The long awaited Snyder Cut improves upon many of the flaws of the original Justice League movie that appeared in theatres back in 2017. I must, however, admit that director Zack Snyder’s vision has several fatal flaws that render what could have been amazing merely passable. That being said, the film has a lot of great moments and great characters, but these elements are few and far between in the films nearly four hour runtime.
The Synder cut is full of dualities, not in its storyline or characters, but in its quality. For example, the film’s inexcusable four-hour runtime is both its greatest strength and most glaring weakness. It should say something about a film’s ability to hold one’s attention that I had to watch the movie split up into two hours segments over two separate days. I am a huge Detective Comics (DC) comics fan, so it’s pretty telling that even I could not sit through the full four hours in one sitting.
Despite the film’s length, it is actually reasonably watchable if you know how to properly view it. The film is broken up into five distinct chapters. And I don’t just mean structurally—I mean the film literally has title cards indicating the five different chapters in the movie. So the proper way to divide up this four hour phenomenon is to watch it more like a TV show, rather than a movie.
While film is difficult to watch in one sitting, the long run time actually allows more room for character development. For example, the most compelling characters in the film are Aquaman (Jason Mamoa), the Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fischer). In fact, I found that DC’s flagship characters, Batman (Ben Affleck) and Superman (Henry Cavell) were not actually that interesting in the movie. This is due in large part to Batman spending most of his time recruiting everyone else and Superman not being present until three hours into the movie. But that space allows the film to explore the origins and motivations of its other characters. We learn more about Flash’s life as Barry Allen and Victor Stone’s struggles as he adjusts to his new cybernetic body. These scenes of character development could not have been in a theatrical cut. They give an essential peek at the men and women behind the masks and give much needed depth to what were paper thin characters.
As with many superhero movies, the best moments of the film are the super fights, and this cut certainly has a lot of epic action. In particular, the sequences involving the Amazons of Themyscira fighting the film’s big bad Steppenwolf and his Parademons is a sight to behold. Zack Snyder’s famous use of slow motion is on full display in this fight and throughout the film.
Speaking of Amazons, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) steals every scene she is in. Unlike Batman who uses a lot of undeniably cool vehicles and gadgets in the film to remain relevant and Superman who is almost too super during the film’s climax, Wonder Woman is the perfect balance of mortal and immortal. Her fight scenes are fluid and fantastical, but the danger is still real. When Wonder Woman saves a school group from a terrorist attack she blocks all the bullets fired from a machine gun with her iconic bracelets. Although deep down we know she will save the day, the scene still has tension because there is a possibility of failure.
While the fight scenes are great and the characters have surprising depth to them, the film suffers from several key flaws. Despite the increased run time, not every character gets as much development as everyone else. The movie’s villain Steppenwulf (Ciarán Hinds), who is really just a prelude to the real bad guy Darkseid (Ray Porter), is still flat. Steppenwulf’s whole motivation is to get the mother boxes that would allow Darkseid to arrive on earth, conquer the planet and then attain the mysterious anti-life equation. The film attempts to give Steppenwulf a little depth by framing him as being banished for some past failure, but in the end he is just a spiky dude that Superman punches in the face. DC comics has some of the most evil and compelling supervillains in all of comics, but Steppenwulf is sadly just not one of them. In fact, I spent much of the run time wanting Darkseid to be fighting the Justice League, not Steppenwulf. The film even teases Darkseid’s power in the most epic scene in the film in a flashback in which Zeus, the Amazons, ancient humans, the Atlanteans and even a Green Lantern fight Darkseid.
While the flashback was cool, the flash forwards have some issues. Several flash forwards in the film tease a darker timeline where Superman turns evil and Darkseid is victorious. These flash forwards would be cool if we knew they were going anywhere. The film sets up all these cool things, but leaves them as cliffhangers. For example, at the end of the film Bruce Wayne is confronted by the Martian Manhunter (Harry Lenix), another legendary member of the Justice League in the comics. While his appearance is cool, I would argue it would have been cooler to see him in the movie. The film tries so hard to set up other stories that it sometimes forgets to make one itself.
Zack Snyder’s “Justice League” is by no means a terrible movie. It may not be the perfect Justice League movie we all imagined in our heads, but it is still entertaining. That being said, I cannot recommend watching the whole thing in one sitting. Separate origin movies would have fared better than shoving all of them together into a single film.