I gave in to temptation this past weekend and finally began to watch the “Snyder Cut” of Justice League. I felt like it was my nerd duty to watch the thing even though I’m not exactly a devotee of Zack Snyder’s vision. But I used to be a DC reader in my formative years so Batman and I go waaaaaay back. I have to admit, I was also curious as to why so many were saying a rambling four hour epic was better than the original theatrical version.
I have to start with a brief piss-take on the original. It was a mess. Basically, director/writer/producer/all-around asshole Joss Whedon picked up the reins of finishing the film when Snyder withdrew after the suicide of his daughter. Whedon reshot a significant amount of the movie and added a lot of that trademark quip-laden dialog he’s best known for. It wasn’t a good fit. The plot seemed disheveled and despite his success, Whedon just isn’t the best director. He relies on fast moving spectacles with lots of dialog and an ensemble cast. For some reason, the ensemble didn’t seem to click, the dialog didn’t work, and Whedon’s pace seemed to grind against the story rather than propel it. In other words, it sucked.
The Snyder cut makes more sense. A lot of the humor is gone but there’s still a little comic relief, chiefly from Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen/Flash. In fact, the secondary heroes like the Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Cyborg fare much better than the headliners Batman and Superman. Ben Affleck tries his best to keep his aging Batman relevant but the character is there to keep providing elements to move the story along. It’s not a Batman story. Superman, who is dead at the beginning of the movie, comes off a little better. At least his resurrection feels earned in the Snyder cut. But there’s precious little of him kicking ass until halfway through the final battle. The other heroes get their backstories expanded and all of the actors are more than up to that task. So that element of the epic works.
What doesn’t work? Well, Zack Snyder LOVES slow motion. You could easily sheer twenty minutes off this film if every slo-mo scene were speeded up. OK, you have to slow the Flash down but jebus, even that is over done. And we see it again and again and again.
The film is disjointed. It’s divided into six parts (felt more like ten) plus a triple epilog. You can tell Snyder was piecing together whatever remained of his original version was and the pieces don’t always fit. The epilog in particular includes a segment taking place in the future that is just a bleak pile of excrement that we really didn’t need to see. DC/Warners have already indicated they are not following up on this storyline/vision.
The studio not following up on this storyline is a good notion because the Big Bad of this movie is just mediocre. Steppenwolf is a pretty one dimensional villain and his master, Darkseid, doesn’t come off any better. The Marvel movies had Thanos, a villain built over a long series of movies who had built a considerable backstory and despite wanting to kill half the life in the universe, had his reasons. Darkseid and Steppenwolf seem pretty much motivated to do Evil because they’re Evil. Oh, one improvement Snyder did was have Steppenwolf suffer a fare more violent end than Whedon did. THAT was satisfying.
One more thing that bugs me and it’s not just Snyder’s fault. Like I said before, Batman and I go way back. As a supposedly smart kid, I was drawn to Batman because while Batman had no super powers he did have one consistent advantage. In Justice League, Batman is asked what his super power is. He quips, “I’m rich.” It’s true that Bruce Wayne can afford to be Batman because he is wealthy and can afford to bankroll all his ridiculous toys. But that isn’t his true leg up on everyone. It’s because Batman’s true power is his brain. He’s SMARTER than everyone. Even Superman, even the ageless Diana, even the gifted Cyborg. Hell, one of DC’s Batman titles was The World’s Greatest Detective. Batman figured shit out. He was always one step ahead of every master criminal, always untangled every complicated plot like a drug-free Sherlock. And most treatments of Batman, including this one, forget that. Batman does have a plan for the final battle but as Batman’s plans go, it’s mediocre. Kids like me were drawn to Batman because he was the SMART ONE.
Right now, a new production of Batman is being filmed. It features the young actor Robert Pattinson in the lead role and who knows, he might pull it off. And the director has hinted that this production would be more of a noir film. Does that mean Batman is a dark detective again? Who knows. But I would be on board if that’s the case. Someone needs to remember what Batman’s true power is. I just hope I live long enough to see it.
In conclusion, the Snyder Cut is fine. It’s bloated, it meanders, and it doesn’t come together all that well. But it’s better than the Whedon atrocity and given that it erases Whedon’s taint from the franchise, that elevates it even further.
Now bring me a Batman that solves crimes.