Surprise! The Zack Snyder Cut of ‘Justice League’ is better, more coherent, and moderately fun
Zack Snyder’s Justice League cut initially seemed like it couldn’t possibly be a more 2021 cultural entity. The ultimate joke on us.
Here was a fairly nonsensical original film coming on the heels of two divisive films (‘Man of Steel’ and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”) that critics savaged. Snyder, the original director, was going to reboot it entirely in the “Academy Standard” 4:3, the aspect ratio most associated with standard TV sets, with a preferred cut in black and white, at a cost of $70 million. And Warner Brothers was going to debut it on streaming TV.
But instead, what we get is a genuinely better-told, startlingly engaging version of the original film.
Did I really just type that?
Sure, the opening exposition is painful: Ponderous slo-mo action scenes that bring you up to speed on the story thus far, not just encapsulating the death of Superman, but also the rise of so-called “Mother Boxes,” the Infinity Stones of this particular franchise, and equally Maguffin-ish. We also get a lot more of the Amazons, the Atlanteans, the villainous Darkseid and his search for the “Anti-Life Equation,” and some bracingly uninteresting pondering of the aforementioned death of Superman.
But once it kicks in, it does start to move.
I’m unclear on when that exactly happens in the runtime: Simpsons writer Mike Reiss tweeted that Snyder spends three hours convincing superheroes to be in this superhero movie, and he’s not wrong.
But the scenes with Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne and Jeremy Irons’ Alfred, and the other characters when they intrude on that world, are relatively light-hearted compared with the ponderous exposition. The humor and genuine characterization are surprising to find in a Zack Snyder film (and I liked Dawn of the Dead).
After all, if you take the first hour or so, you get music supervision courtesy of the last standing Goth who never got over This Mortal Coil’s ‘It’ll End In Tears’. There’s even a version of ‘Song To The Siren’, and, of course, ‘Hallelujah,’ which Snyder already atrociously misused in Watchmen during a comically bad sex scene that ended with a spaceship ejaculating. And Icelandic ladies singing.
Snyder still features an Aquaman who litters–twice, by my count–and that was in the original as well. Why does this rankle so impossibly? Arthur Curry lives, after all, in an underwater world powered by what should really be described as octopi-driven mechanics. He can’t decide between the underwater world, where Willem Dafoe makes air pockets into conference rooms, and the above world, where Icelandic girls smell his cast-off shirts. So he throws his whiskey bottle into the surf, who cares. It’s metal!
Snyder leans heavily on verticality, deploying his 4:3 chosen aspect ratio to its best; we really should see it in IMAX as Snyder intended. You get used to it, in other words.
Snyder’s version of Watchmen was a panel-by-panel recreation of the graphic novel. It seemed to forget the core backbone of comic storytelling: that the true narrative lives between the panels. Joss Whedon’s Frankenstein version of Justice League didn’t really even have much of a story at all, just salvaged scenes and jokes about Aquaman sitting on Wonder Woman’s lasso.
The Snyder Cut, in its elongated form, actually tells a better, more coherent narrative. The extra scenes of the bulk of the film do a reasonable job of tying the whole slam-bang mess into a comic book movie that would rival at least the average standalone Marvel picture. And the installment-esque titling breaks it into manageable chunks.
Snyder’s boner for particle effects and slo-mo is something you just have to accept. Once the film gets up to speed–and stops being sad and killing horses–it’s moderately fun. The fight scenes have weight and momentum, and the interpersonal banter is enjoyable.
Snyder even makes that awful scene between Diane Lane and Amy Adams sensical by a spoiler-ish plot point, which I won’t divulge here.
So the movie is as good as Snyder fanatics hoped, and way better than cynics thought it was going to be. But the most ludicrous element to this whole reboot/re-release/re-edit isn’t even in the film. It’s in the film’s marketing, specifically the expensive “gourmet” meal offered as companion to viewing the film.
Alas, I can’t actually judge the gourmet meal service offered; it doesn’t deliver til mid-April. Just know that a make-your-own hamburger on a pretzel bun, fish and chips in a tuna can with so-called “Trench dressing”, an energy drink, craft beer, “Corn Clouds,” and smoked marshmallows constitute this bizarre fan offering.
“Justice is served,” the e-meal offers. Yes, apparently a Hello Fresh delivery gone horribly awry requires a month of preparation and $135.
Maybe you can pay in installments. The Snyder Cut of Justice League loves installments.