After complaining about not wanting to see Zack Snyder’s Justice League movie, I finally got to see it. That was… appropriate.

If nothing else, it’s an improvement; a sequence early in the film, in Themyscira’s Wonder Woman, is much more exciting. I didn’t compare the scene to the original version, so I was going from memory, but this time it seemed longer and better choreographed, there seemed to be something at stake, even with secondary characters whose names I didn’t know, but who were certainly important to me. And some characters were clearly more fleshed out; Cyborg, Flash, and even Steppenwolf seemed more alive and interesting. It’s not a big improvement for Lois Lane, but, hey, the movie is just ….. You know, about… four hours.

When I got to the scene where Lex Luthor hires Deathstroke to kill Batman, I started texting my friend because I thought the movie was over. I didn’t think we had seen Jared Leto as the Joker yet. And then we were treated to a post-apocalypse post-credits scene where Batman, Flash, Cyborg, Mera, Deathstroke and the Joker are getting ready to go to town, with vague references to Superman being forgotten after losing Lois Lane.

At this point, I had completely forgotten that there was concept art showing Jared Leto as the Joker in the Christ-like pose, with arms outstretched, and even wearing a crown of thorns. This phrase, as well as the clip from the trailer in which the Joker utters the phrase We live in society… remind us of Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker. Oddly enough, neither the Christian Joker nor the We Live in Society monologue made it into the Snyder Cut.

It all seemed a little big, but not necessarily surprising. After seeing Man of Steel or Batman v Superman, Snyder really laid the groundwork for the Christian allegory of Superman. Justice League, in both film and direction, completed a trilogy of sorts of Superman’s Christian allegory; Man of Steel shows how he becomes the sequel, BvS shows how he sacrifices himself for the good of humanity, and Justice League shows his triumphant resurrection. And these elements are carefully integrated into the character’s personality. He is supposed to be a savior, so it makes sense to picture him with the same images many people have when they picture a savior.

But it doesn’t make sense for the Joker. I know it can be a little difficult to navigate the current DCEU continuity, but this movie and Suicide Squad are the only two appearances of the Joker we’ve had so far. In both cases, they don’t rely on a more sympathetic or heroic version of the Joker, as we saw in Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker. It’s just that this one seems to be more of a force for chaos and crime. I don’t think this necessarily detracts from the thoughtful use of Christ imagery, but I feel like it wasn’t really thought through in this case.

What’s the point of these pictures? How does thinking about the Joker as Christ change the way we think about the Joker? Does it add anything to the character? I can’t think of a sensible answer, and maybe that’s why this idea never made it into the Snyder Cut, it adds nothing to the character or the film and tarnishes the message of the whole trilogy.

As I wrote this, I realized: Oops! I accidentally posted the same message twice in a row. My last post on this blog was about the fact that the upcoming sequel to Space Jam (also a Warner Bros. film) features many familiar and iconic characters, but that those characters are used thoughtlessly or in a somewhat inappropriate context. On some level, I think that’s what’s going on here. Studios just want a vivid, memorable image that doesn’t necessarily make sense in the context of the character and story.

Again, since this wasn’t really a part of the film, it doesn’t matter in the long run, but of all the things to do with the release of the Snyder version and all the hype surrounding it, this is a question that gnaws at me: why?

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Outlook 2021/03/22

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