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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

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Film Fridays: “Zack Snyder’s Justice League”

<p><em>Graphic by Carissa Gurgul</em></p>

Graphic by Carissa Gurgul

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of The Collegian.

It was never meant to see the light of day. Its existence was denied countless times by executives and producers and the hope of its release seemed in vain for the fans who had fought for what they wanted.

Yet, four years after the original version of the film failed to invoke any kind of critical or fan reception,  “Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” also referred to as the “Snyder Cut,” has arrived.

With the fate of the DC Extended Universe in jeopardy, the idea of re-releasing a film seemed improbable. How could Warner Bros. Entertainment improve their dumpster fire of a movie in any meaningful way? Will the “Snyder Cut” even be good? Why should we care?

These were all questions I asked myself as I followed the film’s development and eventual release on March 18, 2021. 

Fans of DC Comics have been sorely lacking content on the big screen. Prior DC films such as “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Wonder Woman 1984” were, in my opinion, mediocre at best. Past films, unfortunately, failed to build the DC cinematic universe in a way that kept each hero’s story compelling and its audience satisfied. I remember hearing groans of cringe and boos in the theatre after the credits had rolled for “Green Lantern.” 

The “Snyder Cut” is different. Instead of the scrambled plots and underdeveloped characters of the original version, the film has more backstory for each of the main heroes and the developments throughout the story don’t feel like they come out of nowhere. Additionally, the “Snyder Cut” has more than a copy-and-paste generic world-ending villain.

Steppenwolf, who was the main antagonist of “Justice League,” was laughable. It was clear that much of his development, as well as many other characters, were cut by Joss Whedon -- who took over directing the film -- butchering Snyder’s original vision for the film. Additionally, nobody cared about Steppenwolf’s plight or even his goal. Do you remember anything significant about the struggles of the original “Justice League?” I don’t.  

But, I’m sure any DC Comics fan was overjoyed when Darkseid was revealed in the “Snyder Cut” trailer. 

The “Snyder Cut” is probably the best DC film I can remember. Sure, any audience can rip into a film for terrible plots or lackluster moments, but it is also a privilege to have been given this do-over and restore the lost hope of the DC faithful. 

However, the film does have a few problems.

The first, and most obvious, is its runtime. The “Snyder Cut” is four hours long and it is a haul to watch it in one sitting. It is one of the longest movies I’ve watched in my life, and its length does hinder viewer investment. The film is broken into six distinct parts that are paced differently, with some being more action-filled than others, to demonstrate the focus of each section. Yet, the transitions from one part to the next are minuscule in comparison to the film as a whole. 

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Its length does come with some benefit. There are a plethora of cutscenes and story developments that tie our main protagonists together. These additions help to clarify so many grievances of the original “Justice League.” Lore isn’t being spouted out of the blue, and the origin of each character is given a lot more attention. Additionally, the creation of Darkseid and the telling of his attempted conquest of Earth was awesome. A lot of those intense but short moments from the original have been drastically extended, and they are epic to behold.

My other main issue with the film is the unnecessary and elongated scenes that don’t really add anything to the film overall. Sure, character development and backstory are great and all, but it starts to drag after going through backstory after backstory. For instance, the first two hours of the film focus on establishing our characters and setting up the climax. Through this series of introductions, each character gets their own backstory or personal struggle they are confronting. Each of these scenes is stacked right after the other, with little action happening in the brief pauses the audience gets. 

In other words, there is a bunch of fluff in the film that probably could have been cut. 

The “Snyder Cut” is an excellent improvement on its predecessor, delivering tons of action, superpowers, development and general DC fan service. Its roster of characters has been expanded and everyone has a role in how the story will play out. I especially enjoyed Cyborg’s backstory surrounding his creation and the duality of his scientist father who made him what he is. Their relationship, although dull at times, has some really powerful and emotionally evocative moments that made me sympathize with the character in a way the prior iteration hadn’t.

If you haven’t already watched, I’d highly recommend the “Snyder Cut.” I’d also recommend clearing your schedule if you’re planning on watching it in one sitting. It is available to stream on HBO Max and will please any DC-related desires you may have.

Contact features writer Quinn Humphrey at quinn.humphrey@richmond.edu.

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