Zack Snyder’s Justice League
Distributors: HBO Max
Production Companies: Warner Bros. Pictures, DC Films, Access Entertainment & Dune Entertainment
Director: Zack Snyder
Producers: Charles Roven & Deborah Snyder
Scriptwriter: Chris Terrio, Zack Snyder & Will Beall
Main Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa & Ezra Miller
Released: 18th March 2021
Running Time: 242 Minutes
For better or worse, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is finally here.
Part 1: The Context
When production of the 2017 film Justice League was finished and director Zack Snyder showed Warner’s Bros a near complete cut of the movie, they were incredibly unhappy. Calling the film “unwatchable”, they denied his edit. To fix their issues with Justice League, they enlisted Joss Whedon (known for his work directing the first two Avengers films). He was tasked to rewrite the script so the film would be more watchable. However with Snyder then stepping down halfway through 2017 due to personal reasons, Whedon also had to direct the re-shoots as well.
So what was eventually created was a Frankenstein’s monster of a film. One which sees two vastly different creative voices clashing against each other to disastrous results. Half of Justice League is funny and upbeat, while the other is dark and brooding. It was truly a hideously ugly film which constantly stumbles around its plot and the setting up of its characters and world. In short Justice League was critically panned. Though many fans believed that was solely based on Joss Whedon’s changes and that if the film stuck to Snyder’s original edit of the film, it would have been much better.
Now after four years of patiently waiting, Zack Snyder’s cut of Justice League is at long last here in all of its four hour majesty.
Part 2: The Synopsis
Superman (Henry Cavil) is dead, and without him safeguarding the planet, the evil Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) arrives on Earth in an effort to find three powerful Mother Boxes which he intends to use to terraform the planet so it becomes similar to his own hellish world of Apokolips. To stop him, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), also known as Batman, travels the world to try and set up a team of superhumans; the Justice League. After much searching he has his team, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and the Flash (Ezra Miller).
Part 3: The Analysis
The Snyder Cut for the most part does improve from the original. Firstly, most of the out of place unfunny dialogue has been removed and overall the tone is much more consistent. The colour grading is also no longer garish and incredibly over-saturated. Now it’s more in line with Zack Snyder’s previous DC films but luckily it’s not too bleak and gloomy, letting some of the colours pop. So overall it looks much better visually than the original, which after only four years has aged like milk.
The structuring of the story is much better as well. One of my biggest issues with the original cut was that the threat and main plot takes ages to be set up. It takes almost half an hour for us to see one of the Mother Boxes and who the antagonists are. This is much different in the Snyder Cut as the threat is set up straight from the beginning. For example, right at the beginning we see where all the Mother Boxes are located. As a whole the flow of events is a lot more understandable. Scenes are moved around and added so that the story makes more logical sense.
The Flash and Cyborg are also given a lot more time to build up their characters. Especially Cyborg who really suffered from a lack of development in the original. Here he has more of a backstory, an arc and a much larger presence in the film. Similar things can be said about Steppenwolf, who has a much bigger backstory in this cut than before. We are shown where he comes from, who he works for and why he needs to prove himself. It is a definite improvement, however despite this, he still comes off as a generic and uninteresting villain.
The biggest improvement of this cut though has to be the action pieces which have a stronger enjoyment level than in the original. The editing is much tighter, there are no awkward cuts to unfunny dialogue, and there is no over the top cartoonish colour grading. They are truly the highlight of the film.
Now while I think this edit of the film improves on a lot of aspects, I don’t think it needs to be four hours long. Although I feel like a lot of the added setup regarding the Mother Boxes and general threat work to the film’s advantage, the longer run time really works against the film for the most part. The plot doesn’t really lend itself to such slow pacing. I vividly remember getting an intense feeling of dismay when I realised I’d only reached the two hour mark.
A story like this, which isn’t really too complicated, needs a much faster pace and less runtime. Even then the plot really isn’t that interesting. It’s simply another generic alien invasion based around a powerful magical MacGuffin. It’s not Lord of the Rings. As a whole there’s too much fat. If this cut was just two and a half hours it wouldn’t be that much of a slog. However the film can’t help but indulge itself at every single turn.
That, in the end, is the biggest issue. It’s too self-indulgent. Every visually striking shot must be slowed down so you can appreciate it for longer and every scene must go on for far more than it needs to be. There’s taking style over substance and then there’s this film that jump-kicks substance right out of the window. Especially in the film’s unnecessarily long epilogue which appeared to go on for a lifetime. It feels like an assembly cut, where all the scenes have been squeezed in and no consideration has been made to look at which scenes are necessary and which aren’t.
While it is nice that Cyborg and the Flash are given more material. Batman and Wonder Woman are still complete character vacuums. They have completely no charisma whatsoever, their personalities are virtually non-existent and they don’t really learn anything or grow as characters during the whole movie. It really highlights how, as a team, the Justice League just aren’t really that interesting here. They barely have a dynamic, their personalities hardly clash at all and you don’t ever get a sense of what each member adds to the team. Apart from a few more scenes of them hanging out as a group, the Snyder Cut barely does anything to make this team interesting to watch.
There is also one main thing that I feel that the original cut actually does a lot better. The Snyder Cut doesn’t do as good of a job at showing the impact of Superman’s death. The original does a much more expansive attempt at showing how the world has been affected by his death. Everyone is grieving and crime rates have risen. The world feels more dangerous without him. There isn’t a strong sense of that in Snyder’s version. Which in turn makes Superman’s death feel pointless considering he’s resurrected towards the end.
The scenes with Lois Lane (Amy Adams) suffer in this version as well as they are too few and far between and don’t really add much except that she’s sad and misses Superman. In the original she helped demonstrate what this post-superman world has become. How she calms down superman when he’s resurrected in this version isn’t as effective as well. In the original she’s used by Bruce Wayne as a way of calming Superman down but in this cut she just happens to be in the area which undercuts the impact of the scene.
Part 4: The Summary
While Zack Snyder’s Justice League improves upon the original cut in parts, it only really turns the story from terrible to mediocre. It feels like Snyder went on too much on an ego trip and just didn’t know when to stop. Which is a shame because with a bit of reworking and cutting down, the film could be alright; not fantastic but certainly watchable. Overall though, despite my thoughts on the film, I’m glad the Snyder Cut exists because this is a person’s complete artistic vision rather than one filtered down and obscured by studio meddling.
Target Audience: Ages 15+
Content: Moderate Violence & Gore and Strong Language
Overall Rating: 4.5/10 – Below Average
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