Friday, June 11, 2021

JLU Scene-by-Scene: Zack Snyder's Justice League Part 1 Episode 3

This episode of the Justice League Universe podcast focuses on Wonder Woman's London rescue at the Old Bailey in Part 1 of Zack Snyder's Justice League.


  • Terrorists on Tower Bridge
  • Diana and the Statute of Justice
  • The Lasso of Truth
  • Old Bailey Fight Scene
  • Explosion and Children's Rescue
  • "Anything you want to be"

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<Transcript below>

Welcome fans of Zack Snyder’s Justice League. This is the Justice League Universe podcast where we analyze DC Films scene-by-scene. Our team currently consists of Sam Otten, Rebecca Johnson, Carolina Lomba, and myself. I’m Alessandro and in this episode we are going to look at Diana’s first scene and our first action sequence in Part 1 of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, available on HBO Max and on various streaming sites around the world.

 

This sequence starts with the continuation of the song “Distant Sky” as we see an establishing shot of London with a large, black banner across Tower Bridge with Superman’s “S” logo in silver. This display by a major world city in honoring Superman’s sacrifice and the overlap of the music expands on the previous few scenes of mourning to include the rest of the world reflecting the global impact while transitioning us to Diana’s character and her response to Superman’s death. After walking away from the world of man for 100 years, we see her donning her Wonder Woman costume once again to fill the void left by Superman which has given rise to new reactionary threats. The banner also foreshadows Superman’s new suit which has a similar color scheme.

 

We follow two white vans crossing Tower Bridge which is a nice way to bring the audience along to the new location for the upcoming scene. They drive through the streets of London allowing the change in music to set the more dramatic tone for what’s to come. It also establishes what is being threatened by the terrorists in this scene. Among the sites they pass on their way to the Old Bailey is St. Paul’s Cathedral.

 

We see the terrorists approach the criminal courthouse from a perched shot above the main entrance that includes the featured sculpture of three allegorical figures called the Recording Angel, with Fortitude and Truth. (http://www.speel.me.uk/sculptlondon/oldbaileyjustice.htm) We’re familiar with the importance of truth to Diana from her origin film Wonder Woman (2017) in which she is dismayed by Steve Trevor lying and from one of her staple accessories, the Lasso of Truth. We’ve seen her fortitude as she faced Ares, discovered the truths about Man, and suffered the loss of a loved one. And as an ageless immortal, she witnesses history unfold recognizing the changing landscape of the world. So this sculpture is a nice embodiment of Wonder Woman’s character and a fitting image to open this next sequence. Another interesting connection with this sculpture is that the three figures have elements of the DC trinity. There is a cowled figure which evokes Batman, an arresting figure with a heroic visage which evokes Superman, and a third figure with a mirror and a snake representing truth and immortality which evokes Wonder Woman.

 

There is a closeup of the van’s license plate as it parks in front of the building and a security guard at the entrance. The van’s Make is Vauxhall which is a British car manufacturer based in Chalton, Bedfordshire, England. Their logo is of a Griffin, a legendary creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle. They are featured prominently throughout Greek Mythology which is a keystone to Diana’s background. And a fun fact, voice actress Grey Griffin does the voice of Wonder Woman in many animated iterations.

 

A man wearing black leather gloves grabs a black attache case from the passenger seat before exiting the van. We get an interesting blurred effect as he exits which Zack Snyder makes lots of use of in Army of the Dead. We see the man outside the van banging on its side to signal the passengers. He is wearing a black fedora with a black coat, black suit, and black tie sort of like some kind of 1920’s gangster. And in his ear is an earwig to communicate with his cohorts. The man calmly passes by the guard and, when distracted by the other men approaching with guns, he dishonorably shoots him in the back with a silencer characterizing him as despicable. The men drag the guard’s body off the street to avoid drawing attention and one of the gang poses as the guard, taking his place to keep appearances.

 

The group enters and, once the metal detector rings to signal the threat, they open fire to take out any opposition. The camera follows the attache case placing significance on it’s contents. The people are hysterical, gathered together by the terrorists, while the leader of the group walks calmly with determination. Among the hostages we see a group of young girls in school uniforms. The utterly detestable act of harming children is emphasized when, in the next shot, the leader is on the phone threatening their lives to the police should he see any movement by them. We are very clearly made to hate this man and his group removing all possible remorse for when Diana kills them. He says they’ll be making a statement shortly, but soon we’ll see that statement is not a verbal one as he intends to blow up the building and its four block area.

