So, after complaining about how I didn’t want to watch Zack Snyder’s Justice League, I did finally get around to watching it. It was… adequate.
It certainly felt like an improvement; there’s one sequence early on, set in Wonder Woman’s Themyscaira, that felt vastly more exciting. I didn’t compare the scene to it’s original cut, so I was only going off of memory, but this time around it felt longer and better-choreographed, it felt like it had stakes, even with minor characters whose names I didn’t know but I certainly cared about. And some of the characters were definitely more fleshed out; Cyborg, Flash, and even Steppenwolf seemed more alive and more interesting. No great improvement for Lois Lane, but hey, the movie’s only… y’know… four hours long.
Upon getting to the scene with Lex Luthor recruiting Deathstroke to kill Batman, I started texting my friend because I thought that the movie was done. It hadn’t occurred to me that we hadn’t seen Jared Leto as the Joker. And then we got the post-credit post-apocalypse scene in which Batman, Flash, Cyborg, Mera, Deathstroke, and the Joker preparing to charge into a city, making vague references to a Superman gone rogue after the loss of Lois Lane.
It was at this point that I had forgotten all about the fact that there had been a piece of concept art released with Jared Leto as Joker in a Christlike pose with his arms extended, even with a crown of thorns. This, along with a soundbite from a trailer in which Joker says the line “We live in a society…” which is something of a meme poking fun at what Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker sounds like. Oddly, neither the Christlike Joker nor the “We live in a society” monologue made it into the Snyder Cut.
It all seemed a bit much, though not necessarily surprising. After watching Man of Steel or Batman v. Superman, Snyder really laid it on thick with the Christian allegory as far as Superman was concerned. Justice League, both the theatrical cut and the director’s cut, completed a sort of trilogy of Superman’s Christian allegory; Man of Steel shows him gaining a following, BvS shows him sacrificing himself for the good of humanity, and Justice League shows his triumphant resurrection. And that sort of thing is thoroughly baked into the identity of the character. He’s designed to be a savior, and so presenting him with imagery similar to what many people think of when they imagine a savior makes sense.
But that doesn’t quite make sense for the Joker. I know it can be a little difficult to navigate the current continuity of the DCEU at this exact moment, but this and Suicide Squad are the only two appearances we have had of this Joker. In neither of these, they don’t go for any kind of more sympathetic or heroic version of the Joker like we saw in Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker. This one just seems to be more of a force of chaos and crime. I don’t think that necessarily prevents the thoughtful use of Christ imagery, but I feel like there wasn’t any real thought put into the this particular case.
What’s the point of this imagery? In what way does thinking about Joker as being like Christ change the way we think about Joker? Does it add anything to the character? I can’t think of any meaningful answer, and perhaps that’s why this whole idea never made it into the Snyder Cut, it just doesn’t add anything to the character or to the film, and muddles the message of the overall trilogy.
As I finished writing this, I realized, oops! I’ve accidentally done the same post twice in a row. My last post on this blog was all about how the upcoming Space Jam sequel (also a Warner Bros. movie) shows a lot of familiar and iconic characters, but uses them without any real thought or in contexts that are somewhat inappropriate. On a certain level, I think that’s what’s happening here. Studios just want a striking, memorable image without it necessarily making sense in the context of character and story.
Again, since this wasn’t an actual part of the movie, it doesn’t matter in the long run, but of all the things related to the release of the Snyder Cut and all the hype around it, this was one lingering question I still had – just, why?