When Justice League earned a disappointing $657.9 million dollars at the international box office 2017, fans knew that there could be only one way that it could be fixed–more Zack Snyder! In case you were living under a rock since that time, Snyder was the original director of the film who stepped down during post-production. Why? The official story goes he stepped down to deal with a family crisis. Rumor had it he was fired because Warner Brothers wasn’t happy with his version of the film. Either way, Joss Whedon was brought in to do reshoots and recut the film that was released and flopped.
Snyder fans knew that if the “Snyder Cut” was finally released, one free from any studio meddling, the world would see the absolute cinematic brilliance of it, it would gain a better standing in the eyes of audiences, and perhaps even become the hit they all expected it to be. So, almost immediately, fans started a campaign to release the Snyder Cut, with efforts ranging from simple petitions to harassing critics who dared besmirch Snyder’s name.
The campaign worked. Warner Brothers acquiesced and gave Snyder $70 million to finish his cut of the movie, which would then air on their HBOMax streaming service. The film debuted Thursday on the service, and we all get to see what Snyder’s final version for the film would have looked like.
Well, not really. The Snyder Cut runs for over four hours, and there is very little chance Warner Brothers would ever release a four hour comic book film. But for sake of argument, the six-part extravaganza serves as Snyder’s definitive statement on the film, something the director’s fans have been clamoring for.
The story this time around involves a world reeling from the death of Superman (Henry Cavill) in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. His loss is profoundly felt by the people of Earth, none more than by Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). See, Wayne believes that now that Superman is gone, the world is ripe for invasion. He is joined in this assessment by Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), who on her own has discovered that the invasion has already started in the form of the alien warlord Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), who looks to remake the Earth to suit his own needs. Wayne and Prince begin a mad dash to recruit a number of the Earth’s other superhumans to fight them. But when the team they bring together comes up lacking, they come upon one dangerous realization: the only chance they have is to resurrect Superman.
After reading that, I’m sure a lot of you out there are saying, “Gee, that sounds like the plot of the original film!” And you’d be right. Anybody coming into this film expecting a completely different film is going to be disappointed. The changes to the story are minor and mostly cosmetic. What is added is more characterization and Snyder’s trademark directorial style.
The fact that the characters are fleshed out more is a welcome addition that makes the film better. It shouldn’t be much of a spoiler that Darkseid (Ray Porter) makes an appearance in the film. Steppenwolf in this film is working to conquer Earth in order get back into Darkseid’s good favor. This plot point was only hinted at in the original version, but it becomes a major part of Steppenwolf’s motivation here, and the character is a much stronger villain as a result.
And it’s plain to see why Ray Fisher was upset with Joss Whedon’s taking the reins from Zack Snyder. In addition to all of the other more serious allegations Fisher made against Whedon, Whedon practically cut the actor out of the final film. As a result. the “Josstice League” version of the character was of one-note, a dour cypher whose only purpose is to do any computer related things the league needed done. Here, not only does Cyborg get more screen time, he also gets an origin and a character arc. Being that Cyborg was the least known of the six Justice Leaguers, this added characterization is of a great help.
However, all these positive gains are lost due to Snyder’s almost masturbatory devotion to his directorial ticks. Rich already mentioned in his review about Snyder’s use of slow-motion in the film. He really underplayed how egregious it was. There is nothing wrong with using slow motion as a cinematic tool. But, well, let me compare it to ice cream. Ice cream after dinner every so often is a treat. Having ice cream every night after dinner is an indulgence. Having ice cream every hour on the hour for months on end is enough to make you puke as you walk through the frozen food section. And we are in the puking in the frozen food section when it come to slow motion in this film.
Snyder uses it during fight scenes. He uses it during training montages. He uses it during exposition. He uses it when a character buys coffee. Snyder uses slow motion so much in this film that it completely loses any effect. In a normal length movie, it would be excessive. But once the film hits the two hour mark, with two yet to go, and a scene rolls out in slow motion, you want to start screaming.
But Snyder’s criminally excessive use of slow motion isn’t the only place where Snyder’s lack of story telling economy comes into play. Snyder seems to think the longer he draws out a scene, the more powerful the impact will be. Not so. Listen, Iceland is pretty, but we don’t need to see all the hills and valleys of it as Bruce winds his way to the remote fishing village Arthur (Jason Momoa) is the patron saint of. And, yes, the Amazons using a flaming spear chucked across the ocean is a kinda cool method of communication, but we don’t have to follow it on its entire path to get the point across.
Then there’s the scenes that should have never made the final cut. They reintroduce a minor character from previous installments of the franchise, only to reveal that he is really a DC superhero in disguise. However, other than fan service, the character didn’t need to be there. And the less said about the Icelandic Tabernacle Choir that sings Arthur off to sea, the better. Other than to say that I am not making it up. I wish I was.
The film definitely needed a stronger editor, one that could rein in more of Snyder’s excesses and improve the flow of the film. With a heavier editing hand, you could have easily kept all the good stuff that was added and bring the run time under 2 and a half hours and have a far more entertaining movie.
Because as it stands, due to the pacing issues, the film suffers from the sin that will ruin any movie, let alone a superhero film: it’s boring. A four-hour film is a tough slog to get through under normal circumstances. But when you spend most of the movie wishing they will hurry up and get to the point, it’s enough to put you to sleep. And it doesn’t help matters that the film is shot in a washed out tone that makes everything look dull and grey and the soundtrack is jammed with turgid, morose indie rock songs. It all adds up to cinematic Ambien. Do not operate heavy machinery after watching this film.
This film is pretty much review proof. His fans are so devoted that you can’t point out any flaws in his work, ever. For everyone else, it is a case of preaching to the choir. I can’t say this film was an improvement over the original, but, then again, I liked the original. All I could say is that the Snyder cut is a mixed bag, worthy of a look out of curiosity if nothing else.