On the back of a fan movement, with a never-before-seen scale and spread, arrives Zack Snyder’s Justice League on streaming platforms (BMS Stream in India, HBO MAX internationally). Before we get to the review, let’s understand where this film comes from.
For many of us who grew up in the era of purchasing discarded/second hand DC & Marvel Comics at corner bookstores, the idea that Warner Bros. was finally bringing the top-tier DC pantheon to screen with an eventual Justice League “pay-off” was nothing short of a miracle. But as Jor-El quotes in Man of Steel, “They will stumble, they will fall…”
And so they did.
Man of Steel, Batman vs. Superman and Suicide Squad had divisive theatrical runs. However, with Wonder Woman’s runaway success, hopes went up for the Justice League movie. We were going to get a once-in-a-lifetime team up of the world’s greatest superheroes. What a time to be alive (in 2017)!
Given Zack Snyder’s deep personal tragedy that led to his departure and Joss Whedon’s ‘CGI jaw Superman’ – what reached the theatre wasn’t a complete disaster, but certainly not the Justice League we wanted. Thus began the legend of the fabled #Snydercut – a nearly-finished version of the Justice League that is different, better, visionary, ecstatic and earth shattering. Fans wanted that, Zack wanted that, the cast wanted that – and I wanted it too.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is ‘different’ when it comes to visual stylization, comic book faithfulness and CGI. The movie also has the advantage of hindsight, $ 70 million and a significantly longer runtime (which would have been criminal in a theater) – therefore it is certainly ‘better’ than Whedon’s version. Finally, it is ‘visionary’ in terms of promising a DCEU #Snyderverse which may or may not come to pass.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is tonally and visually superior and gets Batman, Flash and Cyborg right. Snyder has been one of the best in bringing comic books to life on the big screen and this is true for the #Snydercut as well. Ben Affleck’s Batman as the core hero, bringing together our superheroes is finally believable and so is his message of hope. This edition allows him to be a less dour, but just as kick-ass. Cyborg’s role is fleshed out, along with the father-son conflict, and finally we get to see Ezra Miller’s Flash be the hero he needed to be in the theatrical run.
Even the Old God alliance vs Darkseid battle is worth the admission fee, the final battle at SteppenWolf’s base is significantly better, and so are Superman’s action sequences.
Then, what doesn’t work?
Well, it is too long and borders on bloated. The additional footage, and the epilogue is little more than unnecessary fan service and feels out of place. Some of the problems fans had blamed Whedon for – the Marvel-eque quips, the shallow plot and the handling of Superman’s resurrection still remain in this cut.
Minus two pivotal scenes, the core plots of #Snydercut and #Whedoncut are the same – they are zero sum games that lead to the same ending point. While #Whedoncut moves jarringly quickly through the same plot beats, Zack moves slowly, letting things breathe before eventually falling prey to his trademark over indulgence.
In this redux, Snyder lets go of any editorial oversight or limitations that would have bogged down his vision. There are extended sequences of irrelevant Nordic villagers singing and creepily pining for Aquaman, one-minute long multi-angle shots of a terrorist walking into a building, Snyder slow-mos of an American football game, and coffee making lessons from Alfred. But then there’s also additional footage of visions, extended battle sequences, and character moments that do add to the experience.
With the knowledge that Zack Snyder only shot 5 more minutes of footage, which is clearly the Joker sequence, a key question arises. Did the original Justice League theatrical cut just need a better editor aligned to Zack’s vision? And not really a new director?
The longer, more indulgent Snyder Cut is perfect for streaming platforms but it would have certainly not fared well in the theatre. I really think that HBO MAX was on to something with the original idea of a 4-part episodic.
The hype that had been generated positioned the #SnyderCut as an altogether different movie, which it isn’t. In its scope and achievement, it is only marginally more than what a Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, Lord of The Rings: Extended Editions, or Snyder’s own Batman vs Superman Director’s Cut represent. It is a better version of what was always going to be an above-average Justice League movie. I’ll admit, I didn’t mind the theatrical version, and enjoyed the #Snydercut for some of new things that it brought to the table.
We should be glad that fans got to see Snyder’s vision and that the movement succeeded. That’s a landmark moment in itself. And sure, this is the definitive version of DCEU’s Justice League – but it is now time for DCEU to move forward and embrace the multiverse fully. Let’s have that Suicide Squad now, shall we? It looks bonkers!