By Richard Chachowski
I should probably clarify for anyone wondering: no, I did not see the original 2017 “Justice League,” namely due to the fact that everyone I spoke with who had seen it actively spoke about how bad it was. So let me be clear right off the bat — I am not here to evaluate whether the “Snyder Cut” is an improvement upon the original 2017 film at all. I am simply here to judge Snyder’s new “Justice League” on its own merits and as its own movie.
To my knowledge, I believe the plot of “Snyder Cut” closely mirrors that of the original ‘17 “Justice League.” Sensing an imminent invasion of some kind, Batman (Ben Affleck) assembles a superhero team composed of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), the Flash (Ezra Miller), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to aid Earth against an alien army led by Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds). This team must prevent Earth’s three Mother Boxes from falling into Steppenwolf’s hands while also attempting to resurrect Superman (Henry Cavill), who they believe might be their planet’s best chance at survival.
Honestly, I am still amazed this movie really exists. No studio has ever really re-released a film quite like this before — or not even really re-released, but rather re-edited and re-shot pretty much the entire movie — so I suppose some props are owed to Warner Bros. for listening to the fans and giving Zack Snyder the creative license to make the film he wanted to make.
And boy, did Snyder make his movie. Snyder has his signature directorial style, and it certainly is on full display here. (Through more than a few scenes, especially the ones that incorporate slow-mo, low-angle shots, disorienting tilts and pans, or an incessant use of closeups, the movie just about screams “Zack Snyder made this!”). In a way, that might be the movie’s biggest flaw, as well as its greatest strength: it feels like I am watching a Zack Snyder movie rather than a DC movie.
Say what you will about Marvel, but at least those movies all have some sort of cohesiveness or overall tone that offers some thematic unity. With DC, it’s glaringly obvious each movie is made by its own director — each film’s tone and shot types and color compositions are all so different. Audiences going to a Marvel movie know what to expect — a few laughs, a few thrills, plenty of vibrant colors and decent-enough CG action, and Marvel delivers. With DC movies, you have no idea what to expect, with each movie possessing its own look and feel and tone separate from the other movies in DC’s universe. If you don’t believe me, just look at how different “Suicide Squad” looks and feels compared to “Batman v. Superman,” and then look at how similar “Guardians of the Galaxy” feels to “Spiderman: Homecoming.”
In a lot of ways, the “Snyder Cut” feels a lot closer to Snyder’s other films, like “Watchmen” or “300,” than it does to “Wonder Woman” or “Shazam!” While “Justice League” may be able to do a lot of things, it certainly doesn’t do a good job at achieving some sort of specific tone for DC’s franchise, nor establishing what to expect in future DC movies down the road.
That being said, DC’s choice to focus on each movie as they release it, not caring if it establishes a set tone or not, is more than likely a deliberate one. With Marvel’s focus on feature films burning off after ”Endgame” and their continued focus on Disney? shows, I think it might be safe to say that DC has accepted that Marvel has won the Feature Film War. However, that’s certainly not a bad thing, as DC is often at their best when they’re not competing with Marvel by trying to essentially make a Marvel movie — a common complaint a lot of fans reportedly had for the brighter, more humor-heavy ‘17 “Justice League” and for other DC movies like “Suicide Squad.” If this movie, along with the R-rated “Birds of Prey” and the upcoming “The Suicide Squad” means that DC will be churning out movies with more adult-oriented content and language, I’d say DC is finally starting to realize the potential their movies have for doing a different sort of superhero film than the ones we’ve seen time and time again for the past ten plus years.
Needless to say, this movie, like pretty much every DC movie — even the rare good ones — has just as many good things about it as it does bad things. For starters, at just over four hours, the “Snyder Cut” is incredibly long, and at some points feels longer than its actual run time. The overall movie might’ve benefitted more if some scenes were trimmed down a bit or cut entirely. The main problem here might be Snyder’s over-reliance on slow-mo. Sure, slow-mo works well with some extended action sequences or major fight scenes, but did we really need flashbacks of Cyborg playing football in slow-mo, or Aquaman just walking through a storm, drinking, in a slow-mo? Honestly, I’d be curious to see what the runtime of “Snyder Cut” would be if they just removed all but a few of the slow-mo sequences. If they did, I’m sure it would have made the movie a much more manageable length, and I’m sure audiences would be thankful for it.
