Zack Snyder’s Justice League is an oddity. Snyder left the project originally due to family tragedy and Joss Whedon (director of Avengers, 2012) oversaw the completion of the theatrical version released in 2017. That version is a complete non-entity and was dead on arrival, with fans subsequently campaigning for the release of the ‘Snyder Cut’. Warner Brothers were desperate for content to sell their new streaming service HBO Max, so buckled and allowed Snyder to shoot new footage to complete his vision.
This is not the film we would have received in cinemas in 2017 if Snyder completed the film originally
The most important thing I can tell you in this review is that the film is four hours long. Make no mistake, this is not the film we would have received in cinemas in 2017 if Snyder completed the film originally. Snyder has essentially been granted complete creative freedom to finish the film according to his vision alone…
Now, onto the real question – is it any good? Well, it’s complicated. However, this isn’t new, as my relationship with Snyder’s previous two entries in DC mythology (Man of Steel, 2014 and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, 2016) is also very complicated. I quite like Man of Steel, it’s messy and Superman is too angsty for my liking, but it’s genuinely ambitious and has some good ideas.
Batman v Superman is Batman v Superman. The most self-important movie ever made, that ends in a headache inducing fight with a CGI rock monster. Nevertheless, I still somehow have a soft spot for it. I will occasionally revisit it, maybe just for torture purposes, but something about it is, shall I say… captivating.
Man of Steel and Batman v Superman are stodgy films, but the theatrical cut of Justice League is light and airy. So, I expected Zack Snyder’s Justice League to throw in a load of big ideas and SERIOUS character conflict to bring itself in line with Snyder’s previous efforts.
However, it doesn’t… The film’s story remains a surprisingly pedestrian one about Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) putting together a team of heroes to fight the big baddie Steppenwolf (voice-over by Ciarán Hinds) and his Parademons. There are additions, but it all feels like minutia rather than major recontextualization.
The pacing completely shifts the tone and there is lots of visual flair now, which I think makes the film an actual entity unlike the theatrical version
The extra two hours is mainly a product of very deliberate pacing. Some will find this film boring because it is very different to the genre and mainstream contemporary standard. However, I found it relatively refreshing, because oddly, I think it makes the larger-than-life mythological plot easier to digest. The pacing completely shifts the tone and there is lots of visual flair now, which I think makes the film an actual entity unlike the theatrical version.
The tone at times is very bleak
The tone at times is very bleak, which is appropriate after Superman’s (Henry Cavill) death in Batman v Superman. I think in this regard, the film is genuinely quite good, because once Superman is brought back to life, it feels more deserved. Subsequently, it makes Superman’s death at the end of Batman v Superman less of a gimmick.
Besides the sense of mourning, there isn’t much beneath the spectacle and so, in that sense, the four-hour runtime still feels a bit silly. There are many moments when characters stand ominously, wistfully staring, when they don’t seem to be thinking about much except trying to look vaguely introspective. The film teeters on the edge between ‘cool’ and pretentious, with many moments veering firmly into either side of the divide.
Up until the epilogue, the film makes sense and is relatively coherent
Up until the epilogue, the film makes sense and is relatively coherent. With the epilogue, the film simply refuses to end. Just like the ending of The Return of the King, it continues and continues with no end in sight. Yet, it’s worse here. The scenes are just miscellaneous bits of sequel bait tacked on, which leave you scratching your head, and not in a good way. What is an experience of straightforward spectacle becomes a convoluted mess, which makes the whole film a little unsatisfying.
Ignoring the epilogue, the only real discernible difference between Zack Snyder’s Justice League and the theatrical cut is tone. The tone allows the film to now be an appropriate continuation of Batman v Superman and gives the spectacle some much needed impact. Unfortunately, the film still isn’t good; it’s now mediocre. For audiences not interested in the iconography of these characters the film will be dull. I am interested, so like all of Snyder’s DCEU films, I will probably revisit this one, but it is my least favourite of the three.
Featured image courtesy of Budiey via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes made to this image.
In-article images courtesy of @snydercut via instagram.com. No changes made to these images.
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