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Cinema

Why Zach Snyder’s Justice League isn’t a movie masterpiece

Zack Snyder’s Justice League has been released through the HBO series and film  platform. This is director  Zach Snyder’s version  of  Joss Whedon’s 2016 Justice League film. Is it the same or a different movie?

I’m going to compare Zach Snyder’s film to  Alfred Hitchcock’s film Vertigo to expose what my view of cinema is and how far away this vision is from the  film Justice League.

This article is my personal view of what I thought of the film. All opinions are bias, mine too. If you’ve seen it and you don’t agree with my vision, it’s okay. There must be different opinions in the world and mine is as valid as yours.

Visual impact and 4 hours of your life

First i have to say that the film is visually striking but at the same time I find it quite disturbing and saturating. There are many very rich frames in detail. However, most of those scenarios, which may be art paintings, are false. They are false in the sense that they are not real. They’re computer-generated. You believe them and your mind admires them being so well done. No one’s going to deny that the CGI’s work  is excellent.

The first thing that catches the eye is that the film lasts 3 hours and 52 minutes. I repeat 3 hours and 52 minutes. I’m saturated with watching a football game that lasts 90 minutes. Well, imagine watching almost 3 football matches in a row. If you’re planning on watching it, book several hours of your life sitting on a couch watching a stressful movie.

Figure 1. Poster of Justice League of Zach Snyder (spanish version)

What it’s about in less than 200 words The Justice League

In the past, Darkseid  and  his Parademons tried to conquer Earth using the Mother Boxes and found that the Earth was home to the Anti-Life Equation. The attempt was thwarted by a unified alliance of ancient gods, Amazons, Atlanteans,  humans and a Green Lantern. After the battle, the Boxes hid in different places, guarded by the Amazons, the Atlanteans and the Humans, respectively.

In the present, Superman’s death reactivates the Boxes, which provokes the attention of Steppenwolf,one of Darkseid’s servants, to Earth. Steppenwolf, intends to gather the boxes to form “the Unit”, and regain the favor of his boss  Darkseid.

Now, Batman brings together a series of superheroes to combat steppenwolf’s threat. The justice league consists of Batman,  Flash,  Wonder Woman,  Cybor,  Aquaman and a reincarnate  Superman. They will fight the bad guys until they defeat them and ununite the 3 mother boxes and save the world and you waste your free time.

Cinema is entertainment, not cool things to entertain

Cinema is entertainment, doesn’t need to overwhelm the viewer. Alfred Hitchcock  didn’t need to saturate with images. One plane has an actor, another in front, a set and a dialogue. Does it take anything else to create cinema? The answer is no.

For example, in Vertigo  most scenes have a fixed component, landscape, furniture etc., and a moving component that is usually the character. The stage is very rich as can be seen in Fig. 2. We focus on the character itself, but we absorb very well the environment that surrounds it. What do we get out of this? Well, let the viewer notice the characters.

Figure 2. Vertigo scene rich in details, but movement only of the actors

If you fill the screen with explosions, fights, bullets, people dying, falling buildings, I’m sorry to tell you that’s not cinema, it’s overestimating the mind of the one who sees it. And besides, you do it for a long time, it involves emotional stress. In Fig. 3 you can see what I expose.

batalla liga de la justicia
Figure 3. Scene from The Justice League, movement across all over the screen

Dramatically increases cognitive load. Your brain receives hundreds of signals per second, not per minute. It’s a whole avalanche of information that saturates your senses, starting with sight. What are the consequences of that?

  • In the future you won’t remember anything you’ve seen. This is offset by the fact that many fans of these films watch them many times and somehow feed back and think they remember everything.
  • The pattern is very repetitive with other films of the same superhero genre. If they put a frame of a movie on you, you won’t know what it is. Superheroes are repeated, action scenes are very similar, etc. They change the bad guys (they usually kill them in every movie) but if you put a picture of a superhero it’s going to be hard to tell what the movie is.
  • You’re not going to know exactly what to look at on the screen. As so many things happen at once in so many places your eyes are only able to see one part of the screen, leaving the rest blind for you.

Because the slow motion resource oversaturates in The Justice League

Much of the film is slow motion. Slow motion (slow mo) is a visual effect that allows you to artificially slow down an action in order to increase visual or emotional impact.

