Disclaimer: Spoilers ahead.
When the “Snyder Cut” was initially announced, I was not looking forward to it. Watching the Justice League (JL) movie once was bad enough, but to do it all over again, and that too for a duration of four hours, did not sound like a good time.
However, a friend put the Snyder Cut on when we were hanging out, and we all just ended up watching the movie. Having had the full experience, I wanted to write a proper critique for this version of the movie, because there is a lot that needs to be discussed.
Before I get into it, I’d like to let the readers know a few things in advance. People can enjoy this movie. People can enjoy the original version of the movie that came out in 2017. There’s nothing wrong with that, and taking shots at people for enjoying any media irrespective of how good or bad it may be, is uncalled for.
Now, some nice things. The Snyder Cut is a much better experience than the “original”. The visuals are improved greatly, the CGI and VFX look more solid, and the story is showcased a lot better. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that this movie could have been an enjoyable experience if it wasn’t four hours long.
Aside from these few points, the movie really falls apart in the same way as the original theatrical release. No matter how much you dress it up, it’s still the same JL movie that was disappointing, poorly written and an overall failure for the DC Cinematic Universe (DCCU).
Let’s dive into a critical analysis of Zack Snyder’s Justice League to better understand what went wrong with the movie, why we shouldn’t settle for what has been handed to us, and how these mistakes can and should be avoided in the future.
If I am being honest, the biggest problem in the DCCU is that the foundation upon which these movies are built is just not solid. In some places, there is no foundation at all.
Three movies predate JL’s timeline. Namely, Man of Steel, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (BvS) and Wonder Woman. None of these three movies effectively set up the characters or even the story towards the events of JL. Yes, there are scenes talking about forming a team of superheroes, but none of those scenes are explained properly. For movies that are filled to the brim with unnecessary exposition, it makes no sense that important character and story building is not even touched upon or elaborated properly.
This might not be a popular opinion for some of the DC “fanboys” but Zack Snyder isn’t that great of a director. Has he made some great movies? Yes, sure. But it’s more misses than hits with Snyder, and you only have to go back and watch some of his other work to understand what I mean.
Snyder’s claim to fame is without a doubt from 300 and Watchmen. The former is honestly an amazing movie that highlights Snyder’s skills and abilities. Watchmen, however, is a different story. The movie is definitely an enjoyable experience, and plenty of people love it. But for fans of Moore’s graphic novel, it’s clear to see that Snyder doesn’t really understand Watchmen.
Moore’s Watchmen is a story, which at its core breaks down the concept of superheroes, and how they are just people in masks and costumes who are either trying to adhere to what they think a superhero needs to be, or have become corrupted by the power and influence, choosing to serve their own interests over being the “good guys”. Snyder’s Watchmen only takes the concept that heroes can be dark and edgy characters who kill people to further their own goals. This continues to spill over into his adaptation of Superman and Batman.
While some people have a problem with Superman and Batman killing people, my point is that if Superman and Batman do stray away from their typical characteristics and start killing people, there is a way to get to that. Use story arcs and the plot to build towards that. Instead, Snyder just has his characters straying away from their fundamental beliefs and character traits because it’s dark, edgy and therefore “cool”.
I know I said that the visuals of the Snyder Cut are much better than the theatrical JL release. That still doesn’t take away from the overall problems that are embedded into JL and all of Snyder’s contribution to the DCCU.
My biggest complaint is the overuse of slow motion. It’s just too much. For a four-hour movie, I am pretty sure that slow-mos add up to an hour worth of footage. Snyder’s signature style includes the trifecta of the quick zoom-ins, the shaky cam and the slow-mo shots. Slow-mo shots can be amazing and can serve a great purpose in a movie. Just look at the Quicksilver scene from X-Men: Days of Future Past. It’s just one scene, but it’s really memorable because it stands out as a perfect use of slow-mo. In JL, however, everything is slow-moed and you don’t really feel anything after the first couple of scenes.
In fact, one of the best scenes in the movie is when Flash reverses time to save everyone, and this scene is the perfect one to be slow-moed. By the time it comes around, I have already seen a hundred scenes in slow-mo and it no longer has the same impact as it should.
The music scoring is also off. It’s fine to give your characters a certain theme score or song, but overusing it almost every time they appear on screen just gets tiring. Wonder Woman’s “Ancient Lamentation Music” just feels like a joke by the 25th time it comes around. Add to that the songs that play in different scenes which literally describe whatever is happening on screen, it feels like Snyder just thinks he needs to constantly tell the audience what’s happening.
The pacing and character development is also off. The dialogue feels weak; the characters just say their lines without adding any emotion or depth. I don’t feel that any of these characters have any motivation for their actions, and they’re really just there because they have to be, almost like a 9 to 5 job that they are forced to attend.
There’s more. The comic relief doesn’t come from the jokes written, but from the cringey monologues and one liners that just make you laugh at the movie. I know that Marvel has plenty of humour riddled throughout their movies, but even the worst Marvel movies are at least fun to watch most of the time. JL, on the other hand, feels like a chore to sit through.
I honestly hope the DCCU figures out a formula to fix their films. While competing with Marvel may have gone out of the window a long time ago, they can still produce good movies. Looking at shows like The Boys, Doom Patrol and Watchmen should give fans an idea of just how adaptations of superheroes can be. That is why as fans, it is our duty to not settle for stuff like JL and BvS, because it feels like nothing but a quick cash-grab that exploits the sentiment of fans.
And then, that Joker scene. I won’t even.