Directed By Zack Snyder
Starring – Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot
The Plot – Determined to ensure Superman’s (Cavill) ultimate sacrifice was not in vain, Bruce Wayne (Affleck) aligns forces with Diana Prince (Gadot) with plans to recruit a team of metahumans to protect the world from an approaching threat of catastrophic proportions. The task proves more difficult than Bruce imagined, as each of the recruits must face the demons of their own pasts to transcend that which has held them back, allowing them to come together, finally forming an unprecedented league of heroes. Now united, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman (Jason Mamoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and The Flash (Ezra Miller) may be too late to save the planet from Steppenwolf, DeSaad and Darkseid and their dreadful intentions.
Rated R for violence and some adult language
– Zach Snyder. It turns out that the most valuable player of this franchise wasn’t The Dark Knight, or the queen of Themiscyra, or even the man of steel himself, but rather the visionary with no shortage of love or passion for the worlds and characters he seamlessly brings to life. With Snyder at the helm, “Justice League” reaches an epic scope that wasn’t previously established, nor even hinted at in the previous film. This brings forth an impact and resonation in the conflict that continuously illustrates the stakes and circumstances of this world-ending threat. In addition, Snyder’s iconography when it comes to bringing these memorable images of comic book fandom to life remains untouched by any other director currently going, breathing inspiration and wonder into this expansive genre of films that has never been photographed so poetically. It’s Snyder’s energy and attention to detail that bridges the gap of the D.C.E.U’s inability to expand as wide as their competition, fleshing out a narrative that is as ambitious thematically as it is pleasing substantially.
– Characterization. As to where the theatrical cut omitted the backstory of The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg almost entirely, the Snyder Cut takes an ample amount of time fleshing out their tragic dispositions, and allowing us to see them in ways we previously didn’t with this universe. In fact, Cyborg’s story alone deconstructs Fisher’s intentionally monotonous portrayal and conjures up what is my single favorite character of this entire franchise. A feat that didn’t even seem possible with how little I knew about the character previously. In addition to the heroes, the mighty Steppenwolf is equally balanced, with an illustration to power and influence that paints his threat as a very visceral and monumental one. As previously conceived with production notes and behind the scenes rumors, Steppenwolf is working for a higher power, but the attention remains firmly on his quest to appease said higher power, outlining a conflict for Steppenwolf that journey’s far beyond the usual threat of world dominance. Each of the pivotal pieces matter dramatically more in this version of the film, allowing us the audience to immerse and invest in them faithfully for a long-winded four hour sit.
– Uniquely superior. When I sit down to watch a director’s cut, I often expect to watch the same movie, but with a few extra and enhanced scenes added for further context. That simply isn’t the case with the Snyder Cut, as with the exception of a few scenes that Joss Wheedon featured in his version, this is a higher informative and widely executed film than its studio predecessor. Considering this version is two hours longer than that inferior version, it’s easy to interpret that effect, but in particular here it’s distinctly different how the direction of this on-going war took us to foreign lands and respective subplots that weren’t even a factor during a previous film that felt entirely rushed in its execution. In addition, it’s the believability in the formation of the group that evidently took precedent, and conveyed this sense of uneasiness initially between them that took time to grow into the family of soldiers we see by film’s end. Wheedon’s version largely feels rushed and illogical during movements and motivations that come out of nowhere, but Snyder simultaneously builds these arc’s between ample measures of time, allowing him to always keep us engaged with an element of storytelling that feels essential and necessary to the unraveling of the narrative.
– Tonally mature. For the most part, this is a film with very minimal humor, and for my money that’s a wise decision considering too much cheesy and poorly timed laughs weighed down the theatrical cut in a way that underscored the urgency of the situation enveloping our team. Here, Snyder incorporates some moments of levity, but they are few and far between the devastation and destruction that continuously envelopes them and our experience along the way. For roughly 95% of them, it’s The Flash who offers the relief, and while I’m still not entirely convinced in Miller’s portrayal of the character, I can say that the material he unloads feels most appropriate and reflective of the tension that could otherwise define the situation. Instead, this is very much a serious and darker tone than previously conceived from Joss Wheedon, feeling appropriately reflective of the dire threat and unrelenting focus that our protagonists frequently face in the gravest challenge of their superhero careers.
