By Craig Allan, Business Manager
This movie is four hours long, and that fact can really be felt.
In November 2017, Justice League, the big superhero team up movie by Warner Bros and DC comics (in which they attempt to outdo their Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) counterparts) debuts. However, what should have been a crowning achievement for some of the greatest heroes comic books have to offer was instead a middling effort that failed to satisfy critics.
An entire book could be written about the saga of Justice League (and it has been) but to summarize: after the two mediocre at best films of Man of Steel and Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, filmmaker Zack Snyder was given the keys to the largest assembly of DC comics superheroes ever put to film.
After filming had wrapped, news broke that Snyder’s daughter, Autumn, had committed suicide. The loss caused Snyder to step away from the project, leaving Joss Whedon, the director who brought the MCU’s superheroes together in The Avengers, to finish the film.
Reshoots were rumoured to be quite comprehensive, with Whedon reworking scenes and leaving much of Snyder’s work on the cutting room floor in order to bring down the run time. Along with this, there were accusations of a toxic work environment caused by Whedon, which led to a third party investigation after Cyborg actor Ray Fisher spoke out about alleged mistreatment from the director.
In the years since the failure of Justice League, rumours began to circulate that there was a cut of the film somewhere on the Warner lot that was the fully realized version of Snyder’s vision. As the years went by, the fanbase, who once bemoaned Snyder’s direction of the franchise, began demanding that Warner release the Snyder’s version of the movie, which they dubbed the Snyder Cut. Devoted fans even went so far as to commission a billboard in New York’s Times Square, requesting the cut.
In 2020, with Warner looking to make a big splash with their new streaming service (HBO Max), they gave approval to Snyder to finish his cut of Justice League, which was to be released exclusively on the site.
Whether this is considered Snyder’s original cut of the film, or a film that fans willed into existence (Snyder was given a $40 to 70 million dollar budget to finish the film) through sheer force of fandom, a question remains: does the Snyder Cut, officially named Zach Snyder’s Justice League, make up for the poor reception of the last movie? The answer is no.
This movie is four hours long, and that fact can really be felt. There are so many scenes that drag on for no reason and could have been cut. The most egregious of these involve many agonizing scenes where characters are just walking towards something in slow motion with dreary music playing over the scene.
In press releases, Snyder’s wife and producing partner, Deborah Snyder, says that she hopes people watch this movie in parts, stopping to take in each part before moving on to the next. But when Warner is releasing the entire film in one drop, the likelihood of people doing this feels low. Along with this, Snyder also edited the movie in a 4:3 aspect ratio, meaning there are black bars at the sides of the screen. Snyder did this because he was hoping the movie would be shown in IMAX, but considering there are no plans to release the movie in IMAX… the choice is baffling.
As for the characters in the movie, there is more development into characters like Cyborg and Aquaman, but these moments still feel disjointed. While characters like Aquaman are better written, characters like The Flash get insufferably worse, with Ezra Miller’s portrayal of the character just as bad as in the first film, only now stretched out through four insufferable hours.
This movie is better than the first Justice League, but Snyder should not get credit for that. For one, there is no way Warner Bros was ever going to let him release a four-hour movie, so this film would have never made it to theatres in 2017. I highly doubt Warner would have even sprung for it exclusively for streaming if it weren’t for the fact that the film was already sitting mostly finished in their archives. The visual effects are better, but it’s easy to do that when people who saw the first movie can already tell you what looked terrible.
While the movie does have some good scenes, like the improvement of some of the original fight scenes from Justice League, and an absolutely riveting final scene containing a redeemed Jared Leto Joker performance which sets up a sequel that will never come, the bottom line is Zach Snyder’s Justice League in an overindulgent slog that only barely clears the low bar of its original. With so much to do in this world, Zach Snyder’s Justice League is just not worth sitting through.