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REVIEW: The Batman

by @holocronGeorge and @holocronJosh

Ten years after the last solo Batman outing hit theaters, the caped crusader finally returns to the big screen in director and writer Matt Reeves’ highly anticipated DC film. Much like its titular character, The Batman has been elusive and mysterious as it slowly works its way into theaters. First announced as part of the DCEU, The Batman was originally due to be the product of Hollywood Renaissance man Ben Affleck, who would have directed, written, and starred in the film. Changes in front of and behind the camera led to Affleck stepping down as director/writer and eventually star, making way for Matt Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Cloverfield) to step in and craft a new Batman film of his own. Five years later, after a lengthy production and several release data changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Reeves’ film is finally here. And, much to our delight, The Batman excels in almost every department.

The Batman follows the dark knight (played by Robert Pattinson) in his second year of fighting crime in Gotham. The Batman teams up with Lt. Gordon (played by Jeffrey Wright) to uncover the mystery surrounding a series of gruesome murders committed by the Riddler. With the character being 83 years old at this point, every iteration of Batman, whether it be film or television or comic or video game, needs to have a unique quality to it – a reason to exist, if you will. Reeves has spoken at length about how his Batman film stands out from others in regards to it being a detective story, something other theatrical Batman films have surprisingly ignored over the years. It’s in this regard that Reeves centers his film, and does so brilliantly. The Batman is a bonafide murder mystery. Narratively and aesthetically, it bears closer resemblance to David Fincher films like Se7en and Zodiac than it does Batman films helmed by Christopher Nolan and Tim Burton. Pattinson’s Batman is the Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot of the film, uncovering clue after clue with the audience by his side. The mystery itself is gripping from the very first scene. It deals with themes of corruption and accountability effectively and maintains its momentum for much of its three hour runtime. Unfortunately, when the pieces of the puzzle finally come together and characters’ true motives are revealed in the film’s final act, the narrative and the mystery at its core conclude somewhat flatly and uneventfully. For a film that doesn’t take any short measures in regards to the complexity of its narrative, The Batman’s core mystery unfolds to reveal an acceptable, albeit underwhelming, conclusion.

Any narrative shortcomings are offset, however, by virtually every other element of the film. The first 20 minutes of The Batman may be some of the best content we’ve ever gotten in comic book movie history. These first 20 minutes set a tone for the film that is decidedly dark, moody, mysterious, and, on occasion, downright frightening. This is the darkest Batman film yet. Even though Nolan’s trilogy was similarly grounded, it featured more fantastical elements (i.e. League of Shadows, Bane) that are entirely absent in Reeves’ effort. The Batman exists in a very grounded, only slightly heightened world, in which Reeves and cinematographer Greig Fraser (Zero Dark Thirty, The Mandalorian) gorgeously bring a dark and depraved Gotham City to light. Every shot is so meticulously constructed and the superb production design makes the Gotham of Reeves’ film a character unto itself. The same can be said for Michael Giacchino’s epic and moody score. Anchored by the grand Batman theme seen in promotional footage, The Batman bolsters one of the most impressive scores in a comic book film of all time (it’s hard to resist humming the main theme after watching the film).

Another standout element of The Batman is the way in which its main character truly is a main character. Other Batman films, even ones as great as The Dark Knight, often struggle under the weight of their villains’ brilliance (i.e. Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, Jack Nicholson in Batman). While Dano delivers an excellently menacing performance as The Riddler, this is very much a Batman film with Batman at the center. Pattinson’s character is in almost every single scene of this three-hour epic. And, the character appears in suit as Batman for the vast majority of his screen time with an unmasked Pattinson featuring relatively little in the film. Moreover, the film is narrated by Bruce, evoking elements of Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One comic. All of this makes for quite the challenge for Pattinson as an actor, but he proves to be a commanding lead more than capable of helming the cape and cowl.

Other characters and performances range from serviceable to outstanding in The Batman. Zoe Kravitz plays Selena Kyle and is very much the film’s second leading character. Kravitz has shown time and time again why she is such an incredible actress, producing such a range of performances across films like Dope, Big Little Lies, High Fidelity, and most recently Kimi. Unfortunately, while the actress makes for a compelling Catwoman, the character’s role in the film’s second half loses momentum and her subplot ultimately doesn’t prove to be very interesting.

Also supporting Pattinson’s Batman are Jeffrey Wright’s Gordon and Andy Serkis’ Alfred. The latter features surprisingly little in the film and, as such, doesn’t make the level of impact that an Alfred like Michael Caine did in the Nolan trilogy. That being said, an emotional scene between Alfred and Bruce ends up being one of the film’s most touching moments. Wright triumphs as Gordon, essentially featuring as Batman’s side-kick for much of the film. Wright brings a certain gravitas to the role as Gordon delicately navigates a fragile middle-ground between Batman and the Gotham City Police Department.

