It’s finally here. All four hours of it. Were fans right to clamor for Snyder to get his angsty opus on the big screen?
What a weird beast Justice League has become. Now a film of biblical proportions, it really has been a stumbling block, a film to crush the franchise beneath it. It has also now become the erstwhile capstone, a chance for a lightning-rod director to finally put his full vision of the DCEU out into the world. Let’s dive in.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists newfound ally Diana Prince to face an even greater threat. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to recruit a team to stand against this newly awakened enemy. Despite the formation of an unprecedented league of heroes — Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and the Flash — it may be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.
Not in a Hurry.
The new Justice League, re-cut from theatrical footage, scrapped footage, and new re-shot material is packed to bursting. It’s easy to raise your eyebrow at the four hour run time, chopped into five uneven chapters. Surely, there must have been something worth cutting to get this project down to a more manageable size? It turns out there were indeed unused scenes with Jared Leto’s Joker. So it shows that Zack Snyder was capable of making cuts. The film itself testifies to the fact that he really didn’t like to.
There are a laundry list of scenes that either dragged on, retold info needlessly, or plain just don’t make any sense being in the film. I knew it was going to be that kind of movie from the first scene: we get the death of Superman from Batman V Superman in excruciating detail. It culminates with a long shot of a stabbed Supes giving his death cry. And giving it. And giving it some more. And then following that sound-wave to EACH AND EVERY LOCATION that will figure into the film. It is brutally long.
Indulge the Man?
So, there’s a lot of fat on this ham to carve. How much of the new material is solid meat? It turns out, about an equal measure.
For everything Snyder added that rehashed or dawdled, there are bits that he reworked or expanded to impressive results. The biggest beneficiaries to this were the spectacle action sequences and the character building for the new cast. The fight with the Amazons thrills, as does the re-imagined battle of the age of heroes. Under-utilized characters from the Joss Whedon Justice League get a ton of backstory, character building, and supporting cast. The film practically makes Cyborg the main character, to excellent effect. The only expanded character building scenes that felt needless were with Aquaman, mostly cause they were lifeless and the dude’s got his own film already.
Does it Hang Together?
Justice League wound up being a movie I begrudgingly admired. First, the sheer audacity to re-cut a relatively unsuccessful film…and then to go full prima donna on the re-cut, expand it enormously, and say to hell with making sensible cuts really boggles the mind. Hats off. Next, it does have some real hooks. I intended to just watch the first couple chapters and give it a Binge or Purge. While each chapter has bloat, it’s structured smartly to pay off with a big moment and yet leave another big point unresolved, compelling you to start the next leg of the trek.
I didn’t hate the original cut (thought I hated the hell out of Man of Steel and was just this side of positive with BvS). The Snyder Cut winds up being both better and worse. Having sat through it, I think it works. The lows aren’t quite low enough to negate the real improvements. Now they just need to get somebody to let a little air out of Snyder’s ego so he re-re-cuts out the stuff like ten minutes of Superman screaming and we’d have a truly impressive film.