After a tumultuous production journey and heavy fan petitioning, Zack Snyder was able to release his final cut of Justice League. But was it worth the wait?
From the original release…
The original theatrical release of Justice League was, for me, unfortunately forgettable. It should’ve been an exciting film event, as fans of DC were finally able to see their favourite heroes united on the big screen. But the final product was messy, unfinished and lacked the oomph you would expect from such an ambitious title. In the final months of production, Snyder was forced to step down as director and so Joss Whedon took over the role. With a completely different vision for the franchise and little time to enact it, the end product was an incoherent collision of two different creative minds.
… a vast improvement
At times this cut also feels messy and disjointed, as new scenes merge with the old. But overall it works as a coherent story. The pacing is vastly superior to the original, and key moments feel earned and are given time to breathe. Overall the extra two hours of screen time are generally used well. The villain Steppenwolf is transformed from a generic ‘bad guy’ with questionable motives to a serious threat as the stakes are ramped up through the inclusion of infamous comic supervillain and multiverse conqueror Darkseid. His design has also vastly improved, as is befitting of his role in the film.
I’ve never been a huge fan of Zack’s stylistic approach to the DC universe, but clearly he is a fan of the comics. The love can be felt here far more than in any of his previous works. Battle scenes are so much fun to watch. And it’s clear that a lot of effort went into bringing the Justice League to life, figuring out how the heroes can interact as a team, something the original film did not have enough time to explore properly.
Visually and musically?
With such rich source material it feels a shame to limit it to such a muted colour palette. I respect that it pays homage to classic comics like Frank Miller’s Batman where colour was used sparingly. Colours aside, the film certainly looks beautiful. It’s just rather drab and could’ve played a lot more with its contrasting characters and locales. In true Zack Snyder style, there is also an overabundance of slow-motion capture. It does work with the Flash very well, but it didn’t add a great deal elsewhere and often felt self-indulgent. Likewise, some of the song choices felt out of place and I would have preferred more consistency. The film cuts from moody orchestral to pop songs on several occasions. While in some films it can work, the contrast in tones here is so jarring I would rather it stuck to an original score.
The film is almost four hours long and there is so much to unpack. If you’re just looking for a fun film to fill the evening with, this might be a little too ambitious. Thankfully it is divided into parts and you can watch it episodically if you wish. I am glad Zack was finally able to give the fans his vision after the majority of his footage was cut in the original theatrical release. While his style still isn’t for me, it is a labour of love and a superior film overall, even if it does feel more like a miniseries. I was sceptical going in but left pleasantly surprised. I now find myself disappointed that we probably won’t receive a sequel.
WORDS Andy Porter