 

We see close up reactions of the children showing their fear as if we are there next to them. The police have a clear shot of the leader through their sniper scopes, but the officials confirm there are kids from St. Brigids’s on a school trip. Their refusal to act in light of this reasonably reflects a higher importance being placed on children’s lives than adults in that situation. And it's even likely that these terrorists intentionally planned their attack to coincide with the school trip to use the children as leverage.

 

We finally get a look at Diana with a cool twisting shot that moves from an overhead view of the situation to an elevated shot of Diana atop the statue of Justice by F.W. Pomeroy, described as “almost an Amazon” situated close to St. Paul’s Cathedral. This statue of Justice exemplifies Zack Snyder’s version of Wonder Woman. For starters, she is not blind-folded. Instead Lady Justice has a fierce expression with a grim mouth and frowning brows meant to convey that justice is stern. Diana has her own belief system outside the laws of man which she doesn’t always agree with. And she is unrelenting in asserting her own justice on those that would cross it. Lady Justice stands upon a globe because justice straddles the world. Diana steps up to protect the world, not just a specific city like some heroes. We’ve seen her heroics in Paris, London, and Gotham. Lady Justice carries the scales which stand for balance. Diana’s love acts as a balance for man’s hate, because as she says later, hate is useless. Lady Justice carries a sword to indicate justice is swift and final. To that end Diana uses her sword to great effect, especially in the final act. The image of Lady Justice is also a nice connection to Diana joining the Justice League.

 

The music introduces us to a female vocal that will be featured prominently throughout the film when Diana is on screen. It is an ancient lamentation which echoes Diana’s inner pain at seeing injustice. And we can see that pain in her face, as well as an inner struggle about rejoining the world of Man again, as the camera closes in on her. She closes her mouth and gulps indicating her conviction.

 

We finally see what is inside the briefcase when the leader of the group opens it to reveal what can easily be identified as an explosive. The screams and gasps from the hostages help to address the threat the explosive poses. The focus on the children with their teacher also emphasizes once again how atrocious the terrorist group’s intentions are. Their unstable nature shows itself as one of the men snaps back at them to “shut up” with a sweaty brow aiming a rifle at them. Meanwhile the leader takes out a key and offers a sort of ceremonial monologue to himself to give us a bit of context for their actions. He says “Down with the modern world, back to the Dark Ages” and immediately inserts the key to arm the device which displays some numbers counting down indicating it is a time bomb. So it is clear now that this isn’t actually a hostage situation. It’s a suicide bombing. His choice of words are interesting because it mirrors the overarching threat in the film. If Steppenwolf were to succeed in creating the Unity, it would be the end of the “modern world” and the beginning of an age ruled by Darkseid. His words also seem to connect to an overall theme of moving forward rather than living in the past. Each member of the Justice League is faced with a troubled past they must overcome in order to move forward into the future. Superman is dead and must resurrect to embrace a second chance. Bruce is trying to make amends for mistakes he made against Superman. Diana still struggles with the loss of Steve Trevor, but as she tells Cyborg, she’s working on opening herself up again. Barry has been living his life around an event in his past that led his father to be imprisoned. Victor is struggling with moving on from the night of his accident that led to his mother’s death and his mutilation. And Arthur hasn’t gotten over his mother abandoning him. And while the heroes are all learning to move forward, the villain Darkseid still seeks to remedy his past failure by returning to Earth for the anti-life equation. Here, the terrorist is not moving forward like our heroes, and instead wants to go backwards and bring at Europe with him.

 

Moving on, one of the men patrolling the building is taken by surprise when Diana lassos him from above and pulls him up with ease showing off her strength. She immediately asks “who are you?” And for those that might not have seen the Wonder Woman movie, she offers some context about the lasso verbalizing that it’s magical properties compel him to tell the truth. This group is listed in the credits as the Black Clad. But the man elaborates, telling her they are a small group of reactionary terrorists who want to turn back the clock in Europe. This of course ties to the leader’s statement about bringing the modern world back to the dark ages. Diana is quick to cut off his pretentious rambling, calling it boring. She gets straight to what’s important by asking why they have taken hostages. The man confirms the hostages are inconsequential stating they have no demands and that they’re just using them to stall the police. He refers to the countdown of the time bomb and mentions four city blocks followed by mimicking an explosion sound with his mouth. This helps us to understand the level of the threat by specifically mentioning a blast radius. His laughter at the thought of the explosion adds to the mounting evidence that these men are mentally unstable. Diana has a concerned look on her face before we cut to the countdown on the time bomb which is now at thirty seconds and counting.

