Before the 2017 premiere of Warner's Justice League, I was properly exited, despite the fact that Batman v Superman did not live up to my highest of expectations. However, when it emerged that director/writer Zack Snyder had "dropped out" due to internal conflicts and due to his eldest daughter Autumn committing suicide, I was relatively sure that the film would turn into crap. In came Avengers: Age of Ultron director Joss Whedon, who, on the orders of DC boss Geoff Johns, re-shot 65% of the already finished script to "lighten up" the dark tone. He strive to make the movie more kid-friendly fun, more "Marvel."
The rest is, as we all know, history.
The 2017 version of Justice League was all over the place. Snyder's dark, serious narrative dominated by his almost poetically gorgeous slo-mo sequences was randomly mixed with light, silly comedy and coupled with those awful Superman sequences when Henry Cavill's Mission Impossible mustache was erased digitally. When the fans pushed Warner to let Snyder finish his original vision, and gave him 75 million dollars to do it, I screamed for minutes straight.
What happened here, with how Warner and DC betrayed their own creator to make quick money by trying to ride on Marvel co-tails instead of being consistent and sticking with their guy and their already established tone, and then being forced to poodle due to fan pressure, is nothing short of astonishing and an event that of course already have become movie history.
Zack took a whole year and used every penny of the 75 million to mix up the four-hour and two-minute original version of Justice League that he pitched to Warner back in 2015. The story is pretty much the same. Batman sets out to scrape together a gang of superhero friends because Superman, before he died, told him that an alien attack was about to occur. Wayne travels trying to persuade Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash to become part of the Justice League while he and Wonder Woman begin to prepare a plan on how they can all defend the three alien motherboxes hidden for centuries, on Earth, by different civilisations. The dreaded Steppenwolf and his legion of Parademons arrive on Earth in the most violent of ways to localise the boxes for the arch-villain Darkseid, and of course it is up to Batman & Co to stop him.
What is different (and there are lots of parts and scenes here that are completely new to the Justice League) is of course the tone, to begin with. Whedon's jokes and easy-viewing-atmosphere are completely gone and Snyder holds on to the same kind of dark, serious, doomsday-like vibe that DC's best comic books have always offered us, and that works wonders for this film in my opinion. It also makes a huge difference that especially Cyborg and Flash (who are the two heroes in this film who have not already got their own movies) are portrayed in a completely different way than in the 2017 film, with long story arcs for both gentlemen who make them multifaceted, interesting, motivated and easy to like in a way that was never included in the 2017 cinema version. Zack Snyder's Justice League is in many ways Cyborg's film and his story is gripping and well written while Batman as a character is not at all that old, action-paralyzed sidekick as in Joss Whedon's film, but instead a very capable, action-packed stoic and hard bastard just like in Frank Miller's brilliant The Dark Knight Returns.
Superman has also been treated with much, much more respect here and thus becomes a completely different character, I think, something that suits the film very well. Gone is his cheerfully child-friendly appearance from the 2017 film, instead we meet here a thought-provoking, super powerful and determined Kal-El who, dressed in a black suit, shows off forces that the other members of the league of course can not even dream of. There is a sense of detail here, a respect for the source material and a consistent basic thinking regarding the dynamics between them all, which the 2017 version completely lacked and that makes Snyder's version a film that makes me mourn the fact that idea of the continuation of The Snyderverse was buried years ago. Because even though Man of Steel was a massive disappointment for me, and even though Batman v Superman could definitely have been a better movie, there is no doubt that this four-hour action epic is that creation which Snyder has always deserved. This is how good he is as a film maker, if studio-heads, focus groups and rabid producers leave him alone to just do what the man does best.