The reviews for Zack Snyder’s “Justice League” recut are in and critics seem to agree the director’s second shot at the DC Comics team-up movie takes a much longer road to get to the same place.
“The Justice League” came out in 2017 but was largely panned by critics and comic book fans alike. Many blamed now-embattled director Joss Whedon, who was brought on to handle reshoots and post-production on the film after Snyder stepped away from the project to deal with a family tragedy.
The film, a sequel to the 2013 film “Man of Steel” and the 2016 film “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” sees legendary DC Comics characters like The Flash, Batman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Superman join forces against a common threat.
HBO Max announced in May of 2020 that it had heard fans’ calls to “#ReleasetheSnyderCut” and seemingly gave Snyder carte blanche to reshoot and recut the theatrical version of the film to stream exclusively on its platform. The end result is a sprawling four-hour epic that many reviewers believe fails to fix the problems with the 2017 theatrical cut but still presents a visually engaging film that only the “300” director is capable of delivering.
“Everything takes forever to go nowhere,” writes Entertainment Weekly’s Darren Franich in his review of Snyder’s cut.
He also goes on to criticize the movie for stretching its plot while simultaneously not breaking the mold forged by countless superhero movies that came before it.
Ben Affleck as Batman in the 2017 “Justice League” film.
“Everything in Zack Snyder’s ‘Justice League’ moves with that impersonally busy quality: Action figures glued to a treadmill. For most of the movie, there are five Justice League teammates, but there’s only one kind of conversation. Batman, Wonder Woman, and Cyborg explain things. Aquaman asks for clarification. Flash (Ezra Miller) says something funny-adjacent. A four-hour cut means a lot of what sounds like pure Ezra Miller improv. It is not good improv.”
Franich isn’t alone in his critique of the film’s pacing. Collider’s Matt Goldberg notes that the Snyder cut demands four hours of viewers’ attention while not justifying the ask with anything that makes its massive runtime more palatable.
“The problem with a movie that feels like a rough cut is that it constantly demands a need for editing. It’s not that a 4-hour superhero movie can’t or shouldn’t exist as much as ZSJL never makes the case for why it needs to be four hours,” he writes.
Goldberg continues: “Sometimes you have to kill your darlings, and the problem with ZSJL is that it seems built to keep in everything. This approach not only kills the pacing, but it also makes it difficult to latch onto any kind of thematic or emotional arc, especially as the movie attempts to service six different superheroes, three of whom (Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg) are basically being introduced in this movie.”
Although other reviewers such as Roger Ebert’s Matt Zoller Seitz and Slate’s Karen Han mention the lengthy runtime while still praising the Snyder cut as a welcomed replacement for the theatrical version, other critics cited issues with the film’s tone.
Zack Snyder’s ‘Justice League’ recut drops on HBO Max in March.
(David M. Benett/Dave Benett/WireImage)
Despite Whedon being dinged for being brought on to lighten up Snyder’s typically morose and dark style, critics like Deadline’s Todd McCarthy note that the lack of levity in the new cut makes it even harder to get through in one sitting.
“What you next begin to notice is the film’s studious solemnity, which is not even once interrupted by a dash of humor,” he writes. “After a certain point, you just want someone—anyone!—to break the mood by cutting a fart or making cross-eyes, anything to give things a jolt of life. There’s not a single laugh or even a snide remark in the picture. Where is the Joker when you need him?”
The New York Times’ Maya Phillips takes things a step further, accusing Snyder’s “Justice League” of leaving too many dangling threads in its otherwise massive effort to establish high-concept heroes and villains in the hopes that future spinoffs will be allowed to do the remaining heavy lifting.
“The story aims to give us a world where heroes come back to life, where they put aside their pride and reticence and self-interest to form an alliance. Even an antisocial orphan billionaire in a bat costume says he has faith in this,” she writes. “But what does the franchise hope for? More films, more crossovers, more money. Something to compete with the other endlessly multiplying superhero movies. Snyder self-consciously mashes as much story into the time frame as possible, tagging the end with countless dangling threads that could have been woven into a larger tapestry of future DC Comics movies — had his cut seen release earlier.”
Fans will simply have to decide for themselves whether a four-hour recut of the 2017 film is worth it when it drops on HBO Max on March 18.