Rated R mostly for language. I mean, sure, you could rate it R for violence. But this movie feels equally grizzly to Zack Snyder's other entries in the DCeU and those guys are all sporting a family-friendly PG-13. No, Zack Snyder really wanted Batman to drop the f-bomb Frank Miller style, so now I have to leave this for the adults to watch a movie about a guy who dresses in a rubber bat-mask. R.
DIRECTOR: Zack Snyder
If you asked me in 2016 / 2017 that I would some day be rooting for Zack Snyder's version of a Justice League movie over Joss Whedon's version of a Justice League movie, I would 100% not believe you. Seriously. I was ride-or-die Joss Whedon and I safely knew that Zack Snyder was one of the worst directors working in Hollywood once the travesty that was Man of Steel came out. As much as I criticize people who hate-watch movies, I would hate-watch anything that Zack Snyder came out with just so I could complain about it. It was all pretty toxic. So when people started whining about the Snyder Cut, I was ready to hate watch all four hours of the movie just to prove that Zack Snyder couldn't fix such a bad movie.
But you know what? I have to eat crow. While I still want a clean reboot of the DCeU, I have to admit that Zack Snyder's Justice League isn't just better, but it is actually pretty good. Now, am I going to completely backpedal my thoughts on Zack Snyder, who has his name on this version of the movie an offensive amount of times? No. As much as I'm tempted to go back and to give Man of Steel another watch, I realize that he still really sucks at Superman. The reason that his Justice League mostly works is because most of the movie isn't Superman. I'm going to get the whiny thing out of the way first because I want to talk mostly about why this is more than simply a Director's Cut of a bad movie. Zack Snyder has stated in interviews that he really doesn't like Superman. While I appreciate Tom Taylor's work on Injustice, I always liked Injustice as an Elseworlds tale as opposed to what we should see as Superman. Zack Snyder and Tom Taylor both have the same idea: if you broke Superman in just the right way, he would be come this absolute despot.
But I always viewed Superman having more in common with Captain America than with Thor. In terms of punching and violence, Thor and Superman would be the grudge match. But Superman and Captain America both have the attitude of "I could do this all day." They continue to take hits both physically and emotionally and get up when they should stay down. Zack Snyder doesn't see Superman that way. He sees him as the most emotionally fragile person on the planet, a god who would turn on us given the smallest provocation. He really stressed this in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. I know that the message of that film was that Bruce Wayne was wrong about that theory, but Justice League kind of confirms Batman's paranoia about the alien. Superman is meant to be the best of us. He would fight for us even if he had no powers. That's the point of him. Zack Snyder's Justice League has him as someone who has to be coaxed into goodness and that people have to walk around pins and needles for. That's no good.
But the rest of the movie is actually kind of genius. I hate to say it --mainly because the quality isn't QUITE as good --but Zack Snyder's Justice League might have been Avengers: Endgame before Avengers: Endgame came out. Again, there's a big caveat there. Endgame is one of the greatest payoffs to a series that I'll ever experience. It's absolutely brilliant and Justice League isn't exactly there or well-deserved. But there are a lot of the same beats. As opposed to Thanos getting all of the Infinity Stones over the course of two movies, Steppenwolf and Darkseid are hunting for three Mother Boxes. If all of these are unified, the earth would be remade in the bad guy's image. It's the same story, but Justice League technically got there first. I don't ever want to admit that, but it is true.
There's also something where you can see Christopher Nolan far more in this movie than in the past. I always felt that the Snyder movies in the DCeU were in the shadow of Christopher Nolan. They were gloriously cinematic, but completely hollow in storytelling. Snyder --and I still believe this to be true -- is terribly broey and cool a lot of the time in his storytelling. But the one thing that a four-hour runtime allows for is a sense of nuance in the characterization and storytelling. This means that Whedon's version has a couple of things going against it. First of all, it is a SparkNotes version of a much longer story. I know that my wife commented that I just watched a four hour version of a movie that I knew sucked. Yeah, but now I know that it sucked because it was like reading a summary of a book as opposed to reading the book. Snyder might actually need to have a decently long runtime to get away from his big epic setpieces. While I still got a little bored at the fighting scenes, I was far more okay with them because they all felt kind of earned.
But the big thing that the movie taught me about filmmaking is about the dangers of script doctoring a movie. One of my biggest complaints in the DCeU was always a matter of tone. These were these giant movies about superheroes and they were bleak as heck. No one ever smiled. There wasn't a healthy relationship to be found in the Snyder movies. So when Whedon was brought in to tell jokes, I thought it was a good idea. Honestly, some of my favorite moments from Whedon's version of the movie was when Superman was being funny and light. Like, I like the idea of a Superman / Flash race to finish the film. But with those scenes removed, I realized that it was trying to put sweet with savory and neither of them worked together. Snyder had a pretty good movie that worked in spite of having a dark tone. While there are jokes in the movie, they seem far more organic and downplayed than the outright gags that Whedon put in his film.
But the smartest thing that Snyder did, besides really make the DC Universe feel alive and fleshed out in his cut, was allow the characters who didn't have tentpole movies of their own to stand out. The movie is really about Flash and Cyborg. Aquaman was already slated and probably filmed by that point. So when Flash and Cyborg become the center emotional core of the film, it made sense. Yeah, I'll probably never love Ezra Miller's Barry Allen, despite the fact that he has some of the best lines. But I do like the idea of the two kids of the stories being the ones who have to figure out how to get things done. One of the dangers of a Justice League is that it always seems to be a Batman or Superman problem that the others are lending support to. But with the case of Zack Snyder's Justice League, we have the story of Victor Stone and how he is the reluctant hero. We have Barry Allen, who doesn't know what to do with his life. And these two characters, the gravedigging characters, are the ones we care about the most. They get the most new footage and they are the ones that we relate to. As much as I love Diana and her awesomeness returned in this version, I applaud the characterization of the Flash and Cyborg.
And this movie made me really like Snyder's Batman a little more. Yeah, I still don't love the constant use of guns for that guy. It's, like, one of his two things. That's it. But Batman now has completed this redemption arc that, admittedly, might be undone in the Knightmare Reality at the end. But he seems like he went on a bigger journey than Superman, who started the whole DCeU in Man of Steel.
It's a really well made four hour film. I didn't hate watching it at all. Yeah, Superman still sucks in this canon. But at least the rest of the movie has a lot to offer.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.