Zack Snyder’s Justice League
Zack Snyder’s Justice League 2021
I’m back with another superhero movie review and even though this movie is only a couple months old, I feel like I’ve been waiting for this one for ages. With some movies that have regular and director’s cuts I will do a “quickie” review that mostly covers the differences between the two versions that are often 80 to 90% the same movie so I just cover the differences. This is a different case and one much closer to the Donner Cut of Superman II where much of the story beats are different and the overall tone is way different. In fact, this is probably the instance where the vast majority of the film is different between the two versions. My guess is that there is only about 5-10% of the footage used in both films, and that’s 5% of the theatrical version which is half as long. For my part, I liked the theatrical cut well enough but there were plenty of glaring issues with it. This version almost feels more like a miniseries which it almost was and could still be watched that way, but that actually solves one of the issues where this team film came too quickly without introducing the rest of the team beforehand. Having this amount of length really helps to build each individual character before bringing them together as a team. And as this is still a new release, there will be spoilers in the review so be warned.
Allowing the additional time to introduce the characters really helped flesh out everyone in this version of the film. The most notable was Cyborg who barely got any screen time in the theatrical cut and here is a full-fledged character with interesting motivations and a well built relationship arc with his father. We get to see a better version of the backstory with his accident along with all the guilt and pain brought on by the blame he put towards his father’s absence. The moment of their reconnections starting with the tape recording and building upon it with the infiltration of STAR Labs feels more natural and less rushed. It also ties in with the father issues that are inherent with pretty much all of the characters outside of Wonder Woman for obvious reasons. Barry also has his own father issues that are fleshed out just a touch more with more time spent between him and his own father in the prison visiting room. Even Steppenwolf has his own pseudo-father issues between himself and Darkseid which goes a long way into fleshing him out as a more three dimensional villain. The only fatherly connection that fell a little flat was the barely touched upon hint that Lois Lane had been possibly trying to get pregnant before Superman died, it just felt very out of place within the context of the rest of the movie.
Steppenwolf as a villain in the theatrical cut was very one-dimensional with the generic destroy the world motivation. Snyder goes a long way to make him more threatening, more interesting, and just a touch more sympathetic. It may have been a little over the top during a couple of the scenes where he’s talking with Darkseid’s minion/mouthpiece/press secretary and you can see him get a little teary eyed as they discuss his past failure and how much time and effort it’s going to take for Steppenwolf to get back into Darkseid’s good graces. But it did do the job to make him feel much more like a real character. And while the trailer shot of his new armor looked a little over the top, seeing it in full display was much more impressive. It felt like a living armor that moved along with him, protecting him from the Amazon’s arrows, and it was used beautifully when he basically shed his armor in the presence of Darkseid himself, prostrating himself in effect.
In terms of special effects, Steppenwolf was the high point, but Cyborg was unfortunately the low point. Despite the fact that he looked very similar to how he was represented in the theatrical cut, in both versions he just looks too shiny, too perfect, too CGI. And even though it felt like it was an intentional decision to make his mechanical body proportions slightly off from human anatomy, that brought it too far into the uncanny valley more often than not, especially when he brought out his additional robot arms. The film does get around this by often showing him in the world of the internet where he is shown fully human. Everything else felt much more fitting in terms of the look and feel. The fight scenes especially felt similar and yet more interesting than any of the fight scenes in the theatrical cut. The extended Amazon fight especially was fantastically done, as was the final fight between the newly brought together Justice League and Steppenwolf. Especially with the removal of the random family who somehow survived being surrounded by an army of parademons for who knows how long.
The Resurrection of Superman was another big change between the two versions, and while the Pet Semetary joke was slightly missed, everything else was done so much better. Rather than having Lois Lane be Batman’s “big gun” to bring out if things went south, she just happened to be there as she had been paying her daily homage to Superman’s monument. There was no odd-CGI-lipped “Do you bleed?” callback, instead the recognition was played completely wordless. The humor in general was also scaled back in favor of more real character moments. While the moment with Aquaman unknowingly caught in the Lasso of Truth in the theatrical cut was a great moment by itself, it was a much more fitting moment for him to bring attention to the fact that Cyborg had just seen his father die in front of him.
It’s difficult to say how different things would have been if this had been the only version of this film to exist, or if we had gotten an edited-down-to-hell version of this cut as it would have been insane to think the studio would release a four hour film in theaters after the mixed reaction towards Batman v Superman. It’s possible that it could have been cut into a part 1 and part 2 but at this point we’ll never know. There’s also the interesting choice of the squared aspect ratio. Snyder’s explanation is that he feels superheroes tend to be more vertical than horizontal that it makes more sense to be able to show more of that vertical. That and while 35mm film is a better fit for the widescreen format, IMAX cameras are actually more of a better fit for the squared, or Academy ratio. Aspect ratios aside, there were still a few problems here and there with this original vision of Justice League, especially the odd alternate future ending scene and unsatisfying shoehorning in of Martian Manhunter, but what was presented was far and away better than the severely cut down and joked up version of the Justice League we previously had. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.