Was It Worth All The Fuss?
Available On: HBO Max, Sky Cinema
Director: Zack Snyder
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release: March 18, 2021
It’s the story we all know by now. Four years ago, Warner Bros. released Justice League, the DCEU movie that tells the story of how Batman and friends came together in earth’s Time Of Need. With very little setting up its characters, with The Big Three being the only ones yet introduced, a lack of tonal consistency, and a villain with very vague motivation, the movie bombed. Hard. It lost nearly $100 million in the box office, fans hated it, critics didn’t care for it all that much, it was not what anyone would have expected from the joint adventure of 6 of the biggest names in superheroism.
It was clear this movie was made by two different people, and it suffered deeply for it. Throughout the movie, you could see the competing ideas of Whedon’s light-hearted action romp, and Snyder’s gritty edgy drama (albeit with a lot more blood and explosions than your typical drama).
Enter The Snyder Cut. Almost immediately after Justice League released, fans began the #ReleaseTheSnyder Cut movement. The petition to release Snyder’s true vision amassed over 180,000 signatures. It completely blew up. All of this before anyone knew that a Snyder Cut even existed.
Then finally, in May of last year, it was announced to be released on HBO Max.
So What’s It All About?
***SPOILERS for ZACK SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE***
Justice League is the story of how DC heavy hitters Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Cyborg, The Flash, and Aquaman came together for the first time. The 6 heroes are brought together by Ben Affleck’s Batman in an attempt to stop Steppenwolf and his Parademons who are preparing for the looming threat of Darkseid on earth.
A direct sequel to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, we see Batfleck trying to gather a team of metahumans to fight against the Parademons and Steppenwolf. Steppenwolf comes to earth upon the activation of the three Mother Boxes. After a failed invasion by Darkseid thousands of years ago in which he tried to use the Boxes to terraform the earth into the fiery hellscape of his home planet. The Atlanteans, the Amazons, and the humans each took one of the now sleeping boxes and hid them in their homelands.
Due to the death of Superman and him no longer being a threat keeping them at bay, the boxes reawaken. This then attracts Steppenwolf and his Parademons, who is desperate to regain the favour of Darkseid. He quickly gathers the Atlanteans’ and the Amazons’ Boxes and turns his sights on the one held by the humans.
After Cyborg reveals that his dad used the Mother Box to revive him after a car crash that killed his mother, the team thinks “hey, maybe this would work on the long-dead superman.” And luckily enough, it does! Unfortunately, Superman does try to kill them all until Lois, who luckily is there, comes to calm him down. They then go back to his farm, while the team formulates a superman free plan, so he can deal with the fact he was dead and be ready for the third act battle.
While all of this is going down, Steppenwolf kills Cyborg’s dad and steals the final Mother Box. The 6 heroes follow Steppenwolf for the final battle. They fight their way past the Parademons and try to fight off Steppenwolf long enough to keep him distracted so Cyborg can separate them. Then lo’ and behold along comes Superman to fight Steppenwolf, but he’s too late. The Boxes merge and the Unity is formed.
Luckily enough, The Flash enters the Speed Force and travels back in time. Superman and Cyborg separate the boxes, and the Justice League kills Steppenwolf. We then see Darkseid vow to return to earth to finish what he started and get the Ant-Life Equation.
We then get the epilogue, showing all the heroes moving forward with their lives. Batman sets up the Hall of Justice in the old Wayne Manor, Diana receives word from her home, Barry gets a job at the CCPD, Aquaman goes to see his father, Cyborg makes peace with his abilities and what his father did, and Superman goes right back to being Clark Kent, reporter for the Daily Planet.
We then get a post-epilogue showing Slade Wilson meeting Lex Luthor who reveals Batman’s identity as Bruce Wayne, another Batman dream sequence where The Justice League are travelling through a post-apocalyptic world where Superman has gone bad, and a visit to Batman from Martian Manhunter.
So What Worked?
I will admit, I was not expecting to enjoy this movie. I felt like it set a bad precedent for filmmaking in the future, like if something didn’t work you could just patch it later. However, I was pleasantly surprised.
While there were definitely some pacing issues (the slow-mo was a bit overboard) I didn’t find myself getting bored, despite the heavy-handed run time. If I’m checking the remaining runtime more often on the same movie at 2 hours, that’s a point in favour of Snyder’s version.
Part of this was due to the controversial splitting into 6 parts. While some saw it as pretentious, I greatly appreciated it. As somebody who can watch 8 hour-long episodes of a show in one sitting but gets a headache at the idea of watching a movie for 2+ hours because it’s too long, the clear dividers of each section made the runtime much easier to stomach. The knowledge I could go do something else and pick up my place and have it not feel disjointed made the experience a lot smoother for me.
There was also a lot more tonal consistency. We didn’t get cheap one-liners in the middle of dramatic scenes or big action sequences. That’s not to say the movie was completely without humour, but it never took over a scene like it did in Whedon’s cut.
We got a lot more fleshed-out characters in Snyder’s vision. In the Whedon cut, we see him repeat a lot of the mistakes he made when handling the Avengers movies (I’m looking at you, Flash falling on Wonder Woman’s chest) with one of the main ones being his inability to give everyone in an ensemble their moment. Just like he didn’t give Hawkeye or Black Widow much in The Avengers, instead focusing on fleshing out characters that had already gotten multiple movies, he falls into the same trap here. We hear loads about The Big Three, with everyone else being left to scramble for screentime.
