ZACK SNYDER'S JUSTICE LEAGUE
After the release of 2017's Justice League movie, which Zack Snyder was unable to complete due to personal tragedy, a fan-led movement was set into motion online aiming to bring the director's vision to the table through the hashtag #ReleaseTheSnyderCut and such. Finally, four years and $70M later, HBO Max released Zack Snyder's Justice League.
While it is tough to see the original version of Justice League as a total failure due to its healthy box-office draw (well over $600M), it still underperformed domestically to the point where it was considered a flop and the reviews weren't kind either. With this new, much longer cut of the film (4 hours), Zack Snyder sets out to prove once and for all that his original version of Justice League was a lot better and more coherent than Joss Whedon's reworked take. Indeed, a lot of what did not work in Whedon's film is either excised entirely here or radically changed. Unlike the Ultimate Edition of Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice, this definitely aims to present a completely different movie, not just a somewhat fuller experience.
The big changes are apparent right away as the awkward Superman intro, complete with bizarre CG mouth, is scrapped altogether and the movie opts for a more traditional and serious in tone origin story opening. The frankly horrible, and extremely distracting CG on Henry Cavill's face the first time around is fully absent in the entire movie and this alone is refreshing. Whilst Superman's rebirth still feels a tad underwhelming since he is literally Frankensteined back together in the same way that Doomsday was in Batman V Superman, it is handled a lot better here: evil-Clark's encounter with Batman post-resurrection doesn't turn into a complete farce, we actually see him go to his ship and slowly remember who he is, he picks a proper suit and, more importantly, he feels like an important character to have in this movie instead of just an afterthought with a brighter look and attitude shoehorned in.
The same can be said for both Cyborg and The Flash who both felt underdeveloped in the original film which, inexplicably, attempted to introduce several new characters plus have a big team-up against a brand new villain all in only 2 hours. Ray Fisher may be stuck with the still unappealing Cyborg design but at least he is given a full origin story here. Finally, you feel like you understand who this character is, why he makes sense as part of the team and why we should care about him. The original film' s Barry Allen was obnoxious comic relief and not much else whereas here we get to know him a bit more in the real world, some of the jokes are substituted for better ones and he makes a perfect contrasting character to the much more moody Aquaman. Even supporting characters are given more interesting scenes: Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, Jeremy Irons, Amy Adams and others get more screen time (Willem Dafoe also makes an appearance) which helps the film's scale feel like the size it actually is.
Zack Snyder definitely cares about this movie a lot, and it shows. Even when a scene isn't fully working you can still sense that, at least, that moment is there because the director felt strongly that it should be there. We probably didn't need all the slo-mo, the extended Knightmare post-credits sequence with Jared Leto's Joker and Joe Manganiello, Amber Heard speaking in a nowhere-near-convincing British accent and many other things as well but at least it seems consistent with the director's original vision.
The fully redesigned Steppenwolf also makes more sense here in all his amusing pointy-armored glory, not to mention the inclusion of the Justice League's real big baddie Darkseid who may not have too much to actually do in this movie but who at least looks rather intimidating and teases an even more epic sequel, much like Thanos did. This Director's Cut works much better for a few big reasons: it took what little worked in the original film and enhanced it (the action sequences are even more fun than before), scrapped all the bad stuff mercilessly, developed its characters enough to make them feel worth it, brought consistency to the look and tone of the film (even the score, which doesn't include Danny Elfman) and ultimately provided an experience that may be a bit too long but at least is paced correctly and doesn't feel like some kid's unfinished homework they did a minute before class.
The running time might prove too much for less invested viewers so I would recommend watching this one in a couple of sittings but definitely choose this version every time over the 2017 theatrical release or even the pointlessly black-and-white version. Like it or not, this is very much Zack Snyder's Justice League and, as a Justice League movie, it is perfectly serviceable, competent and, at times, even quite good. Fans of the director's work will have a great time with this and won't be bored one second, others may benefit from an intermission but should still enjoy this a lot more than the original.
Now this is more like it.