Facing off against Batman are Colin Farrell’s Penguin, John Turturro’s Carmine Falcone, and, of course, Paul Dano’s Riddler. Dano is very much the film’s central villain, but provides an impact off-screen almost as much as he does on-screen. Dano’s scenes are almost always shrouded in darkness and captured in poor quality on a camera. Nonetheless, Dano is a menacing and haunting presence throughout. Colin Farrell is also excellent as The Penguin. He proves to be The Batman’s most theatrical character, but is less in the vein of Danny DeVito’s performance in Batman Returns and more akin to slightly over-the-top gangsters in Scorsese pictures. It was always an odd choice casting Farrell in this role and having him wear such extensive makeup and prosthetics, and the film doesn’t necessarily justify this odd choice. If Reeves wanted to go for a Penguin of a certain look, he could have cast someone who looks more like his image of the character without the use of makeup and prosthetics. Similarly, Reeves could also have gone with a more unconventional Penguin in having Farrell play the character without such additions. The odd casting choice doesn’t take anything away from the movie per se, other than being somewhat of a distraction at times. Finally, Turturro plays the big bad crime boss Falcone in The Batman. Although Falcone’s role in the grand mystery of the film feels a bit out of place when all the pieces come together in the conclusion, Turturro nails the charm and menace of the character.

Verdict: 9/10

The Batman is easily the best Batman film since The Dark Knight. Matt Reeves crafts a sprawling and intricate mystery film that evokes elements of Fincher mysteries like Se7en and Zodiac. A slightly underwhelming conclusion to this mystery is offset by superb work in every department. DP Greig Fraser and Reeves team up again to deliver a truly beautiful looking film that is bolstered by Michael Giacchino’s dramatic and grand score. Pattinson proves to be an excellent choice for Batman and navigates the role particularly well considering the character is masked and suited up for the bulk of the running time. All of this makes for a unique, grounded, and beautiful take on Batman that finally explores the detective side of the character, while delivering everything we love about the caped crusader. Three hours fly by in a film that leaves you desperately wanting more from this world.

The Batman is in theaters March 4th.

Images courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

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New Images From The Batman Released

by @HolocronGeorge

We’re less than two months out from the highly anticipated ‘The Batman’. Directed by Matt Reeves and starring Robert Pattinson, the movie will be the first Bat-flick in nearly a decade. The film is described as a year two tale, in which they will not tell the character’s famous origins story once again but will depict Bruce Wayne as a young Batman. Check out the new pictures below:

New, clearer looks at The Riddler and Penguin, along with some great behind the scenes shots which give us a fresh look at the incredible new Batsuit. We’re certainly excited.

Images courtesy of Warner Bros and DC Entertainment

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‘New Gods’ and ‘The Trench’ Not Moving Forward at DC and Warner Bros.

By @HolocronJosh and @HolocronGeorge for @DCMotherbox

Two previously announced DC films will not be moving forward at Warner Bros. Ava Duvernay’s ‘New Gods’ and James Wan’s Aquaman spin-off, ‘The Trench’, are not part of the upcoming DC films slate, the studio confirmed Thursday:

“As part of our DC slate, some legacy development titles including New Gods and The Trench will not be moving forward. We thank our partners Ava DuVernay, Tom King, James Wan and Peter Safran for their time and collaboration during this process and look forward to our continued partnership with them on other DC stories. The projects will remain in their skillful hands if they were to move forward in the future.”

DuVernay had been developing New Gods since the announcement of the project in 2018, and was penning the script with comic book author Tom King. Meanwhile, The Trench was set to be a horror spinoff of Aquaman and centered around the dangerous and monster-like sea creatures seen in the Jason Momoa led film in 2018. Noah Gardner and Aidan Fitzgerald had written the script with James Wan set to produce.

There are still many DC films and projects in development, with four set to release next year: The Batman, Black Adam, The Flash, and Aquaman 2. Shows are also in active development and set to air on HBO Max, such as James Gunn’s Suicide Squad spin-off series centered on Peacemaker (John Cena), along with Matt Reeves’ Gotham PD series.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

Images Courtesy of DC and Warner Bros

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Pierce Brosnan to Play Doctor Fate in ‘Black Adam’

by @HolocronJosh for @DCMotherbox

Pierce Brosnan has been tapped to play Doctor Fate in the upcoming DC film ‘Black Adam’ starring Dwayne Johnson.

Brosnan is perhaps best known for playing James Bond in ‘The World is Not Enough’ and ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’, and was the last actor to play 007 before Daniel Craig inherited the role. He has also starred in ‘Mamma Mia’ and ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’. More recently, Brosnan can be seen in the Eurovision Song Contest film for Netflix.

Brosnan will play Doctor Fate, aka Kent Nelson, a character derived from the comics and who was given the Helmet of Fate. He will star alongside Dwayne Johnson, the lead actor, and the film is scheduled to begin production this April.

‘Black Adam’ has already signed on many big names, including Aldis Hodge as Hawkman, Noah Centineo as Atom Smasher, and Quintessa Swindell as Cyclone.

