If you are like me—handsome and cool—you love a great action movie. You love the superhero archetype because the character development, if done properly, can reveal what is best about us as a species. You love watching attractive people with amazing physiques do impossible things in impractical clothes—unless your name is Martin Scorsese, who famously hates the genre.
People who can’t get past the dazzle of science fiction plot devices just don’t have the creativity to achieve suspension of disbelief. They have lost their childlike sense of wonder for the wonderful.
If you love your sense of wonder, you likely love Wonder Woman. If you love the supernatural, you love Superman. If you love oceanic, robotic, and fast action, you love Aquaman, Cyborg, and The Flash. If you love all of these characters and their flaws in one film, you are a true fan and your name might be Zack Snyder.
If you are wondering if this film came out in 2017, you are mostly right. Snyder had a family tragedy that cut short his ability to finish this film, and Joss Whedon was tapped to complete it. Snyder had set up his own vision for the DC cinematic universe in 2013 with “Man of Steel,” which I thoroughly enjoyed.
This would have been an Avengers-esque team-up to launch more films and a vehicle to introduce new characters to the screen. Whedon basically came in and crapped all over that vision and delivered a disjointed, half-baked CGI, dryly performed, and meandering film that was only mildly enjoyable.
Snyder fixes all of that. The “Snydercut” was demanded by the fans, who made it happen, and the payoff is worth it. In a way, the fans were Snyder’s own Justice League who brought him back like Superman to vanquish Whedon’s evil spawn.
There is character development, beautiful cinematography, better banter, and more emotional sinew in the performances. The score is better, the colorization is better, Snyder’s desaturated and almost film noir grit really works to cement this fantasy into reality and to blend the CGI with the live action.
Speaking of CGI, it is light years ahead of the 2017 version. The bad guys look better, scarier, and more threatening. Steppenwolf is given a character arc that comics fans will recognize. Even though he seems more threatening (spoilers ahead) he is heralding an even greater evil to come—a really well done Darkseid.
Darkseid-Thanos comparisons will be made, and I like the Darkseid CGI treatment better than Thanos’s. He seems more tangible and real. For the record, he also came first as a character.
We are treated to battles from time past. A Green Lantern makes an appearance alongside the old Greek gods, Amazonians, Atlanteans, and early men. This backstory was important to set up the struggle to get our heroes to unite.
A fractured Earth led to distrust between the peoples, and that reflects in the main characters. The idea of uniting to defeat a common foe should resonate today. In addition to new and better battles, we also get to see new and revamped characters in Martian Manhunter and Jared Leto’s Joker, who seems more menacing and developed in this film, although his frames are few.
All of the characters seem more deftly acted. Was that better editing, alternate takes, or reshoots? The world may never know. Superman looks cool in his back in black super-suit and his return seemed even scarier than in the ‘17 version, even though the scenes seemed very close to the same.
The slow-motion scenes will seem superfluous to some, but to me they really drove home the idea of how fast the action was and how insanely fast The Flash is. In fact, his power is expanded from the first film, as is his heroism.
The score is more epic and tender, and the pop music in the soundtrack gives us well-timed emotional connection. Batman totally fell in love with guns!
This was a great film; not without flaws, but I’m comfortable calling it great. It is worth viewing maybe even twice. That brings me to some of the flaws.
Four hours. Four hours in 4:3 aspect ratio! If you have an older plasma widescreen or even LED, it could burn black bars into the sides of your screen (just kidding, but if it happens I want to hear about it). To me, this was the worst choice Snyder made. It made the film seem less expansive.
I mostly ignored it once the film was going for a bit, but I have the good fortune of viewing on a 120-inch 4K Dolby Atmos projection system with audio to match. I imagine this film was envisioned for IMAX screens, which are giant 4:3. The sidebars would have annoyed me more had I been watching on the 75-inch downstairs.
Some of the pacing seemed slow—not painfully slow, just slow enough to make you think a 3.5-hour version might be just as good. That’s all I have for flaws, but those may prove too massive for some to overcome. Now, back to the good.
The fact that this film was available to stream and to view in theaters was really great. I think this COVID model will stay long after we have burned our masks.
I can’t think of another filmmaker who was ever given a chance to recover his or her vision. It is an extraordinary occasion and well worth the effort. As I mentioned earlier, the fandom that made this happen—they demanded it and thus ensured a return on the investment. It gave them some ownership, and the fandom should take a bow.
This film is an example of what movie-making should and can be when producers and execs aren’t given too much control over content. When you have a master visual storyteller like Snyder, you turn him loose.
One can’t help but wonder if the results would have been better had they just shelved it until he had gotten past his tragedy in the first place. We wouldn’t be watching this film with the bad taste of the first still in our mouths. Still, I am thankful for this palate-cleanser.
Watch this film, make lots of popcorn, and plan to pause for bathroom breaks at the chapter slates. Oh, and if you talk about this movie with your fanboy friends, make sure you know the names of all the characters, no matter how small, or prepare to be nerdured.
If you are friends with Mr. Scorsese, just pretend you hated it.
Chris Loesch is the owner of creative concept company Intuation Studios.