Justice League is a superhero film directed by Zack Snyder, written by Snyder and Chris Terrio. The film is based on characters and stories created by DC Comics, and specifically the fictional team called the Justice League. Over the course of the filmmaking process, Zack Snyder was forced to step down from his position, and Joss Whedon was hired as director to finish the film – a process that included many rewrites and reshoots. The film was released in 2017 and became a box-office bomb, costing the publisher Warner Bros. Pictures over 60 million dollars. It received mixed reviews from critics and audience members, and a campaign was soon created by fans to release the originally planned version of the film, naming it the “Snyder Cut”.
The film required extensive reshoots, a complete re-do of its special effects and musical score, and even the hiring of new cast members to see this dream to fruition. Despite the hurdles in its way, as no studio is ever likely to invest money into an already unsuccessful project, Zack Snyder’s Justice League was released on the streaming platform HBO Max in 2021. This film is considered to be a director’s cut of the 2017 Justice League, but it is important to note that the changes in question are not mere lighting changes and smaller improvements in a few scenes, which is what a typical director’s cut would mean. To put things into perspective, the original film had a running time of two hours, and Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a whopping four hours long.
Naturally, you might be asking the question “how different is it, really?” And I’m here to answer. The original’s cast is all still present: Henry Cavill reprises the role of Superman, Ben Affleck reprises the role of Batman, Gal Gadot plays Wonder Woman, Jason Momoa makes his first on-screen appearance as Aquaman, Ezra Miller is Flash, and Ray Fisher is Cyborg. Among prominent new cast member are Jared Leto, reprising his role of Joker from the 2016 movie Suicide Squad, Peter Guinness as Desaad, Darkseid’s right hand man, and Ray Porter as Darkseid, the movie’s new primary antagonist.
One of the original film’s most common criticisms reflected on how underdeveloped each of its characters was, particularly Cyborg, Flash and Aquaman, all of whom made their first appearances in the DC cinematic universe. Wonder Woman, Superman and Batman, the big three of the Justice League, also ended up feeling underutilized because of how messy the movie’s plot became. Fortunately, this is a part of the movie that has seen a lot of change. Flash and Cyborg get an immense amount of extra screen-time in the Snyder Cut, and it really helps flesh them out as something more than tools to bash the bad guys with. In fact, each individual character is now more interesting to watch, because more time is devoted to their struggles and personal growth during the film.
Another of the original movie’s glaring faults was its choice of primary villain. There was something wrong about how Steppenwolf looked in the original film, and he just didn’t feel like a serious threat. A lot of fuss was being made about Darkseid the whole film, but by the end of it, he didn’t even make so much as an appearance. This was clearly a ploy to set up Justice League sequels, but the lack of a cool villain made a serious dent in the movie’s reception. The Snyder Cut comes to the rescue in this case as well. Not only has Steppenwolf been completely redesigned to look more menacing, but the Big Bad of the movie is also no longer mere sequel bait. Darkseid gives off some serious Thanos vibes as he observes and manipulates everything from a distance, and he even shares a scene with Superman.
The final big change for the better I would mention here is the movie’s tone. Justice League didn’t seem to have a uniformed vision for its tone. Snyder intended the movie to be much darker than the typical Marvel movie. And yet, the theatrical version of Justice League was filled with over-the-top action sequences and lazy comedy that undermined its drama. This time around however, Snyder’s vision is very uniformed. The Snyder Cut has a much more serious tone than the original, and it truly helps with making its events feel more epic in scale. And the movie’s new third act is a brilliant payoff for this three-hour-long epic setup.
And now, the bad parts. Obviously, the movie’s FOUR HOURS LONG! Even considering that it wasn’t released in theaters, that’s way too long for a movie to be. As I’ve already stated above, this time was used to improve many of the movie’s aspects, but it just goes to show that its plot should have been separated into two films to begin with. My second complaint is about something very near and dear to me, as it concerns the Snyder Cut’s musical score. The original wasn’t great in this department, but the new version is somehow even worse. I find that music is an integral part of the movie watching experience, and I just can’t fall in love with a scene if the soundtrack is boring. And the new score is just that. It fails to deliver a sense of action to the sense that desperately need it, and parts of it are repeated every time a specific character is on screen. For some reason, the heroic and energetic Wonder Woman theme was ditched in favor of some boring vocals, which is a travesty if you ask me.
And as a final note, the movie has a terribly slow start. Unless you’re a diehard comic book fan or one of the people who campaigned online for the Snyder Cut to be released, you are likely to be bored out of your mind the first hour or so. What I realized is that you need to think about this movie like an episodic television series that picks up after its first episode. Depending on how you spend your days, you might actually need to watch it that way, as fitting four hours into a working person’s schedule can prove tricky. All in all, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a huge improvement over 2017’s Justice League, and a good movie on its own. It would’ve been nearly perfect if it wasn’t as overlong and had a better soundtrack. And at the end of the day, I can still recommend you watch this movie, especially if you still haven’t rinsed the bad taste out your mouth after your visit to the theaters in 2017.
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