Zack Snyder’s Justice League (also marketed as Justice League: The Snyder Cut) is yet another disappointing film from DC’s stable of comic book adaptations. Let’s face it: aside from the blip of stand-alone drama Joker, almost every superhero film from the DC Extended Universe beginning with Man Of Steel has been mediocre. There’s of course, varying degrees of crap within this franchise, and if you compare let’s say Wonder Woman to Batman V Superman, the former looks good when compared to the latter, but it’s quite obvious to most, that this Henry Cavill-led series has been back-to-back forgettable garbage with Justice League being the peak of the filmic trash pile. Joss Whedon famously “finished” the worst movie in the series after Zack Snyder’s daughter died mid-production, and although I feel for Snyder under those unfortunate circumstances, I’m not going to start to kiss his arse upon his return. This film is average at best, no matter how many chapters or black outfits you add to it.
If you recall, the Whedon-edit of Justice League began with the now suspicious “Super germ could end humanity” story on a newspaper (which also told us that Bowie and Prince are missing heroes 🙄) all whilst Sigrid’s shite rendition of “Everybody Knows” played. From that point on, Justice League got crappier and crappier. In a rush-attempt at mirroring Marvel’s success, DC’s best idea to eke-out some solo movie profits came in the form of infinity-stone-esque, motherfucking mother boxes that an inter-planetary superbeing needed to collect in order to complete his dastardly plan of destroying life (sound familiar?). The Thanos-ish baddie was split between Darkseid and Steppenwolf (get your motor running, head out on the highway! 🤘) but Step’s oddly-fake face made this antagonist, as well as his army and much of the scenery, resemble a game rather than a film. In addition to this, the movie was so badly edited that it felt like all build-up and no pay-off, and let’s not forget about the seemingly non-stop corny one-liners. Attempting to rectify this travesty therefore, can’t take much work since the mere removal of the aforementioned one-liners would give it at least a 5 to 10% boost in the Tomatometer.
Even though nobody wants to see it, before I go on, here’s a reminder of the 2017 version…
After Snyder’s legion of fans began to bombard social media with “release the Snyder Cut” (or was it a calculated astroturfing marketing ploy by Warner and HBO?) this apparently prompted the release of the colossal, four hour Snyder Cut out today. Warner has reportedly spent $70 million re-re-jigging this film and if you add that to the original version’s $300 million, and another reported $150 million on marketing, we now have more than half a billion dollars spent in this futile exercise to try and turn trash into gold. No matter how much money you throw at this current franchise, specifically this film, you cannot polish a turd.
If you remember, at the end of Batman V Superman, Superman killed Doomsday and also himself but the moving dirt atop his grave meant he was alive, in some form of hibernation, or a zombie (or dead but leaking Kryptonian gasses). This is the plot that led to the godawful follow-up Justice League which, thanks to studio and new-director-meddling, was a wannabe-upbeat but utterly uninteresting flop. The good news is that as a start point, the narrative makes more sense now but in trying to tell this story his way, Snyder has elected to elongate this flick to almost three hours, forty something minutes (if you ignore the end credits). Sitting in my lounge for almost four flipping hours watching what is essentially a kid’s cartoon, the question is was I bored or was I entertained with this Max Original? Well, there’s positives and negatives.
The screenplay by Chris Terrio for instance, is hit and miss. In parts, you relish the fact that the conversation about “brunch” which Barry Allen (The Flash) has with Bruce Wayne (Batman) is removed, and so too is the upbeat TV news story and newspaper intro, but that doesn’t necessarily make this script any better. For instance Terrio’s Cyborg saying “what part of this looks like a gift to you?” is so much less moving than Whedon’s “if these are gifts, why am I paying for them?”. There’s also the contradictory plot point in the middle of the movie where members of the Justice League have a convo about the mother boxes. In this exchange The Flash asks “Aren’t they psycho, murder machines?” to which Cyborg answers “They’re change machines. The boxes don’t think in terms of healing or killing, alive or dead, they rearrange matter at the will of their masters, regenerate, reinstate”. But later, when the members plan on bringing Superman back to life, they come to the conclusion that when Superman died, the mother boxes were “afraid” of him and they “called” to Steppenwolf upon his death 🧐. Add this to the casual racism (Aquaman saying “my man” to Cyborg and The Flash fist-bumping Cyborg which is basically some well-meaning bigotry) and we have lots of mediocre writing here.
