Zack Snyder's Justice League

Zack Snyder's Justice League ★★★★★

I've been reading a bit of Joseph Campbell lately -- aka the guy who talks about myth and who Lucas took a bunch of ideas from -- and the one thing he talks about that I find to be quite true is that we've lost our ability to relate to myth, in the sense that we no longer go to it for spiritual edification. Tradition & ritual & myth are things that people don't really respond to anymore. I don't feel confident enough in my knowledge of exactly what he's saying to explain it thoroughly, but it's definitely inspired in me the feeling, which isn't new to me, that the modern, Western, secular world is just so alienated from everything that has come before it culturally & artistically & spiritually. We float in a kind of indifferent ambient state of emptiness & irony & faux-depth.

In The Power of Myth, Campbell says -- "Myth must be kept alive. The people who can keep it alive are artists of one kind or another. The function of the artist is the mythologization of the environment and the world." People have talked about superhero films being like "modern myths" -- mostly put forward by people with no idea what their talking about trying to defend Marvel or whatever -- but Snyder's trilogy, and JL especially, truly feels like a modern myth. Gods and men, tales of creation and destruction, all of it -- truly mythic. But the reason Snyder's films work as myths whereas I feel the Marvel ones don't is exactly because one actually functions the way myths do, and for the purpose they do, and the others don't, only gesturing at an external resemblance. If the purpose of myth is to collectively or personally work through some circumstance or event or whatever, to be given to a culture for the purpose of spiritual edification, then Zack Snyder's Justice League may be the most mythic film ever made.

The sincerity, the heartfelt naivety, the earnestness -- Justice League is really beyond our cultural notions of "good" or "bad", because it's so fully the work of the man that is Zack Snyder, with all of his extravagances, with all of his ideas, with all of his emotions. And what emotions... - the "For Autumn" end title just tears your heart out and makes everything that comes before it just achingly earnest. Even external to the film itself, the whole circumstance of him dropping out of the original Justice League because of what happened -- it's just incredibly, unspeakably sad. And for him to get to make this, for her, would basically redeem the endeavor in my eyes even if it was terrible, which it is so so not. There are worse ways of spending $70 million than as an act of love to one's dead daughter.

And this is a film -- the whole trilogy really -- is the ultimate work about fathers, in a mythic sense. I mean, the Oedipus myth is pretty much the central myth for a certain set of Western males ancient and modern. The epilogue of this film (which, speaking from a boring sense of "dramatic fittingness" or "excitement" or whatever, is probably the least interesting part of the film, but who cares) is pretty much wholly concerned with father figures -- Batman, Aquaman, Cyborg, Flash, Superman; all of their stories are intimately tied up with fathers, and movingly so in many cases. But, interestingly, we still have a sixth member -- Wonder Woman. And she has no father figure story really. So, in Snyder's film(s) about the relations between fathers and their children, made by a father himself -- could we say that Wonder Woman is a kind of stand in for Snyder's daughter? The opening set piece with Wonder Woman I admit made me kind of emotional, and I have no idea why; the musical theme started and I just started feeling something, maybe tied into the whole film/trilogy itself, but I don't know. It's a great sequence in a film full of them. (Not to mention -- which I could and probably should go on about at length but won't here -- the absurdly brilliant technical and artistic achievement of the film, color wise, framing wise, movement wise, etc..) And in a lesser film, a film lacking the heart-on-the-sleeve sincerity and naivety of this one, the line from the little girl in that scene about how she wants to grow up to be like Wonder Woman would be kind of cliché and cringy; but in a film by Zack Snyder dedicated to his daughter it's kind of like the most moving and beautiful thing ever. And speaking of the epilogue again, and the weird extended dream sequence -- is this not a heartfelt expression from Snyder, here represented by Bruce Wayne, that his tragedies and losses will always haunt him, even as he does his best to move on? -- Wayne by fighting to save the world, Snyder by making films.

A line repeated by Wayne a couple times, something to the effect of "I'm choosing to have faith instead of reason", has stuck with me and I feel it's quietly the center of this film. There is of course something utopian represented by the justice league, that they choose to fight and defeat a power that has conquered tens of thousands of worlds without ever losing before; and that they continue to do so against all reason. And naturally the film itself is very utopian, although admitting that very real dangers still lie ahead and must too be confronted when they arise. And all of this in the form of a film, in the form of art, in the form of what could very well be a modern myth, something that someone somewhere can connect with in a spiritual sense and use to approach their very own personal difficulties -- I hate to say this is representative of the "power of art" or whatever, because life is way more complex than that, and this is just a movie, and I do not look to art for ultimate truths that should be found elsewhere, BUT... but.... this film is so sincere, and so unbelievably personal amidst it's massiveness, that for once I will let it be and say that. This film is beyond reason; you kind of just have to have faith in what it's doing. To steal a line out of context from Man of Steel: "Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith first; the trust part comes later."

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