Film Review – Justice League (The Snyder Cut)

The Snyder Cut’ is the fully realised vision of director Zack Snyder’s ‘Justice League’ film, which has been released after much fan outcry following the poor response to the original theatrical version. Once again starring Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill and Ray Fisher and featuring a supporting cast of Amy Adams, JK Simmons and Joe Morton, this is undoubtedly a much more complete film than the 2017 ‘Justice League’ that was partially reshot by Joss Whedon. Clocking in at a whopping four hours there is little doubt what we are seeing is everything the director intended us too, however this in itself is a problem. While the curiosity factor of seeing how these two versions differ from each other is strong, and while this is a better film overall then Whedon‘s’, the lack of ‘reigning in’ leads to an overblown marathon of a film that is more of an endurance test than popcorn fuelled thrill ride.

The film lets us know almost immediately what kind of experience we are in for, with a characters death knell literally sending shockwaves across the globe. A subtle film this is not. This lack of restraint is a constant throughout the film, with so many scenes underpinned by overly dramatic music and slow motion shots, that it quickly becomes boring instead of epic like it was clearly intended to be. This numbing feeling continues with the ‘action’ on display; there are only so many times a character can scream, punch the ground to cause a massive explosion and destroy every building around them before you will start to look at your watch.

This also brings us to the massive running time, four hours is a long slog for most people but, on occasion, it can be pulled off (‘The Irishman’ is a good example). Here though, the running time will test even the most excitable of viewers. It should be noted, however, that the film is punctuated with title cards separating it into ‘parts’ which suggests this may be more palatable when viewed as a mini series instead of a film. Regardless of how you watch, another of the films issues is that even with four hours of screen time there are still unresolved plot points (why are we seeing the future? How does Lois figure in? Why is there a random cameo and who is he?), and some of the characters feel shortchanged, especially Amy Adams as Lois Lane.

Adams is wasted in this film. Other than a few scenes walking (in slow motion) in the rain or grieving over photos of her lost love, she has nothing to do. This is strange considering a large subplot of the film involves her and how she is ‘the key to it all’. There is a wasted opportunity here to expand on her relationship with Superman and bring some humanity to the story, especially given the lack of restrictions on running. JK Simmons also has little to do, although Joe Morton fares better as the father of Cyborg.

While some of the background characters are left underdeveloped, the same cannot be said for Ray Fisher as Cyborg who has substantially more to do here than in the theatrical cut. With a much stronger story arc which is critical to the plot, Fisher is given lots to do and is able to deliver a strong performance as the sympathetic and tortured soul that much of the narrative revolves around. The performances in general are one of the major plus points. Affleck once again shines as Batman, delivering brooding grit and charming charisma all at once. Gadot continues to produce as Wonder Woman and Cavill shows why his Superman deserved a much better solo film. The real winners, other than Fisher’s Cyborg, are the Flash (Ezra Millar) and Aquaman (Jason Momoa) who get much more character depth and story arcs that were missing from the original version.

Other plus points are the visuals and the soundtrack. While, as mentioned earlier, the slow motion and dramatic score can be overused, there is no doubt that Snyder can make a gorgeous looking film. If viewed in 4k on a big screen, you will be rewarded with some beautiful (if heavy handed at times) imagery. The soundtrack, again not subtle, is still a great listen and certainly make the bloated length more bearable. This film in many ways sums up Snyder’s filmography; style over substance, spectacle over subtlety and a distinct, if flawed, vision.

While the performances and visuals are good, the film still manages to fall into the worst habits of both the director and comic book films in general; Noisy, overblown action, massive destruction, lack of subtlety and use of overly dramatic scores that are there to tell us exactly how to feel, instead of the story and characters letting us feel on our own. For fans of the directors previous comic books films, Man of Steel and BvS, then this is exactly the film that they would have wanted. For those who are not fans, this is an improvement on those previous entries, but not enough to change your mind.

★★


Action, Thriller, Comic Book | USA, 2021 | 12 | 18th March 2021 | Sky Cinema (UK), HBO Max (USA) | Warner Bros HE | Dir. Zack Snyder | Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Ciarán Hinds, Henry Cavill