Cert – 15, Run-time – 4 hours 1 minute, Director – Zack Snyder
Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) assembles a team of heroes to stop alien Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) from combining three motherboxes hidden across Earth that will cause humanity to be put into dark enslavement.
It’s been a long road to Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Family tragedy prevented the director from completing 2017’s Justice League – this cut is dedicated to his late daughter Autumn – and led us to receiving Joss Whedon’s re-written and re-shot cut, and a number of allegations of misconduct on set, including on previous projects. Now, after much deliberation as to the existence of this particular film, demands to see the original vision and cries of #ReleaseTheSnyderCut we finally see a release of a director’s cut unlike any other. It’s a grand achievement, and one that will certainly please the fans who have campaigned so hardly on platforms such as Reddit, Twitter, petition sites, and of course many other places, to see this film – free from any of Whedon’s content.
At two hours long the original cut of Justice League felt as if it could be at least half an hour shorter in it’s dark, jumbled state. Yet, somehow Zack Snyder’s take – with a screenplay by Chris Terrio – almost justifies a four hour run-time, made up of six chapters and an epilogue. The look may still be dark, grey and dim, although this becomes something you gradually get used to over the course of the film, and very CGI heavy, but there’s plenty more story. A story that isn’t as gritty, and that of which there is isn’t there simply for the sake of being dark and brooding.
Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) is attempting to assemble a team of heroes who can battle against the force of the seemingly unstoppable Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) – a horned alien with spiked, metallic armour covering all but his lizard-like face, which Vic Reeves would have a field day describing on the panel of Shooting Stars. Steppenwolf arrives on earth to find and synchronise three motherboxes that when combines will plunge the Earth into dark enslavement to his own master Darkseid (Ray Porter). Steppenwolf very much seems to be the assistant to the barely seen Darkseid, while seemingly the core villain of the piece he doesn’t cause much impact due to constantly being overshadowed by his goal and large amounts of backstory about his master.
One thing that the Snyder Cut is heavy with is backstory and individual character insights. The first two hours is spent jumping from place to place, landscape to landscape. Focusing largely on already established characters such as Batman, Aquaman (Jason Mamoa) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) – whose returning electric cello theme is one of the highlights of the film. It takes a while to actually get a scene with Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen, AKA The Flash in action, and 76 minutes for Ray Fisher’s Victor Stone/ Cyborg to get a proper scene with more than one line of dialogue.
Luckily, the pair become bigger players later on (even if The Flash possibly gets the least development out of everyone) and feel less pushed aside once actually brought into the team. With so much to handle during this first half of the film the content proves to be some of the more engaging beats of the piece. The various battles with Steppenwolf simply don’t hold quite work or have that much emotional connection in, yet the more detailed story and characters, are enough to be engaged in, luckily these form the core of the film with most of the fights not lasting very long before moving on to something new.
Once the team is assembled we see them searching for the motherboxes themselves, led by Bruce Wayne: war strategist, and trying their best to save the world. There’s less jumping around from place to place and more focus on the task at hand, meaning less backstory too. The flow picks up and there are less changes in scene to scene pacing, apart from once again Superman (Henry Cavill) popping off for twenty minutes to talk to Lois Lane (Amy Adams). It’s also during such moments that we again focus on the Justice League themselves, the main drive and push of the film. Their search and mission is seemingly more integral than the force at hand, Steppenwolf certainly isn’t the strongest villain, and, again, feels more like an assistant for a darker, less present, force. He provides the task at hand, and some good moments for other characters, but never exactly has his moment to properly shine (apart from perhaps early on during an extended arrival sequence, proving his strength, in a battle with the Amazonians).
It takes almost until the three hour mark for someone to say “we actually, finally, have a plan” and while that does feel to be slightly the case with the film as a whole it’s certainly not poorly constructed. Character backstories and worldbuilding add to the film and make for a much more engaging story than what we had before, and even better formed characters. The villain may not be the most well-formed element, but neither is he at the forefront of the piece, that spot belongs to the Justice League; Zack Snyder’s Justice League. At the end of the day this is a film for the fans who wanted it, the fans who allowed for a director to actually succeed in having their vision be seen. Some may see this as much their film as it is the director’s, the writer’s and everyone who worked on it, and that’s a perfectly justified viewpoint. This is a film for them, and it’s likely to be an understandable hit with them. When watching the film it’s easy to see how and why.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League may have some slight inconsistencies in pacing and initial jumping between characters, yet, there’s still a better, more detailed and entertaining story and set of characters at hand. Putting such points, and a background villain, aside for an enjoyable four hour achievement; that will, most importantly, please, delight and enthral the people who lead to its release.