 

Everyone is breathing heavily in the room as they anticipate the coming explosion anxiously. It’s sort of the calm before the storm as Diana fearlessly breaks through the doors in heroic fashion.

There is a slow-motion effect to make her entrance a bit more epic, but it also acts as a means of showing how quickly Diana assesses the room. It’s also implemented throughout the scene as a means of showcasing her speed. For instance, when one of the men starts shooting at her, we see her watch the bullet slowly whiz by her and then turn her eyes to the man. She then moves her shoulder to dodge a second bullet. This scene also shows us how fast Diana is by comparing her actions with the seconds counting down on the time bomb. This, and her impressive show of strength help to elevate her abilities in this film which is important to establish for her later encounter with Superman and Steppenwolf.

 

Diana easily dispatches the first four terrorists closest to the door, two of them with one fell swoop, and giving an angry protective mother vibe as she scowls at them. She is clearly not holding back, no doubt enraged by the lives being threatened. When one of the farther terrorists starts shooting at her with an automatic rifle, she performs her iconic deflection at super speed with the bracers on both of her wrists. This imagery is a big deal in Wonder Woman mythology from the comics to the Wonder Woman television series starring Lynda Carter. This won’t be the last time we see her deflect bullets with her bracers in this scene, but its implementation in this moment is beyond awesome. Diana proceeds to sweep kick the terrorist that shot at her causing him to fly against the wall. She gets up, flipping her hair, and once again we get that slow-motion shot to signify her assessing the room. It also gives the audience a brief pause in the action to absorb everything since it’s so fast-paced.

 

Diana grabs and throws the nearest of the remaining terrorist, grabbing his gun in the process and throwing it as a projectile at one of the farther terrorists to knock him out. She then kicks the terrorist immediately in front of her into the one further behind him taking them both out. Finally she performs a one armed deflection of the remaining terrorist’s shots before lunging forward and hitting his side causing him to be thrown toward the hostages. But she quickly leaps to him and throws him against the wall.

 

Notably there is quite a bit of blood splatter on the walls essentially confirming these men are dead. What we see in this scene is the warrior amazon of Themyscira. But the context is very important for those who would lament her use of force. These are evil men who only want death and destruction and are willing to kill children. And in Diana’s own sense of justice, these men don’t deserve the consideration of treading lightly, especially at the risk of others’ lives.

 

When she entered the room the time bomb’s countdown showed twelve seconds. Once she’s dispatched all but the leader of the Black Clad, she looks at the countdown to see seven seconds left. So it took her five seconds to clear the room of terrorists, a feat which exhibited both how fast and powerful she is.

 

With six seconds left before the explosion, Diana grabs the case and leaps right through the ceiling into the sky above. She then throws it higher up to create more distance between the blast and the people below. The slow-motion effect offers us two shots of Diana throwing the bomb, one from above and one from the side, that mimic comic book stills while adding tension to the scene. The side shot helps to give us a sense of how high she was able to get the bomb from the streets below. The music is heart pounding with a tinny synth sound and percussion to match the modern elements of the bomb and the energetic belligerence of Diana. The explosion occurs from Diana’s perspective and it blasts her back, down toward the courthouse below.

 

We transition from the bomb explosion to the sparks of the hanging wire from the hole in the ceiling Diana created. Then we see the reactions from the hostages and the terrorist leader. The terrorist leader chuckles, likely from a combination of feeling inferior, feeling nervous, and

the unexpected twist that Diana saved everyone from the explosion with her superpowers. The hostages grow more tense hearing his laughter, not knowing how he will react next. He proves their fears valid when he raises his gun at them. But the silhouette of the locked back pistol reveals it is out of ammunition. So the terrorist grabs a rifle from one of the dead terrorists’ bodies along with a cartridge to reload it with, which gives Diana enough time to return just as he begins opening fire on the hostages. Before shooting he says “Like lambs to the slaughter” which, in this context, seems to refer to how lambs are taken quietly and unassumingly to their deaths, helpless to protest their own slaughter. More broadly, the phrase relates to someone doing something or going somewhere without knowing something bad is going to happen and therefore act calmly. In that respect, these hostages came to the courthouse without suspecting they would fall victim to a terrorist act. Given the leader’s reference to the dark ages, and since his plan to bring down the modern world has failed, we can consider the biblical implications to his words as it relates to his reasoning for killing the hostages. He seems to view the modern world as bad, or sinful, and believes it needs to return to a time which is referred to as the “Age of Faith”. These hostages act as sacrificial lambs for forgiveness and atonement. By killing them he no doubt believes their message will be heard and echo outward like Superman’s death scream. And it is for this very reason that Diana kills him in the way she does. But we’ll get to that in a little bit.

