HBO Max | 2021
2021 is already shaping up to be a very odd year. Entering the second year of a global pandemic that has had an enormous financial impact on literally every area of the world, it’s an unprecedented time to be alive and consuming media. Warner Bros. made the shocking announcement last year that all of their major theatrical releases would be simultaneously streamed on the HBO Max platform.
For a full list of those titles, to give you some idea of what that means in terms of content, click here.
Yet with all of those cinematic heavy hitters on deck, one of the most hotly anticipated titles coming to the platform was always going to be DC Comics’ JUSTICE LEAGUE, the 2017 outing given new life thanks to an extensive recut by director Zack Snyder. Lovingly dubbed the SNYDER CUT by fans and media alike, the film clocks in at a meaty four hours and two minutes.
To say this film has been divisive would be an understatement, as even the very concept of the Snyder Cut’s existence is seen by some as a ridiculous example of self aggrandization on the part of Zack Snyder and Warner Bros. both. While some certainly feel this way, others argue that the tragic circumstances surrounding Snyder’s initial departure of the film would more than justify his being given a chance to tell the story as he originally intended.
Where ever your opinion falls on this spectrum is irrelevant, as at the end of the day, the film was finished and released to the fanfare of a global advertising campaign and the deafening internet cheers of Snyder’s fanbase.
My opinion of the original release version of JUSTICE LEAGUE was that it was an awful movie with a lot of heart and some very fun summer blockbuster action. Fun to watch, but really dumb. When faced with the question “Do I want to see a much longer version of this film?”, I was hard-pressed to find a reason to say yes. But this film was always going to be a defining moment of pop culture, an example of the fans getting exactly what they wanted (whether or not that’s a good thing in the long run remains to be seen). It was always going to be plastered on billboards, it was always going to be discussed in YouTube breakdown videos and blog reviews (oops sorry).
Those who know me well, know that I would not necessarily categorize myself as a Zack Snyder fan. MAN OF STEEL may have been a fun science fiction action film with a wonderful cast, but it was a terrible Superman film. I count myself among the masses who believe Zack Snyder fails, on a fundamental level, to properly understand the character of Superman. His failings, in my opinion, are primarily as a storyteller. However, I am not saying the man does not know how to make a visually stunning film.
BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE remains the single most insulting translations of comic book characters to film. A jumbled mess in story and character development, there was so much wrong with this movie that it made me irrationally angry.
All of that said, I count myself as a fan of Snyder’s 2004 remake of George A. Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD. Plus, in terms of theatrical length adaptations, I still feel Snyder’s take on Alan Moore’s WATCHMEN is as close as we can get to a perfect translation from page to screen. I also genuinely love his adaptation of Frank Miller’s epic 300 graphic novel, with a level of cheeky irony.
So, while I am not a fan of Snyder’s work in general, I am far from one who would judge his work unfairly. Some of his films were genuinely enjoyable for me (WATCHMEN, DAWN OF THE DEAD), while some will forever represent hours of my life I will never get back (SUCKER PUNCH, BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE).
ZACK SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE is a story of many parts sewn together just poorly enough that every stitch, in this case represented by minutes, is felt and acknowledged. Every bit of the four hour and two minutes long running time is present and accounted for in extended slow motion takes of scenes that had no business being so painfully long. The briefest of moments on screen stretched to fit an ever present soundtrack of various operatic and classical music pieces added to give a depth that these scenes simply do not deserve. Moments that, in the previous cut of the film had a lighthearted tone and may have even been funny, were now reduced to pretentious showcases of Zack Snyder’s favorite editing toy: the slow motion button.
While some of the additions to this film are baffling, others enhance the previous film in such a way that makes one wonder what kind of film we may have gotten if given the chance to see a compromise between Snyder and Warner Bros., a JUSTICE LEAGUE film that Snyder could be happy with that still falls within the parameters of a “normal” running time.
The most obvious addition that falls into this category is, of course, the character of Darkseid. The addition of arguably the JLA’s most well known foe also adds a level of stakes that wasn’t present in the previous cut of the film, and with those stakes come a sense of dread and turmoil, making this a welcome change. The interactions between Darkseid and Steppenwolf alone are wonderful and add a depth to Steppenwolf’s actions that was missing before, though Darkseid coming face to face with the JLA standing over a defeated Steppenwolf was one of the coolest moments I’ve seen in recent comic book films.
Also the addition of the Martian Manhunter was a brilliant choice, as J’onn J’onzz so regularly represents the heart of the Justice League and heart is exactly what is missing from this version of the film. I only wish there were more scenes with Martian Manhunter and I weep knowing we’ll never get closure to his story in a later installment. Yes, you read that correctly: Martian Manhunter is the only reason I would actually want a follow up to this cut of the film.
The expansion of Cyborg’s story and the further development of his character in the Snyder Cut is so wonderful and welcome, as Ray Fisher is given a chance to shine in this role and show a more complex performance of Cyborg than before. Similarly, the choice to give a truly film stealing moment at the end of the film to Barry Allen, making perhaps the most unlikely savior out of The Flash, is also a nice surprise.
Overall, ZACK SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE delivers exactly what it claims to: A chance to peek inside the mind of Zack Snyder to see the story of Justice League the way he envisioned it, as well as an unabashed love letter to Snyder’s loyal fanbase. It was that rabid fanbase that petitioned Warner Bros. so aggressively in so many online campaigns, with the hashtag #RELEASETHESNYDERCUT, that the movement itself has become bigger than the film in which it resulted.
While I can not, in good conscious, say the ridiculous running time is justified by the additions padding it out to that length in the first place, it is extremely interesting from the standpoint of it being a time capsule for this moment in time.
With Warner Bros. recently confirming there are no plans for further Snyderverse films, one thing is undeniable: We are currently living in a post-Snyder Cut world.
Whether or not you view that as a good thing, is objective.
2 1/2 out of 5 stars.
WOULD I RECCOMEND IT:
If you count yourself among the masses of diehard Snyder fans in the world, this movie is definitely up your alley. If you had no real issues standing in the way of your enjoyment of the original theatrical cut of JUSTICE LEAGUE, seeing this is unnecessary, however there are some additional materials that you would definitely be missing out on enjoying.
You may have noticed that I have not mentioned the name of the filmmaker brought in to finish Snyder’s work on the previous theatrical cut of JUSTICE LEAGUE. This was a conscious decision on my part after the realization that I have lauded and defended that name quite enough in my life. Events being recently brought to light have made it impossible for me to consider myself a fan of his anymore. While I do believe in a separation of art from artist, and while I will forever be a fan of his television work, as well as specific areas of his theatrical filmography, I no longer have the capacity to promote any of his future work moving forward.
Believe the victims.