Fans rejoice! The now familiar story surrounding Justice League goes that following Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Zack Snyder stepped down from the post-production of the follow up film after a family tragedy, and Warner Bros. brought in Avengers director Joss Whedon to do extensive reshoots, and the film called Justice League released in 2017 reported contained as little as 10% of the footage shot by Snyder. After a year’s long, incredibly persistent social media campaign by fans to #ReleasetheSnyderCut, the original director got his way and has now released a four-hour long epic that he considers his original vision. This is a huge victory for fan culture, and indeed for singular artistic vision in the increasingly anti-artist Hollywood system, but the question is: does the Snyder Cut hold its own? It turns out there is nothing to fear, as Zack Snyder’s Justice League surely stands as one of the best superhero films ever made.
Though the enormous running time might scare off those not initiated into the Snyder cult, it is essential for the vision of the film. Here one gets to spend a great deal of time getting to know these characters, which is particularly important for the ones who have not received their own solo films yet (The Flash, played by Ezra Miller; and Cyborg, played by Ray Fisher). The Flash is effective as a comic relief character, but Cyborg turns out to be the real emotional core of the film (almost all of Fisher’s scenes were cut out of the 2017 version of the film by Whedon) and Fisher gives one of the best superhero performances of all time. The rest of the cast run the gamut from the great (Ben Affleck, still the best onscreen Batman since Michael Keaton) to the questionable (Gal Gadot never fully resonates as Wonder Woman). But individual performances are not as important as the grand scope of Snyder’s vision. This film takes its audience from the depths of the ocean to the far reaches of the universe and everywhere in between, but it never loses focus of its characters or their mission. Unlike the Marvel films there is a total lack of cynicism here, and one sees superheroes as the director sees them: the modern equivalent of Greek gods. The imagery here is some of the best in modern American cinema.
There are a few flaws, the strangest of which is the extended epilogue which hints at a future Snyder directed DCEU film that will sadly never come to pass (unless the fans somehow launch another effective social media campaign), but overall, the flaws do not interfere with the fascinating object that is Zack Snyder’s Justice League. It fits in conversation with George Lucas’ Star Wars prequels, James Cameron’s Titanic, Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, and even silent epics such as D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance, or F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise: it is a wholly unique piece of art, and the result of an individual artistic vision made in a system designed to suppress individuality. Long live the Snyder cut.