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Geek Review: Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Say what you will about Zack Snyder, but he understands the drive of his characters, and takes time to build them. From 300 to Sucker Punch, and Watchmen to Man of Steel, Snyder spends an inordinate amount of time building up his characters, giving them purpose, direction and a foundation, to explain their action. It’s what helps audiences understand what drove Leonidas in 300, but in some ways, it can also irk as his characterisation is not always on point, especially when no one really needs an hour plus to relate to Superman in Man of Steel, and don’t get us started on Martha-gate.

But no one can deny that his world-building was sorely missed with 2017’s Justice League, when Snyder, the original director of the film left the project but only after he shot the majority of the movie, intended to be the first of a trilogy, after his daughter Autumn took her own life. Joss Whedon, fresh off criticism for his work on Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, was assigned to take over the reigns. The film received splitting reviews and it didn’t take long for fans to later call on Zack Snyder to release his own version of the movie on Twitter via the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut hashtag.

What was deemed to be the lost version of the original envisioned movie so wrapped in its own mythology will finally see its release on HBO Max in the US and HBO GO across Southeast Asia, as the world, currently obsessed with superheroes as they continue to be launched left, right and centre every other week, can finally lay their eyes on what is now a four-hour Zack Snyder’s Justice League movie.

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And it is both an eye-opener, as well as everything we’ve ever seen before. That’s because Whedon didn’t reshoot his own movie. He rewrote the original, and at the behest of Warner Brothers, trimmed it down to one standalone movie, but still kept most of the key action sequences intact. So don’t go into this expecting to see a different outcome to the resurrection of Superman, the first fight with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) against the terrorists, or the first encounter between Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman, The Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Aquaman (Jason Momoa) against Steppenwolf. 

What you will get is a more nuanced approach to storytelling that borders on self-indulgence, as Snyder unleashes every aspect of what he wanted four years ago. It’s a rough mix, but the best thing about his original version is said characterisation, of Batman being guilty about the death of Superman, of Arthur Curry aka Aquaman not wanting to get involved at the start, and best of all, an all new take of Cyborg aka Victor Stone. 

There’s no denying that Whedon’s version basically glossed over Cyborg’s character, from his portrayal, his involvement and his story arc was one of the weakest points of the 2017 version. Here, Victor’s origins and his relationship with his father, serves as the cornerstone of the film and gives audiences a chance to see the creation of the world’s most powerful superhero team with front row seats. Ray Fisher was right to be upset with the end result because he, along with fans, were shorted with the final product.

And he’s not the only one, as fans get a ‘solo movie’ feel of each of the heroes and can have a deeper appreciation for them. Heroes like The Flash and Cyborg especially get more focus and screen time. Detailed back stories are obviously good for people new to the DC franchise too. If you never cared about Cyborg in the first film, you would fully be able to understand his character, his motivations and how important he is to saving the world in this cut of the film.

There were also other things that were left out from the original including the appearance of Darkseid, DC Comics’ cosmic villain who makes Thanos look like a common criminal. Fans of  DC Comics will also appreciate the appearances of other Fourth World characters, including DeSaad, and an all new Steppenwolf.

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Wrapped in a new costume, or rather, the one Snyder envisioned before it was altered in the original film, Steppenwolf here has his reasons for invading Earth and wanting to locate all three Mother Boxes. Yes, the chase for all three boxes is still the same, as is a rather similar attack on Themyscira and the Amazons, and even Atlantis. But there are small differences in the events that transpire, like watching a deleted scene that adds more depth and detail to the final project, and audiences can finally see the what if that actually occurred.

And these deleted scenes are fascinating, providing great insight into Snyder’s plans. Batman and Wonder Woman hold the fort for the better part of the film, as The Flash provides much of the comedy and one-man banter that was used a lot in the original film. It’s not that the rest of the characters aren’t funny, but the comedy doesn’t feel forced now.  

And with the director back in his seat, Zack Snyder’s Justice League indulges in beautiful cinematography rather than just to get on with the scene. This is seen through the use of slow motion effects when a character does something, most notably seen between Barry Allen and his first interaction with Iris West, who was written out in the 2017 version. But whilst overall a visually stunning film, there are moments of self-indulgence that not only slows down the pacing of this long and a times, painfully long 4-hour movie, it also alienates certain experiences of the film.

We won’t spoil it for you, but if you can explain to us the singing in the first chapter of the film, we would be eternally grateful. 

And as much of the length is on fan service, there is also the aspect of, will everyone else watching this understand what they are seeing? Given the new time limit, Snyder is extremely generous and gives every character full attention and focus, as each introduction of a hero comes with rehashing their origin story as well as a presentation of their superpowers and abilities. When you slow down Wonder Woman using her lasso or Cyborg running on the field, it truly is an orgasmic experience for fans of film – particularly if you’re into the technical aspects of it.

Every scene, no matter how small or big their significance is to the overall storyline, is treated with absolute care and that’s where it gets painful, as even scenes as mundane as Wonder Woman making tea is made to look good, though we don’t know why it’s important. The downside of Snyder’s indulgence is that even the most unnecessary bits of the film are given the maximum attention and this version is a hefty portion lingering on dragged out scenes and a smaller amount on high intensity action. If you’re watching the movie for high-speed action and a superhero spectacular, you’ve already seen it in the 2017 version of the film. 