Certain storylines in the film do tend to be confusing or detract a little from the main narrative. There are extended scenes throughout the movie that show Lois Lane (Amy Adams) coming to terms with Superman’s death at the end of “Batman v. Superman” that disrupt the pacing of the overall story, but it is nice to see a character important to Superman like Lois Lane explored more in the movie.
The main heroes’ plan to bring Superman back to life is also a bit confusing. Realizing they are unable to stand much of a chance against the unstoppable Steppenwolf, the heroes spend quite a large portion of the movie trying to revive the Man of Steel, believing he’ll be able more than a match for Steppenwolf. Upon reviving him, however, the amnesiac Superman attacks his fellow Justice League members, who are saved only by the sudden arrival of Lois Lane, who is inexplicably able to remind Superman of who he is just by showing up in the scene. With his memory returned to him, Superman leaves with Lois and returns to Smallville, with the Justice League just kind of … accepting that and going on to fight Steppenwolf on their own?
Yeah, it doesn’t really make sense — one minute, the Justice League are spending a good hour or so trying to revive Supes, emphasizing time and time again how he’s their only hope, and in the next, they’ve just accepted, “Oh well, we gave it our best shot! Let Clark enjoy his vacation in Kansas.” It’s confusing, but I guess necessary for narrative’s sake, as it was important to bring Superman back without him saving the day right away like Superman famously does.
Furthermore, the movie is dark. And no, I don’t mean dark in the sense of “The Dark Knight Trilogy.” I mean the movie is literally dark in terms of lighting. I’m sure it was a deliberate choice on Snyder’s part to set it apart from the colorful films of Marvel and to have a grungier look, but there were scenes that were so dark I actually had a hard time seeing what was even happening or who was on-screen. Apparently, a black-and-white version of the movie is planned sometime in the future titled “Justice is Gray.” After seeing just how muted the colors are in this movie, though, you almost wonder if you’re not already watching it.
I had one major concern going into this movie. With a cast as large as this one, I wondered if the movie would feel at all bloated, with not enough time spent on each character in order to justify their presence in the movie. While the “Snyder Cut” might not have been able to pull this off quite as well as the last two “Avengers” films have, I would still say Snyder either spent just enough time exploring each character in order to understand their motivations, or featured a character that might be explored more in future film — something DC’s already working on accomplishing with the release of “Aquaman” and both “Wonder Woman” movies.
Characters that the film features in minor roles (and there are quite a few) seem to be only setting up future appearances or movies, with cameos that remind me a lot of Nick Fury’s at the end of “Iron Man” or Iron Man himself at the end of “The Incredible Hulk.” What exactly DC is building towards, I don’t know, but it was interesting to see the groundwork being laid in the “Snyder Cut.”
Perhaps the character that was the most fleshed out was Cyborg, who the movie seems to spend the most time exploring the backstory of, as well as the full extent of his powers and his relationship to his father. While I certainly wasn’t expecting him to play such a prominent role in the film, it came as a pleasant surprise, with the film exploring a character whose story hasn’t really been depicted in live-action before.
The “Snyder Cut” itself is not a bad movie. If anything, on its own, it may be just an average movie, with too long of a runtime and so-so CGI. There’s not much to it in terms of action or humor, and I found myself neither liking the movie nor really hating it at all throughout its four-hour length. Having not seen the original “Justice League,” perhaps I am missing its overall significance, with most critics and fans seeing the movie as a vast improvement over the original ‘17 “Justice League.” In the end, too, I will say it was nice to see Warner Bros. greenlight the movie, and also for fans to see Snyder’s original vision for the film, and for Snyder to receive the personal closure he needed making the film he wanted to make and that he wanted the fans to see.