So, Zack Synder’s Justice League is now out – the director’s cut of 2017 movie, Justice League. In the style of this movie, I will be giving you a special kind of review. I will do a fairly mediocre job, then it will be out there for four years, then I will edit my review and add new elements to it to create a similarly mediocre review with a bit of improvement.
If you didn’t know, Justice League was released in 2017 after a very troubled production. It started off a sequel to the moderately perceived Batman v. Superman, and was set to be the DC’s answer to the blockbuster Avenger movies, giving a huge big crossover movie to DC’s biggest heroes. The film was set to be Zack Synder’s passion project, who was directing and writing the movie that would set off the start of the DC Extended Universe in exciting fashion.
However, it was wasn’t meant to be. Synder had a personal tragedy whilst filming the movie in 2016, and due to his grief, couldn’t complete the movie. However, instead of just giving him more time to finish his vision, Warner Brothers instead decided to hire a new director to finish the movie. So, Joss Whedon, director of first two Avengers movies, was hired. After a difficult filming period (including multiple claims of a toxic workplace brought on by Whedon), the end result was just a bunch of “meh” – a Frankenstein’s Monster of a movie that felt part Whedon and Synder, but not fully willing to embrace either of the maverick directors’ trademark styles.
In the three years since the film’s release, fans became obsessed by the prospect of a “Synder Cut”, the director’s cut of the movie that would showcase Synder’s finished vision. After Synder confirmed it’s existence last year, a director’s cut of the film – entitled Zack Synder’s Justice League – was soon commissioned, with a release on the American streaming service, HBOMax and an extra $70 million dollars for unfinished scenes and special effects (which it you ask me, doesn’t mean the cut actually existed in the first place).
The end result is pretty much a completely different movie. Yes, the plot is mainly the same – it centres on Batman (Ben Affleck) grouping up a bunch of heroes (aka the “Justice League”), who attempt to protect the would from an approaching apocalypse – and there are many scenes that are the same, or at least very similar. But, just in terms of style, tone and overall vision, this is very much a different movie to the studio influenced 2017 movie.
The sheer existence of this movie has both a positive and negative influence on the film industry. Getting this film made and giving it a huge new re-release (and an extra $70 million dollar budget) could possibly popularise re-cut movies to the audience, and also give audiences the idea that sometimes, the films we see are not the finished article, and often-times they can be the result of bad behind the scenes drama.
It also leads to a wider discussion about how filmmakers and creatives are treated, particularly in the popcorn entertainment blockbuster world. How Warner Brothers treated Synder in the wake of his absolutely heart-wrenching personal tragedy was absolutely unacceptable, making him sacrifice his hard work and creative vision just so they could fit a tight studio schedule.
However, there are some negatives that come with popularising re-cut movies. It gives an idea that possibly any big blockbuster movie that have been the slightest bit disappointing (and there have been many over the years, including Suicide Squad, Spider-Man 3 and Avengers: Age of Ultron, to name a few) can just be re-edited and re-gigged, and then re-released. Sometimes, the film industry does need to just learn from it’s mistakes and try to not make the same mistakes moving forward, not just change them and pretend like those mistakes never happened in the first place.
Also, there is a big problem with The Synder Cut in that when the studio let him make this, they clearly let him do whatever he wanted. Sure, his vision should never of been compromised, but there is a difference between getting too many studio notes and not getting any. So, what we have in Zack Synder’s Justice League is a movie that runs for 4 hours long (including a 30-minute epilogue!), and features a enormous amount of characters and plot points. Not only is it too long but it also features scenes that run on for way too long, and a lot of scenes that could of easily of been cut (why did Aquaman have two introduction scenes?).
Most people are also forgetting that, although this is a completely different film from the 2017 film, it is ultimately adapting a lot of the same material. Therefore, it does suffer from a lot of flaws as the 2017 one, especially some occasionally flat dialogue, the villain being very one-dimensional and dull, and the whole plot point of Superman coming back to life being badly paced and quite unnecessary.
Also, your enjoyment with the film might come down with how much you enjoy Synder as a filmmaker. Here, he overflows the screen with his signature style, including so much slow motion that if they cut it out, would probably take about an hour off the run-time; a grimy and dark visual style; and a lack of real playfulness and fun. However, there is more humour in this than most of his movies, mostly stemming from some fun scenes involving Ezra Miller’s The Flash.
That being said, it is obvious Synder has a passion for the source material, and you can feel that passion filled up on the screen. All of the characters have improvised characterisation, but in particular does Ray Fisher’s Cyborg, who unlike in the 2017 version, gets a personality, backstory and a proper character arc. However, all of the characters are pretty great – they all have their time to shine, and do feel like a proper team of superheroes that work well together.
But, the main achievement of the film is that feels really coherent. While the 2017 version felt like a movie of two very uneven halves, this one does feel like a completed movie that finishes the director’s vision. Ultimately, flaws and all, the overall movie does feel quite fun and enjoyable. If this movie had some out in 2017, then I may have actually been excited to see what happens to the future of this franchise.
A lot of fans are now campaigning for Synder to be brought back in to the franchise and complete the proposed sequel to this movie, however, I feel like these fans are missing the point with the release of this new cut. The film should not be seen as a start to a new franchise, but as a once-in-a-lifetime sort of movie – something that makes a necessary comment about how commercialised and unfeeling the blockbuster film industry can sometimes be.
Ultimately, however, Zack Synder’s Justice League is a perfectly fine film, however, it is not a great film – it does feature a lot of problems. All of the film’s extremely positive reviews are probably being tainted by the extremely oddity of this movie getting re-cut and re-shuffled on such a big platform, as well as the fact that it is better than the 2017 version. However, sometimes better does not equal to being actually of great quality. And that’s what has happened with Zack Synder’s Justice League – it’s not great, but it is better.