 

A close up shot of the rifle reveals it is set to semi-automatic indicating it will shoot one bullet at a time. The single bullet flies out of the barrel as Diana crashes down from the ceiling and blocks it. The ancient lamentation plays with her entrance. The terrorist winces and we see a close up of him switching the weapon to automatic fire. With a scowl of his own he begins firing. We see the first bullet exit the rifle in slow motion along with Diana’s reaction watching it travel toward the hostages. It helps us to see the action in her perspective being able to react so quickly to the shots being fired. We then see her speed across the group of hostages blocking bullets and moving one person to avoid getting hit. It is reminiscent of Wonder Woman’s third act when she angrily whizzes through the soldiers. After the last bullet is blocked she stands. The terrorist leader looks in awe and, panting, says “I don’t believe it.” For someone who seems to be motivated to return the world to the “Age of Faith,” it's ironic for him to say he doesn’t believe, especially as it relates to Diana who is a God in her own right. And as a God she responds with “Believe it.” The religious undertones in this scene reflect Chris Terrio’s continued storytelling through the lens of faith and belief, especially in the aftermath of Superman’s death, which is a low point for our heroes. Hope is all but dead and gone from the world.

 

The terrorist releases the ammunition cartridge from the rifle and reloads it. Diana should arguably have had enough time to run up to him, take the gun from him, and throw him against the wall like she did with the other terrorists. However she instead chooses to unleash a shockwave from her bracers to blast the side of the building out along with him. She retaliates with an equal level of force which he had set out to inflict with his bomb. Sort of an eye for an eye, although the hostages were not injured. So if she could have easily disarmed and killed the man without needing to cause so much damage, why did she? There appear to be two factors in her decision to do so. The first is that while she was taking out the other terrorists they all had their guns focused on her, but here the terrorist has his gun aimed at innocent people. One misstep could result in someone dying. But the second, and probably more important factor, is what we mentioned earlier about sending a message that will echo outward and, in this case, reach the ears of any other would be terrorists. By killing him as she did, she is making a statement that won’t be overlooked or easily forgotten, that endangering lives, and specifically children’s lives, will not be tolerated in the least and will be met with quick and steadfast punishment.

 

The debris flies outward and the police are forced to take cover to avoid getting hit. The chief of police looks up and sees the lead terrorist’s hat float down and rest gently on the hood of his vehicle. Symbolically it's equivalent to Diana handing the terrorist over on a silver platter. He looks back up at the courthouse no doubt wondering what happened.

 

Now that the immediate threat is over, Diana’s empathy kicks in and she asks if everyone is all right. She reassures them that it is over and even helps them up off the ground. She asks several individuals if they are okay providing that personal level of care. When she sees one girl remaining on the ground she kneels down and asks “Are you okay, princess?” Even though she is essentially a God, she humbly lowers herself down to the girl’s level. And even though she herself is a princess, she calls the girl princess. It is interesting that the girl they chose for this scene just happens to look a little like Gal Gadot. It’s also important to the Wonder Woman character that the group of students is made up of all girls with female teachers or chaperones. Of course Diana would save anyone in need, but because of Diana’s connection to the Amazons and their all-female society, the story makes it special that she would save females.

 

The girl nods and asks if she can be like her some day. She clearly looks up to and admires Diana’s fearlessness, strength, speed, and determination that were on display. She is a hero. And in true heroic fashion, she answers “You can be anything you want to be.” She doesn’t quibble about how she is a demi-goddess who has extraordinary abilities a human wouldn’t be able to wield. Instead, she encourages the young girl that she, a human with no super powers, can be a hero just like her if she wants to be. She then gives her a smile and encourages her along.

 

End of Episode

That concludes our first big action scene of Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Next we’ll get our first look at Steppenwolf and the threat he poses as the Amazons suffer losses at his hands.

You can enjoy early access to some Man of Steel analysis at Patreon.com/JLUPodcast. Until next time, thanks for listening.

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