The palpable excitement I had in 2017 heading into theatres to see the Justice League was beyond that which I had when the first Avengers movie was released. I grew up a massive Batman and Superman fan, and I still am.
With so many moments teetering on greatness, and so many more that left me scratching my head, I left the theatre bewildered at what I had just watched. It was an obvious fusion of two director’s visions. One director tried to interject what has made Marvel movies so much fun, but in the process he lost the heart that director Zack Snyder had been creating with Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
I love both Marvel and DC. Just as I love both Star Wars and Star Trek. I know, blasphemy. So upon hearing that Zack Snyder would get to complete his vision for the Justice League after a #restorethesnydercut social media campaign, I was beyond thrilled.
And let me tell you… Zack Snyder’s Justice League (ZSJL) is beyond anything I expected. At a whopping 242-minutes, and split into multiple parts, Zack Snyder has broken the mould for superhero movies. It doesn’t fit in the current Hollywood model for any theatrical release and definitely doesn’t fit the superhero mould. It’s hard to compare this to a theatrical release experience as this was heading to HBO-MAX (and other streaming services) and he could, more or less, do whatever he pleased.
Having no cuffs allowed Snyder to tell the story his way, but with a bizarre aspect ratio designed for IMAX… 4:3. With it being only available through streaming, he could leave in longer cuts of scenes, add shots that allowed the movie to breath, and break ZSJL into a multi-part-experience. When this pandemic is over I really hope WB releases this movie theatrically so fans can experience it just once on the BIG SCREEN.
What got chopped from the 2017 film is mind blowing. Character building, team development, villain (reasons), DARKSEID, and some epic scenes were all left on the cutting room floor. Those cuts directly affected a portion of the development of some main characters leaving a lame version of Cyborg, Flash, and even Aquaman. Even Steppenwolf is better fleshed out and way more menacing with his original form restored. He has motivation now. No longer is he a generic villain. Did I mention Darkseid?
The beating heart of Zack Snyder’s Justice League is Cyborg. His story was mutilated in 2017. Ray Fisher gets redemption as Cyborg’s story comes to full fruition. It’s amazing how much more I cared about Cyborg this time, whom I felt was just tossed into the theatrical cut. Two never-before-seen scenes helped his arc come to maturity in an amazingly beautiful way.
The Flash has some of the absolute best superhero moments I’ve ever seen, rivalling even that one moment in Avengers: Endgame or the Doc Oc train battle in Spider-Man 2. The Flash is a more confident and powerful hero than his 2017 counterpart, while still keeping the levity of the character. Snyder’s Flash excites me for what the standalone film might be like.
While everyone gets more screen time here I always felt as though Aquaman wasn’t what Snyder had envisioned. Arthur Curry is more tormented and is the voice of reason for the team. There is a subtle moment that can easily be overlooked in the Epilogue portion of the film that sets up the Aquaman film very nicely and also shows a change in him from a solitary character to a team member.
What can be said about Wonder Woman at this point? Not much, but Gal Gadot has become synonymous with Wonder Woman the same way Christopher Reeves is with Superman. Sorry Linda Carter. Zack’s vision for the Amazionian is powerful. She kicks all kinds of ass.
Finally, the story arc for Superman is finally realized. He’s ready to stand for “Truth, Justice and the American Way”. I love the black suit, and no disrespect to the Reeves, but I need more Henry Cavill Superman movies.
For me, personally, I hated what Whedon did to Batman. Batman is not comedic. Batman is serious, brooding, and is going to do whatever it takes to get the job done. With his redemption at the end of Batman v Superman we get a truer to the comics Batman again, and I for one love it. It’s disappointing we’ll never see the standalone Batfleck now. I suspect he left the project after seeing what the execs at Warner Bros. did to Snyder.
While there are some pacing issues as Zack’s vision allowed his scenes to breathe longer than they might have in a theatrical viewing, his cut of the film is vastly better than the theatrical release. The story is coherent and it’s obvious, at least to me, that had a three hour cut been released theatrically we’d be seeing Justice League 2, The Affleck Batman movie and Man of Steel 2.
Needless to say, invest in the 4hrs. Break it up by parts. Watch it in one sitting. It doesn’t matter. My next watch will start with Man of Steel followed by the 4K remastered version of Batman v Superman and end with Zack Snyder’s Justice League.