March 22, 2021 – Zack Snyder's new director's cut of his 2017 film is twice as long, but not twice as good, as the original. It is now streaming on HBO Max.
To make a long story about a long movie short, Snyder was unable to complete the 2017 film, and it was finished by Joss Whedon (“The Avengers”) who also was a writer of the original screenplay. The resulting film was not to Snyder's liking, so now by popular demand, Snyder has been able to make and release his own cut of the film.
This situation is similar to that of “Superman II” (1980) in which director Richard Donner was replaced by Richard Lester, and Donner wasn't happy with the way that movie turned out. Eventually a Richard Donner cut of Superman II was released on video media. The Snyder cut not only uses footage deleted from the original film, but many new reshoots as well, so it is quite different.
I liked the original version of “Justice League.” I thought it was a significant improvement over Zach Snyder's “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016) which was overlong and over-serious. I have also seen the “Ultimate Edition” of Batman v Superman, and it is better than the theatrical version, but not as good as “Justice League,” which has a nice blend of action, drama, with some nice comic touches.
Zach Snyder's version of “Justice League” is twice as long, and twice as serious, with very few comic elements. It is a deadly serious movie, which is quite in step with pandemic ennui. It is not only longer and more serious, but there are a lot of differences in story details. Remarkably, even the film's aspect ratio is different, narrowed from a wide screen, 1.78:1 to the old “TV standard” 1:33:1 (closer to an IMAX format). I prefer the widescreen format.
In addition to changing the story significantly, this film also introduces some new characters, such as the dark overlord, Darkseid (voiced by Ray Porter) The Joker (played by Jared Leto) and J'onn J'onzz (The Martian Manhunter) played by Harry Lennix. Other characters and subplots have been omitted completely, such as the entire family of endangered Russian civilians rescued during the big battle sequence. There a lot more singing and chanting in this version, including an Icelandic song, “Vísur Vatnsenda-Rósu.” This should be popular with Icelandic fans of Justice League, but I'd rather have the Russian family back.
The new version is also bloodier with more graphic violence, upping the MPAA rating from PG-13 to R. The new Justice League movie also has a dream sequence epilogue scene, followed by a scene between Batman and The Martian Manhunter. The dream sequence appears to be Snyder's idea of what a sequel would look like, with invading aliens on earth in search of an “anti-life equation.”
Most of all this new Snyder cut gives us more character depth and character back stories, befitting the film's expanded length. This makes the characters more human and relatable. I didn't really need the back stories, because I already knew the back stories for most of the characters, but for those unfamiliar with these character backgrounds, they might be helpful.
What I missed most of all in this new version of the film is the humor and lighter tone of the original film. I think the story is too lightweight to be taken seriously. The four hour running length is too long. Probably two hours is too short for this story as well. Maybe halfway between these two extremes would be a sweet spot. These long form, downbeat Snyder movies have worn me out, along with the pandemic and bad weather. I thought about picking up an extended version of Snyder's “Watchmen” yesterday, and then decided, “nah, not today.”
Despite the many differences between the two versions of Justice League, I liked them both. They are both good movies in their own way. This movie rates a B.
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