After All The Hype, Was Zack Snyder's Justice League Worth It?

Pete Ross

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I was never a comic book person, but I was a kid when Michael Keaton’s Batman came out at the movies and I avidly watched everything that DC comics put on the screen since then. From the original Batman: The Animated Series all the way through to the recently released Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, there’s been very little I’ve missed.

I never watched anything Marvel until Iron Man hit cinemas and while I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the ride, it hasn’t always been to my taste. I often find it far too jokey with unnecessary banter (Black Widow and her quips in the middle of a battle are just like…what?), which was why I loved Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the other more serious outings so much.

So why this background? Well, the biggest, most noticeable difference between Whedon’s cut of JL and the Snyder cut is the tone. Whedon’s was too full of jokey BS that just didn’t belong there. The villain suffered from the usual issues with Marvel — he’s boring, uninspiring and his motivations actually don’t make much sense. Aquaman was the jokey jock, Flash was the awkward teen making awkward remarks. It was like an unholy mishmash of DC and Marvel that somehow became less than the sum of its parts.

All of that is gone. The tone isn’t “dark,” per se, but it’s definitely a serious movie with serious stakes, as anything DC usually is. While I didn’t love everything about the characters — especially Flash, Snyder brings a reverence to them that, in the current environment of casting old heroes down to bring forward the new, is utterly refreshing.

While Marvel is always self-deprecating and doesn’t take itself too seriously, Snyder goes all in. There’s no sense that all this hero stuff is just light hearted fluff, not for a second. The swelling music, the seriousness of the characters — they’re playing it straight, and it’s inspiring. Make no mistake, there was a true love of the characters and source material that brought this to life. I don’t think Snyder was thinking of money or popularity here, because the entire experience felt like a true artistic vision on the grandest scale.

That’s why the most surprising thing for me about the running time of 4 hours wasn’t the length itself, it’s how much of Whedon’s cut was removed. Basically all of the interactions that felt out of place and that I really disliked were gone, replaced with significantly improved and more mature content.

The Villain

Let’s talk about two of the big elephants in the room that was Whedon’s version: the plot and the villain. In Whedon’s cut, the plot didn’t even make sense. Villain wants 3 boxes to…destroy the world? Why? What does Earth have to do with anything when this guy lives a million light years away? Who even is this guy? None of these questions were answered, making the entire movie seem like an exercise in pointlessness.

I’m not going to elaborate on it and spoil anything, but suffice to say that he Snyder cut thankfully solved the plot issue nicely by bringing in the anti-life equation. In terms of the villain, Steppenwolf is significantly better this time around. His dialogue is a vast improvement over the Whedon cut. His motivations are much clearer and he’s more balanced; the problem with him in Whedon’s was that he kicked everyone’s ass, then Superman came along at the end and made him look like a chump. In the Snyder cut, it’s much more evenly balanced.

Look, he’s still not the greatest villain, but this is an ensemble movie. Look at all 3 Avengers outings: Loki, Ultron, Thanos. None of them were that fleshed out or really that great in comparison, because a film of this nature doesn’t have time for it.

Fight scenes

So while we’re on the subject, let’s talk about the fight scenes. The Snyder cut fight scenes are on a completely different level. This time, you get the feeling they aren’t just there to move the plot along or be part of a formula. These fight scenes are intense, extended affairs that really add something to the story, rather than the generic fluff of the Whedon version. The final fight scene? Wow — the ending is gritty, brutal and absolutely DC.

Knightmare scene

When talking of the length of the Snyder cut, I’m sure a lot of criticism is going to be levelled at the Knightmare scene right at the end. Is it necessary to the story? No. Could you cut it for a theatrical edition? Absolutely. Will you be missing out if you don’t watch it? You bet your ass you will. The interaction between Batman and Leto’s Joker is phenomenal and really makes you wonder what might have been. I really can’t say more than that.

Emotion

What I loved about Snyder going all in was that he actually made you feel something. One of my biggest issues with Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 was that you spend an entire movie in a light hearted tone, then try to shift to gravitas right at the end. It just doesn’t work, and that’s always been Marvel’s problem (although they have managed to get it right a few times).

Because Snyder had the balls to do a superhero movie that actually takes itself seriously, the emotional investment is on a different level. Louis struggling to overcome the death of Clark was genuinely heartbreaking, and the scene where the team all realise that they can bring Superman back gives you goosebumps the way it’s done.

Final thought — beware the douchey critics

The reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are mostly good, but of course there are those that don’t like it. For the most part, these reviews really are douchey as hell. They’re nothing more than variations on two themes:

  • This wasn’t to my taste, so it sucks
  • I can’t even listen to what’s being said in the movie, so I’m going to misrepresent what actually happens

This is why the ordinary public hates critics now. They don’t bring anything to the table anymore — I haven’t seen any legitimate film criticism here, just opinions from people who aren’t even the intended audience hating on it in a haughty fashion.

Honestly, I’m tired of critics praising Marvel movies and taking a dump on DC just because it’s serious. If you want to see your superheroes joking around while they’re fighting for their lives then great, but that doesn’t mean it should be the default. I guess you think the soldiers should have joked around more in Black Hawk Down too?

People being sad and depressed about the death of someone is normal. People with grim faces when they fight for their lives is normal. You know what isn’t? Cutting to a new scene where everyone’s forgotten about it. God, these are the same people who praise Game of Thrones for being more gritty than regular high fantasy.

I was planning on watching this in two parts, being that it became available at 6pm my time. Half last night, and half tonight. I started watching and didn’t stop until it finished. 2 hours in, I was glad that there was still 2 hours to go. I’m happy that the fans made this happen. It’s a bold, epic vision that was worth the wait.

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I write about career, performance, psychology, self development and business humour. I'm an author, former national competitor in judo and strongman and a former military instructor.

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