Is Snyder the New God of Comic Book Movies? - Justice League Review
Around three and a half years after the release of the Justice League in 2017, a film part directed by Zack Snyder, but largely reshaped by Joss Whedon and Warner Bros we finally have the true version of the film.
It has been a long road for what has been dubbed The Snyder Cut, with many not believing its existence, or that it would ever even surface. Yet here we are. Thanks to a content-hungry streaming service, along with a dedicated and passionate fanbase, Zack Snyder has provided us with his four-hour version of the film which includes new sequences, a new score, and new visuals effects.
So how does this version stack up? Does it satisfy fans and critics alike?
Luckily we have gathered our very own team of film-loving heroes to give their takes on this unique directors cut.
Dave Kelly Jake Niall
Jake: The biggest improvement this version has over the theatrical one is the characterisation. Victor Stone/ Cyborg has an emotional and fleshed out arc, giving you a greater understanding of the tense relationship with his father, and his feelings about his new body and powers. He truly is the heart and soul of the movie and this is all thanks to Snyder's writing and Ray Fisher’s wonderful performance.
Niall: Superman should have stayed dead. Instead, Henry Cavill’s bland Kryptonian is resurrected to bore audiences and bulk up the runtime of an already unwieldy project whilst retroactively removing stakes from the prior movie. Justice League shares weird DNA with The Search for Spock in that way.
Kelly: Wonder Woman continues to shine throughout. Junkie XL's new but also familiar theme for her is as impressive as it was in Batman V Superman, although by the end of the four-hour run time it does grow quite tiresome to know exactly when she's about to do something "super".
Dave: One of the biggest surprises here was Ezra Miller's performance as Barry Allen/ The Flash. His comedic moments are far more natural and actually funny, with his quirky nature and energy working for the role. He’s also given one of the biggest heroic moments of the film, which is layered with some nice emotion, and an epic display of power.
Batman plays much the same role as before, minus the misplaced humour. While Aquaman, like The Flash, is a far more grounded and likeable character. His powerset is better utilised, but also the character is given some new moments to bond with the other members of the League. However, his interactions with other Atlanteans is somewhat tedious and lacking the dramatic depth needed for a film set before his solo adventure.
Jake: Our main villain Steppenwolf has far more fleshed out motives this time around as he aims to collect the Motherboxes to get back into his master Darkseid's good graces. His new design and pure energy make him far more fearsome and terrifying in presenting a real threat to The League.
While we got only a few scenes of Darkseid, the big bad lives up to his opposing name with a very brutal and "metal" design. This is all topped off by his wonderfully dark guttural voice as performed by Ray Porter (It's so metal I'm even gesturing my hand into a rock on sign as I write this).
Niall: The villain Steppenwolf as voiced by Irish acting legend Ciarán Hinds is equally as boring as in Whedon’s cut, except this time we’re subjected to his work Zoom calls with annoying middle management DeSaad and inept boss Darkseid. Darkseid just seems to fail at everything he attempts, the true Michael Scott of the galaxy.
Rounding out the cast are the criminally underused JK Simmons, Billy Crudup and Willem Dafoe (as per the laws of this earth any film he is in is instantly bumped up one star in any review.) Twitter’s favourite woman Amber Heard tries out a bizarre accent, Jeremy Irons snarks and makes tea, while Amy Adams is utterly wasted as moping Lois Lane. An actor of her ability deserves more of a role than picking up coffee for cops yet this is the hand fate has dealt us. Also the less said of series veteran Henry Lennix and his nonsensical fan-servicey transformation the better.
Kelly: Snyder has fleshed out a solid story in this original cut. What has really shone through is the extra time given to developing all our characters, including the villains. This has helped to elevate many elements that had already been laid out. The more coherent ending, with a new epilogue (wherein Jared Leto's acting chops are put to the ultimate test), definitely gave the film's fourth hour something worth waiting for.
Niall: The broad strokes of the story are the same as the theatrical cut but with more embellished character set-ups. It’s curious how similar the story really is to the first Avengers. A big bad alien working for a bigger and badder alien comes to Earth to nab a Macguffin and invade the planet. Consequentially a collection of superheroes have to team up and learn to work together making for a real snooze of a plot, only briefly livened up by a grave-digging space necromancy element.
Less successful is Flash’s rescue of future love interest Iris West (Kiersey Clemons) from a collision with a hotdog cart that leads to some terrible rambling “comedic” beats, and some poor clear direction for Clemons to only “look very attracted to The Flash”.
However, the nadir of the entire film is the “Knightmare” epilogue/stinger. The final three scenes are all set-ups for future films that are unlikely to happen and it’s an editing disaster. These disparate teasers are placed together, forming an unholy trinity of gibberish. A post-apocalyptic conversation between Batman and Jared Leto’s damaged Joker is horribly stilted and frankly embarrassing. But if you’ve ever wanted to hear Batman say “f***” then you’ll be delighted at least.
Dave: One of the biggest travesties of the theatrical cut was that visuals originally made by a director who is notorious for his bold and dramatic cinematography were recoloured, and stripped of their appeal, often made to look ugly and not match what was intended on set. The biggest example of this is the fight on Themiscyra which now looks far better, mimicking Snyder's approach to the likes of 300 and Watchmen. The revealing costumes and fast-paced action is suited is far more suited to the moodier, and heroic lighting/ colour palette, that highlights the physicality of the performers.
While the use of visual metaphors, slow motion, and strange music choices do stand out, this will largely be a case of personal preference, as the choices rarely affect the story, or overall experience.
Kelly: There's no doubt that this film is visually stunning. However, there is still a question in my mind as to the necessity of all the slow-motion cinematography. For example, did we need a scene of young boys playing with a ball before being introduced to Cyborg? It can be quite jarring for the film to suddenly slow down like that for no particular reason.
Niall: The choice to present the film in a 4:3 aspect ratio is at the very least a bold choice, especially in a genre lacking any real artistic choices. Comparing it to recent examples of great smaller frame filmmaking such as The Lighthouse or Cold War make the compositions pretty pedestrian. The most terrible action scenes are further effected as the limited frame chokes out the much needed visual clarity.
The DC Universe
Kelly: DC fans have done a fantastic feat in pushing for this. It's evident that this film has been made not only for them but to expand on the DC universe. What Snyder's Justice League has created is a more successful foundation for DC films of the future, but hopefully, a little shorter in length.
Niall: Tragically despite his star-making turn in this film it seems unlikely Ray Fisher will return to this series due to bad blood with Warner Bros but hopefully this will act as the necessary showreel to really launch his career. Affleck has at least one more Batman outing in the running whilst rumours of a Superman reboot could leave Cavill’s future in doubt.
With the New Gods film in seeming development limbo, it’s unclear what direction Ava DuVernay has in mind. Hopefully, the designs are tweaked to be easier on the eye at least, a sad side effect of Snyder’s vision for the Apokalips crew is how Jack Kirby’s amazing colourful designs have been turned into sub-Halo generic goonery.