We need to talk about the Snyder Cut. (Well, really, we needed to talk about it a while ago. I forgot to post this review. [sigh])
First of all, I have to admit, I didn’t hate the Whedon Cut of Justice League. It wasn’t great, sure, but there were things to like. What I didn’t ever expect was that the whole #releasethesnydercut thing would gain traction and make a major Hollywood studio course correct on one of their signature IPs. Live and learn, I guess.
Did I watch this four hour opus in one sitting? No.
Did I watch it mostly on my phone? Yes.
Did I then also watch the “Justice is Gray” alternate version that is the same film, just in black and white? Yes.
Why did I do this? I don’t know. I was curious to know if it would work. Actually, it did. I think the Gray version is slightly better.
You see, the main thing that the Snyder Cut has for days is grandeur. Gravitas. It leans into these characters as mythic beings, beyond the realm of mere mortals like us. It leans hard. And the black and white cinematography underlines that even more. And I dug it. Let’s call this the first addition that I liked.
What else did I like that was added (back) in? The Flash is more of an impact on the story, and less of a comedy sidekick. Though, thankfully, many of the laughs remain. That was a bit of a surprise.
I enjoyed the Steppenwolf-as-wayward-child story-line. He wasn’t simply bad-guy-who-wants-planet. He had a pathos to him that, amazingly, came through in the CG performance. And I liked his weird, spiky suit.
I liked the more fully fleshed out (pun intended) Cyborg story, complete with a nice arc for his dad and more time for Joe Morton.
Generally, the action scenes were better. I particularly enjoyed the ancient battle with Darkseid, and the blink-or-you’ll-miss-it cameo by David Thewlis.
And the final battle with Steppenwolf was also better, mostly because Superman was demoted to “guy who punches”, and Cyborg and Flash really were the ones who saved the day. (I won’t spoil what Flash does, but it is very cool.)
Now, what did I dislike that was new? Honestly, four hours was not necessary. A prudent trim would have kept the grandeur and the character building without turning it into a test of bladder control. Can you imagine watching this in a theater? Yikes. Also, the Knightmare at the end was overkill. It was a trailer for a movie that will probably never happen, but, you know, #restorethesnyderverse is a thing now, so what do I know?
Here’s the fun part. What do I miss from the Whedon Cut? The best details that Whedon added to the story were story fixes.
The first (which is kind of doofy, I’ll admit, but it helps) is the early scene where Batman takes out a parademon. That explains why Bruce is so hot to get the Justice League going right now. A random warning from Lex Luthor would not have been sufficient.
Actually neither version is content to let Wonder Woman’s warning be the inciting incident for Batman building the league, which is a superior choice, and also elevates Wonder Woman’s value in the story, which is limited in both versions, sadly.
The other thing that was better in the original was Batman specifically using Lois Lane as his backup plan if Clark went postal. That was brilliant. In this version, she just happens to be near by. Story by coincidence is rarely good story.
Now, it’s time to be all listy and stuff. How do I rank all the DCEU films?
- Man of Steel — Somehow they haven’t been able to meet the quality of that first outing.
- Aquaman — I guess it’s not surprising that I put the most Marvel-like of the films this high.
- Wonder Woman — Honestly, spots 2 through 5 are all really close. This one has several killer scenes… and then a dumb battle at the end.
- The Suicide Squad — Is this the most improvement in a sequel ever? It might be.
- Shazam — I’d rate this one higher if it wasn’t so fricking dark. Still, very fun.
- Birds of Prey — Remember this one? There are some great sequences and some seriously questionable story logic. But I still liked it.
- Zack Snyder’s Justice League — If not for that run time, it would be at number 5.
- Justice League — Yeah, the ZSL is better, but not that much better.
- Wonder Woman 1984 — It’s really a coin flip whether this is better or worse than Suicide Squad. I give this one the edge because of a much better villain.
- Suicide Squad — So many good ideas squandered.
- Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice — Ugh.