When Justice League released theatrically in 2017, it was pretty much a disaster. Not that I hated it personally, but it kind of alienated the vision that the original director Zack Snyder had for it in favor of Avengers helmer Joss Whedon. It pissed off fans with its quippy tone and lackluster action scenes, not to mention the whole thing with Superman’s “lipgate.” (Don’t ask, really.)
Then began a surprising movement for the “Snyder cut” of Justice League. It had an amazing momentum and a tremendous amount of pull, despite some people saying it would never happen. What’s even more shocking is Hollywood listened, providing $70+ million to give the director the chance to make the movie he wanted.
And what a movie it is. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a whopping four hours in length. And what’s more, it’s 4:3 format, akin to the IMAX screen instead of the standard widescreen, which pissed off a few folks. But what’s important here is Snyder got done what he really wanted to get done, without studio interference and, more importantly, involvement from Whedon. And, boy, what a difference his story makes.
Though it is lengthy and a bit heavy on the slow-motion (a Snyder staple, if you recall 300), Zack Snyder’s Justice League is remarkable. It lends a bunch of detail to characters that were sorely needing it before, and also answers prior questions from the universe. It also provides a great deal of kick-ass (and bloody!) action, as well as better detail on the visual effects and, most importantly, hardly any “lipgate” to speak of. Fans are sure to love it.
The story’s about the same – Steppenwolf wants to unite three powerful universal boxes to please his boss Darkseid, while Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and company try to stop him. However, there’s so much more going on here. Much more comes to light about Cyborg (Ray Fisher) including how his character came to be, and his father’s dark role in the process – which is a lot deeper than you may realize. We also learn a lot more about Steppenwolf himself, and what makes him far more sinister than the theatrical cut could ever deliver. There, he was a smug jerk that didn’t have much reasoning. Here, he’s deeper, and far more threatening.
And then there’s Darkseid himself, a menacing force that could easily go toe-to-toe with Thanos in a bar brawl. He’s foreboding and powerful, and lends incredible weight to the story. Alas, it’s not likely we’ll see his story come to fruition anytime soon, but you never know. After all, Warner Bros. did greenlight this little nugget; and depending on feedback, they could likely continue.
The tone for this Justice League is a lot darker. There are “f” bombs here and there, some bloodshed (Wonder Woman dispatching terrorists this time around is remarkable) and a nice finale that actually gives Superman and Steppenwolf far better treatment. There’s also some surprising returns of characters we’ve seen in the past, most particularly the Joker, played by Jared Leto. He doesn’t take the crown away from Heath Ledger, mind you, but it’s great to see him in a much better form than his glittery, somewhat Suicide Squad appearance. Also, I can’t get over how rad it is to see Joe Manganiello back as Deathstroke, even if it’s not for very long.
Chris Terrio gets to handle scriptwriting solo this time around (nope, no Whedon, and that means no “oh, snap” references), and does a great job. Again, it’s a bit overpadded in places, but the characterization is something else. Fisher does even better here as Cyborg, because, well, we actually get to see what makes him tick, and why he is what he is. His growth is awesome.
Not to mention the others. Gal Gadot is still excellent as Wonder Woman; Henry Cavill rocks it as Superman (especially as he comes face-to-face with Steppenwolf for the first time); Ezra Miller strikes a great tone as Barry Allen/Flash, even if his love for K-pop faded in this cut (at least there’s still Rick and Morty); Jason Momoa gets to shine as Aquaman in various ways; and Affleck, yes, is still a good Batman. A bit on the growly side at times, but who cares? Also, kudos to Jeremy Irons getting more screen time as Alfred. Yes.
Some may complain about the VFX being somewhat incomplete, but I barely noticed. Sure, during the finale, some of the characters might be a slight bit iffy, but I was still impressed by what got done with COVID-19 restrictions and all. Even in the IMAX format, the film looks very good.
And the new Junkie XL soundtrack is excellent. It replaces Danny Elfman’s score, which wasn’t really that flawed to begin with. But it definitely hammers home the more serious tone, and how.
So, the bottom line is this. Yes, it’s long. No, not everything will make sense, as I’m still trying to figure out how that hero at the end showed up. And sure, the slo-mo could’ve been sped up in parts. Nevertheless this take on Justice League from Zack Snyder is worlds better than the original – and keep in mind, again, I somewhat liked it. Here, we’ve got better storytelling, more enjoyable fights to watch, some decent FX, and solid performances. Not to mention a few surprises here and there.
Now then, about that Suicide Squad director’s cut…
(Zack Snyder’s Justice League is on HBOMax now. There’s rumor of a home release, but nothing confirmed just yet.)