Other than publicly sharing literally any opinion as a woman or person of color, disliking a DC movie is the quickest way to get called names on the Internet. As a film, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is inseparable from the rabid fandom that demanded its existence through sheer force of often-toxic will. If it were just a 242-minute loop of Batman’s parents being murdered, set to a Leonard Cohen song, a sizeable audience would still dismiss any critics as “haters.”
Listen, I am a grade-A dork with severe anxiety. Pissing off fellow nerds ranks just below “randomly de-alphabetizing my comic collection” on my list of least favorite things to do. Thus, a nasty cocktail of fear and optimism fueled my prayers that The Snyder Cut would be substantially better. My dream — shinier than any cyborg’s chrome unmentionables — was that I, a former “hater,” would become a lover.
As it turns out, the saying is true: You cannot shine a turd. You can just make that turd four hours long.
In both versions, the plot is exactly the same, which is only a problem if you enjoy plots. After the death of Superman (Henry Cavill), Batman (Ben Affleck) recruits Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), the Flash (Ezra Miller), and Aquaman (Jason Momoa) to stop the evil Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) from getting three boxes to touch each other and destroy the planet. Thanks to cell phones and superpowers, that shouldn’t even take four hours in real time.
Like those who made the film did (twice), let’s set aside the story. Does this fan service actually service the fans? The villain is certainly spikier, if that helps?
Cyborg still looks like a nude drawing of Inspector Gadget drawn in Microsoft Paint. Batman, who has been billed as “the world’s greatest detective,” is reduced to aiming pew pews at aliens and an F-bomb at the Joker (Jared Leto). Like Princess Leia before her, Wonder Woman confronts the death of her entire race of people by making the men around her feel better. Superman is mostly absent but a total dick when he is around. Flash still runs impossibly awkwardly, like his own feet remain mostly theory to him. Darkseid (Ray Porter) is enjoyably actually present in this version but still sounds like every other ominous, distortedly gravel-voiced alien evil doer. My kingdom for a big bad that sounds like Jake Gyllenhaal in Okja…
Yes, many individual parts of The Snyder Cut are better than the previous version. The fight scenes are markedly improved, at least one character (Cyborg) is given something that resembles an arc, and the ending isn’t unintentionally hilarious. Wait, I just remembered the last lines of the film, which are spoilers and are actually unintentionally hilarious. My bad.
Deciding between the two versions of Justice League is like asking if you’d rather get hit in the face pretty hard for 2 hours or merely get slapped in the face for four hours. What I wish that DC loyalists who are undoubtedly getting ready to batarang me in my sleep would know is that there is a way to do what they want even better.
Snyder’s general take on superheroes, displaying them as brutal Gods whose concerns we can’t possibly fathom because we’re just dumb meat sacks, is a valid approach that can be riveting, just ask centuries of Greek and Roman storytellers. This just ain’t it. And it’s four long hours of “not it.” Oddly, my favorite part was the added exchange between Leto and Affleck. Please do not assume that means I would like more of this.
Grade = C-
Other Critical Voices to Consider
Emmanuel Noisette at The Movie Blog had the same problem I did with one scene in particular: “The first and most obvious issue with this film is probably in that 4 hour run time. The primary reason is because there are a number of instances where scenes could have been cut short or completely removed altogether. For instance, it’s rather unnecessary to have some creepy weird girl singing about Aquaman as she sniffs his sweater.”
Prahlad Srihari at The Quint shares a fear I also have “The precedent set by The Rise of Skywalker and the Snyder Cut will only inspire fans to demand idealised edits of all their precious franchises, like it were some honourable crusade.”
Jamie Broadnax at Black Girl Nerds says “by the time we get to what we’re expecting to see — the good parts, you know, the exciting new cameos? — we’re either half asleep or looking at the clock wondering how further we have to go on running time.”