Zack Snyder's Justice League: An improvement, yes, but bloated pic is no Marvel

Zack Snyders Justice League (16, 242mins) Directed by Zack Snyder **1/2
The lighting is not good. The script is not interesting. The costumes are not fun. The film is, plainly stated, terrible.

It's consistently embarrassing to watch, and features plot holes so yawningly vast they have a kind of Grand Canyon-like splendour....[its] a broken film, swimming in bad CGI and forgettable mayhem.

Yes, my fellow reviewers like Vanity Fairs Richard Lawson and The Telegraphs Robbie Collin were not kind to DCs answer to The Avengers, when it was finally unleashed on the world in November 2017. A long-gestating project Mad Maxs George Miller had tried to mount a production in Australia in 2008 Justice League arrived battered and in tatters, the result of a troubled shoot that was also blighted by the death of writer-director Zack Snyders daughter as the footage was being assembled. Having already drafted in Joss Whedon to re-write Snyders script with a lighter tone, film studio Warners decided he would be the ideal safe pair of hands to oversee the final cut hed directed Avengers after all.

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But, even worse than the critical towelling it received, was the box office result, estimated to be US$60m short of breaking even. That apparently forced Warners to change tack, focusing on standalone movies for each of the Leagues members, rather than more multi-heroed madness. And as films like Aquaman and Shazam rehabilitated the DC franchise, rumours swirled that Justice League was an untethered shadow of Snyders original vision. That Whedon had only used 10 per cent of what the original helmer shot and that a much-longer, more coherent Snyder Cut existed.

Thanks, perhaps largely, to Warners parent company AT&T launching the streaming service HBO Max last year, fans and Snyders dreams have come true. Given an extra US$70m to play with, the former Watchmen, 300 and Sucker Punch director has delivered what may be his magnum opus a four-hour superhero soap opera. Is it any good though?

Arther, Diana and Victor battle to save the Earth in Zack Snyders Justice League.

The answer is somewhat complicated. Yes, its better. The overall storyline makes way more sense, theres a lot more of Cyborg and The Flashs backstories, Jeremy Irons Alfred gets to be even more delightfully snarky and Ciaran Hinds Steppenwolf is actually allowed to do a little more than skulking around rummaging through boxes. An early hostage set-piece now feels far more in keeping with the Nolan Batman universe (and is all the better because of that), while theres also a memorable sequence involving a dropped burger, a hot dog stand, a young woman and The Flash.

However, Im not sure theres enough there to warrant the bloated running time. The doubled-length simply means more opportunities for Snyders trademark slo-mos, characters to get slammed into walls and rocks and for Junkie XLs bombastic score to drive you nuts (the ancient lamentation that introduces Wonder Woman every time she appears in a new scene a particular low-point).

Also, despite the complete overhaul, Justice League is still Batman attempting to atone for the death of his great rival Superman in their previous outing Dawn of Justice (an even-worse farrago if truth be told). Through some rather spotty attempts at recruitment, his Bruce and bestie Diana (aka Wonder Woman) are joined by Barry (The Flash), Arthur (Aquaman) and Victor (Cyborg) as a now unguarded Earth comes under attack from Steppenwolf and his army of parademons, who are trying to locate the three Mother Boxes he needs to scorch the planet and win back his boss Darkseids trust and favour.

Warner Bros. Picture
The original Justice League was first released in November 2017.

For all their bemoaning about the lack of the man in the red cape (and musings on how to revive him), its three-quarters of the way through the movie before they come up with a proper plan and, even then, its sans the son of Krypton.

Then theres an issue of timing. In the last 40 months, weve seen Marvel deliver a two-part, five-and-a-half-hour emotional roller-coaster that was a satisfying culmination of 10 years of increasingly impressive interconnected movie-making. Watching this now, even with its new bells, whistles and big baddy, its hard not to notice the similarities in the basic conceit, how much the invaders look like Thanos and the gang and how unemotionally involving Justice League is in comparison. And, if you view this as a re-do of Whedons Justice, wasnt Endgame at least partly a much-cleverer Back to the Future Part II-esque re-imagining of Whedons original Avengers?

The doubled-length simply means more opportunities for Snyders trademark slo-mos, characters to get slammed into walls and rocks and for Junkie XLs bombastic score to drive you nuts.

One also feels Snyder owes a debt here to both George Lucas and Sir Peter Jackson. The opening borrows the Star Wars visionarys propensity for showcasing the impact an event has on various lands (in this case Supermans death), while the ending (or seemingly interminable multiple endings) is straight from The Return of the King helmers playbook. Yes, even after six chapters seemingly set a seal on our story, theres an extended epilogue which appears to be a succession of hail Mary pitches for where the story might go next.

Unfortunately, most of them seem strikingly familiar to paths a certain other superhero franchise are already heading down.

Zack Snyder's Justice League will debut on Sky Movies Premiere, Sky Go and Neon on the evening of Thursday, March 18.


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