JUSTICE LEAGUE-THE SNYDER CUT
(***)-JIM RUTKOWSKI
"...Zack Snyder’s Justice League is surprisingly pretty damn great."

Fellowship of the League

(032021) Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a good movie. At many points, a very good movie. Its cast brings the famous DC superhero team to life through performances that range from reliably solid to very strong. Its action is clear, creative, and in a few places downright stupendous. Its thematic work is interesting, both on its own and in the greater context of its long and winding road to existence. There are multiple moments that qualify as full-on fantastic filmmaking, sequences that successfully connect western superheroes to the larger-than-life feeling of mystical Arthurian lore. There are triumphs both intimate and grand. There’s noise and stillness. There’s all-caps COMIC BOOK MOMENTS and genuinely lovely little grace notes and the places where those intersect. To put it simply, I like it. I like it a bunch.

When a powerful super villain named Steppenwolf rises and begins wreaking havoc with his army of para-demons, he travels the globe seeking three mythical devices known as Mother Boxes. Assembling the boxes will allow his master, the powerful Darkseid, to enter Earth through a portal and begin a massive invasion. Anxious to stop the inevitable war and redeem himself for his conflict with Superman, Batman assembles a team of super powered heroes to help him stop Steppenwolf once and for all. But as Steppenwolf’s eagerness grows, the team (with the help of Alfred) realizes they may need to resurrect the Man of Steel.

There’s just so much here that works but some fodder that just doesn’t. Whether it’s the five epilogues, or the endless back and forth between Mera and Arthur, it’s padding. That said, Snyder’s version of “Justice League” is still a strong superhero epic that shows much more respect for these characters this time around, and he’s much more restrained, focusing less on chaos and more on the mythology. What director Zack Snyder has done is created his own “Justice League” film but by way of J.R.R Tolkien. It garners an epic scale, and features a slew of mismatched heroes all with their own abilities, tasked with confronting an ancient menace who is seeking a powerful weapon.

Once again Snyder crams in a whole trilogy in to four hours and he mostly focuses on what the Whedon Cut was missing. Superman is much more fleshed out, Cyborg is much more emphasized, and bad guy Steppenwolf is vastly improved. Rather than being an over powered thug hitting people a lot, here he’s a complex and imposing monster who will do whatever it takes to show allegiance to the film’s primary antagonist. He’s a solid villain with a clear motivation and I had a great time watching him give our heroes a hard time. There were times I was entrenched in Steppenwolf’s battles with the heroes, and he proves to be an imposing menace with a clear motivation this time around. The mother boxes are also less maguffin’s this time around and clear cut crucial plot elements that stands between us and the end of the world.

Let’s be honest; the 2017 version of Justice League
was one of the biggest cinematic disappointments of the last decade. What should have been the glorious peak of the DC Extended Universe was ultimately a sloppy, disjointed mess that was the inevitable result of switching directors at the eleventh hour. After the tragic death of his daughter, Autumn, director Zack Snyder handed the project over to Joss Whedon and the rest is mostly remembered for the ghastly digital removal of Henry Cavill‘s moustache.

Reshoots and script rewrites saw Justice League limp into cinemas barely resembling Snyder’s original vision for the film. It was crucified by critics and its worldwide box office of $657.9 million was barely half that of its rivals of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Almost immediately, the rallying #ReleaseTheSnyderCut calls of fanboys all over the globe began, demanding Snyder be given the chance to complete his original film. Most of us never thought Warner Bros. would actually listen.

The studio had been in a similar predicament before when Richard Donner was controversially fired from the production of Superman II in 1978 despite 75% of the sequel already in the can. It would take almost three decades for The Richard Donner Cut to see the light of day. Perhaps if Twitter was around in the late 70s, fans wouldn’t have been waiting so long. Four years after the Whedon misfire and Snyder fans have finally seen their wish come true with the director being handed $70 million to complete post-production on what will be known as Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

As much as it pains many of us to give credit to a social media campaign that often fell into shamefully toxic behavior, this new cut of the 2017 disaster is a vast improvement in every conceivable way. Its plot is cohesive and coherent. Its darker tone permeates throughout the entire piece. There’s deeper character development for all involved. The visuals are often spectacular. And the four-hour running time isn’t quite as nauseating as initially feared. When all is said and done, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is surprisingly pretty damn great.

It is just so much more polished, entertaining, and engrossing, even when it stumbles here and there. As a redo, it’s a huge step up, as a movie on its own merits, it’s a strong cinematic adaptation that I could see re-watching. Snyder has finally delivered the film these beloved characters deserved and that has to cause for celebration. With an equal measure of frustrating and satisfying elements, this re-imagining of a total train wreck is hedonistic, thrilling, flawed, sporadically amazing, and ultimately entirely enjoyable popcorn cinema. If you were left bitterly disappointed by the catastrophe of 2017, set aside four hours and dive on in.
 

Directed by:     Zack Snyder
Written by:     Screenplay by Chris Terrio, from a story by Zack
 Snyder, Chris Terrio and Will Beall
Starring:     Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot
Released:     031821 on HBO/Max
Length:     242 minutes
Rating:     Rated R for violence and some language

JUSTICE LEAGUE-THE SNYDER CUT © 2021 Warner Bros Films
Review © 2021 Alternate Reality, Inc.