It’s been a strange journey. Getting from there to here. Back in 2017 when Joss Whedon’s interpretation of Justice League debuted it arrived with less than stellar approval. I was one of the few who didn’t hate it, but I was definitely disappointed. I wasn’t sure what it was missing but after watching Zack Snyder’s Justice League I finally understand what was absent in the theatrical cut. To put it simply, it was a lack of respect for the characters and the world they inhabited.
Joss Whedon didn’t understand the world he was entering into when he took up the helm and steered Justice League to cinemas around the world. He added a nonsensical sense of juvenility to the affectionately, or unaffectionately dubbed Snyderverse, depending on who you talk to. Add to that cinematic choices that didn’t gel with the already completed material and you had a recipe for disaster.
Now four years later Zack Snyder’s Justice League hopes to correct the errors of the past.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League: A familiar tune with a better beat
The Snyder Cut of Justice League gives more time and care to the characters within it. We don’t jump from location to location like a rabbit on cocaine. Instead, Snyder takes the (ample) time he has to give each of his characters their time to shine. No one benefits more from this than young guns Barry Allen (Miller) and Victor Stone (Ray Fisher).
The additional scenes that Snyder includes for both young metahumans allows the audience to understand their respective plights. Barry is desperately trying to get his father out of jail by taking up multiple jobs all the while juggling his newly acquired speedster powers. I say newly acquired due to the fact that Barry seems not quite sure of his full potential as a metahuman.
You then have Victor who is an emotional mess. Clearly he’s a good person but has given up on life due to him feeling like he’s not a part of humanity anymore. He says he now hates everyone but there are scenes where he helps the helpless with his godlike tech powers. After all it’s Cyborg’s world now, we just live in it.
All these additional scenes help to flesh out both respective youngsters. With regard to the old guard, Wonder Woman (Gadot), Batman (Affleck) and Superman (Cavill) the job done here was quality over quantity. All these characters have better scenes that replace the original scenes in Justice League. For example, there is not a single scene that involves Superman’s poorly misplaced moustache. There is also no breaking of the momentum of the film to insert a terrible joke.
If there were any issues it is the fact that most of Aquaman’s scenes that are new additions are simply set up scenes for his solo adventure. Add to that a strange accent choice by Amber Heard as Mera and his scene’s feel out of place compared to the rest of the film.
Building a better world
What makes Zack Snyder’s Justice League such a success over the theatrical cut is the attention to detail. One particular highlight for me was Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) who has received an impressive visual upgrade. He genuinely feels menacing. Whenever he arrives on the scene you know shit is going to go down. It’s something that was sorely missing from the Mattel figurine we got in the theatrical cut. Most of the visual budget I imagine were poured into Steppenwolf and his nephew Darkseid (who is a dominating presence leering over the film).
Unfortunately, that does mean some of the visuals do suffer. There are scenes on Themyscira that don’t look particularly well done. The rolling hills of the Amazonian paradise look hazy in certain scenes. The final fight against Steppenwolf also is quite grim so I would suggest watching this film around dusk to hit peak darkness by the time the climax hits.
Another element that easily elevated this film is its score. Danny Elfman and his perversion of the Superman theme is gone. Junkie XL and his team craft a touching and emotional score that harkens back to the films that came before. Not only that there is a sense of coming full circle with Superman thanks to how Snyder continues his story in this film through narrative and musical choices.
I could go on and on about Zack Snyder’s Justice League and how for me it is a flawed but inspired superhero film, but I won’t. I will end with this though, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a film that sits in the DC Multiverse as something epic and unique. Just be sure you watch it the way you want, whether it be in 1-hour chunks or a massive 4-hour feast.