It needs to be said that no movie should be four hours long. Rare is the example of art that is better because there is more of it. You’d think that, by now, the DC Extended Universe would know this. 2019’s excellent Shazam! is 30 minutes longer than necessary. 2018’s Aquaman could lose an hour and be the better for it, while the first entry into this oft-maligned franchise, 2013’s Man Of Steel, is approximately 123 minutes longer than it needs to be. As it stands, the film clocks in at 143 minutes.
Hopefully, Zack Snyder’s Justice League leads to a reckoning for the superhero genre. This cut – restored, refurbished and, in places, reshot – is perhaps the most self-absorbed superhero movie project ever conceived. There are moments – too many of them, normally where the director deploys slow motion and plays an emotive but critically acclaimed ballad alongside the footage – where the desired effect of reverence for the League’s legendary characters overshoots its intentions – like Batman, drunk, lobbing Batarangs at pigeons.
Often, the new film is so earnest, so self-consciously worthy, you’d eat a dry lump of kryptonite just to see Adam West’s silly ’60s Batman run on screen and face-plant. Even more than the much derided, much shorter Joss Whedon cut-and-shut version, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a film almost totally devoid of joy. Like his 2009 adaptation of the seminal Watchmen, it’s as if Snyder is so concerned with appeasing comic book geeks, he forsakes fun for authenticity.
Despite this, Zack Snyder’s Justice League – #ReleaseTheSnyderCut activists will be relieved to learn – is frequently awesome. It’s misdirection to call it a cut – much more has been added than taken away, including an overdue confrontation between Batman and Joker (reimagined from Jared Leto’s last take on the character, in 2016’s Suicide Squad) that suggests that Ben Affleck’s hyper gruff Caped Crusader may well be remembered as the one that got away. We also get to meet Atom, Iris West, Martian Manhunter, Darkseid, DeSaad, and – how about this for fan service – a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her appearance from Granny Goodness.
There are a lot more treats for the fandom – Superman’s black suit! A deeper look at Deadshot! But while a lot of this stuff is often garnish, the meat of Snyder’s movie is Cyborg (Ray Fisher) who, like The Flash, now receives a full origin story. Joss Whedon’s work on the pedestrian first version of this movie may well be revaluated in time, at least for his efficiency at fulfilling the studio brief to make the movie lighter and more cohesive in Snyder’s absence. But you may struggle to see much of the Cyborg footage – the majority of which was discarded by the Avengers: Assemble director – and not question the logic in omitting storytelling of such quality.
Of course, this is still a movie about a race to collect magic boxes. No amount of nerd-appeasing extra footage can change that. But this is also – despite Snyder’s insistence that his version of the film is “not canon” to the DCEU – the movie that the franchise has needed for close to 10 years. It’s ironic that despite Whedon’s work on 2017’s Justice League largely being erased here, his influence still looms large. Snyder’s cut sets up DC’s world in the same way the 2012 Avengers: Assemble movie did Marvel’s. It is true that the director’s earnestness with the source material puts the stranglehold on the simple joys of watching men and women in underpants fighting bad guys. But it’s unquestionably a movie in love with DC lore.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League does justice by the comic publisher’s raft of pioneering creations. It’s justice for Snyder’s vision, and the heartache of losing daughter Autumn – which led to his departure from the project (her dedication at the end of the movie is both poignant and fitting). And it’s justice for a DC comics fanbase that has been put through the ringer with poor adaptations and meandering visions for much of the last decade. Because there’s one more thing that needs to be said – Zack Snyder’s Justice League is really very good.
- Director: Zack Snyder
- Starring: Ray Fisher, Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck
- Release date: March 18 (Sky Cinema and NOW TV)