I terms of direction, I have to say that Zack Snyder has always been a one-trick pony; all style and no substance, and his “style” is firmly in the last decade (or the one before that). His penchant for high contrast, slow motion, hectic clutter, and translating bigot’s graphic novels into over-the-top, homoerotic trash, has meant his filmography is all a bit Dad-Metal music video-looking. “Michael Bay meets Ridley Scott” may be an aesthetic that pleases some, but when this is coupled with a mundane, stretched-out plot, the end result is almost snore-inducing. And I’ll reiterate for the umpteenth time; the “Snyder Cut” is over 4 hours long (almost as long as the review you’re reading)! Even for fans of Zack or the DCEU, this is too much. There’s not that much substance here to warrant a Lawrence Of Arabia or Cleopatra-level runtime (it wasn’t even warranted for those old bore-fests either). It’s obvious from the tone alone, that this Snyder Cut is aiming for epic but it comes across as generic, at least when compared to Zack’s filmography which is all a bit samey. Like his previous work, Justice League also contains lots of shite songs playing during slow motion scenes, and one in particular sticks out in my mind. The scene in which The Flash saves a woman whilst hotdogs are flying around in the air is somewhere between laughable and cringe-worthy. It’s things like this that keep the Snyder Cut from being a downbeat classic that it so obviously wishes it was.
This movie is not a vindication of Snyder’s original vision or for that matter; his career. The four-hour two-minute runtime simply means all of Zack’s annoyances and contrivances are amplified; slow mo, falling snow, crappy music, wannabe emotional yet unexciting editing, it’s all here. Zack Snyder’s Justice League isn’t a satisfying change of direction for his filmography, in fact it’s more of the same; think 300 meets The Watchmen (camp and long – ooh err). And remember that this is a “director’s cut” of a film that Zack Snyder never cut in the first place. This is not the original film we’d have seen back in 2017 had Snyder completed it. This gargantuan flick would never have been released in cinemas had the Coronavirus lockdown not been in place. So that begs the question; what would the so-called “Snyder Cut” look like if it was shown in a movie theater? I doubt it’d be this. The fact that Zack Snyder’s Justice League is shown in 4:3 aspect ratio (last century’s TV format) when presumably it was filmed in 16:9, it seems that the version airing or streaming from today was produced with the home in mind; pressing pause, going for a slash, and sporadically yawning.
The best thing about this version is that the story feels like it’s going somewhere, at least in the first two acts. Personally, I’d have opted to remove the unneeded chapters (Part 1 “Don’t Count On It Batman”, Part 2 “The Age Of Heroes”, Part 3 “Beloved Mother, Beloved Son”, Part 4 “Change Machine”, Part 5 “All The King’s Horses”, Part 6 “Something Darker”, and Epilogue). The peril brought by Steppenwolf, DeSaad and Darkseid (who sound like a bunch of white nationalists) is heightened in this iteration but this brings its own problems; as you get ready for the final epic battle, the film ends.
Up until the Epilogue, this movie is a little above average and perfectly acceptable in Snyder terms, but then we have an odd change of tone. We’ve got talk of a deceased Lois Lane, Batman has paired-up with his foes, long-haired Joker is there, Superman is evil, but oh no it’s a dream, or maybe it’s things to come? But since it’s the 2017 Justice League that’ll lead to the next chapter in this franchise, why leave the grande battle with Darkseid out? Since Warner Bros. seem to have some very deep pockets, why not film the final conflict and make the bloody thing 5 hours long?
