ZACK SNYDER'S JUSTICE LEAGUE Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Geek Dave prepares to be unpopular.
The campaign to restore the Snyder Cut of the Justice League has been successful. After year's of denying its existence, the 4 hour 2 minute epic has arrived and is true to the director's vision. Was it worth the wait and the years of vocal outcry demanding its release? The answer to that is of course subjective and there is no doubt that the Snyderbronies of this world will be salivating over every aspect of the movie and loving each stylistic choice presented. If you've watched it without the hard-core Snyder fans rose-tinted glasses and you came away feeling it was the long awaited masterpiece you were promised then that is great. Nothing I or anyone else says should take that away from you. However, from this review's perspective the answer to if this was worth the wait is a firm no.

Let's be clear, I have no love for the 2017 theatrical release of Justice League, which was largely re-shot and directed by Joss Whedon. Knowing just how bad that was I've long thought it would be a near-impossible task to present the kind of magnum opus the fabled Snyder Cut was rumoured to be. After all, as the old saying goes, you can polish a turd...

And so we have Zack Snyder's Justice League. Even in the advertising, his name looms larger than the title of the film itself. Without studio interference and released onto streaming services in a last ditch effort to reclaim some of the deficit of the troubled production, Snyder has seemingly been given carte blanch to present Justice League how he envisioned. I have no qualms with the washed-out palette the director likes to use, it sets his tone well and puts the DCEU films apart from their MCU rivals. But his cut of Justice League is in 4:3 ratio. That's quite a problem for me. Apparently, Zack intended for it to originally be seen in IMAX, but it was completed for HBO MAX and at no time since he resumed work on the production was an IMAX release touted, and I can't for one minute believe that if Snyder had not stepped-away from the production during filming and completed it back in 2017 that it would've played in regular theaters in this 4:3 format. Knowing this, it feels rather pompous to assume everyone has an IMAX projector and screen in their lounge, although maybe in Zack's world they do? However, it looks awful on modern TVs. It's so very jarring to what we're used to, and I didn't ever get acclimated to it.

Part of the reason I couldn't get used to the format is because the film is too long. Way, way too long. I personally could not watch it comfortably in one sitting. That's not because I can't focus for four hours, it's because the first two hours drag and feel like four in themselves. It probably works better over two nights, which is how I watched it, as it's split into six chapters and an epilogue, and each has ebbs and flows just like a long-form television series would. There was talk at one time that the SnyderCut might premiere as a series, and perhaps that might've been a better option. Of course some will get through it in one sitting, but having the entirety available for home viewing gives us the luxury of watching it how best it suits each of us. However, if you do split it up into more manageable chunks then returning to the film after a break makes the 4:3 format feel jarring all over again. That's just one of the downsides of the runtime. Another is, although it's one story, there's one arc and then another evolves from it around the midpoint, sort of. I don't want to get spoilerific about that but the stakes are significantly raised in just knowing about the greater threat the second arc promises, yet as it is only the first arc that is resolved here for the final two hours you know you're watching the resolution to a secondary threat, which dampens the better segments of the film. Like Infinity War and Endgame, Zack Snyder's Justice League should've been two films, but from the footage he had it could only be one. I'll explain...

There's a cut of Superman: The Movie that was put together for it's TV premiere in America where the Salkinds negotiated a price-per-minute from the broadcaster. The producers had every possible frame re-edited in to the film to maximise their income. This reminds me of that. Here Snyder has turned a 2 and a half to 3 hour film into a 4 hour 2 minute runtime by using an excessive amount of lingering shots, some overly used slow motion scenes, other scenes which serve no purpose at all to the overall narrative (especially surrounding those grieving Superman and others name-dropping him for the first three hours, that is really overdone), and some forced dialogue, monologuing and exposition which is often said out loud s-l-o-w-l-y for seemingly no reason at all. Despite a couple of early set-pieces, it's not really until the fourth chapter when the film kicks-up a gear, but even that segment features a lot of unnecessary time wasting, like Batman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg and the Flash casually walking up a flight of stairs as if they're going to a costume party, and a cringe-worthy monologue from Cyborg explaining his back story - "that researcher was.... my father!" (Dun, dun, dunnn...). I know this is Snyder's vision, so I guess he's allowed to do whatever he wants, but whereas the extended runtime seen in the Ultimate Edition of Dawn of Justice added to the film, here it does not and I wish Snyder had a stronger editor working with him as there's a tighter cut of his vision to be found in this footage for sure. It also makes you think that perhaps before filming the story should've been split and two movies worked on. As I say, there's not enough here for two, but if that had been worked upon during the various screenplay revisions then I feel quite certain it could've been a viable option.