This casting comes just one day after the news that Helen Mirren will play the villain in the upcoming Shazam! 2 film. In the comics, Shazam and Black Adam are arch rivals, so expect to see these two upcoming films intersect in some way.

Although it has no current release date, Black Adam is expected to release sometime in 2022.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

Images courtesy of WarnerMedia, Parade, and DC Films

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Helen Mirren Joins Cast of ‘Shazam: Fury of the Gods’ as Villain

by @holocronGeorge for @DCMotherbox

Academy Award winner Helen Mirren has joined the cast of Shazam: Fury of the Gods, the sequel to David F. Sanberg’s 2019 film.

Mirren will play the villain Hespera, who is described as the daughter of Atlas. Hespera doesn’t appear to be based on any DC Comics character in particular, at least based on her name, but Atlas has appeared in various projects, including Jack Kirby’s run in the mid-1970s.

This isn’t Mirren’s first foray into blockbuster territory. In addition to her illustrious career, the Oscar winner has played roles in the Fast and Furious and Red franchises.

Mirren is an impressive addition to the growing cast of the Shazam sequel. She joins West Side Story actress Rachel Zegler, whose character is still being kept secret.

Shazam: Fury of the Gods sees the return of Zachary Levi and Asher Angel sharing double duties as the titular superhero. David F. Sanberg will continue his work in the director’s seat following the strong positive critical and fan reception to the first film in the franchise.

Stay tuned for more coverage of Shazam: Fury of the Gods ahead of its release in June 2022.

Images courtesy of Warner Bros, The Telegraph, and DC

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WarnerMedia CEO Casts Doubt on The Continuation of the Snyderverse

by @holocronJosh for @DCMotherbox

WarnerMedia CEO Ann Sarnoff recently spoke with Variety about the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, the highly anticipated DC project that was met with critical and public acclaim acclaim since it’s HBO Max debut on March 18. Since then, many have wondered if a sequel to the film will be developed, especially given some of the plot arcs that are set up. Many have demanded a continuation of this tale, evidenced by #RestoretheSnyderverse trending on Twitter for days after Justice League’s release. On this fan demand, Sarnoff stated:

“I appreciate that they love Zack’s work and we are very thankful for his many contributions to DC. We’re just so happy that he could bring his cut of the Justice League to life because that wasn’t in the plan until about a year ago. With that comes the completion of his trilogy. We’re very happy we’ve done this, but we’re very excited about the plans we have for all the multi-dimensional DC characters that are being developed right now.”

Sarnoff instead cited the production of upcoming DC projects as the future of the brand. The Batman, The Suicide Squad, and more are currently in various stages of development.

This news is sure to be disappointing for the fans that enjoyed the Snyder Cut, but as the director of that film said himself, never say never. The release of the allusive Snyder Cut of Justice League seemed far fetched not so long ago, and now the film is out with newly shot scenes that set up potential sequels even included. If Snyder’s sequels are never realized, fans can be happy that his version of Justice League was released, as well as having other DC films and shows to look forward to.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is now streaming on HBO Max.

Images courtesy of HBO Max, WarnerMedia, and DC

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SPOILER REVIEW: Zack Snyder’s Justice League

by @holocronGeorge for @DCMotherbox

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Zack Snyder’s Justice League

With a sprawling runtime of over 4 hours, there’s a lot to unpack with Zack Snyder’s Justice League, much of which can’t be done without covering spoilers. It’s surprising to talk about spoilers for a movie that has been billed by many as an ultimate director’s cut, but this just highlights the extent to which the Snyder Cut is a completely different entity than the film we all saw in 2017. If you’re curious about our general opinions on the film, check out our non-spoiler review. But, in this review, we’re going to delve deeply into all the ins and outs of Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

What better place to start than the very beginning. Snyder opts to open his film with a reexamination of the dramatic death of Superman seen in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Out of a film that we confidently gave a 9.5 out of 10 in our non-spoiler review, in which we branded the Snyder Cut as the best DCEU film yet, the opening credits sequence of Zack Snyder’s Justice League felt kind of awkward and was probably the weakest sequence out of what was truly an incredible film. While the subtext of Superman’s cry being heard all around the world is poignant, something about this sequence feels off. The visual effects look a bit awkward and the sound traveling around just doesn’t really work. That being said, the second the words ‘Directed by Zack Snyder’ grace the screen and Ben Affleck’s Batman enters the cavern to locate Arthur Curry is pretty much where our criticisms of the Snyder Cut end.

This is in stark contrast to the theatrical cut’s opening, spotlighting Batman using a thief as bait to attract the attention of a parademon. The entire concept of parademons smelling fear has thankfully been left behind in favor of a much more ominous threat in the Snyder Cut. Steppenwolf is no longer the silly characterture of a villain we previously saw, but is, instead, a hulking, merciless menace. The scene where Steppenwolf and his legion of parademons drag captured Atlantians out of the ocean to interrogate them regarding the Mother Box’s location was beautifully shot and showcased the real threat posed by these characters. 

