Movie Review: “Zack Snyder’s Justice League' an improvement from original comic book cut

Bill Choy
Siskiyou Daily News
Cyborg (Ray Fisher), from left, the Flash (Ezra Miller), Batman (Ben Affleck), Superman (Henry Cavill), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and Aquaman (Jason Momoa) in a scene from in “Zack Snyder’s Justice League.”

Wow, what a difference a director's cut can make to salvage a movie. 

When “Justice League” first came out in 2017, I found it to be a disappointing and lackluster comic book film that lacked pizazz and felt conventional and drab. 

Bill Choy is the sports editor for the Siskiyou Daily News and Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers.

I’m a fan of the DC Comic world and thought the original movie missed the mark, despite bringing DC's best and brightest character to the big screen together. A film featuring Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aqua Man and Cyborg should have had more sizzle to it. It was Hollywood mediocrity at its finest.

That day has come. 

Now, more than four year’s later comes "Zack Snyder's Justice League,” which is an epic of the highest order.  

Jason Momoa, Gal Gadot and Ray Fisher in 'Zack Snyder's Justice League.'

Look, the film is not perfect, It is way too long at a whopping four hours and some plot points and some scenes are a bit redundant and self-indulgent that does not quite hit the mark.. But what works here REALLY works. There are scenes of pure poetic beauty and power that pack an emotional punch. It might be a bit of a mess but it is a glorious and at times brilliant mess. While it is a bit long and inconsistent, it’s also quite intriguing in its ideas and execution of hero's and myth and the need in dark times for heroes to rise from the ashes. 

While I really liked Snyder's spartan epic “300” I found Man of Stell good but not great, and felt quite mix about Batman Versus Superman: Dawn of Justice, with much I thought it did not quite work. Here, I feel that Zack Snyder’s Justice League” truly gives this director his chance to represent his full vision and I'm glad he was given the opportunity. It is a long film and I think 45 minutes to an hour could have been cut, but I will say I was never boredwatching it and it is a feat full the eyes. 

It is certainly for the kids, as this is an R-rated vision full of dark themes, language and violence. I felt this was not gratuitous and added to the dark comic feel of the proceedings. 

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It also does justice, (pardon the pun) to a number of characters that got the short end of the stick in the original theatrical cut. 

A bit of background on how these directors; cut came to be. 

In May 2017, Snyder stepped down during post-production due to the tragic death of his daughter. Sydner had directed the Man of Steel, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  

Joss Whedon, who had directed the first two Avengers films, was hired to finish the film, completing it as an uncredited director. He oversaw reshoots and other changes that incorporated a brighter tone and more humor, and cut the runtime down significantly in accordance with a mandate from Warner Bros. 

Fans over the years had been in full force asking for the directors cut, with their wish finally granted in 2020, when it was announced the film would be released on HBO Max in March of 2021. It was reported that an extra around $70 million was spent to complete the visual effects, score, and editing, with new material filmed in October 2020 for this movie. 

A short overview of the film. Thousands of years ago, an evil alien entity named Darkseid and his legions of Parademons attempted to conquer Earth using the combined energies of the three Mother Boxes. An attempt was foiled by a unified alliance of the Olympian Gods, Amazons, Atlanteans, and humans, in a sequence that has a bit of a Lord of The Rings vibes, The Mother Boxes were separated and hidden in different locations. Well, the death of Superman in Dawn of Justice has triggered the boxes to come online again. This attracts the diabolical Steppenwolf, one of Darkseid's servants, to Earth. Steppenwolf had fallen out of favor with Darkseid and aims to regain his favor by gathering the boxes to form "the Unity," which would terraform Earth in the likeness of their world. 

So, Batman now must recruit super hero's to defend the world from this threat. But, they need some help as well and work to bring the Man of Steel Back from the dead.  

I like what Snyder brings to the proceedings, being in total control and taking an almost operatic approach to this tale. 

I felt the added scenes added more heft and interesting character moments  for Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and the Flash, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, and Ezra Miler are also more than solid in their parts, as is the rest of the star-studded cast. 

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The wonderful revelation is that this interpretation of Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher) is so much better here. Cyborg is a superhero that was heavily mutilated after an accident, and was rebuilt into a cyborg by his father, Silas, a scientist . Before, in the 2017 cut it felt like Wheldon made him an afterthought and diluted the power of the character. There was also behind-the-scenes drama reported, with Fisher accusing Wheldon of treating him poorly on set. Here in the cut by Snyder, Cyborg is the film's emotional heart as we see a reluctant hero thrust by tragedy to perform heroic deeds that adds drama that reminded me a bit of Greek tragedy. 

Ray Fisher gives a wonderful performance that is multi-dimensional and makes you care about Cyborg. A cool tidbit. Fisher was an actor for a few year's at the nearby Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. I’m glad Fisher and the character of Cyborg get the chance to shine. I am please they expanded who he is, and we get to see his life more before the fateful accident that transformed him. There is also a beautifully constructed scene where Cyborg helps a single mother from the shadows that says so much in a short period of time and makes pointed social commentary as well as being a moving scene. Also, Ray Porter who also was a longtime actor at OSF in Ashland, is the voice and does the motion capture for the computer-animated character of Darkseid, 

When Justice League was first released, I found the villain, Steppenwolf to be a weak bad guy. He was just a cookie cutter villain that spout out cliche about world domination He was not intriguing and felt he was a paint by numbers baddie with little depth. He is given a whole backstory about his motivations and a new design that makes this computer generated character more intimidating. In the original 2017 film, he was the main baddy. Here it is revealed he is pretty much the slave of Darkseid, who we never see in the first movie. This adds so much to the story, as the bad guys seem so much more of a threat and much more of a worthy opponent for our heroes, instead of being a threat because the story needs them to be. 

There are countless wonderfully constructed action scenes, and fans of the world of DC that should keep fans satisfied. 

Overall, ”Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is a fascinating film chock full of breathtaking scenes. Sure, it is a bit too stuffed around the edges but it a movie that aims for the fences with high aspirations. I admire it for it audacity, although it can be a bit too indulgent and repetitive in patches. But, I have to say this film was certainly worth the wait. 

Grade: A- 

“Zack Snyder's Justice League” is rated R violence, and some language 

Run time: 242 minutes. 

The film is currently streaming on HBO Max.