Films are the realization of a vision. Usually collaborative, occasionally unique to the filmmaker. When Zack Snyder had to exit Justice League, his work got passed to a different artist and, from the results of this epic recut, one that really didn’t understand the intent. And I love Joss Whedon (the director…struggling these days with the man, like many are).
To be clear, I don’t have a lot of respect for Snyder’s previous work, like Batman v Superman which leads into this film. He’s always been too much in his own head and too precious and serious with his plots. But in this expansive version of Justice League, the format changes the entire experience. It is literally operatic for its first half hour or more. At over 4 hours, it has room to ruminate without feeling like it’s out of place. It has room to expand on stories that got little or no shrift in the original release. It allows characters (and god knows their are many of them in this) to become something more than ink and paper. He even manages a few origin stories within the framework of it all.
In other words, it tries to do too much in a single film. But I have to admit, this 4 hour version… a version that would never see the light of the big screen… is actually better than the released version. It makes more sense and has a more cohesive plot and arc for its characters. It also refocuses the entire tale differently than the original release. The result is still a little too serious and the small attempts at humor to buoy it tend to be a little lost and flat. And, in the end, it falls apart in focus while setting up the next, and never made (at least to date), story. But it is at least all within the same framework.
Other than Blade Runner, I can’t recall a director recutting a film in a way that so fundamentally changed the original result. But in this case, I have to admit Snyder succeeded in making it better. Great? No. But certainly better. Despite the long running time, I never got bored. Only one aspect left me confused…and after the epilogue and some research, it was quickly cleared up. I don’t know that we needed this version, but it will certainly be remembered and discussed in film classes and amongst DC fans for years to come.
So if you’re at all curious, stock up some food and settle in for an unexpected treat. And know that it is broken into parts that allow for some bio-breaks along the way.