The Snyder Cut not only ramps it up in terms of violence, but also in terms of emotional impact. Subtle shifts in lighting, editing, and dialogue make Barry’s connection with his imprisoned father so much more poignant. Lois’ conversation with ‘Martha’ was so heartfelt in conveying the trauma Clark’s death had on Lois and how it continues to impact her. It’s difficult, though, to not speak about Justice League’s emotional impact without mentioning Cyborg. As we noted in our non-spoiler review, we wholeheartedly agree with Zack Snyder’s sentiment that Ray Fisher’s character is the heart and soul of the movie. As an audience, we feel Victor’s pain as he has transformed into this new being, but also as we see Victor come to grips with this new reality and forge bonds with a new family. It was really touching to see the movie begin with Victor listening to a recording from his father, and then the film conclude with the continuation of this recording in a heartfelt speech about being a father and living a valued, meaningful life despite obstacles.

One of the more surprising things about the Snyder Cut was its similar handling of Superman as its 2017 counterpart. Yes, we don’t have the abominable CGI to mask Henry Cavill’s mustache and Superman isn’t making awkward jokes about brunch. But, overall, Superman’s role is largely the same across both cuts. With several incredible exceptions. The black suit is jaw dropping, as is the scene where Clark dons the suit. Hans Zimmer’s theme from Man of Steel always gives me goosebumps and its inclusion in the Snyder Cut was no exception. Superman’s iconic return to the battlefield is handled much better in Zack Snyder’s version with the sheer power and might of the Kryptonian on full display. And the scene in which the league discusses and eventually decides to resurrect Superman was dumbfoundingly altered for the theatrical cut – dumbfoundingly in that it was easily one of the best scenes in Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

It’s really Part 6 and the epilogue where we delve deeply into spoiler territory. Darkseid casts a long shadow across the whole film, but his appearance during the final act was breathtaking. As he appears, the characters, along with the audience, are flooded with a sense of dread. And this dread culminates in yet another catch-your-breath moment as the team loses their efforts to stop the Unity. Cyborg’s haunting proclamation of this loss resonates strongly and, for a moment, the audience sits with the league as we watch them lose everything before our eyes. Shortly after, however, we see The Flash save the day in spectacular fashion. And the usage of time travel in the speed force nicely sets up the aspects of Flashpoint that are likely to be seen in Barry Allen’s upcoming solo film. As the team recovers from their temporary loss, we see Wonder Woman behead Steppenwolf, a far better conclusion to the character’s journey than his demise in the theatrical cut. But, even as the league wins the battle, there’s a sense that the war has just begun.

Coming off the final battle, Zack Snyder’s Justice League just follows with one punch after another. The entire epilogue feels like a series of in-movie post-credits scenes (yes, we understand how absurd that sounds), in the best possible way. First, we get an altered version of one of the theatrical cut’s post-credits scenes. Deathstroke and Lex Luthor converge again, but much of their dialogue is altered. It’s hard to watch this scene and not think of what could’ve been, given that the encounter quite obviously sets up plot threads that would’ve been explored in a Batman solo film directed by and starring Ben Affleck. This scene would’ve been enough to leave fans satisfied, but Zack Snyder doesn’t stop there.

In what is inevitably going to be regarded as the film’s most iconic scene, we are welcomed back into the Knightmare world. The visceral, vision/dream-type glimpse into the future took fans aback when we first saw it in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and, somehow, Snyder surpasses himself with Justice League’s Knightmare sequence. This glimpse into the apocalyptic world that the future beholds is haunting. Our cast of heroes has dwindled down to but a few. But our cast now also includes a few villains, in Deathstroke and the scene stealer himself Joker. Seeing Ben Affleck’s Batman and Jared Leto’s Joker finally converge and share a series of verbal blows exceeded any and all expectations we had for this scene. Joker taunting Batman about the murder of Robin sent chills down our spines. But the icing on the cake was Batman’s proclamation that he “will f***ing kill” Joker when the time comes. This is not a Batman who is consumed with an internal dialogue of morality. This is a hardened Batman living in a hardened world, desperate to do whatever he can to reverse the devastation that occurred and enact justice in his own brutal way. In a single scene, Leto shows more than ever why he was cast as Academy Award winner Heath Ledger’s successor in the ultimate villain role. His back-and-forth with Batman felt like it was straight out of a classic DC comic. His outfit disturbingly evoked Christ imagery. And his depraved laughter upon the arrival of the villainous Superman was palpable. All in all, in a movie that already blew us away, the film’s Knightmare sequence stood apart.

But, it doesn’t end there as we see Harry Lennix appear as J’onn J’onzz, a.k.a. Martian Manhunter. Fans have long speculated that Lennix’s General Swanwick was actually the Martian Manhunter and we finally got confirmation of this in Zack Snyder’s Justice League. It was touching to see the character take the form of Martha Kent as a means to help Lois heal from the trauma of losing the person she loved the most. And it was incredible to behold the character in full view go face-to-face with Bruce Wayne. Martian Manhunter’s look is spot on and evokes the best depictions of the character from comics and animated projects. Lennix has an iconic voice, a voice that is amplified with subtle changes to his performance as the Martian Manhunter.