The most baffling part of the current incarnation of this film for me, is the non-appearance of Superman’s beard or moustache. I remember the furor over the appallingly-bad removal of it in Whedon’s film. So where is Superman’s digitally removed and reinserted facial hair, you know, the one that they spent so much time and money eliminating?
This brings me to the effects. There’s lots of sub-par CGI with blurred edges around actors, dark or overly-bright backgrounds, and in 4:3, the already fake look somehow looks faker. It’s 2021 after all, all our TVs are 16:9 so why the flying superhuman would you make a half-a-billion dollar TV movie? There may be some blood and an utterance of “fuck” but these aren’t exactly improvements either. For the most part, it feels like you’re binge watching a TV show with each chapter being an approximately 40 minute episode. Given the total outlay in creating this picture, nobody was expecting an unimpressive TV movie but that’s what you get.
I’ll also point out that no improvements in terms of characters has been made either. Henry Cavill is still a dull Superman, Ray Fisher as Cyborg is the only subtle actor, Gal Gadot is no longer as a fish-out-of-water Wonder Woman, Ben Affleck is still a bored Batman, Jason Momoa is a porno Aquaman, and Ezra Miller is still an irritating, wannabe-funny Flash, although the only thing funny is his run. There’s still the unwanted Amber Heard as Mera and Jared Leto’s failed Joker, Joe Manganiello as Deathstroke, and Jessie Eisenberg as the finally bald and less geeky Lex Luthor, also makes an appearance. And the character of Major Lennox is now for some reason Martian Manhunter which surely makes the plot of Man Of Steel somewhat nonsensical?
The execs at Warner Bros, or someone in their food chain, seems to enjoy pissing around with what is at the end of the day: an artist’s vision. Suicide Squad was also jigged about and the end result was a dire movie that now has to be soft-rebooted or reintroduced by James Gunn. Similarly, Justice League was supposed to be Zack Snyder’s dark, brooding, black-costumed Superman-featuring film. Upon him leaving, I don’t understand why someone didn’t just finish the film as intended instead of adding 80 extra pages of script, and doing reshoots to make the film “brighter and funnier” whilst digitally (and badly) removing Superman’s moustache, resulting in what looked like a deepfake of Cavill. Conversely however, fans of Snyder, who have been online for months going Titano The Super Ape-shit over how many spikey bits there are on Steppenwolf need to calm the fuck down. Do embellishments like that really matter? You could bondage-fy everyone in this movie, what cannot be changed is the franchise itself which began with a forgettable movie (Man Of Steel) and went onward and downward from there.
With its simultaneous release on HBO Max in the US and Sky here in the UK, Zack Snyder’s Justice League may get lots of bums on seats simply because the public are eager for any kind of entertainment to break the monotony of lockdown. Anyone with a subscription to any platform airing this movie will most likely watch it this weekend so it’ll probably be a success, but that’s only if you look at this as a $70 million film and ignore the rest of the cost. If you take into consideration the full amount spent on the 2017 incarnation and this version, will this be another box-office bomb? Only Warner’s accountants will ever know for sure.
Waking up to The Family Stone rather than Justice League on Sky Cinema this morning (you’ll understand if you tried to watch this film in the UK earlier today) this morning has been one disappointment after another. After all the hype and all the hope, Snyder might have improved on the Whedon cut but since this was such a low bar, doing so was a piece of piss. So yes, the 2021 version is superior to the 2017 version but Justice League is still an overall disappointment.
Like I said, it was fans of Zack Snyder that allegedly began an online campaign to “release the Snyder cut” and I’m sure there’s enough DC nerds out there to keep this from being a flop, but does that mean everyone outside of the Snyder sycophant committee have been given something solid, substantial, and memorable to rave about? The answer is a resounding no.