For once, the wiener is not a euphemism.
Around an hour and 10 minutes into Zack Snyder’s Justice League, I began losing my mind. Not because the film was bad or because of anything particularly good either. It’s a weird thing to say about a four-hour movie, but at that point, it had barely gotten going and had yet to hit some of the satisfying character beats that really make taking this long journey moderately worth it. So all in all, there wasn’t particularly anything to really lose one’s mind over yet.
Except for a hot dog.
Okay, rewind slightly. Unlike the 2017 movie, Snyder’s Justice League actually introduces us to Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) before Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) gets into his secret hideout to throw Batarangs at a youth like the rich weirdo he is. It does so by having Barry, comically late to an interview at a dog-walking business (dog-buying? It’s unclear, but there are dogs), cross paths with Kiersey Clemons’ Iris West, who actually gets to appear in the movie this time...for this one scene.
After Barry and Iris walk past each other, Iris gets in her car and tries starting it up to no avail. By the time she gets it going, she pulls out into the road just as a truck driver is distracted by his errant lunch, slamming into the side of her car and violently ejecting her. Barry, in the middle of bombing his interview, instinctively leaps into action, enters the Speed Force to smash through the window, and save this woman from certain doom. He’s pushing aside bits of debris, positioning her for a safer impact when he moves back out of superspeed, with a sense of calmness and confidence: he’s done all this before, he’s the fastest man alive.
But Iris wasn’t the only thing caught up in the crash. An errant Central City hot dog stand has sent condiments and buns flying everywhere too, not as dangerous as the rest of the debris but still pretty messy. And so enters Justice League’s star, for a fleeting moment: a lone, immaculately rendered wiener.
It dances onto the scene. It is given focus, as it reaches escape velocity and jettisons from its bun, the wiener is free-falling, spinning slowly, graceful and raw in both its majesty and perhaps the pork by-products within it. We spend moments with the wiener; we know it, it knows us, we become one with its plight. It requires salvation as much as Iris does in this moment, and Barry Allen is its savior. And so, as he moves Iris’ hair out of her face with one hand, Barry reaches out to the wiener with a similar intimacy, pulling it from certain doom and putting it...in his pocket.
The moment passes. Barry exits the Speed Force, Iris and the hot dog safe and sound. With barely a second for the two to silently acknowledge the impossibility of what just happened, Barry zips back into the dog-store, pretending he had ducked down to cover some puppies from the smashed glass before proudly procuring the wiener from his pocket as if it was always there.
The interview? Saved. Iris West? Saved. The wiener? Saved. Well, until it presumably gets eaten by some dogs.
It’s one of the most ridiculous moments in the movie. It’s incredibly silly. It’s deeply indulgent, in a film that is nothing but indulgence. But it’s also just...kind of brilliant. Because what is Zack Snyder’s approach to superheroes, if not this wiener?
It is, for better or worse, perhaps the ultimate celebration about the thing that delights and infuriates people about the director’s approach to superhero moviemaking. It’s a comic panel rendered on screen, lovingly framed so you may glimpse at every little detail in it. But it’s also one of what feels like five million slo-mo shots in the movie—which would definitely be a good chunk shorter if 90% of those were played at normal speed.
It’s a good idea (Barry and Iris sharing this connection and a moment of intimacy made possible in the Speed Force) and a peculiar idea (the film establishes before and after this moment that Barry and Iris don’t actually know each other, so him taking the time to caress her face before saving her life is kinda creepy!) smashed together to create a bizarre outcome that makes you feel a hit of joyous serotonin until you think about it for more than five seconds.
And then it’s this hot dog. This moment of comic book surreality grounded, no matter how absurdly, by the normality of an American street food staple. We are but a wiener, hurtling through Zack Snyder’s universe, waiting to be plucked by its gods amongst humankind.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League (and its wiener) is now streaming on HBO Max.
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