– Unprecedented ground. Most interesting to me in the diversity between two films was the R-rating for this cut that plays into the reality and believability that Snyder crafts with his extraordinary human beings. It works wonderfully, but not in ways you would expect in viewing the past filmography of Snyder’s films, playing more to the violence and impact of intense fighting sequences over adult language and unnecessary sexuality. There are occasional profane deliveries from Batman or Cyborg during moments of tension-filled release, but for the most part vulgarity was something that felt very limited throughout, remaining a possibility without fully alienating the younger demographic who make up a majority of their audience. The impact felt from such a decision colorfully lends itself to stakes of permanence that very few comic book films feel privy towards, outlining this fantastical world with an element of vulnerability
– One more chance. Considering the original Justice League hit theaters four years ago, it’s interesting to see what has developed behind the scenes since its production wrapped, and the film was universally panned with its audience. In this regard, the chance to see Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill don their capes and iconic personalities is a bittersweet delight that makes you wonder what really could’ve been. Affleck is still the scene stealer of the film for me, bottling a sorrow and weathered demeanor to Wayne that colorfully tells the story of his many years as a vigilante fighting crime. This is only surpassed by Wayne’s unmatchable intelligence, which very few other Bruce Wayne portrayals have ever made the most distinguishable feature of The Dark Knight’s demeanor. One blossoming performance to me that wasn’t there before was Ray Fisher as Cyborg. Aside from an expansive subplot that illustrates the tragedy of his once ambitious future, Fisher’s cold hearted capacity plays coherently into his robotic enveloping, harvesting no shortage of empathy for the character that makes him unlike anyone and anything in his previous life.
– Improved action. Long gone are the trigger happy editing schemes and convoluted visuals of the original film, traded in for a series of fun and enticingly shot sequences that balance imagination and detection accordingly. Part of it stems from the aesthetic decision of shooting this in a 4:3 aspect ratio, complete with cinematic underlining and scope stretching visuals that reach as far as the eyes can see, but there’s an overall ingenuity to Snyder’s sequencing the brings the most in talents out of his ensemble, and shows each of them working together in ways the breed the chemistry of their design. One such example, and my favorite sequence of the film was Wonder Woman’s bullet diversion during the movie’s opening act. The sequence is sped up and slowed down a bit more than I would typically want or expect, but the way Gadot is directed in the moment articulates her dominance over the situation, defying the odds in a way that keeps her eyes on the prize at all times. As for the rest of the sequences, they are executed with a combination of fun and danger that doesn’t undercut the power of either, and brings these essentially cartoonish heroes to life in ways that only our imaginations previously could between the pages of still frame comics.
– Forcefully overstuffed. Even despite every advantage that this film gains in its four hour ambitious cut between characterization and storytelling focus, there’s still a lot of fat left on the bone in between these sequences that made my experience a tedious one at times. For my money, this cut could easily be shaped to three solid hours without anything being compromised or alleviated because of such. Ideally, it’s the scenes and characters outside of the bubble, like Commissioner Gordon or Martha Wayne, that added nothing to the scenes surrounding them or in the context of the plot, that far too often received attention along the way. In addition to this, there are a couple of repetitious scenes during the second act, part four, that occasionally undercut the tension in my experience towards the scenes that started to get familiar from Wheedon’s cut, straining the movie’s pacing in ways that almost goes without question in a bloated four hour presentation. Finally, the movie’s much talked about epilogue was almost entirely unnecessary, especially considering the film wraps perfectly after a long-winded speech from Superman that leaves each of our characters in a perfect place moving forward. It prolongs from there for another fifteen minutes, for what I can only guess is to pitch the sequel movie, but ends up doing more damage and tacked-on excessiveness than entirely necessary.
– Splotchy special effects. There is still far too much computer generation in the imagery of backdrops, which constantly break my believability in the heat of the moment. Most of the obviousness stems from the movie’s climatic third act piece, with a color correction and visual circumference so hollow that you could practically see the green screen canvas that they were working on. In addition, some of the character designs of the antagonists still left slightly more to be desired. In particular, Darkseid’s blubbering character design, which I feel is still a weak illustration of the character presented from the comics. Overall, there’s just such a suffocating consistency to the movie’s artificiality, which takes away from the beauty and fantastical elements of the colorful comic books. The live action actors often feel like the only real element of anything featured in the visual pallet, making for more suspension of disbelief than I would seek in any movie.
– Musical choices. Don’t get me wrong, Junkie XL’s enhanced compositions for this film are beautifully euphoric and echo with the resonance of epic captivation. However, I can’t understand why vocal song choices are distributed throughout certain sequences in the film, with most feeling distracting instead of coherent with the context of the scene. Such an example is “Song of the Siren” playing during Flash’s rescue of a certain love interest (Played by the always beautiful Kiersey Clemons), where the lyrics and symbolism of the song itself feel a bit too heavy handed to the interpretation of the scene. These instances happen a few times throughout the film, and take away from Junkie’s exceptional work that was perfectly fine and transferring of the emotional captivity that each scene illustrated. Also, it seems to be an unspoken rule that “Hallelujah” must play somewhere in every Zack Synder film, as this is at least the fourth movie of his where it has complimented a scene in the loosest term of the definition.
My Grade: 7/10 or B-