Zack Snyder’s Justice League, a new four-hour cut streaming on HBO Max, is a definite improvement over the 2017 Justice League, which was partially directed and co-written by the recently disgraced Joss Whedon.
Whedon’s cut—a ridiculous attempt at Marvel-izing the DC Universe—was a total disaster. This cut? It’s certainly not a disaster, but it’s nothing to get too excited about, either. Snyder’s cut is an almost-forgivable behemoth, while Whedon’s version essentially stalled his big-screen career.
For starters … this did not need to be four hours long! Many of the new scenes do flesh out the story, but Snyder gets carried away with the slow motion; too many scenes drag on and on via slo-mo and dreary music. This cut could’ve been a comprehensible three hours, easily.
The beauty of the film being available via a streaming service is that you can watch it in parts. Still, even divided up into chapters (six parts, plus a prologue and epilogue), the film has too many sequences that drag.
The film does feature numerous significant improvements. The villainous Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) has some new armor that makes him look less like a California Raisin and more like a demon warrior capable of destroying humanity. He’s actually kind of scary, rather than being an unintentionally comic travesty.
That stupid opening scene with Henry Cavill and his bizarre, CGI-scrubbed face—the actor had a mustache that needed to be removed in post-production in the original—is gone. Cavill’s Superman has a more substantial role here and gets to sport the black Superman suit. The Superman stuff in this cut is actually kind of cool—and that’s coming from somebody who didn’t like Snyder’s prior takes on the character, in Batman v Superman and Man of Steel. I’ve come to accept that the Superman in Snyder’s world is sort of dark and whiny, and I need to push the Christopher Reeve iteration out of my head while watching. Cavill is good here, and I think it’s time for a new Superman movie with him in it—provided it has a new director.
Cyborg (Ray Fisher) also gets a lot more screen time … and that’s not a good thing. The character was drab before, and he unfortunately remains bland here. Newly added character Martian Manhunter feels tacked on and useless, but Darkseid is a nice add, giving the apocalyptic Steppenwolf a better sense of purpose. The much-ballyhooed appearance of Jared Leto’s Joker toward the end is not as stupid as I was afraid it would be.
The new cut definitely presents a more cohesive story—but the story is over-baked, far too padded and sometimes tedious. The awful, discordant humor of Whedon’s cut is thankfully gone (The Flash doesn’t hump Wonder Woman in this one), while the vibrant color correction of the prior cut has been replaced with the darker tones often used by Snyder. Some will gripe about the new cut’s 4:3 aspect ratio (closer to a square), but I was OK with it.
Hopefully Snyder’s gotten this out of his system, and he can move on to bigger and brighter things. As for the DC Universe, it’s still all over the place tonally. Still, I’m looking forward to that purported team-up of Ezra Miller’s Flash and Michael Keaton’s Batman—and I am happy that neither Snyder nor Whedon is directing.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is now streaming on HBO Max.