It’s difficult to watch scenes like this, the Deathstroke-Lex encounter, and the Knightmare sequence without thinking that Zack Snyder has plans to continue this narrative in future films. At least, we hope that’s something the acclaimed director intends to do as the Snyder Cut is a fantastic movie on its own, while also setting up so many interesting plot threads to explore in subsequent films. The anti-life equation. Deathstroke knowing Batman’s identity. The emergence of Martian Manhunter. There is so much to explore here, but, for the time being, we are so happy that Zack Snyder’s true vision for Justice League is finally actualized.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is now streaming on HBO Max. Stay tuned to DC Motherbox and Star Wars Holocron for continued coverage of the Snyder Cut.

Images courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment and HBO Max

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INTERVIEW: Zack Snyder talks Justice League, its 4-hour runtime, alternate cuts, and Snyder Cut spoilers

by @holocronGeorge for @DCMotherbox

WARNING: This Q&A contains spoilers for Zack Snyder’s Justice League

After years of fan outcry, begging for the true vision of director Zack Snyder to be actualized and released to the public, Justice League (yes, the REAL Justice League) has arrived. Snyder’s Justice League couldn’t be more different than the theatrical version released in 2017. The film is a sprawling 4 hours and 2 minutes long, delving deeply into the individual members of the league as they come together in an effort to stop the villainous Steppenwolf. Recently, Snyder conducted a spoiler Q&A, where he outlined his intentions and inspirations in making Justice League, how liberating the extended runtime was, how the Batman/Joker scene came together, and more. 

As someone who has not seen the previous version, your concept remains pristine. How would you describe the Justice League story you set out to tell?

Justice League is a story of a group of misfits. They’re superheroes but they’re all kind of wayward, and each of them has a certain skill sets needed to save the world. It’s the story of the coming together of those lost souls into a family. They form a relationship and become partners so that they can do good, save the world, what have you. But in it, they’re able to go through a catharsis with themselves and their own demons — and of be better in the end. 

Have you always been into comic books?

I was always a fan of illustrated media. Growing up, I was a big fan of Heavy Metal Magazine, which is an adult illustrated fantasy magazine that I got ahold of at a very young age… Too young. It really shaped my aesthetic. So yes, I have been a fan of that way of illustrated storytelling for a long time. It has informed the cinematic language of the way I like to tell stories with pictures as much as possible.

Four hours allows for a lot of world building. What was your process for choosing what gets more focus and screen time?

When we started off, Chris Terrio and I knew there might be other films: there was a Flash film in production with a big role for Cyborg, and the Wonder Woman movie had not come out yet. We worked with the Flash writers and I was deeply involved in the Wonder Woman storyline. Also, we were planning a 2nd and 3rd Justice League movie where we would be also able to complete the arcs we had fully fleshed out. The idea was to meet Cyborg, who was set to be the heart of this movie. At the time we hadn’t come up with a Cyborg standalone, but that was our plan. So, we did the deepest dive of the movie into Cyborg’s backstory and what makes him tick.

There is so much source material, and canon can mean something different to everyone. How did you decide what to mine and what to create?

Chris and I knew where we wanted the story to go. A lot of what I use as canon is more classic and well-established, but we also look to writers we really liked. In addition to Jack Kirby’s classic work on the New Gods, we looked at Grant Morrison’s and Alex Ross’s takes on the Justice League. I like to look at these movies like a comic book writer who’s taking a run at a character in a comic book series. A lot of times they’ll do original stuff, come up with a new twist. That’s how we approach it a lot of time, too. We have our time with these characters, and someone will come along after us, and they’ll have their time — and it will be different. I think that’s really healthy for comics and for the mythology, and I hope it continues. 

Even for superheroes, some of these backstories are unusually lengthy.

In order for the Justice League to have any gravitas, you really have to understand who they were and what made it difficult for them to come together. In the comics, the origin stories of all these heroes are well known. We took a lot from canon. When you introduce a superhero, it’s important to understand what makes him tick, where his powers came from. Mythologically speaking, those things are often intertwined: your origin stories and where your powers lie. We were very interested in understanding where these characters came from. Then we painted, with a detailed brush, who they are when we meet them to join the Justice League.

I know you mostly mined your original footage, but the movie is four hours… What additional scenes did you shoot?

The only new scene is the Batman/Joker scene. The rest of it was the original movie. 

Wow. So, although most of this was in the editing – hence “The Snyder CUT” – the Joker/Batman scene must have required a lot of work, especially trying to pull it off during a pandemic. Was this a completely new idea?

After I realized there would be no more Zack Snyder DC movies, my biggest regret was that there was no Batman/Joker confrontation scene. It’s the key relationship for both of them. They both went through a series of films and never ran into each other. It didn’t make sense to me. So, I thought maybe I could remedy that. The idea was that we would do it without telling anybody. I talked to Jared and said we’d get him and Ben and shoot it in my backyard…just sneak it into the movie. Then I just wrote the scene and it turned out we could shoot it.

