***Spoilers Ahead for “Justice League”***
For almost four years now, Zack Snyder superfans have been clamoring for his vision of the widely panned theatrical cut of “Justice League.” I broke down the entire story of the film’s production and release in a previous article titled, “Why I hope ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ is mediocre.” And now, you can watch “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” on HBO Max.
But, the film is a whopping four hours long, and many are questioning whether or not they should dedicate that much time to watching a movie they have already seen.
This film was marketed on the fact that this would be Snyder’s vision of what “Justice League” should have been as well as what a Snyder-directed sequel could have looked like.
So much was promised for this movie. Darkseid, a main villain of Superman and the Justice League, was set to make his big-screen debut in opposition of the Justice League. A more significant amount of time was meant to be spent in the possible “Knightmare” future first glimpsed in “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Cyborg and Superman were meant to be more fully fleshed out than in the theatrical cut. This film delivered on one of those promises.
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This did not feel like a different movie. It only looked different. Snyder, love him or hate him, is an incredibly stylized director. You can look at a scene from any of his movies and know in an instant that it is his. That is definitely the case here.
Instead of the saturated, brightly-lit, CGI mess that was the theatrical cut, Snyder’s version was much more consistent and clearly designed. Obviously, much of this film was shot in front of a green screen, but the atmosphere, background and characters fit into each other well enough that the world felt far more believable.
That being said, much of the new footage in this film looked like a PlayStation 3 cutscene. I won’t hold that against the artists, though. The visual effects artists were handcuffed by a shorter production window and a significantly smaller budget than would have been necessary.
The time and money they had was clearly allocated to making Steppenwolf more intimidating to fit within Snyder’s original design. And in this, they succeeded. Steppenwolf is far more imposing and his armor looks much less generic and bland than it did in the 2017 version.
The Knightmare timeline was said to be explored in greater detail in this movie, and in all honesty, that was almost entirely my reason for watching it. I correctly assumed that the majority of this movie would be nearly identical to what we saw in theaters, but the post-apocalyptic future was the most interesting part of “Batman V. Superman.”
I was excited to see how these characters would interact with one another in that situation, and my excitement only grew when Jared Leto’s Joker was revealed to be involved in those scenes. While many thought he was a poor interpretation of the character, I never thought he got enough screen time to truly make a judgement. The opportunity to see this Joker and his relationship with Batman seemed like an exciting inclusion.
Despite the fact that nearly all promotional material for this film featured some scenes from the desolate future, it was a mere 10- to 15-minute sequence at the end of the movie to tee up a sequel that will never be made.
Those 10 to 15 minutes were far away from my favorite part of this movie. While I do not know if it would have been possible given the limited production, instead of adding long slow-motion shots or unnecessary extensions to scenes in the first half of this movie, adding more to this ill-defined future could have increased the enjoyment of this movie tenfold.
Instead, the movie spends three and a half hours meandering its way through footage we had already seen with characters that we had already decided were misguided and inconsistent.
The Flash, an intelligent and skilled character in the comics and television series, is nothing more than a bumbling fool who contributes exceptionally little, even after displaying that he is clearly the most powerful member of this team. Batman, supposedly the leader and brain behind this operation, is used only to explain the plan and fly the team around.
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One promise that is kept is the fleshing out of Cyborg. He gets much more screen time, and his relationship with his father and the technology that created him is explored much more deeply. We see his success as a student and as an athlete in a scene where he runs for a touchdown against the Wisconsin Badgers — something that definitely would not happen if the game were played in Camp Randall.
But, his character is so unlikeable that the audience may not even connect with him, despite the attempts to humanize him and make him sympathetic throughout the film.
So, is it worth it? The first hour and a half of the movie drags beyond belief, but it honestly does not feel like a four-hour movie. The last two-thirds move at a fairly quick pace, and the action is pretty exceptional. The extended flashback to Darkseid’s first attack on Earth is incredible, and like all Snyder movies, it is visually spectacular throughout.
Would I like to see more of Snyder’s DC vision? Absolutely. Like I said, his movies are visually spectacular, and a Snyder film set in the post-apocalyptic future could be one of the coolest superhero movies ever made. Unfortunately, any future DC films will likely be without Snyder, given the mayhem around this production.
If you are a big fan of Snyder’s movies, if you thought the theatrical cut was decent enough to warrant a re-watch and if you have four hours to kill, then go ahead and watch it. But, if you do not particularly care about Snyder or superhero movies, spend the four hours doing almost anything else.
“Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is streaming now on HBO Max.