Zack Snyder's Justice League Movie Review: Snyder's cut is leagues above the original
Twice the runtime of the original, Zack Snyder's Justice League is an experience far more gratifying than what we endured, four years ago
Commissioner Gordon switching on the Bat-Signal to summon the caped crusader is a familiar idea from the comics, cartoons, and why, even films. But picture this... A dark night gets illuminated by a spotlight, bearing the bat symbol, in the sky, while rain falls in sheets. It's almost a black and white visual, save for blue flashes of lightning. The man, behind the signal, James Gordon (JK Simmons), is seeking shelter under a fluttering, almost tattered plastic sheet. And like a moth, or should I say a bat, to the flame, a brute of a man, dressed in so much black that he could be a piece of the all-consuming darkness, makes his presence known. Another flash of blue shows you the statue of a gargoyle beneath him. And this is the whole series of shots covering the arrival of the Batman after he's summoned. It's also what separates an actual scene from the writing, excellence in execution from an idea on paper, between Zack Snyder and... let's just say, others who aren't visionaries enough to create a compelling product that does not feel mass-produced.
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher
Director: Zack Snyder
Streaming on: BookMyShow Stream
The Zack Snyder cut of Justice League ends with a dedication, 'For Autumn', to his daughter, whose demise caused him to leave the 2017 film midway. The final frame of this film also served to start a movement with millions of fans demanding this version of the film that is now finally out on BookMyShow's new streaming site (BookMyShow Stream). The idea that the journey is more important than the destination, is never more clearer than here, in a film whose ending has been known for years. Snyder's answer is a four-hour marathon, which, at twice the runtime of the original, is an experience far more gratifying than what we endured, four years ago.
The original film had disproportionate highs and lows. The characters felt underdeveloped when they were all forced together. DC's rivals, meanwhile, had spent four years and five films before uniting its ensemble cast (The Avengers, whose director Joss Whedon took over the 2017 Justice League after Snyder's departure). While the length of Zack Snyder's Justice League (ZSJL) might be a deal-breaker for the impatient, it must be noted that the six chapters and the epilogue are not merely indulgences; they serve to flesh out the characters in a way that makes them integral to the story. Instead of an abrupt opening scene like in the first, ZSJL begins right at the end of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. This version answers a lot of the whos and hows, and serves up a bigger canvas in which the picture is painted in vivid, carefully chosen colours, thus resulting in a deeper, more logical, more moving experience. We get the origins story for characters who weren't adequately introduced in earlier films. We get a cameo from Aquaman's mentor, Nuidis Vulko (Willem Dafoe); we encounter new characters like Ryan Choi (Zheng Kai) and Iris West (Kiersey Clemons), and many famous comic book characters whose appearances are sure to send fans into a tizzy.
The duration also serves to explain the past and the present of Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher), who Snyder has often called the 'heart' of this film. During the opening credits, the film's title appears when Cyborg is on the frame. The serial number allocated to the MacGuffin happens to be 61982, a hat-tip to June 1982, when the first comic book edition of Tales of the New Teen Titans that featured Cyborg, came out. While the 2017 film showcased him as an anger-fuelled teenager, ZSJL is more interested in capturing the psyche of a person who has lost everything. Even the secondary characters bring more heart into this film. One of them, for some instance, is shown losing her house to the bank. Whoever heard of a superhero facing a financial struggle (Marvel finally gets into this space with its latest series, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier). Justice League's villain, Steppenwolf, in this film, answers to a bigger master and even gets a purpose as someone who is "undone by his self-pride" and "got a debt to pay". It may be sacrilegious to suggest it, but I almost wished a bit more time had been spent on his story to make him more compelling. It's also interesting that this version of the film introduces us to one of the biggest villains in the whole of the comic book world.
What's a DC ensemble film without Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot)... In a scene that has her engaged in a standoff with Steppenwolf, the latter orders his Parademons to stay away from her: "This one is mine". In the original film, she responds with a weak, "You overestimate yourself," but here, she thunders: "I belong to no one."
There are plenty of whistle-worthy moments that did not make it to the first iteration of this film, but Snyder's strength is still subtlety. When Aquaman (Jason Momoa) disappears into the sea, he doesn't create an underwater sonic boom, like in the old film. He disappears, leaving just ripples behind. When Cyborg and The Flash (Ezra Miller) dig up the coffin of Superman, there is no dramatic sound of the spade striking the buried casket. We simply move to a shot of them loading the box into the trunk of their car. Snyder has also largely cast away the awkward humour sprinkled across the first film. Remember when Superman (Henry Cavill) asks Batman (Ben Affleck) the franchise's most iconic line, "Do you bleed?", and the battered Bat replies, "Yeah, something is definitely bleeding"? The subtlety of Snyder takes over here, thankfully. We also now have a Flash who, amidst saving his future love interest from a car crash, in one of the film's many brilliant slow-mo shots, also takes time to steal a sausage from a wrecked hot dog stall... so he can feed dogs. Such everyday actions make these unrelatable heroes, more real.
In an integral scene showing how Superman gets his black suit, we hear the voices of both his biological father Jor-El and adopted father Jonathan Kent. Snyder's ability to understand and respect the source material while integrating his style of filmmaking into this comic book world, can be seen throughout this film. It really shows why DCEU needs more filmmakers like Snyder, Patty Jenkins and James Wan to keep the Marvel-DC rivalry livelier. The choice of the background score, the colour scheme and even visual effects excellence, place the new film leaps and bounds beyond the previous one. There is no question that this is one of the most visually stunning superhero films ever made. While the 4:3 aspect ratio can take time getting used to, it is important to understand that the film was designed to be watched on an IMAX screen.
Despite the much-awaited Knightmare sequence not taking off as you would expect, ZSJL shows more heart across its ambitious length. For DC fans like yours truly, who have sieved through mush searching for a shimmer of gold, the film is almost a miracle. If this version had released way back in 2017, it might have resulted in new characters branching out into their own franchise films. While it is disheartening to note that we might not get to see many of these characters again, the current trending hashtag #RestoreTheSnyderVerse does give a glimmer of hope. It is the same hope that got us ZSJL in the first place, that got us asking if it would be a stretch to associate the 'S' on Superman's chest--meaning hope in Kryptonian--with the director of this film...