When they reference Robin and Harley Quinn… Did you see this scene as a way of tying things up or opening things up?

It does open doors, I know. The main notion is that Joker killed Robin. The revelation of the scene is that Harley is dead, and Batman was there in that moment. As well as that somehow Joker has to help Batman fix the world. Which is all part of this post-apocalyptic nightmare reality we were gunning toward in the second and third movies.

Martian Manhunter also has a pivotal scene with Batman and anchors an enhanced Lois Lane storyline and. Why give him so much visibility (or invisibility, in the case of Martha Kent)?

Traditionally, in genre, the coda takes you to the next film or into the next universe. Also, it just ties up what’s happened in the movie in a way. I’ve always been a fan of Martian Manhunter. As a character, he intrigues me. I don’t know what his reluctance to engage in humanity is about, but he has all these incredible powers. For years, I have been thinking about having Swanwick’s alter ego be Martian Manhunter. I really saw him as a springboard. So, we thought: Let’s have Martian Manhunter take on the shape of Martha Kent to get Lois to reengage with the world. And at the end, I’ll bring him back to launch a dark side war. It’s a way to talk about what Bruce Wayne’s role really was. Also, if the Darkseid comes, you’re going to need all hands on deck to face that.

Has your vision changed at all between when you were going to make it and when you were finally able to?

I think it’s very close. I’m sure there have been some emotional shifts that have gone on that have put a different prism for the light to shine through. It’s the same story, but there’s more water under the bridge. 

What are some elements that you’re glad you got to put into this cut?

I love seeing a little bit of a day in the life of Barry Allen. I love the sequence where Flash runs time back, it’s super psychedelic. I think the movie is pretty psychedelic overall. Even just all the stuff with Cyborg inside his mindscape.

I like seeing Bruce starting to turn toward a less dark, calculated character, one that’s inspired by faith that the world will turn correctly as opposed to a character who believes the world will always turn toward the dark. That’s a big move for Bruce in the movie. 

The themes of faith really echo in the film. Is that a more recent development?

It has always been there, that notion. Of course, we underline it a little harder now than we have in the past. Moving into the light seemed important for these guys.

Out of all the characters in this film/universe, which do you identify with most?

It’s hard to say. I look at the Justice League like they are personality traits of a single being more than individuals. Barry is your humor and boyish charm and naiveté, Bruce is the sort of father figure who is a little bit jaded by the life he has lived, Superman is the best of us. Cyborg is our best self that has been held back. It’s a fun game to play.

(Says Deborah: “For a long time, there wasn’t anyone I could relate to, so it was super important when we were working on BVS to find the right Wonder Woman. Gal embodies all the characteristics and amazing qualities. To bring her to the screen and be a producer on WW was so exciting for me. My daughter and my son will never know that there isn’t this strong woman out there because she is in their world.”) 

What is it about this project that inspires such a steadfast commitment from the fan community toward something they’ve never even seen?

I think that people want this version of the movie, because I take it seriously. And I take it personally. And I love the characters like they do. I feel like that resonates with fans with regards to how they see the DC universe and how they see these characters. And that relationship fuels a lot of the deep dives people take into the Snyderverse version of the DCEU.

To be able to tell this story unencumbered, is that freeing or more stressful?

The movie itself is one of those few times I wasn’t making it for anyone, I was just making it. Whether it’s superfans or the uninitiated or whoever watching it. It has nothing to do with it. It’s more like reading someone’s journal than it is reading someone’s novel. I think that’s part of the unique experience of the film. I’ll be honest. It’s kind of the way I work anyway. I’ve always been slightly embattled throughout my career. I think it makes for good rewatching.

Finally, what’s the most fun moment you remember having on set?

When we were shooting Jason (Momoa) on his walk down the jetty, we had built these massive water cannons that fire water at him. BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. It was hilarious, because he just had to stand up there and we had no idea what would happen. It wasn’t pleasant but it looked cool, so he was down. He goes: how many times do I have to do this? And I go: I don’t know, a few times. I think he thought he had to only do it the one time. And it was more like, 30 times. I just remember this one time, we blasted him with water, he literally disappeared. Then the water subsided, and he’s just standing there, like: WOOOOOOOO!

Zack Snyder’s Justice League arrives on HBO Max on March 18. Stay tuned to DC Motherbox and Star Wars Holocron for continued coverage of the film.

