Updated: Jul 13, 2021
The near-fabled extended cut of the less-than-enthralling Justice League (2017) has arrived after four years of DC Comics fans demanding Warner Bros. for the unreleased version, an inflated four-hour, slow-burn team-up, and upon its arrival, comes just what Zack Snyder promised DC devotees who fought long and hard in his favor.
Rivaling the original film that was co-directed by Joss Whedon, Snyder presents his own interpretation of the characters at hand and how their stories are told. If anything, there's the opportunity for Snyder to re-introduce this pre-existing team in the way he sees fit, occupying half of the film to piece together the who's-whos. It seems to be a bit redundant in its application as if Snyder is not familiar with his audience and what they might exactly expect, backtracking on any stand-alone films that have been put in place, and summarizing them. Although there's the need to set up the Mother Boxes, their connection to both Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) and Darkseid (Ray Porter), the attempt is long-winded and forgettable.
The heaviest backstories belong not to Arthur "Aquaman" Curry (Jason Momoa) nor Bruce "Batman" Wayne (Ben Affleck), but on Diana "Wonder Woman" Prince (Gal Gadot), and newcomers Victor "Cyborg" Stone (Ray Fisher) and Barry "Flash" Allen (Ezra Miller). There is the feeling that there is a buyout of screen time to interweave these origin stories, especially on Stone's part, as his entire becoming of Cyborg is directly told piece by piece. Though there are beats of emotion found inside of Stone's tragedy, it feels a bit out of place that a high school senior is played by Fisher, who has outgrown his youth.
Only the same for Allen, though his relationships at play, including his reliance on Wayne, are to set the tone for The Flash (2022). With Affleck signed on as one of the two Batmen that will play a supporting role in the stand-alone, it's critical that the bond is nurtured. Don't expect Clark "Superman" Kent (Henry Cavill) to arrive anytime within the first half of the film, as the Man of Steel is held off for his big, more intense reveal. Again comes Snyder's Christlike symbolism: a fallen savior to return. Though the director has been known to use religious allegories, the second coming of Superman is not as prophetic as expected upon the first impression. No worries - there's no mustache to be edited out in post-production.
The DC Extended Universe films are not particularly known for their outstanding use of CGI and there is no further flattery found here. Despite the efforts to clean up the first cut of the movie, the rendering resembles ones found in video games and looks to be incomplete. Considering the resources that the studio has and the tremendous amount of money thrown at Snyder to live out his fanboy fantasy, the use of graphics is sloppy and unimpressive. In one particular scene that shows Wonder Woman coming to the defense of civilians that are held at gunpoint, the editing around her moving so quickly that her wrist gauntlets block every single bullet is so poorly executed that the effects defeat her act of heroism. There's a purpose behind her actions, but it's certainly hard to take seriously.
The bones of Whedon's first movie uphold the framework of the reworked cut, but there's more comic accuracy that Snyder indulges both himself and his fans in. There's a bit more recognition and honesty to the source material compared to the shortcomings of the 2017 release, despite studio executives stressing that the second take is ‘a street that leads nowhere.' It's the longest-running superhero film in the genre, and the oversaturation of slow-motion shots could trim down the run time, as where they are effective, they are just as ineffective. An epic by definition, there are some outstanding shots that apologize for the bleakness of the tone that is cast over the hardened spirits of the heroes at hand, and they're enough to trump the tattered tentpole that Snyder stepped away from. Snyder knows well that DC stories are to be dark and dramatic, dripping with melancholy over mirth.
Scenes that have never seen before are unearthed and give a "new" feeling to the refashioned Justice League. Cyborg's recruitment is much more satisfactory than the previous attempt, there's a more clear understanding of how the Amazonians become aware of Steppenwolf's invasion. New characters who have weaseled themselves into Snyder's cut, whether they're purposeful, or just inserted for the sake of a reaction, are interesting choices to be included. They're only there for a split second, serving as more of a cameo over anything more.
The highest points are found in the concluding two chapters, "All The King's Horses" and "Something Darker," where the rushed CGI messiness is atoned for and allows each hero to showcase their abilities. It finally feels like a comic book movie, and while the seriousness carries on, there are twinges of humor and emotion that seep through the stoic cracks. Snyder is given room to play with his action scenes, as where the sluggish sequences that lead up to the most bombastic battle may be a bit lackluster, there's a jolt of excitement that allows this one to be the most electric.
Zack Snyder's Justice League is by a fan, for the fans. Eager to please followers of the franchise, this extended cut may not appease the Snyder skeptic, but proves one strong point: maybe bigger is better. Long-drawn-out to meet its grandiose end, one thing is proven: maybe bigger is better.