it also annoyed me for a couple of reasons, not just because they’ve changed the background song (think I wouldn’t notice eh?) First, the first film specifically shows that Akeem and Semmi return home very much dateless from the club, no women. They go from the club and bump into Clarence from the barbershop, who tells them they can find good women at the pageant he is going to. And that is where Akeem sees Lisa for the first time. But this film retcons that to say that Akeem and Semmi don’t talk to Clarence as they go back to their apartment with two women. So if they don’t speak to Clarence, they don’t go to the pageant and Akeem doesn’t see Lisa and fall in love. That’s a gaping plot hole that I just could not get over. Plus, Semmi very clearly states in the first film that he’s not had sex since arriving in New York, but this film now says different. Come on, fans are going to pick up on this haphazard/lazy writing pretty quickly.

The other major issue is one I found in another film recently too. Mary drugs and (essentially) rapes Akeem. He doesn’t consent to the sex, he is raped. Akeem himself even says he wasn’t ‘willing’ and that he has no knowledge of the sex happening in the film. Just like the random guy in the recent Wonder Woman flick. Seriously, why is the sexual assault of men becoming a thing in films now? Flip that scenario with a male drugging a female and having sex with her and they’d be outrage. As I said, as good as the re-edited club scene is on a technical level, it really fucks up quite a bit.

By the time the film ended, I felt like I had already seen it. Now, I don’t mean due to all the beats it rehashed from the original (of which there’s a lot), more like the film in general just felt like I had seen it before. It took me a while to work out where I had seen Coming to Zamunda before and it wasn’t until I was writing this review when it hit me. Coming to Zamunda is basically Crocodile Dundee II. Look, you have the first film where the fish-out-of-water goes from his own country and taken to America… Particularly New York. The fish-out-of-water does exactly what fish-out-of-water do, they feel uncomfortable, have trouble fitting in and all that guff. But finds love along the way. Then the sequel rolls around and things get switched up a tad as the native New Yorker is taken from their home, to the unfamiliar surroundings of the original’s fish-out-of-water’s home. Mick Dundee did it with Sue in Crocodile Dundee II in that film. And Akeem does the exact same thing to his son, Lavelle, in this flick. Coming to Zamunda is a Crocodile Dundee II remake, just with a lot of references to Coming to America.

COMING 2 AMERICA AKEEM

To be honest, I went into this with low expectations. The original flick really is one of my favourite comedy films, one that was made at the upmost optimum time, a time when the cast and crew were riding high. There’s no way a sequel could ever match up to its greatness. Still, Coming to Zamunda, despite its various shortcomings (Leslie Jones being the biggest), did manage to make me smile a few times. It doesn’t have the impact the first film had and it is just a rehash of the original’s plot too. Perhaps a little too heavy on the nostalgia in some places and a sequel that would’ve been better off existing twenty years ago. But still, it was okay, just a shame it wasn’t more ‘adult’, I really miss those arguing and swearing barbershop guys. They are in this sequel… But it’s clear they’ve had their balls cut off sometime in the last thirty years. Coming to Zamunda is more of a slightly likeable nostalgia trip with some quite honestly great, clever cameos and references than a good sequel. The set designs and costumes in Zamunda are really stunning. Oh, and Wesley Snipes is awesome.

Another disappointment is that, while the original film’s director, John Landis, is gone, taking on the job is Craig Brewer. Now, Brewer recently directed Eddie Murphy in the 2019 biopic, Dolemite Is My Name… Which is brilliant. So it’s a shame for them to have not captured that magic again for this flick. But I can’t really blame either the star or director when it’s very clearly the lazy, sloppy, plot hole creating and rehashed writing that is to blame.

COMING 2 AMERICA AKEEM NEW YORK

If the original Coming to America was a McDonald’s Big Mac meal, then Coming to Zamunda is a McDowell’s Big Mic meal. A lower quality and questionable copy, but still digestible. It’s worth one view just for the cameos and references to the first film, just don’t expect much more out of the film than that. Still, at least Coming to Zamunda wasn’t as bad as the TV pilot.