Review: Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021) – More or Less?

Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher and Ezra Miller in Zack Snyder’s Justice League

At this point, anybody who doesn’t know the story of Zack Snyder’s Justice League either doesn’t care in the slightest or has found the world’s largest rock and firmly hidden all of their electronic devices underneath it. It’s a 4 year long saga that went from fools errand to actual four hour behemoth and honestly, for most of that time, I didn’t care in the slightest. It was just another studio manipulated picture we were duped into watching which didnt feel like something made by someone. I was happy to leave it there. The closer it get to existing however and the more trailers showed us vastly different context, the whole ordeal seemed oddly worth it. Even despite the unpleasant online trolls and the toxic masculinity that shone out of this fan campaign, it was a well intentioned movement. To say I was excited and happy it came about a week before I watched it was an understatement.

However, then i took it upon myself to take a month off from writing as the latest lockdown made me apathetic to the whole idea of reviewing films I didn’t want to watch, forcing myself to write articles I honestly didn’t believe in. For perspective, I am writing this the morning after the Oscars and while in any other year I might have thoughts about the winners and the whole season as a whole, this year I don’t, even finding access to the nominees was far too difficult than it should have been. This meant that anything I had outstanding I did want to talk about was left sitting in the tray of items yet to be completed. This included Snyder’s finally completed take on DC’s superhero team up. So without beating around the bush anymore, I’m finally finishing something I should have done a month ago.

Following on from the disappointing Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Justice League brings Bruce Wayne/ Batman (Ben Affleck), Diana Prince/ Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and newly discovered heroes Barry Allen/ The Flash (Ezra Miller), Arthur Curry/ Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Victor Stone/ Cyborg (Ray Fisher) together to take on invaders from another world led by the intimidating Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) while trying to live up to the memory of the gone but not forgotten Clark Kent/ Superman (Henry Cavill). On paper it sounds an awful lot like 2017 and honestly, plot wise, it is.

Much like Dawn of Justice, Snyder’s version overloads his take with new narrative beats, some for the sake of fleshing out the plot that in 2017 was butchered to save time, but in other moments it feels like a way to connect with a fandom that would be best served telling the best story you can, not cutting away just to name check a possible hero for a future instalment of a now (possibly) defunct cinematic universe. While there is so much here, Snyder often finds himself lost adding meaning with scenes that provide very little. Watching a group of women sing melancholically over Aquaman’s discarded jumper is all well and good but it adds a sour note to an opening that takes itself way too seriously than it should. Not only proving to be an unintentional moment of bizarre comedy when it is intended as something else entirely, it highlights the Snyder Cut’s biggest fault and while some people and critics will point to the run time and Snyder’s unwillingness to make some much needed cuts, his own self serious need to overexplain every single plot point hinders the first 90 minutes.

Be it Batman’s lingering guilt/returning hope or Diana’s quest for answers to the incoming threat, information she gleans from a mural she is lead to by, intuition? There is a sense of dread in Snyder’s opening that doesn’t mesh with the comic book trappings of his story and writer Chris Terrio’s script not only shoots for high brow action extravaganza it never even acknowledges the lunacy of the story it is telling. While 2017’s version went to far in the other direction with inauthentic comedy beats, a whimsical Danny Elfman score and some wink wink comic book references that played to a younger and less invested audience, the Snyder Cut tries to humanise through the team’s joint feeling of impending doom and the overabundance of flashbacks and history lessons regarding the films Maguffins, the still idiotically named Mother Boxes. These flashbacks however, no matter how distinctive play to the the comic pages it has been ripped from, not the serious drama Snyder up to this point has tried to convince us this is. When his film and Terrio’s script enters the 2nd act and acknowledges where these characters come from, that is when the film comes into its own and the remaining 150 minutes just fly by.

Despite more brutal and violent action set pieces, Snyder’s version feels oddly more hopeful and real than replacement director Joss Whedon’s rushed rejigger, be it because of more time to tell an actual story or character arcs that actually go somewhere. It could even be a darker but more attuned score by Junkie XL that individualises its characters and allows them their own moments. Personally I put it down to the individuality of Snyder’s version and how it deviates from the expected formula established by the MCU that invigorates most. The Snyder Cut is different. Not because it is darker, not because its serious and sad but because, most of all, unlike the latest entries in the MCU, this version of Justice League is messy, from the grittier colour grading down to the at first offputting aspect ratio, The Snyder Cut is adventurous in finding new ways to tell a superhero story. Tt doesn’t have all the anwers and sometimes it makes missteps in search of something new and that is what, at its core, it proves to be, something fresh and new and thankfully for the first time in four years, something complete.

TSR

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