Just because you put a scene in slow motion doesn’t mean you increase the impact of the scene, you can get it, but there are many scenes where you wonder what this resource is used for?

The Good Ones of The Justice League

The good guys are the heroes. Or in this case the superheroes. They’re heroes but supers for having some kind of super power. I mean, super powerful mutants. It highlights its cruelty. By rising in the fact that they are the good massacre, kill, annihilate, destroy all the bad guys they find in their way.

It stands out above all Wonder Woman. In one scene she annihilates all the bad guys and a little girl asks if she can be like her when she’s older. You want to be a criminal killer? I don’t understand, wouldn’t it be better to be a researcher looking for virus vaccines that don’t exist yet? There is no more female empowerment than winning a Nobel prize in a scientific branch.

Superheroes should be less bellical and since the word justice is in the title of the film they could have some empathy with the poor winged devils (the parademons) who have ridiculous power by their side. Not only do they kill them, but they abuse them. Doesn’t anyone have empathy for parademons?

The Bad Guys of The Justice League

There’s a lot of bad guys in this movie. We can sum them up in three types: the bad guys, the bad bad guy and the bad bad bad guy.

The bad guys

Here would be the parademons. They’re bad guys who take orders from the bad bad guy or the bad bad guy. They are tertiary actors of the plot and in addition to being demons fly to have wings. They’ve charged very little because they’re made by computer. They take orders and just as ants try to comply but always lose. They are losers.

The Bad Bad

The baddest of the previous bad guys is… Steppenwolf. He’s got a lot of skewers because he likes to poke. They’ve redesigned the bad guy for this movie because Joss Whedon’s had a different look. I don’t understand why it’s so ugly. With skewers, horns, deformed body.

The Bad Bad Bad

The bad guy badder than the bad guy before and meaner than the bad fliers of the beginning is… Darkseid.

The use of technology does not make a film a masterpiece

There are movies that have a very bad time for. Others, however, bear this inexorable step very well. Some silent films, made with very rudimentary means, can see her having the feeling that they are bad because we know how they have made them and we find them poor.

If we want to make a great movie, with the means that we have at our fingertips today is a simple mission. Money gets you to create a scenario full of details and thousands of elements.

Color study

I’m going to compare  Vertigo  to Zach Snyder’s Justice League by studying the color of both films. In Vertigo the visual impact is made through color. The choice of color is not arbitrary and the psychology of color is of great importance.  Color is one more  element of the cinematic language with which Alfred Hitchcock speaks to the viewer.

Green is usually associated with something mysterious and sinister. These features are how Scottie sees Madeleine. In addition Hitchcock used special green filters in some scenes to add a slightly blurry fog effect and a mysticism sensation to the shot.

When Scotty took Madeleine home after her suicide attempt, the audience realizes that he is in love with her and cannot resist. Here Scottie wears a green sweater and gives Madeleine her red robe. Obviously, the colors here were not chosen by chance. Scottie’s trying out the green color of her beloved symbolizes her closeness. Scottie is no longer just an outside observer, he’s trying to get into Madeleine’s life to solve her secret.

Red and green are complementary colors as can be seen in Fig. 4. Opposite or complementary colors are those colors that are in a facing position within the chromatic circle.

scale of color

Figure 4. Chromatic circle

Interesting how, to emphasize and highlight green, Hitchcock also introduces red. Green and red are facing each other in the color circle. Together they form a harmonious couple and a strong contrast creating the so-called “contrast of complementary colors”.

Red is the second major color in the film. It increases the feeling of tension and warns us about the problems that lie ahead.

Red and gree in movie Vertigo

Nothing related to color has been described in The Justice League. Well, yes… a black-and-white version has been made.

Summary

Accustomed to film, to watching movies, for years, I find the idea that some directors have today in hyper-stimulating the minds of viewers wrong. Cinema has to have stunning images that are recorded in your memory. Film artworks are films that have been in our heads for years and that we enjoy when we see or remember it again.

If we make a movie that has over 100 stunning images, you’re unlikely to remember any of them. Your brain absorbs all that information and then you’re likely to have gaps in what you’ve seen. Also the pattern of these superhero movies is very similar.

In short, the film The League of Justice I consider to be entertaining but I cannot consider it a masterpiece of cinema. It’s a masterpiece of technique, visual effects, but not cinema.

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