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Fanboys have been demanding it for years, and now, finally Warner Brothers has seen fit to grace audiences with a version of Zach Snyder's original vision for the Justice League movie. And you know what? It's actually not that bad.

I would have been much less tolerant of the movie's 4 hour runtime if I had been stuck having to sit quietly and watch it in a theater. Being able to watch it at home, on the comfort of a couch, with friends, and able to stop to go to the bathroom or take a snack break, really helped to make the movie feel like less of a drag than it otherwise might have.

Zack Snyder's Justice League is 4 hours long, but is a much better movie than the theatrical cut.

Heck, the movie almost seems designed for audiences to get up a few times to take a break and maybe even chat about what's going on. The movie is broken up into 5 or 6 "parts", with each part beginning with a title card showing a name for the part. It's essentially divided up into 40-ish minute episodes as if it were a TV mini-series.

As such, each character gets time to shine. They all get more development, and they all have a unique role to play in the final confrontation. The whole conflict isn't just won because Superman shows up. Each of the other characters still has to do their part. Well, the heroes all get meaningful roles. Louis Lane still feels like she could have been cut from the movie entirely and it wouldn't make a difference, even though she's supposedly the key to preventing the disastrous future that keeps showing up in Batman's dreams.

Doing good for the sake of good

Perhaps most importantly, the heroes in this movie feel a little more like the heroes that we know from the comic books, even if they are still darker, edgier, and exceedingly grim and emo all the time. Unlike in Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice, these depictions of Superman, Batman, and so forth actually seem to care about everyday people, and we have multiple scenes of some of them going out of their way to fight crime and save lives. Better yet, their selfless acts are not depicted as being done as a begrudging obligation that they'd rather not be bothered with. These heroes actually do good for the sake of doing good. They also don't spend the whole movie bickering with one another, let alone indulging in the petty conflicts or dick-measuring contests presented in Dawn of Justice.

The heroes act more like heroes.

It's impossible to know how much of this was originally part of Snyder's vision at the inception of the DCEU, or if it was course-correction based off of feedback of Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice, but Snyder's Justice League is surprisingly lighter in tone than either Man of Steel or Dawn of Justice. But not to the point of self-parody that was present in Joss Whedon's re-shot mess of a film.

Now this is still a long way from fixing the failings of Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice. None of the scenes of heroes doing heroic things actually progress the plot in any meaningful way, and the Snyder's presentation still fetishizes powers and strength to an unhealthy degree. Most of the action in the movie is against big CGI monsters, and they still have the problem of looking too brown or gray and washed out due to Snyder's ugly, joyless, desaturated visual style. What happened to the director of 300, who used the sharp contrast of vibrant color against desaturated backgrounds to make images pop? Nevertheless, even the fights with big CGI monsters works better in Snyder's cut than the same scenes in the theatrical version of Justice League because the rest of the movie has more substance for these punch-fests to build upon.

For one thing, Steppenwolf actually gets some characterization and motivation, and has much more intimidating screen presence this time around. I still wouldn't call him a "good" villain, and I certainly don't sympathize with him at all. But at least he's a little more than the hollow, empty shell that he was in the theatrical version. He doesn't come close to holding a candle to the more thematic antagonists of recent Marvel movies like Black Panther or Guardians of the Galaxy 2, but he's a huge step up from his depiction in the theatrical release.

The character design for Steppenwolf looks so much better.

Most importantly though is that the extra exposition, character development, and slower pacing really helps the movie make a lot more sense -- at least on the grand scale. Even the MacGuffin Mother Boxes are better explained than in the theatrical release. That being said, there's still small logic flaws and plenty of head-scratcher "huh?" moments in the writing.

For example, are we to believe that Darkseid was only ever defeated in one single world conquest, and that world also happened to hold the very thing that he has been searching the universe to find, and he just tucked his tail between his legs and didn't bother to write down the name of that planet or put a pin on it in his map?

Also, are the Mother Boxes activated by Superman's scream? Or are they more abstractly detecting his death? If they've been waiting for Superman to die in order to activate (because they're afraid of him or whatever), then what the heck were they waiting for in the five thousand years before Superman arrived on Earth?

And the final hero shot of them all standing together should have had them all looking over the world they just saved, but instead, they're staring into the cargo hold of Batman's troop transport. It was just weird.

Also, why did Snyder replace Wonder Woman's kick-ass theme with that lame lamentation scream halfway through the movie? More generally, the soundtrack's not very good. It lacks catchy or recognizable themes. Sure, Joss Whedon's theatrical cut's soundtrack took the easy way out and re-used the original Superman and Batman themes to pull at the nostalgia heartstrings, but I didn't not like hearing those again.

A dangerous studio precedent?

Zak Snyder's Justice League also demonstrates the fundamental failing with Warner Brothers' and DC's approach to these movies: their unwillingness to put the legwork in to make this whole cinematic universe thing work. Marvel came into the experiment with a long-term vision and plan. They spent the time establishing most of their characters in their own movies before going for the epic team-up, and even then, they waited several more years (and several more movies) before the big showdown with the big, bad Thanos. DC not only wanted to jump straight to its version of Avengers, but it also seems to have wanted to go straight to Infinity War.

Cyborg is much better developed and characterized.

Maybe Justice League wouldn't have to be four hours long if Warner Brothers had done the Flash and Aquaman movies first, thus laying the groundwork for this cinematic universe and avoiding having to give us three hero origin stories in one movie, and having to go over all the lore of Darkseid and the Mother Boxes. Maybe Warner Brothers could have first established these heroes doing heroic things before trying to cram them all into their epic teamup. And maybe the existence and purpose of the Mother Boxes could have been hinted at in Man of Steel and/or Dawn of Justice. Saving Cyborg's origin for this movie works fine because he's more integrally tied into the plot here. Which is yet another improvement over the theatrical version: Cyborg actually has a reason to be in the movie this time around, and doesn't just come off like a jerk.

I also kind of worry about the potentially dangerous precedent that this movie is setting. It's certainly nice to see an artist be able to go back and fulfill his original artistic vision. With what Mr. Snyder went through, I'm happy for him that he gets to see his vision realized on screen. But does this movie being better than the theatrical release (even if marginally so) mean that the studio take-away is going to be that they should let let multiple directors re-shoot and re-edit all their movies so that the studio can throw two (or more) contrasting visions of the same corporate product at audiences just to see which one sticks and soak up more money from audiences? I hope not. I don't have enough time as is to watch all the movies and play all the games that I want, so I definitely don't have time for a 4-hour director's cut of every movie either.

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