Jut like Batman v Superman before it, Justice League is unfortunately packed full of material that it doesn’t need. And it’s all this odd bloat that prevent the story from becoming a cohesive, fully enjoyable film. (As it stands, it’s a confusing film with some very enjoyable bits in it.) Here are several items that could have been cut or reworked to that end.
Spoilers for Justice League.
The State of the World Post-Death of Superman
Zack Snyder loves to throw in odd montages at the start of his movies, and Justice League has this really weird setup where we see how the world has changed in Superman’s absence. Specifically, we see how hate crimes are on the rise? It’s explicit enough that we’re shown a skinhead harassing a Muslim family; the skinhead is then subdued by the police. There is anger and fear all around, people panicking crying and laying roses down at memorials for Superman all across the globe. There is a striking oddness to this setup if you’ve seen Batman v Superman, however, a film that made it clear that the world’s standing on Superman is mixed at best and outright hostile in many places. So it’s weird to suggest that Supes being gone leads to this “death of hope” that has worldwide consequences.
This culminates in Diana rushing to a stop a terrorist attack at the British Museum. And while there should be something meaningful—at least in a meta sense—in watching Diana stop a mass shooter from killing a bunch of kids, the scene ultimately undercuts her main arc in the film. Batman later gives her a hard time for shying away from the world, but the audience has already seen Diana working. It muddies an already very muddy story.
The Amazons Try to Keep Their Mother Box
Part of the reason why this segment should be cut is down to how the Amazons are shot on film this time around. Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins knew how to place the camera to make it clear that the women she was filming were powerful forces of nature that no one should mess with. The Snyder version is mostly showcasing that Amazons are hot. Which we know without strategic camera angles that focus on their posteriors and (suddenly not-armored) abs.
But moreover? This section is just a waste of time. It goes on forever, and it feels like an attempt to make fans of Wonder Woman happy by reintegrating the Amazons into the modern-day story. All we really needed was Steppenwolf breaking out of the box and Hippolyta going to light the beacon to warn Diana. It would have serviced the film better and prevented the plot from being so incredibly disjointed.
Arthur Takes a Trip to Atlantis
It turns out that a lot of Aquaman’s backstory was purged in the reshoots of the film, and that makes his whole sojourn to Atlantis a mess of a sequence. We see Amber Heard as Mera (spoiler: eventual Queen of Atlantis, the woman who Aquaman marries in the comics), working to stop Steppenwolf from obtaining the second Mother Box, which obviously doesn’t work. Arthur shows up to fight and gets his butt handed to him. Mera decides it’s time to tell Arthur off for his absence in a baffling monologue about how sad Arthur’s mother must have been to abandon him. You know, even though it’s really important for him to get back to the surface and figure out where Steppenwolf has gone.
This scene need double the context, or to be erased completely. It offers very little to fans who don’t already have some idea of the Aquaman mythos, and makes even less sense when Arthur suddenly shows up in Atlantean scale mail a few minutes later. Did Mera give that to him after chewing him out? Wouldn’t Aquaman’s journey in the film be better helped by understanding why he decides to help tiny fishing villages in the winter, instead of getting yelled at about his place under the sea?
Meeting Jim Gordon
We get it, this film really wants to be the superhero version of “The Gang’s All Here,” and as tickling as it is to see J.K. Simmons playing Jim Gordon, this scene is completely unnecessary. Batman is a detective who spends all of his time keeping an eye on what’s happening in Gotham. Alfred probably could have done some Googling and figured the kidnapping situation out without the team responding to the Bat Signal and heading to the roof of the police station. The exchanges on the roof are cute and all, but it just helps the movie continue to drag.
And it’s really there to get the stock “Batman vanishes when you’re talking to him” joke in there anyhow.
Superman Wakes Up Angry
For the most part, Henry Cavill finally gets to play Superman in Justice League. That is, a character who finally behaves like Superman. But what’s a teamup film without making everyone fight each other, right? So when Superman is revived, he’s very pissed off for some reason, and everyone in the League has to punch him to try and subdue him. Which leads to the only good part of the scene, where the Flash runs to get behind him and everyone else is attacking from the front, and Barry sees Superman turn in Speedforce to look at him and then take him out. Eventually Bruce joins the party (he’s Batman—he had to run all the way over from the other building after calling Alfred), and Superman finally gets to echo Bruce’s words from Batman v Superman at him: “Do you bleed?”
This whole impetus could have been served just a easily and far more expediently if Supes had simply woken up disoriented. It’s not hard to believe that his powers could fritz a little if he were suddenly brought back from the dead, and having a group of people trying to calm you down would probably freak you out even more. Eventually he could recognize that these people are not trying to hurt him and hurry off to part unknown to try and collect himself. Shorter scene that doesn’t require Randomly Evil Superman. Because not remembering everything about your life doesn’t fundamentally change who you are.
Save This Family
We get repeated scenes where we return to a Russian family who are right at the center of Steppenwolf’s Mother Box Unity Concert with the parademons swooping all over. And while we are clearly getting to know this family in order to worry about them by the end of the film with the Justice League swoops in to save the day, we don’t actually learn anything about them. Except for the fact that they are a family. And their home is surrounded by parademons. And they are very scared. Which makes sense, but we don’t need five scenes showcasing just how very scared they are.
This does eventually lead to Barry Allen rushing them to safety, but this could have easily been achieved without showing us the family every twenty minutes. It doesn’t give the film a sense of urgency, but rather make it confusing that they aren’t more important to overall story. You keep expecting the daughter to help out one of the heroes or something, but no. They were just there. In peril. Like ya do.
Superman Goes Home With Lois
It should be noted that I’m saying this as a fan of this particular version of Lois and Clark, as I think that their relationship is one of the best things this Superman incarnation has going for it—but nearly every scene with Lois in it could be scrapped. It pulls focus away from what’s happening in the film, and it’s mostly just there to show Lois being sad that Clark is dead and then Lois being sad that she didn’t tough out the death of her near-fiancé by throwing herself into work. We get a couple of cute lines out of it, but it ultimately distracts. All of these things could easily be dumped into the next film with Superman, which is where they belong.
Plus, there’s nothing so baffling as watching Superman wake up furious, go home confused and amnesiac, then be ready to fight alongside Batman a hour later. If we’re meant to see Clark move through the reboot of his brain, we need more of an explanation as to what he’s going through, not just a blank stare here and a smile there.
The Team Saves Batman Before He Can Martyr Himself
Sad, tired Batman is maybe the best thing to come out of the DC Cinematic Universe. After countless versions of Batman who spend their time telling everyone in earshot that they can either get with his program or leave, watching a Batman who truly wants to work with others, who feels a bit unequal to the task, who is trying his darnedest to build a new family, is far more interesting to watch. Batman who grins when Superman suddenly shows up to the fight is way more fun than Batman who has no interest in ever working with anyone ever because he is The Night and The Night is a loner, thank you very much.
But the final fight is the final fight, and we need to be focused on that. Not on how Bruce Wayne thought maybe he’d let the parademons kill him because that’s all he’s good for in the big boss battle. Fine, we get it, Batman needs to learn how it works when you’ve got a team backing you up, but he could learn that while actually, you know, fighting with the team. To be fair, at least they all give him hell for it, but it’s another place where the movie claws forward when it needs to be sprinting toward the finish line.
Those are just a few of the places where the film could be reworked. What would you have done with the editing scissors?