Following the critical and commercial failure of 2017’s Justice League, fans of the DCEU began to campaign for the unedited version, one that promises to be guided creatively by the original directors who helmed the film before exiting the project, Zack Snyder. Now that Zack Snyder’s Justice League is finally upon us, how does it stack up against its theatrical counterpart? Well, it’s superior in every way.
Within the opening minutes of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, the film already feels immensely different in comparison to its notoriously awful theatrical counterpart. Opening with the demise of Superman as seen in the finale of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Snyder stresses the idea that this version of the film is indeed a continuation of its predecessor in more ways than one. Aside from the obvious continuation in narrative, Snyder masterfully establishes that the film is very much his vision in its opening minutes by utilising his signature style of slow-motion editing, gorgeous cinematography, as well as extravagant special effects.
Unfortunately, Snyder’s overreliance over his signature style of filmmaking does more harm than good when it comes to the overall presentation of the film. All the action sequences are similar in the sense that they are all heart-pumping action sequences layered with computer-generated effects. Over the entirety of the film, Snyder masks a significant portion of the film with his trademark slow-motion technique, regardless of the stakes. In turn, the film’s pacing can get tedious in an already bloated film.
While the pacing of the film leaves much to be desired, Snyder takes advantage of the extended runtime by fleshing out the characters of Justice League. With Snyder’s Justice League being the introduction to many new characters (Excluding the awful introduction through e-mail attachment in Batman v Superman), the extended runtime works wonders in establishing most of the new characters, with Ray Fisher’s Victor Stone/Cyborg being the highlight of the entire movie. Easily the dullest character in the theatrical cut, Snyder goes to great lengths in making Cyborg a nuanced character. Elevated by good writing and great characterization, Cyborg is undoubtedly the heart and soul of Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
Conversely, the film’s antagonists remain underwhelming in this version of the film. As opposed to the theatrical cut, Snyder did a considerable amount of work in fleshing out Steppenwolf’s motivation and character. Unfortunately, the antagonist comes across as merely serviceable in comparison to some of the better villains of the DC universe. Additionally, the film also features highly anticipated live-action debut of Darkseid. With Justice League being written as the first half of a two-part event film, Darkseid works effectively as a presence that looms in the background of the film but has understandably limited interactions with any of the Justice League members.
With the film divided into six parts, there is a distinct difference in quality as the film progresses, with the first half of the film suffering from unfortunate pacing issues and lacklustre characterisation. Fortunately, the latter half of the film picks up the pacing by delivering a fast-paced superhero extravaganza while countering it with great chemistry between the members of the league. As a result, the final showdown between Steppenwolf and the League during the final act of the film is significantly improved in comparison to the theatrical cut.
Interestingly, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is also a testament of what the right score can do for a film. As influential as Danny Elfman is as a composer, his work on the theatrical cut does not gel well with Snyder’s imagery for the film. With Junkie XL back as composer, many of the Snyder Cut’s greatest scenes are accompanied with a memorable track by the composer. Having composed Batman v Superman, Junkie XL’s involvement in the HBO Max original bridges the team-up film closer to its roots, as the film features many returning themes. On top of his excellent original work in Justice League, the composer also incorporated Hans Zimmer’s Superman theme to the film.
While many moviegoers may have issues with Snyder’s take on the DC mythos, it is undeniably heart-warming that fans of the DCEU got the opportunity to experience what was once deemed a “fanboy pipedream”. As a movie critic, it is always refreshing to see a filmmaker being able to realise his or her vision in spite of the obstacles. Although Snyder has repeatedly stated that Warner Brother has officially moved on from his vision, fans of the DCEU should not give up on hope. Because if Zack Snyder’s Justice League is any indication, it’s that it would be foolish for us to assume that any decision made in the world of moviemaking is final.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is available exclusively on HBO GO in Malaysia.
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