A FEW WORDS ABOUT THE LONG-AWAITED AND HIGHLY DIVISIVE DIRECTORS CUT OF ZACK SNYDER'S JUSTICE LEAGUE
Unless you've been living under a rock since 2017, you probably know that Zack Snyder left filming of Justice League before it was finished due to the death of his daughter. He was replaced by Avengers helmsman Joss Whedon, who was charged not only with finishing the movie, but changing the tone and story to meet Hollywood marketability concerns.
That is just about universally considered to have been a bad move.
That is just about universally considered to have been a bad move.
Whedon's Justice League was a mess of a film that benefitted from Snyder's style, but also abandoned a lot of what Snyder is known for in favor of a safer narrative. So for the past few years, fanbros have clamored for the Snyder Cut. This week, they finally got it on HBO Max.
The Snyder Cut of Justice League is head-and-shoulders better than the theatrical version.
I wasn't as bothered by the theatrical version's attempts to lighten the tone as the most vocal critics of the film were, but it's clear watching Snyder's cut of the movie that it does help to have a more consistent tone. Every character is darker and more brutal in Snyder's hands, with the possible exception of the Flash, who still feels like a cheerful geek of a rookie superhero. Additional scenes with Flash do not improve the overall narrative, but did make the case for a Flash movie.
But the character who benefitted most from the Snyder Cut is Cyborg.
Without really reading any of the articles, I see why Ray Fisher [the actor who payed Cyborg] has been complaining about Whedon so much over the years since Justice League's theatrical release. All the WB/DC execs owe him an apology (and a bag of money). Snyder's vision made Cyborg a lynchpin of the team with a more important role in solidifying their victory. It also digs deep into just how powerful Cyborg is, physically and in cyberspace. Almost all of which Whedon significantly reduced.
And then there's the story's villain Steppenwolf.
Ciarán Hinds as Steppenwolf in the theatrically-released version of Justice League (top) and in Zack Snyder's Justice League (bottom)
The conquering war god Steppenwolf is more alien... more brutal and animalistic in nature in Zack Snyder's Justice League.
His battle scenes are longer and more violent. The destruction and carnage when he appears on screen is much more than in the theatrical version. But at the same time, his role is reduced, because we see more of his master Darkseid, and some other new gods of Apokolips.
Ultimately, Steppenwolf works better as an ultra-violent world-breaking monster than a wayward general, and the addition of more characters helps him stick to what he's good at.
I'm not inclined to slobber all over the Snyder Cut, though.
Most of my problems with the theatrical version of Justice League are still there, and Snyder's cut added some new ones:
- I ain't missing you at all- Building the whole story on bringing Superman back is stupid. They did a much better job setting it all up in Snyder's cut, but it's still dumb. This is an overall problem I have with the DCEU in particular and superhero films in general (except for MCU-era Marvel): These people don't know how to pace a franchise and get the most out of the source material. Superman wasn't dead long enough to give his return the narrative punch it deserves. It also means no Reign of Supermen. No Steel. No Hank Henshaw. No Superboy. Lame. I tried not to blame this movie for that. But still.
- 4 HOURS? REALLY? There are a lot of empty panning and slow motion junk shots that could/should be cut out to make it into a much better experience. 4 hours is a disrespectfully long run time for a superhero movie. Zack Snyder's Justice League is divided into 6 chapters, probably because the plan was to release it as a streaming show. It definitely feels more like binge-watching a tv show than watching a movie. I literally had to drink a [energy drink brand name redacted] to get through it in one sitting.
- The Batfleck/Leto scene is much ado about nothing- I was actually excited to hear Jared Leto was getting some shine as the Joker in this movie. I keep hearing people talk about how awesome it was, and I can't figure out why they think so. If I ever watch this movie again, I will be paying closer attention to that part.
- Bomb Threat- There are multiple instances of superheroes dropping F Bombs. I think most superhero movies have more cursing than necessary, and Snyder went the whole way with it. Since he added enough bloody violence to get the R rating, Snyder didn't need to count curse words. There are a few corny moments fueled by characters cursing awkwardly like middle school nerds.
I think there should be more Snyderverse follow up films. But I would prefer new Batfleck, Cyborg, and Flash movies (and maaaaybe an Aquaman sequel) before bringing the Justice League back for a sequel..
That said, I don't think Snyder has the right temperament to be the standard-bearer for the DC Universe as a whole.
As I said in my review of BVS:DOJ, Snyder doesn't believe in Superman.
He compensates by accentuating that Superman is the most powerful hero (at the expense of the other heroes), but he doesn't understand what really makes him great.
It's Superman's integrity, not just his power, that inspires other heroes. Snyder just doesn't get it.
Still, I would love Snyder to make more Batman movies, though. Make him the czar of the Batman Family franchise or something. His dark, cynical sensibility works well for Batman. Ultimately, rebooting the DC movie universe probably won't work any better, because I don't think Hollywood has learned two biggest lessons that the MCU peeps have figured out:
Faith in the source material works.
While they are happy to tweak the details for cultural relevance, Marvel has stayed true to the spirit of their greatest stories with the MCU movies, and they're generally eating the Distinguished Competition's lunch as a result.
Marvel invests time into the growth of the characters' stories as individuals, and as a group. But DC is in such a rush, they have already hit so many of the high points of Superman's decades-long history. With those opportunities wasted, the reboots are the rule that applies to this situation, not the exception.
All-in-all, I enjoyed myself watching Zack Snyder's Justice League. Like his other DC movies, it was kind of a mess, but entertaining.
This article originally appeared in GhettoManga Weekly: All Dark Everything which came out on March 22nd, 2021.
Samax Amen is a professional Content Creator and Developer, which is another way of saying he creates something from little to nothing for fun and profit. Click Here to hire him to make stuff for you. He also curates, celebrates, and critiques popular culture via GhettoManga Magazine, so you should buy it or something.