Images and interview courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment and HBO Max

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What to Watch Before Zack Snyder’s Justice League

by @holocronGeorge for @DCMotherbox

After years of requests to see the fabled version of Justice League, it’s a matter of days before fans can finally see the Snyder Cut (it’s well worth the wait). So, what better way to spend the hours waiting for Zack Snyder’s Justice League than to immerse yourself in several key DC and Zack Snyder films. Here’s some films we recommend in preparation for the Snyder cut:

Man of Steel

The first movie in the DCEU, Man of Steel soared into theaters in 2013 and has been one of the closest things to a cult classic we’ve gotten in the superhero genre. Man of Steel is fantastic and largely got overlooked when it debuted. With an entirely new take on Superman, Zack Snyder gave the title character a breath of fresh air, rejuvenating Superman with Henry Cavill in the lead role. Man of Steel is vital viewing pre-Snyder Cut as it sets the groundwork for the DCEU we’ve seen unfold since. Superman is arguably the plot of the main storyline of the universe up until this point, with his presence setting up the conflict in Batman v Superman, the reaction of the U.S. government in Suicide Squad, and the universe level conflict in Zack Snyder’s Justice League. It’s definitely worth a rewatch before Thursday. 

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Ultimate Edition

Zack Snyder’s Justice League directly follows the events and storylines of Batman v Superman and, as such, going back and watching the 2016 film is more than a good choice. BvS was met with negative critical reviews and underperformed financially, but has (fortunately) been reappraised over the last few years. BvS is a criminally underrated film, especially when realized as the 3 hour R-rated Ultimate Edition. The film is a brilliant sequel to Man of Steel in directly exploring the implications of the battle in Metropolis and the arrival of Superman, rather than glossing over the importance of these events. Ben Affleck’s new iteration of Batman is dark and hardened, with his journey culminating in a reevaluation of his values that we see unfold in the Snyder Cut. More than any film on this list, BvS is necessary viewing before it’s true sequel is released. 

Suicide Squad

This will be a somewhat controversial inclusion on this list, but Suicide Squad is probably worth a reevaluation (hear us out). For as scattered and jumbled as it is, Task Force X’s live-action debut is entertaining and is unlikely to bore anyone. But perhaps more than any other reason, Suicide Squad warrants a rewatch, because we hope what happened with Zack Snyder’s true vision being realized happens with David Ayer. Ayer has been a vocal proponent of the #ReleasetheAyerCut movement and, after seeing what a mammoth improvement Snyder’s cut is over the theatrical cut, we can’t help but hope and pray that the real Suicide Squad is seen at some point. But, for the time being, we have the theatrical cut to watch. Similar to Justice League, the movie explores the aftermath of Superman’s death. And we also get our first look at Jared Leto’s Joker in this film. Given that the Academy Award winner is reprising his role as the Clown Prince of Crime in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Suicide Squad is a great movie to watch in preparation.

Watchmen – Ultimate Cut

What better way to prep for the release of a 4 hour Zack Snyder director’s cut than to watch another lengthy Zack Snyder director’s cut (this one only sits at 218 minutes). Like Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, Watchmen was woefully underappreciated upon its theatrical release in 2009 (are you sensing a pattern here?). Snyder brilliantly captures the themes and emotions of the classic Alan Moore comic, while infusing it with his own signature style. The theatrical cut was improved with not one but two extended editions, the longest of which we’re recommended. This ultimate cut includes the 186 minute director’s cut of the film and, like the graphic novel on which the film is based, is integrated with Tales of the Black Freighter edited throughout. All in all, Watchmen is dark and beautiful and intimate, making it a perfect appetizer to Zack Snyder’s next venture in the superhero genre.

Justice League

We saved the worst for last on this list and, even more so than Suicide Squad, this will be a controversial inclusion. Prior to watching the Snyder Cut, I deliberated whether or not it was a good idea to watch the film’s spotty theatrical cut. On one hand, it would make for interesting viewing prior to the fully realized vision of the film’s original director is unleashed. But, on the other hand, it may negatively impact the viewing experience of the Snyder Cut. In the end, I bit the bullet and rewatched the theatrical cut of Justice League in preparation for Snyder’s film and I’m really grateful I did. From a purely filmmaking perspective, it’s fascinating to sit back and watch two different directors approach the same film with radically divergent directions. It’s so interesting to parse apart what Joss Whedon uniquely added, as opposed to what Snyder’s original vision entailed. Beyond that, though, watching the theatrical cut deepened my appreciation of Zack Snyder’s Justice League. We never truly got a sequel to Batman v Superman and, as such, have been waiting five years to get one. The 2017 cut had moments of brightness, most of which were scenes filmed by Snyder, but, ultimately, never really came together. Viewing the Snyder cut, therefore, provides a nice juxtaposition and truly highlights how brilliant this version of the film is relative to its predecessor.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League premieres this Thursday exclusively on HBO Max. Stay tuned to DC Motherbox and SW Holocron for continued coverage of the film.

Images courtesy of Warner Bros and HBO Max

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REVIEW: Zack Snyder’s Justice League

by @holocronGeorge for @DCMotherbox

It has arrived. And by it I mean what is easily one of the most anticipated projects in recent years, a film fans have been clamoring for for so long, and a film that (we are so thankful to be able to say this) does not disappoint whatsoever. Arriving on HBO Max, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is the raw, unadulterated vision of the renowned director and the true follow-up to its predecessors Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The film picks up where the criminally underrated BvS left off, with the world reeling over the death of Superman. In his absence, the sinister Steppenwolf and his legion of parademons arrive to conquer Earth, forcing the hardened Bruce Wayne to assemble a team capable of withstanding this threat.

