Zack Snyder's Justice League, At Long Last
The much awaited 'special edition' sees the light of day
Back in 2016, when I sat down to watch Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice in theatres, I was excited. Despite its problems, Man of Steel hadn't been a terrible introduction to the DC Universe, and I was interested in seeing how characters like Batman and Wonder Woman were to be introduced, especially since they didn't have any independent movies tying into BvS. Marvel seemed to have the formula for superhero movies down to a science, so seeing someone try something different was refreshing. Unfortunately, I did not have a good time - the movie was clunky, excruciatingly long, and quite boring in its entirety. I left the theatre thoroughly disappointed, and make no mistake, I really wanted to care - DC has some of my favorite superheroes, and ever since watching Superman Returns as a kid, I've always wanted to see them on the big screen. However, BvS was so dull that I found that I was pessimistic about any movie in the franchise panning out to be a success. I stayed away from the future movies after this - I watched the first Wonder Woman movie, and despite it being surprisingly good, it was not enough to convince me to get invested in the extended universe.
This reluctance was the reason I didn't watch 2017's Justice League in theatres - instead, I just watched a bunch of random YouTube clips until I realized that I had more or less seen everything it had to offer, and I was not impressed. As I expected, it got a lot of terrible reviews, and I seemed to be vindicated in my decision to give this franchise the cold shoulder. However, as soon as the rumors about the 'Snyder Cut' of the film started doing the rounds, the faintest flame of interest began to flicker in me, and I knew that if it ever came to light, I would watch it just to see how it was different from the original. Now, that time is finally here, and I am pleasantly surprised with how much I ended up enjoying this film.
Zack Snyder's cut of Justice League largely follows the same plot as the theatrical version released in 2017 - following the death of Superman and Lex Luthor's ominous declaration that enemies are approaching, Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince try to gather people with superhuman abilities to form a team to stand against any coming threats to the planet. At the same time, a being known as Steppenwolf arrives on Earth with the intention of conquering it for his master, a primordial entity called Darkseid. He plans to ravage the planet by unleashing the power of three devices with unlimited power. The new team of heroes - consisting of Barry Allen (The Flash), Arthur Curry (Aquaman), and Victor Stone (Cyborg) along with Batman and Wonder Woman, have to stand against the monster to ensure Earth's survival.
Now, while the plot of the movie is more or less the same as Joss Whedon's cut, there are around two hours of footage that were added to this version that make the overall experience better and designate this version of the movie as the definitive edition. Several scenes that were cut from the original are here and provide context to flesh out characters, pace the story, and fix some of the more flaky elements of the 2017 film. Right from the opening scene, these changes are apparent, and they make the film a much better experience. For instance, the previous version of the film tried too hard to be funny, with characters like Flash and Batman delivering cringy one-liners that didn't work with the scene at all. In this version, all of those over-the-top attempts at humor are gone, and despite this, the film still manages to extract a few laughs; not only were the jokes toned down, but they worked with the scene as a whole, and they didn't seem like they were introduced as an artificial attempt to be funny. Another major difference from this version of the film and Whedon's version is the third act of the film - I won't get into spoiler territory, but suffice to say that the direction that Snyder takes the plot is substantially different than Whedon's vision, and the end result is infintiely more satisfying.
With a four hour runtime, you can bet that characters that didn't get their chance to shine in the original version of the film got their fair share of screen time here, and that is absolutely the case. The extra footage ensures that we see more of everyone, especially Cyborg, whose backstory is explored in so much more detail. I've heard his character be described as the 'heart and soul' of the film, and I can definitely get behind such a proclamation - he struggles alot throughout the course of the film and by the end, you can't help but root for him. He's not the only character who got more screentime, though - Wonder Woman gets some time to properly flesh out the backstory of Darkseid, we see a little more of Aquaman interacting with people from Atlantis, and of course, we get a lot more of Superman.
His resurrection in this version is more or less the same as what we saw in the 2017 film, but it's what we see after he gets revived that impressed me. Henry Cavill has never looked better in the role, and his more serious demeanor seemed a lot more natural compared to his wisecracking persona in the 2017 film. The visions that we got of Superman in a post-apocalyptic Earth were bone-chilling, andSnyder's original vision for Superman's character is something that I absolutely would pay money to see adapted on the big screen. It's a shame that things didn't work out that way, but with so many people praising this cut of the film, you never know what may happen in the future.
Overall, I think Zack Snyder's Justice League is a fantastic film that improves upon the 2017 version in every possible way. The special effects are great, the characters are fully realized, and the story is intriguing while also setting up what could have been one of the best superhero arcs ever seen on the big screen. Its runtime may be a little long, but it was necessary to tell the story Snyder wanted to tell - the advantage of it being a digital release should be used by those who are averse to sitting for long periods of time in one place because this is one superhero experience that shouldn't be skipped.