Before I begin this review, I feel I need to give a disclaimer: I wanted this film to fail.
After seeing the original Justice League in 2017, I was ready to write off all DC Comics films. I felt the film did a disservice to the classic characters we knew and loved. I felt it also did a horrible job introducing new characters into the fold, especially Cyborg. I could understand to a point why many wanted to see Zack Snyder’s vision complete. Yet at the same time I felt Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice was one of the worst superhero movies ever made. So when the cries started getting louder and louder to #ReleaseTheSnyderCut, I cringed. Eventually, WB bent to the whim of online bullying and director Zack Snyder was allowed to finish editing on his original vision for the Justice League movie.
My attitude grew even more negative as news about the behind the scenes environment of this film came out. The responses from toxic fans online and the fact Zack Snyder got more money to add more scenes to his allegedly complete film made me resent the fact that the Snyder Cut even existed. I wanted this film to be the biggest albatross in cinematic history. Especially after hearing it was going to be a bloated four hours and two minutes long. I mean, who does Zack Snyder think he is? Cecil B. DeMille making The Ten Commandments?!
Still, being the glutton of schadenfreude that I am, I turned on my HBOMax app on the evening of March 18th to witness this film. I was praying for a train wreck. But after four hours and two minutes, I was eating crow.
While I still feel this film could have benefited from being two separate films, I did find myself enjoying it much more than the Joss Whedon cut. My biggest issue with the Whedon cut is that it left me feeling muted. As I mentioned earlier, I was not pleased with how the film turned so many of the central characters into pointless scenery that served an occasional function in the story. Even the villain was bland.
This time, we got an epic film. And this film needed to be a grand epic. Maybe not as long as it was, but still we needed breathing room between the intense action scenes to absorb what was going on. There was a lot of story here to be told, and Whedon’s cut, by comparison, seems like the cinematic equivalent of needing to build a toothpick sculpture for school and just slapping something together that just barely met the minimum requirements and saying “Well, I guess that will do.”
This time, we are allowed to live in the world of DC Comics and get to know the cast without any sense of disconnect or lack of care. This is doubly true of Cyborg, who I think is the character general audiences heading into this movie without a lot of knowledge about the comics would know the least about. I am glad we got a full origin story for him in this film and a chance to develop a real emotional bond with him. His full story arc should never have been cut.
The same is true of Barry Allen, aka The Flash. Now, while I still feel they could have toned down the gee-whiz, fanboy aspects of his character, I also feel his character was better handled here than under Whedon’s rewrites. We get a better sense as to why Barry does what he does from one cut scene, even though he doesn’t get a full origin story like Cyborg did.
Steppenwolf is a stronger villain here, but more importantly is an actual character. In the previous film, he was just there to get the motherboxes for his master. Here, we get a full story arc that comes full circle, revealing that he is seeking redemption for his past failures and desperate to prove himself worthy of recognition. This makes his eventual defeat so much more delicious to witness.
As for Steppenwolf’s master, it was also great to finally see Darkseid. For years, I have said that he is a villain that needs to be tapped into cinematically. We get just enough of him here to leave us wanting more, which is the right thing to do. That being said, it also leads into one of the lingering issues I have with the Snyder Cut.
The presence of Darkseid, his response to Steppenwolf’s defeat, and the bizarre epilogue that follows feel like they were meant to set up a potential film adaptation of Injustice: Gods Among Us. What once would have promised potential now seems like an empty promise. The world of the DCEU is in flux and both Warner Bros. and Zack Snyder himself say there will be no follow-ups to this film. This, to be blunt, sucks, because I would like to see where it goes from here, rather than see Superman challenging The Flash to a 1000 yard dash.
The other major complaint I have is the film’s handling of Lois Lane. Granting that Lois is the classic damsel-in-distress in terms of her plot function, she’s also usually portrayed as a woman who can do things for herself, will do things for herself and doesn’t take shit from anyone. Here, she is regulated to being a mere plot device and nothing else. There’s one scene in particular involving her that is the Snyder Cut’s MARTHA moment. You’ll know it when you see it.
That being said, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a film I wish I could have seen on the big screen in IMAX. (Incidentally, this is why the film is the 4:3 aspect ratio on HBOMax). I had a much more enjoyable experience this time around than last, and unlike the original edit, I will gladly revisit this one in the future, when I have the time.