The primary cast, and the majority of the supporting players, are all very good though. I'd say particularly Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne / Batman. He feels more comfortable with the role, as if he owns it more than he did in Dawn of Justice. Elsewhere of note, Ray Fisher's Cyborg arc is much better and more prominent than before, and it's clear to see why he was so disappointed with the 2017 release. Ezra Miller's Flash is more palatable, and Gal Gadot again proves to be a strong Wonder Woman but is saddled with some of that clunky dialogue and exposition, along with an unnecessary scene or two. There's not much for Henry Cavill to do, but that works better here than the terrible CGI'd additions Whedon resided over previously. Talking of the CGI, in the large part it's very good. There are one or two scenes where the new green screen additions are noticeably dodgy but for what is essentially a made for TV movie it would feel quite harsh to knock that. Steppenwolf is particularly well realised and presents his motives far better this time round, although he does do a lot of that monologuing.

Unfortunately, the negatives outweigh the positives and the occasional surprising fanboy moments do not make up for the fact that Zack Snyder's Justice League feels sanctimonious to watch. This is in keeping with many of the director's other productions - and I'm not knocking that entirely as there's nothing wrong with smart and clever storytelling - but this time it just feels too superior for its own good. It's also slow, plodding and methodical, like Snyder feels he has to spoon-feed every scene to the audience, every minuscule plot point is laboured. The result is it's just not fun to watch, despite the actual storyline being better realised than the 2017 theatrical release. Of course, it could be argued that maybe it shouldn't be fun to watch, given the events unfolding, but Justice League tries so hard to be so very serious against the absurdity of the convoluted comic-book narrative, one which doesn't naturally lend itself to this level of pomposity, and so a storyline like this needs an incredibly strong hand to find the right balance to make it work. Whedon certainly didn't have it, despite his success with the first Avengers film, and Snyder doesn't either.

Yet, as serious as it is, in other aspects Justice League feels terribly cheesy, which is again a jarring experience. One of the things that particularly bugged me is that characters explain things that are easy for the viewer to infer. It's that Snyder spoon-feeding again. Yet this cut is R rated, so it's not like that dialogue is in place for a younger audience, meaning this is an odd stylistic choice which again gives a jarring effect when watching. As does the music, which is overused throughout. The various, presumed, character themes don't always seem to match the scene playing out, and the more forefront musical presentations, including the excessive Amazonian lamentation and a Nordic choir singing whilst Aquaman returns to the sea (which is sadly not the only dreadful song to accompany Arthur Curry's brooding slow motion meanders into the ocean), are particularly cringe inducing to both hear and watch.

Is Zack Snyder's Justice League better than the 2017 theatrical released version? Unquestionably so.

Does that mean it's the holy grail of comic-book movies? Sadly not.

From this reviewer's perspective, it's self-indulgent, labourious, and disjointed in tone. It's frustrating because I can't help but feel there's a tighter film to be found among the excessive amount of footage, one which could've been a more rewarding viewing experience, although still not able to live up to the fabled reputation its fans proclaimed it would be. Without restraint, Snyder has over-polished his cut. He's rolled it in glitter, squeezed it into an unnecessary shape and painted it in a matted hue. The result is Justice League doesn't smell anywhere near as bad as it did, but you can't escape the fact that underneath it's still a turd.

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