Zack Snyder’s Justice League

This movie is an overly long, self indulgent, slog, but it’s also a lot better than the originally released Justice League movie.

A little history for those who haven’t been following the Snyder cut saga… Zack Snyder directed Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, and he had a grand plan to complete his superhero trilogy with Justice League. As principal photography was wrapping up, Snyder ensured a family tragedy that took him away from the production. Warner Bros., the studio behind the film, took advantage of Snyder’s absence to hire a new writer director to complete the film. The result was a very bad Justice League movie that satisfied no one. Snyder began teasing his fans by saying he had a nearly complete version of the film that he would give them if only Warner Bros. let him. What resulted was a years long fan campaign to release the Snyder cut. Finally after all these years, $70 million dollars in additional filming and cgi work, we have the Snyder Cut now dubbed Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Clocking in at 4 hours and 2minutes and presented in the baffling 4:3 aspect ratio which means it’s a square image not a rectangle like all other movies today. Is this film worth checking out?

That’s a complicated question. If you are a die hard Snyder fan, you’ve already watched it twice. If you are a DC fan? You’ve probably already checked it out or will be checking it out regardless of what I say. If you’re a movie fan and curious about the filmmaking process the difference last between the original and this are so fascinating that I’d say you have to check it out. If you are a casual viewer looking for a movie to watch this weekend you can skip this. It’s not worth your four hours.

To break it down, the film follows the same plot as the original. There are three mother boxes, super powered cubes hidden on earth. The alien villain Steppenwolf comes to earth to unite the boxes and destroy earth as we know it. Batman brings together a team of super powered individuals to stop him.

I don’t like to compare one film to another, but the comparisons are the most interesting part of this movie. For instance the plot is given more time to breath and unfold naturally here than in the original. The character arcs and storylines actually make sense and work here. And tonally the film feels cohesive as opposed to the jumble we got the first time around. These are massive improvements.

The character of Cyborg has a really compelling personal journey here. He’s played by Ray Fisher. He was a star athlete who after a horrific accident is transformed into something less human and more machine. He provides a strong emotional heart as he grapples with his identity and place in the world.

Aquaman is given a more serious and internalized quality here than in the original. Wonder Woman is less hung up on her ex boyfriend but given little else to do. The Flash is still the goofy comic relief character although he does have a nice compelling moment toward the end that really works. Batman isn’t funny in this one unlike his depiction in the original. It’s a much better performance from Affleck too.

All in all the performances are strong. The look of the film is solid Snyder has a strong visual aesthetic. He also handles the action well. There are some genuinely exciting moments and cool action that surprised me.

That said this movie is so self indulgent! After every other scene I said to myself they could’ve cut that. There’s a three minute scene in which a trio of women readily sing a folk song over Aquaman’s sweater that he leaves behind after he swims away. Why was this included? What did it add? Next to nothing. There’s a 10 second reaction shot of Gal Gadot’s face as she stares at a wall. We could’ve cut after three seconds. There’s a slow motion sequence of Aquaman walking into a storm. It takes forever and feels like a perfume ad was accidentally cut into the movie. I excepted the sensual voice over to cut in telling us about Dolce and Gabbanas latest scent. It was so long and just felt like Synder was rubbing our noses in it. He had all the time in the world and decided to use it.

For me the biggest improvement in the film is with the villains. Steppenwolf has a stunning design. He looks really unique and cool here. He also a really interesting motivation. He is a servant of Darkseid an intergalactic warlord who conquers and enslaved worlds. Steppenwolf failed him and is trying his hardest to get back in his good graces. It’s a really compelling motivation for a villain.

The climactic confrontation feels streamlined and more exciting. I quite enjoyed the finale and really got into it. It feels like anything could happen and that the happy ending isn’t a foregone conclusion.

However, there’s another half an hour after that climax. The last half hour of the movie is absolutely insufferable. It’s just scene after scene of fam service and sequel setups that will never happen. It’s just Snyder indulging himself and wasting our time on badly written scenes that amount to nothing in this narrative and setup movies that don’t exist. Maybe I was just in a bad mood after spending 3 and a half hours watching a movie I had already seen, but that last half hour was agony.

The advertising for the film promised a brand new movie. I didn’t get a brand new movie. I got 75% of the same movie and 25% deleted scenes and shots being held longer. It’s tonally consistent and that 25% does add a lot of character, but it’s so much the same it doesn’t feel worth it to me.

A note about Snyder’s superheroes. They’re all vicious sociopaths. Wonder Woman murders a lot a dudes in this movie. Aquaman stabs a villain in the back. Superman pins a guy down and pummels him almost to death then lasers him in brutal fashion. These are brutal almost cruel versions of these characters. I know it’s a different interpretation of the characters, but do you really have to cut a guys head off after he’s been killed?

In the end, would I recommend this movie to anybody asking? I would definitely recommend it over the theatrically released version. It’s a much better movie. There are a lot of improvements made here. It’s undeniably a stronger film. But it does have a lot of problems. If you’re on the fence about checking this out I don’t think you’ll miss much if you watch something else. If you’re interested in the changes made it’ll be fascinating and frustrating.

This is such a hard one to rate. Is it my cup of tea? It’s somebody’s cup of tea that’s for sure. How do I give it a letter grade? A fit effort? F for wasting so much time? For me, some of it is my cup of tea, a lot of it isn’t. Half a cup of tea. Letter grade? Middle of the road… B

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