I like some things more than is reasonable: chicken wings, superhero movies, coffee.
Thumb on the Scale
So when I consume any such, I can’t help but distort its intrinsic quality with a personal favoritism, fudging the objective grade with my own preferential thumb on the scale. An objective D+ movie (Affleck’s Daredevil, let’s say) becomes a C+ in my book. Can’t be helped. If the main characters wear costumes and do heroic (or anti-heroic – I see you, The Boys) deeds, then the flick gets a tick up the scale. This means that even clunkers like Catwoman can’t utterly fail and are passable in a pinch.
It also means that objectively superior movies – Avengers: Endgame, Captain America: Civil War, Wonder Woman, Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther, Dark Knight – become off-the-scale A+++ timeless treasures, infinitely re-watchable.
Same with chicken wings. Perfectly crispy, tangy but not all-fire, slathered instead of smothered, served so immediately that the vinegar steam is its own reminder to slow down or risk a coughing fit. Wings like that are worth driving across the country for. Which is only one of the reasons I can’t live in Buffalo: I’d have to eat at Anchor Bar every night.
And coffee. I loves me a fragrant, fresh-brewed gourmet cuppa from a barista who knows better. But really, anything brown and hot will do, because warmth and caffeine and morning habits. Our daily instant is the ideal no-cleanup compromise for life on the road.
C Becomes A
And for each of these, there is another grade adjustment that I’ve discovered as a vagabond, where cell-signal limitations and COVID shutdowns hinder access. For every month that passes without, another letter grade is added on top.
Like last week’s chicken wings at Fernwood, where we lived on the Big Sur river for four days. They were decent: smoky, tender enough, dry-ish, salty and hot, with pungent blue cheese. Decent. Fine. A solid mid-grade C to anyone else. Add one grade for being wings and another for a month without and I ended up with an A-quality dinner on the road. That’s a win.
It’s in this vein that we watched Zack Snyder’s Justice League after venturing down from our Mount Madonna camp to Gilroy, the World’s Garlic Capital, for provisions and signal – but mostly signal. We hovered long enough in “civilization” to scoop up the four-hour recut spectacle, then scampered home to watch, me as eager as an eight-year-old with an Easter basket full of just-gathered treats.
Capes and More Capes (and Spoilers)
I grew up reading comics. Selling my 50-year collection went a long way toward paying for Libbie. So it’s inescapable that I want to see the stories I read on newsprint brought to life on digital celluloid. I want to see extraordinary feats, epic battles, and the static icons of my youth transformed to full-motion cinematic excess.
Which this movie delivers on.
I also want to see a director’s new take on a familiar origin story, not unlike a Shakespeare fan comparing multiple versions of Hamlet, and liking each for their differences and similarities.
Which this movie delivers on.
I also want the eye candy of seeing beautiful people (let’s start with Momoa, Gadot, and Cavill) in fantastical settings with half their clothes off.
Which this movie very much delivers on.
Our Modern Myth
Comics are our modern myth, and like myth they can assume certain background knowledge in the telling, which ZS’sJL does. For most viewers, this will be a distraction and a drawback; for me, the visual shorthand is a plus.
When I see Darkseid invoke his deadly, caroming Omega Beam in Cyborg’s utopian vision, or in pursuit of the anti-life equation, my context brands this as rewarding fan service for Jack Kirby’s ultimate villain. Those without intimate DC comics history will roll their eyes at another hokey, power-mad, Thanos wannabe.
Newcomers will wonder at the length of an extended scene where Flash saves a random woman driving by. I know her as Iris West, his eventual wife and critical partner in ongoing successes.
Passing references to the Lantern Corp are not throwaway dialog to me; they are exactly what I’m listening for. As is the surprise introduction of the Martian Manhunter in the guise of a background character we’ve seen for years now.
When Snyder hovers overlong on heroes posing or rendered in slo-mo detail, I see myths made real, the way I tried to do with my own pencil throughout most my teen years, when being able to re-create comic art with fidelity gave me a sense of accomplishment otherwise hard to find. Other viewers might wish those preening scenes got to the action more quickly.
It’s four hours of cinematic vanity, and I’d have welcomed four more.
To me, this movie is a solid B+. But I won’t say whether that’s before or after grading on the curve.