To say that Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a mere director’s cut of a film we’ve already seen couldn’t be further from the truth. The cut that arrived in theaters in 2017 was entertaining for what it was worth, but the compliments really stop there. It was a far cry from the polished films that came before it, a jarring patchwork of competing visions that, ultimately, felt awkward and flat. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is an entirely different film and this is evident within seconds of its kickoff. The tonally mismatched, underwhelming non-event that was the theatrical cut is replaced by this gargantuan, grand, and deeply intimate portrayal of loss, faith, and doom. The barebones plot structure mirrors that of the theatrical cut, but the differences really stop there. These are two wholly unique films.

At an astonishing 4 hours and 2 minutes (this is the longest superhero film ever made), it’s dumbfounding just how quickly the Snyder Cut seems to go by. This is largely a testament to the film’s brilliant pacing, a byproduct of intelligent scene construction and flow by Snyder and screenwriter Chris Terrio. Every scene has a clear-cut purpose and adds something unique to the film overall – not a moment is wasted, which is a massive compliment given how lengthy the film is. It is nicely split into six parts and an epilogue, each of which feel like meaty chapters in an epic novel. The extended length with its different parts really allow each scene to breathe. Unlike Batman v Superman, which was marred at times by some convoluted plotting, especially evident in its theatrical cut, few such issues exist with Zack Snyder’s Justice League. There are few, if any, points of unintentional confusion, characters’ motives are clear to the viewer, and there is plenty of time to digest what happens scene after scene. Yes, there is plenty of brutal, fast-paced, CGI-heavy action, but there are also many moments of emotional weight and intimacy that balance the entire project out. 

Perhaps the most commendable things about the Snyder Cut is the extent to which it feels like the completely realized, unfiltered vision of its director. This is the most Zack Snyder movie Zack Snyder has ever made. Every frame looks like a meticulously developed painting. The epic feel that permeates every scene of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman emerges once again. The booming score is a character unto itself. And it contains more slow-motion than any film of all time (I’m not positive about the validity of that statistic, but I highly suspect it’s true). In this sense, the film is highly unlikely to convert viewers who had a distaste for similar films, like the aforementioned DC films, Watchmen, or 300. And, ultimately, that’s okay. This film will not be for everyone. A 4 hour film of any kind, nevermind a superhero film, is not for everyone. But, regardless, there is so much to love about the Snyder Cut.

One of these things to love is the tone. Although the stakes are higher than ever in this film, Zack Snyder’s Justice League also includes more humor and moments of levity than both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman combined. And yet the humor never feels forced or out of place. The film is still brilliantly mammoth and epic with every scene filled to the brim with a sense of impending doom and threat. But the humor adds a nice, little edge to the movie throughout. This isn’t to say the movie is light in the slightest. The Snyder Cut most certainly earns its R-rating. Blood splatters, heads roll, f-bombs are dropped. The film is brutal in a really beautiful way.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League lives up to its name in showcasing the league at its finest. While the theatrical cut spent little time with each character, such that their ultimate coming together felt underwhelming, each character is now given ample time to be fleshed out. The additional scenes with Barry Allen, for instance, add so much to his character beyond the glorified comedic relief he was in the 2017 version (the same can probably be said for the much improved Steppenwolf). Gal Gadot is fantastic and Ben Affleck once again feels like the Batman we all fell in love with in Batman v Superman. He is dark and weary, but clearly changed and motivated following Superman’s sacrifice. We won’t spoil how this version of Superman differs from the character as depicted in the theatrical cut, but this is a massive improvement. It was somewhat surprising to see how Superman’s journey, ultimately, panned out very similarly across versions though, as it was to see Arthur Curry somewhat short-changed in terms of screen-time and character development relative to his fellow team members. But, perhaps the biggest change in terms of characters comes with Ray Fisher’s Cyborg. Zack Snyder once described Cyborg as the “heart” of the film and this is truly the case.

And, for a film that began production five years ago and has since been spoken out about extensively, there are still plenty of unexpected, jaw-dropping moments in Justice League. Let’s just say the last 20 minutes of the movie are some of our favorite moments from a comic book / superhero film of all time.

Verdict: 9.5/10

More than just a director’s cut, Zack Snyder’s Justice League excels in virtually every department. Epic, dark, and grand, yet intimate, funny, and heartfelt, the 262 minute epic flies by in spectacular fashion. This is not only a great sequel, but expertly sets up what is (hopefully) to come. Needless to say, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is the best DCEU film yet.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League arrives on HBO Max on March 18. Stay tuned to DC Motherbox and Star Wars Holocron for continued coverage of the film, including a spoiler review and cast/crew interviews.

Images courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment and HBO Max