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The biggest flaw of Snyder’s self-indulgence is that it puts a spotlight on how rather miswritten the movie is, and if you’re a fan of DC Comics but not of Snyder’s earlier movies, you know what we mean. His Batman isn’t the Dark Knight Detective, and his Superman is not the Man of Tomorrow. Rather, they are a retelling that is not entirely accurate, and imagine it being done to more characters. The heroes converse with each other in one liners with brief pauses between each interaction, so imagine listening to the characters string a bunch of pointless words together, but some offer little to no impact. The Flash utters plenty of jokes, while Aquaman is that type of person who needs to learn that if you have nothing good to say, you shouldn’t say it at all. And Wonder Woman already met Alfred (Jeremy Irons) earlier in the movie, so why was there a scene when she seemingly can be seen saying hi to him for the first time, after Batman introduces everyone?

And now that Wonder Woman and Aquaman solo movies have been released, there are bits in Snyder’s cut that contradict those movies, such as Arthur’s relationship with his fellow Atlanteans. It’s not entirely important, as even Warners make it seem that the 2017 version no longer exists, but it’s a reminder that this version isn’t canon either, which is a pity as Cyborg, like when he was placed front and center in the comic books back in 2017, is an interesting character to see developed. 

Where we do want to see more are the previously teased elements and characters who we likely won’t see anywhere else again, like several scenes with Martian Manhunter (Harry Lennix), the Green Lantern corps and Jared Leto’s Joker, who appears in a fresh sequence that Snyder shot specifically for this cut. But while they do serve as great additions for fans who have been looking forward to seeing more than just the go-to 6 members of the Justice League, they’re not always impactful.

Secondary characters like Alfred, Meera (Amber Heard) and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) get more screen time though they don’t bring anything new to the table unless they’re interacting with Steppenwolf or any of the members of the Justice League, such as Alfred aiding Batman and Lois Lane in helping Superman remember who he is when he awoke from the dead. Speaking of Meera, why does Heard put on a British accent in this cut?

Oh, and much has been said about Leto joining this moving in new footage, but don’t expect too much into it. It’s great to see this version of Batman versus Joker, albeit in some future dream sequence that doesn’t really do much, even if it does offer a glimpse of how Leto would have taken a more Ledger approach to the character.

The film utilises plenty of music as well, and Junkie XL has returned to score this version, though there are some differences. Music helps in setting the mood or intensifying what’s happening on screen and while Warner’s dance with DC Comics’ movies have been brief, there are some recognisable tunes, from Man of Steel, to Wonder Woman, most notably with Hans Zimmer’s “Is She With You”. The score was used to first introduce the character in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and again in the later Wonder Woman movie and 2021 sequel, and Snyder repeats it here, it’s got a few changes to it.

At the start of the song, there is some sort of yelling or screaming (which again brings back to the scene where Batman meets Aquaman in the village). Though it’s never explained why this folk-like sound effect is used plenty of times in the movie, it certainly doesn’t sit easy for folks who are familiar and attentive to the use of music and the associations attached to the music we have grown to love. There are some things you do not touch and change because it meddles with one’s sense of familiarity and affinity to the hero and franchise, and we wish Snyder had learned that sooner. 

Adding on to that, the use of music in this movie is incredibly heavy. At times, music is used where it would be better not to be used as it can be a tad disruptive. Nonetheless, those who aren’t sensitive to sound and music and are more visual-focused may not pay much mind or even notice the symphony of songs that come by every other half hour. 

All in all, Zack Snyder’s Justice League truly gives everything fans have demanded for when the 2017 film came out. More care and attention, more fan service, more characters and one hundred percent, more stunning visuals to match up to the revered DC superheroes. However, this movie can also learn a thing or two from the “less is more” department.

Ultimately, there is no denying that Snyder’s cut, though much longer, does away with much of the silliness, including the rooftop scene with Batman, and the family scene in the final act. We ultimately saw Snyder’s version in the 2017 version, and this is the more detailed one as well. Still, there are bits from the 2017 version we do miss, most notably that race between Superman and The Flash. And the fan in us noticed the lack of John Williams’ score when Superman makes his debut against Steppenwolf.  

This Justice League team-focused movie should make viewers excited for more to come from these heroes as it’s meant to mark the formation of the superhero group. It’s just unfortunate that this is the end of the road for Snyder’s ultimate vision, as while the film ends in a semi cliffhanger, it is unlikely that any of the planned sequels, which were never shot, will ever be made.

GEEK REVIEW SCORE

Summary

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is one of the most highly-anticipated superhero movies of the century that sounds good on paper, looks good on screen, and shows us what could have been. Not everything works, but this is the superior version to what we originally saw, and Snyder deserved better then. Luckily, we get the better version now.

Overall
8/10
8/10
  • Story - 7/10
    7/10
  • Direction - 8/10
    8/10
  • Characterisation - 9/10
    9/10
  • Geek Satisfaction - 8/10
    8/10


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