An Acknowledgement of Its Improvements
“We can rebuild. We can do better.”Bruce Wayne, Batman V Superman
“We rather… mucked it up.”Peggy Carter, Captain America: The Winter Soldier
So the reason non-Snyder fans were never as ride-or-die for this version is that nobody outside the diehards really wanted another Batman V Superman, and I can report it is not that. Yes it still has a “Heroes fight each other” moment, because we seem to be into and expect that, as every Marvel single team-up movie has had hero vs hero fights. Every. One. But this version of Justice League definitely has some clear and definite improvements over the Theatrical Cut. I shall elaborate.
The Villain Plot Makes Sense. Okay I maintain that both versions turn Mother Boxes into Infinity Stones and that’s very wrong, nothing about this is how Mother Boxes work, but I respect your right not to care about canonical accuracy of magic space rocks. The point is, in the theatrical cut, big CG villain Steppenwolf’s plot was basically word salad. I’d been following DC comics most of my life, and I could still only sort of follow what he was doing and why. This was, beyond doubt, my largest issue with the Theatrical Cut. Years I’d spent mocking Marvel villains for being madmen out to rule/destroy the world with a vague at best motive, a magic space rock, and an army of faceless CG minions, and this was the laziest version of that.
But with some time to breathe and explain, Terrio actually made the whole Mother Box/Unity thing make sense and gave Steppenwolf an actual understandable motive. Definite improvement. I get what is happening and why the League must form to stop it, and you will too, no matter how few DC comics you’ve read.
The Characters Are Characters. I’m not saying every character has a good arc (Superman’s arc is “dead, then not dead”), but some of them definitely have better arcs. Cyborg especially. I can understand why Ray Fisher was upset that so much of his story got cut, because Cyborg had the best arc of any character, including moments of genuine catharsis that are just… gone in the theatrical cut. Aquaman got more material to cue up his story in his solo movie, but… well we’ll come back to that. Actually I have a whole page for this so let’s put a pin in all of it.
It’s Not a Jarring Mishmash! The tone is consistent. There’s no swapping between super-serious battles and wacky slapstick. Scenes don’t alternate between sets and obvious greenscreens. Aquaman’s tattoos don’t change. Ben Affleck doesn’t gain or lose twenty pounds of alcohol weight depending on which footage is being used. Henry Cavill is never an uncanny valley nightmare because they’re CG-ing a moustache off his face.
Steppenwolf Looks… Better? Well somewhat. Critics called preview images of Steppenwolf “Grumpy the Hedgehog” because of how busy his “Oops All Spikes” armour looked. But, well, Theatrical Steppenwolf also looked bad. Any close-up of Theatrical Steppenwolf’s face was truly horrifying, but in a bad way, a Mummy Returns Scorpion King kind of a way. And Snyder Steppenwolf doesn’t have that immersion-breaking effect, maybe because he looks more actively alien so it’s less disturbing watching him emote than when they tried and failed to give him more human-esque features. He still looks a little Michael-Bay-Megatron, but if you’re going to have an all-CG villain, you need Infinity War budget funding Thanos-level motion capture tech, and they didn’t have at least the second thing. But they did the best they could, and I don’t have to look away each time he has a close-up, so I’m calling it an improvement.
Next Page: The League: Better or worse?