In what has to be considered a huge win for those devoted internet fans of DC’s budding film universe (and in particular the Zack Snyder Cut), HBO Max’s recent Zack Snyder’s Justice League has dominated the streaming and pop culture conversation this week, culminating in the debut of the long-awaited film.
Fans who wouldn’t let the idea of seeing Zack Snyder’s intended vision die by constantly tweeting about the film, and talking about it on every message board and online forum, were rewarded with the arrival of the genuine four-hour article. And the two big questions are: was it worth the wait and does Snyder’s lengthy film improve on Joss Whedon’s theatrical releases?
To answer the easier question first, Zack Synder’s cut is a clear improvement over the mess that was 2017’s Justice League. Whedon’s cut-and-paste approach to the editing of Snyder’s material and his shoe-horned in jokes and quips only endeared itself to those most devoted fanatics (and I wonder if these are the same people who gave the film an honest assessment after news of the Snyder cut surfaced) who vociferously defend anything DC produces.
While Snyder’s Justice League is far from perfect, it does hold up as a coherent (although over-stuffed) film, which gives each hero a chance to shine. Snyder’s film is best when the action is front and center, and allows viewers to partially forgive the director for a slavish devotion to CGI parademons, locations, and the prime villain Steppenwolf. The action scenes are easy to get lost in and allow one to enjoy the comic book style spectacle of heroes facing insurmountable odds.
In terms of heroes and villains, the characterization of the League is handled much better by Snyder. Superman and Wonder Woman are the key players in his version (which will please those who consider Man of Steel one of his underrated films), Aquaman is less of a “bro”, The Flash is dialed down somewhat, and Cyborg gets a ton more screen time. The primary problem with Vic Stone is still his odd mosaic costume and for someone who grew up on the character as a founding member of George Perez and Marv Wolfman’s Teen Titans, he still seems a bit out of place on this team. Ray Fisher does a fine job as the tortured robotic teen, but the character functions best when he has Changeling (for those younger fans, Beast Boy) or Kid Flash to commiserate with.
Ben Affleck’s Batman on the other hand is still a mess. Snyder’s continuation of the now regretful, sad Bruce Wayne from Batman Vs. Superman is still a strange version of the classic hero. Luckily, Affleck’s wooden performance is easier to hide in a film with many other DC characters, but the strange, modulated voice and sad/pained look on his face at all times is something that can not be saved in Snyder’s version. While we may still see Affleck as Batman (along with Michael Keaton) in the upcoming Flashpoint film, he still remains the most boring depiction of Batman that we have seen since George Clooney’s performance in Batman and Robin.
The other pieces that will upset viewers are primarily Snyder’s muted colors, his endless slow-motion scenes (it makes the film seem like five hours long), and the questionable design of the villains. Steppenwolf’s shimmering silver costume looks like one of those “unfinished scenes” that show up in the extras section on a deluxe blu-ray release. If Jack Kirby is known for anything, it is the colorful patterns of his character’s costumes, and draping all of the citizens of Apokolips in black and gray does not make any of them stand out (and many times it is hard to separate them from the scenery). They come off looking like characters from a Transformers movie, all metal and no color and with the same level of nuance, instead of Kirby’s technicolor New Gods.
So was it worth the wait? Your answer probably depends on two factors: your level of fandom and involvement in the campaign for this film to see the light of day and how much you disliked the first version. If you disliked Whedon’s patch-work film, you will be satisfied with Snyder’s, but just don’t get your hopes up that Zack Snyder’s Justice League will have any impact on Warner executives that have already moved on with a different set of plans for their heroes in the future. Flashpoint may open up a multiverse of possibilities, so you can never say never, but just like DC Comics itself, reinvention/reboot is still the name of the game at the original home of the super hero. Regardless of the future, Snyder’s film does wash the bad taste of Whedon’s “rescue job” from the mouths of dedicated DC fans everywhere.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is currently streaming on HBO Max.