Just before completion of principal photography on ‘Justice League’, Director Zack Snyder’s adopted teenage daughter Autumn tragically took her own life, so naturally he and his wife (producer Deborah Snyder) he no choice but step away to deal with this terrible situation.
Warner bros then made what seemed like a very sensible decision and brought in Firefly, Buffy, Avengers Assemble and fan Favorite Joss Whedon to oversee post production, direct new scenes and rewrite parts of the script. Unfortunately this didn’t work so well as Whedon (I suspect due to intense studio pressure) created a finished product that effectively butchered Snyder’s original vision by injecting out of place humour, deleting entire subplots and characters , weakening the main villain, cutting out important character development and worst of all overseeing what has to be THE worst special effect in the history of Hollywood summer blockbusters – the hideously dreadful digital deletion of Henry Cavill’s moustache – grown for his role in Mission Impossible Fallout – an piece of CGI of such stunning ineptitude, that to this day i am still amazed that the studio let Whedon leave it in at all.
The ultimate result of all this was a film that was a commercial and critical flop, put an already stuttering DC Expanded Universe in the toilet and forced a total over haul of all the other superhero films that Warners had in various states of production.
Now my 2017 review on Whedons Justice League cut was pretty critical but to be fair I did describe it as very entertaining in parts, entirely watchable, and praised Affleck’s performance as Batman. However this was after two viewings, since then Ive seen it at least twice more and to be perfectly honest my opinion of it now is that it is actually a bloody awful film – featuring a rushed running time, rotten special effects, a terrible villain, an incoherent and very weak plot, a tone that is all over the place, a phoned in downright lazy performance by Affleck as Batman and the injection of various one liners and humour that sticks out like a sore thumb.
So now after four years, a relentless obsessive fan campaign (#releasethesnydercut) and $70 million worth of reshoots, new special effects, restoration of deleted scenes, subplots, and characters we now have the finished product that is ‘Zack Snyders Justice League’.
In short – a great deal. To begin with its a billion times better than the 2017 version – gone is the stupid out of place humour, the rushed running time, Whedon’s reshot and added scenes and best of all – Cavill’s dreadful cgi’d lip. What we have here is a film with basically the same plot but an altogether different beast entirely- deleted characters are all reinstated – Martian Manhunter, Willem Dafoe’s Vulko and mega baddie Darkseid – each of which is essential to the story.
Then there is the further deeper development of the existing six members of The League -particularly Ray Fisher’s Cyborg and Ezra Miller’s The Flash – so criminally side-lined in Whedons version, are now front and centre, becoming the main driving force and beating heart of the film. The previously bland one-dimensional villain Steppenwolf is vastly improved with an actual motivation to his actions. and the return of Superman is also handled far more delicately, with extended scenes of his return to his childhood home and his reconnection with Lois Lane making his character’s rebirth far less clumsily handled and more poignant than it was in the 2017 film.
The new added scenes are also excellent – a post credit sequence featuring the ‘Knightmare’ apocalyptic future that was shown in Batman V Superman is extremely good, and a tantalising hint of what Snyder wanted to include in the two planned sequels – which unfortunately we will probably never get to see. Finally the action scenes are so much better here than in the 2017 version – particularly the finale – which in Whedons film was full of horrible special effects and shoddy fast cut fighting – here its longer, more edge of the seat, more violent and brings an actual sense of danger to proceedings which i found very refreshing indeed.
What Could Have been better:
The plot is still weak and remains to be nothing more than a rehash of the entire story of phases 1 2 and 3 of Marvel Cinematic Universe – indeed the three Motherboxes are nothing more than The Infinity Stones with Steppenwolf and Darkseid being just Thanos by any other name. Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman still looks like he cant be bothered and whilst he has more scenes and some better dialogue, till gives a phoned in performance that is completely at odds with the one he gave in BvS – which i felt was one of the best of his career so far.
Finally there is way way way too much slo mo – indeed Synder seems almost obsessed with it and does the film no service by using it so much.
Like Man Of Steel and Batman V Superman before it, this is still and will remain to be a flawed film, however it vastly improves on the 2017 release by brilliantly deepening the characters, effortlessly restoring entire story arcs, massively improving the special effects, keeping an even tone throughout and really just making the whole thing a far better film entirely – indeed so much of an improvement has been made here that it makes the 2017 version look positively amateur by comparison.
Most of all it vindicates Zack Snyder, he obviously cared a great deal about this film, the fans and the DCEU as a whole and it is my firm belief that if enough people see this version of Justice League, then maybe, just maybe we will see them all together again – on the evidence here this could well be a very tantalising prospect.