Luckily, in this, we get a far deeper look into Cyborg’s character, who was forgotten quickly after his introduction in Whedon’s cut, we got a better grasp on The Flash, who remains the comic relief but his quips make more sense, along with an introduction to Iris West, and we even got more story for Lois. Lois, the Pulitzer Prize winner, in the Whedon cut, got relegated to fluff pieces whereas here we see that she hasn’t returned to work of her own accord as she’s taking time to deal with her grief of having lost Clark.
Most importantly, the villain makes sense now. Steppenwolf is far more fleshed out, and his motivations are made very clear. He’s fallen out of Darkseid’s favour, and to get it back, needs to get him 50,000 planets. A pretty big ask, a bit heavy handed if you ask me, but at least his “For Darkseid” line actually makes sense now.
Overall the world just feels a lot more fleshed out, which is to be expected with twice the runtime, but even the small tweaks to pre-existing scenes make vast improvements in parts.
What Didn’t Work?
So where did the movie misstep? I won’t lie, there were a fair few. Firstly, as much as it was utilised, sans slow-motion, I just cannot justify a 4-hour long movie. One of the reasons I was determined to pay close attention to every detail was because I knew there was very little chance I would ever see this movie again. As I said, I appreciated the splitting of it into parts, but it’s still a quarter of your average waking hours.
I won’t go too in-depth with the 4:3 resolution. It didn’t add anything to the movie, it did come off slightly pretentious, but I honestly stopped noticing it after like 10 minutes. It was ultimately harmless and just gave it a distinct difference from the Whedon Cut in my opinion.
Character-wise, I feel like when they went into them, it felt like we were missing something. I know I said I liked it previously, in fact, I liked it too much. When watching Cyborg’s backstory I couldn’t help but think “This is awesome. Wish I could see that movie.” By going into the characters’ origins in the middle of the movie it really took me out of it and made me wish we’d gotten a few more solo movies beforehand.
Speaking of the characters, I didn’t really like the Flash. I wanted to, believe me. I think Ezra Miller’s a great actor, and speedsters have always been my favourite heroes across the board. But he didn’t feel like a fleshed-out character. This could largely be because that Miller has played the Scarlet Speedster for the past 7 years and we know so little about him, and it’s like the studio doesn’t know how to utilise him at all. Also, that final scene where he’s running and talking to his dad, hoping that he made him proud made zero sense. That’s never been an issue here. We’ve seen his dad. His dad is incredibly proud of him. More than most movie dads are proud of their sons working 3 dead-end jobs. I just feel like there’s so much potential for the character and nobody at Warner Bros. knows what to do with him.
I also really didn’t like the way they introduced Martian Manhunter. One of my favourite things about the Snyder Cut was the updated scene between Lois and Martha. We got this beautiful snapshot of two grieving women speaking openly about how they were dealing with the loss of Superman, who couldn’t grieve openly to a world that couldn’t know who he was, and how it affected them. It gave us a great insight into these two characters.
Then it turns out Martha was Martian Manhunter and the entire scene was ruined.
I have no issues with them shoehorning Martian Manhunter into this movie. I absolutely love him. But to do it in such a way that completely takes away everything that made the previous scene so nice, completely took me out of the movie. I cannot overstate how much that annoyed me.
The slow-mo. I can’t not mention the slow-mo. It’s so heavy-handed and so unnecessary. I feel like with most movies you really have to be sparse with the slow-motion, but this is especially true for movies where one of your characters can literally move faster than the speed of light. I know slow-mo is necessary for speedsters, you want to be able to see what they’re doing, obviously, I get that. But by having every character move in slow-motion every 5 minutes, it just comes across as runtime padding and there’s no need for it.
Finally, that post-epilogue. Yet another dream sequence about the inevitable Injustice storyline. Firstly, why have Joker appear in the trailer when he’s only in the “not-a-post-credits-scene”? I just don’t understand the creative decisions behind that, it really baffles me.
I also feel like Warner Bros. and Snyder just do not have much faith in their audiences to keep coming back for more, so they keep outright showing us full scenes from later movies. I understand this is common practice nowadays, but it’s usually like a minute long, two minutes tops. Twenty minutes is almost 30% of most movies. It’s a full episode of a short TV show. If you need twenty minutes to get people excited about a movie that’s still a few years away, you’re doing something wrong.
Honestly, Zack Snyder’s Justice League really surprised me. While it was far from a perfect movie, it definitely accomplished its goal of being better than the Whedon Cut. Now, was that a difficult task? Not even slightly, but it did a better job than I thought it would going in. If the 4-hour movie feels longer than the 2-hour movie he clearly did something right!
I felt like the characters seemed way more like real people, the story made a lot more sense and the villain had an actual motive, and the visual effects were miles better than the 2017 edition. I did find myself wishing I’d known more about the characters previously, but with what we had going in, it did a pretty good job.
As I said before, there’s a good chance I’m never going to see this movie again because it is 4 hours long, but I am definitely not as opposed to the idea as I was. Who knows? Maybe if they shave off the hour of slow-mo I’ll give it another go.
Watch this movie if…
You enjoy the DCEU movies
You hated 2017 Justice League but knew there was a better movie hidden in there somewhere
You enjoy movies that are undeniably directed by Snyder
You have a lot of time
You like your action movies with a fair bit of drama sprinkled in
All images are taken from imdb