The Dark Herald Recommends: Zach Snyder’s Justice LeagueThe Dark Herald
Let’s be clear this is a self-indulgent mess.
A gorgeous self-indulgent mess to be sure but still a self-indulgent mess.
I’ll start with the biggest question out there, is it better than the Joss Whedon version?
Answer: Yes. Easily. It’s a much better version than Whedon’s. Even with its flaws this movie completely outclasses the Gamma Goblin’s take on it
This film is over four hours long and you really, really feel it. Also, this movie is a massive middle finger to Joss Whedon. Absolutely nothing that Whedon shot made it into this version. The cell phone interview with Superman. The race with Flash at the end, Aquaman suddenly making embarrassing confessions about his insecurities so he’s not as much of an Alpha as you think because he sat on the Lasso of Truth. None of these things are in the Snyder Cut. Whedon’s contributions to Snyder’s vision were without exception, shitcanned.
The next big thing is that this is the movie hardcore DC fans have always wanted. It is very heavy into DC Comics lore. If that’s what you want, you can stop reading my review right now and just watch the movie.
Not that it’s really needed, but at this time I shall issue a spoiler alert.
It’s basically the same movie. If you saw the Whedon version, you know 98% of the story.
Whedon’s version suffered from a budget that was slashed to the bone. The studio had given up on it and the effects team had obviously been told, “Stop what you’re doing. Whatever you’ve got just render it out. It’s over.”
However, it also suffered from Whedon. He’s got a decent comedic talent, but he doesn’t know when he shouldn’t use it. In Whedon’s version, any scene with a serious tone would usually be undermined because he thought up a joke that he could inject. Or you would be distracted from an action sequence because the feminist-auteur had Gal Gadot posing with her ass stuck way out.
The biggest problem this film had was intentional sabotage by the studio. A half-hour into this thing I realized that it was shot as a mini-series. This version was supposed to be cut up into episodes, that were to be shown on a weekly basis. However, pasting it all together into one giant Cleopatra-sized epic makes it pretty hard to watch in one sitting. Let me be clear, Warner president Walter Hamada wants this movie to fail.
As I said before it’s basically the same movie as Whedon’s Justice League but obviously with a lot more padding. There are scenes that go on w-a-a-a-y too long and most of that is establishing, and background cinematographic shots. A lot of this feels very self-indulgent. When we see Aquaman walk into the roaring surf the women of the Icelandic village sing a weird and off-putting song for no reason and it seems like it takes him twenty minutes to reach the end of the peer.
The soundtrack by the way is absolutely terrible. Snyder spent very little of his budget on the music. Any scene that Wonder Woman is in has wailing lamentation vocals that are straight out of Xena and the rest of her music was cribbed from the Wonder Woman feature. The rest of the music is a bunch of depressing songs about, how nothing means anything because if there ever was a god he’s dead now, so who cares? Fun stuff.
But granted, it absolutely looks better. No question. The costuming and sets are much more smoothly integrated into the cinematography when Snyder was using his intended color pallet. Whereas the costumes looked awful in Whedon’s version because they were never meant to be seen in bright, chipper light.
The fight scenes are also a drastic improvement. Snyder is very much an action director, it’s his metier. Joss Whedon is a comedy writer who fell into directing almost by accident and it shows.
You do get plenty of Zach Snyder’s signature slow-downs and speed-ups. So many people copied that motif in the late 2000s that it almost feels a little out of date. However, he can still make it work. Snyder is now the only director to make Wonder Woman’s bracelet bullet deflections look like they have an air of believability to them. You get the feeling Wonder Woman could actually do it.
Wonder Woman also kills a lot more people in this picture.
We finally get to see Darkseid in this one. And Snyder proves that he’s a DC fan because the Darkseid in this film is clearly meant to show that Thanos was nothing but a copy of him.* Fans of Jack Kirby will be happier with this version. Aside from Darkseid and Steppenwolf you also get to see DeSaad and Granny Goodness. The MacGuffin for the (likely non-existent) next film is introduced in this one. Forget about the Mother Boxes, Earth it turns out is the resting place for the Anti-Life Equation. If you know nothing about Kirby’s New Gods, then this paragraph was meaningless gibberish to you.
The ending is slightly different.
And the denouements take for-ev-er. We get several of them. Every single team member gets back to their own single, individual, personal, specific lives back. In detail. Then we get to see Bruce Wayne’s prophetic nightmare where Darkseid has invaded Earth and Superman is evil. This, by the way, is where we get to see Jared Leto’s Joker. I was hoping he’d do well in the role this time but it’s now obvious that he just can’t do it.
I just reminded myself that this wasn’t meant to be a movie finale but a series finale. Which is why there were so many send-offs at the end, that is much more in keeping with television film-school grammar.
A lot of things that looked ridiculous in the Whedon version make a lot more sense with a little background added. The Flash appearing to Batman in BVS and saying, “Lois is the key.” Now makes more sense. Lois’s bathroom in this film had a couple of pregnancy tests and you don’t place those in a scene randomly.
In conclusion: Yes, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a gorgeous self-indulgent mess. He got to return to a project that he was kicked off of and went ham on it. A lot of pent-up emotion went into this rework and studio higher-ups had been told to stay completely away from it. So, they did and were snickering into their palms as they obeyed. The truth is, studio interference isn’t usually all that corrosive. When done right it performs an important editorial function. It’s an expert set of eyes on the project looking at its flaws and faults dispassionately. When that oversight isn’t performed you get an overgrown mess like Heaven’s Gate or Zach Snyder’s Justice League.
The Dark Herald Recommends with Reservations.
*Which he was.