Self-explanatory article. Here is a full review of the film.
9. The Martian Manhunter
Did this make sense? No. Did it undercut the surprisingly poignant Martha/Lois scene? Yes. Does the mere presence of The Martian Manhunter make up for those two things? Yes. I apologize for nothing. Long live the Martian Manhunter. I do not make the rules.
8. Ciaran Hinds’ Steppenwolf
Generally speaking, I am not terribly interested in the concept of “boosting” the reputation of this film just by comparing it to the corporate/Whedon cut released in 2017. I will make an exception here though as both in look and characterization, Steppenwolf receives a major upgrade. The look is obviously better as he went from completely generic to a rather fascinating adjustable metal suit that seemed to have a mind of its own or at least was connected to Steppenwolf’s brain somehow so that he could bend it to his will. The characterization also is just light years better as the beleaguered servant of Darkseid desperate to prove his worth again gave his character some stakes in all this beyond the generic apocalyptic variety. For a B-list villain if not worse, this was done quite well in general but even more so in comparison to what was released in 2017.
While it is terribly embarrassing that this is an accomplishment that is necessary to acknowledge in any way, it is nonetheless notable and admirable that six main characters in this film are in fact actual characters with motivations and characteristics wholly unique to them that allow each of them to have a journey (of admittedly varying lengths and quality) throughout the film. More superhero films should hopefully get across this bar soon so things like this never need to be acknowledged as a feat of note.
6. Jeremy Iron’s Alfred
A long-standing talking point at The Reel World is that Jeremy Irons is very good as Alfred. One of Snyder’s biggest victories in his strong portrayal of Bruce and his world in general is that he trusted the audience to understand the basics of Bruce and Alfred enough to allow people to fill in the blanks as to why they act and think the way they do after “fighting crime” in Gotham City for decades at this point. Irons effortlessly conveys all the frustration, bitterness, and tenderness that would result from such a dynamic.
5. Superman vs. The Justice League
One of the sequences from the 2017 film was apparently hardly altered at all, as most of it was shot before Snyder left the project. Superman in psycho mode is always a terrifying dynamic, and it’s played about as well as it can be right here. There are a lot of nice notes that the film plays here with Aquaman being the only sensing something is up before anyone else does, Wonder Woman standing toe to toe with him, Cyborg losing control of his auto self-defenses, and the restored sequence of Superman trying to smash the Flash. Probably the best action sequence in the film and might have deserved a little more time given the significance of it.
4. Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne
In a remarkable turn of events, Ben Affleck has established himself as a top tier portrayal of Bruce Wayne/Batman. The key to the character is his self-delusion and the fact that he is so wrong about everything which gets compounded by his defining stubbornness and need for total and complete certainty in order to function. Despite twenty years of cleaning up Gotham, it is still a shithole by all accounts. When faced with the prospect of a being like Superman, Bruce clung to the idea that he needed to protect the world from him to compensate for his unspoken failures in Gotham. When forced to confront how badly he botched, he convinces himself that swinging to the complete opposite end of the pendulum will fix everything. He has no means of coping with confronting his own failure in any way that would be helpful long term. Instead it just leads to him in this film creating bigger problems and “losing more slowly” despite his stated policy of avoiding doing just that. An iconic portrayal of pop culture’s most popular sociopath.
3. Joe Morton’s Silas Stone
Joe Morton could have played this role in his sleep and gotten the job done. Instead, he really seemed to put a ton into this and turned what could have been a nothing-but-plot-point character into a significant emotional center of the film. His relationship with his spoke to so many of the themes of the film, and his eventual sacrifice carried a shocking amount of weight. Well done, Joe Morton.
2. The Amazons vs. Steppenwolf
All on its own, this scene is tight as hell. The “We have no fear!” chant from the Amazons is genuinely chills inducing. The setup is genuinely well done. Given that the mother box has been dormant for so long it made sense that the Amazons had a “fire drill” in place but after multiple millennia it would be no wonder they were not fully prepared for what was to come. They had to scramble, and came up a very strong move on the go. The destruction of their building. The mad dash to escape with the box. And the final charge of the cavalry that sent a victorious Steppenwolf on his way before he could finish off the Queen. The tension was real and urgency and violence was felt on both sides.
1. Ray Fisher’s Victor Stone
Ray Fisher is just too damn good here, and Victor is too responsible for the (shockingly effective) pathos to the story. The notion that anyone could think that a version of this film could work without him at the center (if not the front) is just fucking insane. Ray Fisher is clearly a tremendous and hopefully manages to get significant opportunities going forward. He carries the movie on his back in so many ways and comes out of it looking like a potential star. If there is any justice in the world, people with clout in the industry will make sure he is not allowed to be disappeared by Warners.