ST. LOUIS — Let me begin by saying thank you to Deborah and Zack Snyder for finishing it.
An online petition and worldwide plea for your final cut of "Justice League" is one thing, but summoning the courage to go back to a bittersweet well that spells doom and heartbreak must not have been easy for the director/producer husband and wife team, one of Hollywood's mightiest duos, dating all the way back to the brilliant "Dawn of the Dead" remake.
I will not thank Warner Brothers for this, because their ill-fated decision to bring Joss Whedon onboard still stinks. Instead of holding steady and waiting on their fallen leader to return, the studio went for the moody dollar bill. They allowed someone to come in and completely change the film and released a half-baked rendition of a superhero team-up hyped to be the answer to Whedon's own "The Avengers." I'll thank streaming services instead for making this kind of spring greeting treat possible.
Know full well that "Zack Snyder's Justice League" wouldn't be here without a place like HBO Max, the parking garage-turned-cinema game-changer. Cinemas wouldn't put a film tipping the running time scale at four hours in length and divided into chapters/parts into theaters. The "stay at home and watch" method is why you got this second chance of sorts. So, is it any good?
Yes, the new Snyder cut is a good film. A few steps above the bombastic 2017 version, this new edition, which doubles the original running time in length, offers a more complete experience and fun moments that should restore some faith in the auteur's original DC mission.
Is it great? No. It's still way too long. The overstuffed construction wears a viewer down, especially with the never-ending slow motion shots. There are elements and story line threads that still fall flat. Ray Fisher's Cyborg/Victor Stone gets an expanded storyline, but upon reflection, the movie still came off as "a Batman making it right" mission. Ben Affleck gives it his all here, but his work in the suit looks labored and uninspired. No other actor makes a better Bruce Wayne, not even Christian Bale. But due to the lack of conviction inside the suit, parts of "Zach Snyder's Justice League" felt like a car laying another trail of tread on a beaten-down path. Same story, similar action, and a dull villain.
Ciaran Hinds is a great talent, but his voice is buried beneath layers and layers of bass and audio adjustments. Outside of the Batman-focused storyline, the thing that keeps this film from being great is the lack of a great villain. A true adversary that an audience would fear and know could win. Heath Ledger's Joker. Tom Hiddleston's Loki. All I got was a creature that looked like Ultron hung over.
Most of the first two hours is spent retelling a story that was mostly told four years ago, except for an enhancement in Fisher's screen time. We do get to know his doomed high school football star a little more deeply and honestly here. I loved Victor's scenes with his father, Silas (the ever-valuable Joe Morton). Their connection, by choice and tragedy, is something you want to dig further into. The fact that a feature length film is pretty much off the table is so disappointing.
That's the double-edged sword experience of watching this expanded film. A film that builds up to a big hero gathering usually elicits more team-up adventures-but we all know that's not happening due to the studio's decision to release Whedon's trash cut. By not taking the time to fully develop the individual characters and rushing a team-up picture, the end of this film leaves us looking at an empty road of sorts.
That's a shame because there are genuine great moments in this film. The Nick Cave-voiced torment of Amy Adams' Lois Lane living in tragedy really hit for me, giving the film personality. Fisher's tale gave it a soul, or at least a potential for one. There's something captivating in his voice. Gal Gadot doesn't have much to do here, outside of rallying the guys and executing 40,000 slow-mo poses. Henry Cavill's Superman shows back up in what seems like six hours in-after other cast members make their respective cameo appearances. Watching Cavill thrive here only saddens you when you realize he never got the sequel he deserved. Jason Momoa and Ezra Miller offer the film a chance at a lighter tone.
Fact: A late dream sequence is perhaps the most well-played part of the film, because it doesn't feel like everything else that came before it.
Snyder's palette for big glory-fueling superhero mojo is alive and well. At its best, what he offers here is the cinematic equivalent of comfort food. Consuming his four-hour bonanza is eating a big platter of nachos. I'm talking an entire sheet pan; 16 cookies equals one platter of nachos. Each bite will be different, some better than others, and most will overwhelm your senses.
You'll get full quick but continue on despite the bloat, eating too much in the end. But it'll be an experience unlike any other. Overwhelmingly unique, sometimes to a fault, it rocks the eyeballs and eardrums, reminding you of the power a huge blockbuster film can bring-and also when to say when with slow-motion close-ups.
Watching one of his movies is an experience that requires you to lean into comic book nostalgia, and not look back. Excess isn't an hindrance to Snyder, an emo-rock ballad love child of Ridley Scott and Michael Bay (the score during Gadot's action scenes had "Gladiator" seasoning all over it). Instead, the extra becomes a storytelling buffet weaponized by the filmmaker who wanted to tell his "Justice League" story. Once the gears lock into place around hour #2, you realize just how rough Whedon's Hail Mary toss was.
Bu it's impossible to review this film without mentioning the history and subject matter surrounding its demise and rebirth. You can't tiptoe around the Snyder family tragedy or overlook the disastrous sets that followed in his absence. "Zack Snyder's Justice League," for better or worse, is much more than just another superhero story. While it had aspirations to be the next "Avengers," it acquired infamous status in the end.
By the end of Snyder's cut, I was tired but not wanting; engaged and a little enraged that it took this long to make things right. This movie has it all, and then some. It's the kitchen sink that you suspected; just more cleaned up and Snyder-abiding. A lot of the film plays like a greatest hits edition of the filmmaker's overzealous yet entertaining film history. In the end, it's his way. He is owed a badge of honor for finishing what he started, taking on all the pain it must have included.
Bottom Line: If you like Snyder's movies, NOT including the 2017 monstrosity that he hasn't even watched himself, you will like THIS movie. If you don't, this will not make you a new fan. As Russell Bufalino told Frank Sheeran, "it's what it is." I enjoyed it. A good, but not great, final edition. Messy, but fun. My final piece of advice for the people pressing PLAY: Digest it in parts. It'll go down better.