Despite the controversy and internet chatter, despite the failed first outing and troubled production, despite whatever you have heard or seen, if you call yourself a fan you must see this film.
This review of Zack Snyder’s Justice League contains some minor spoilers.
I didn’t like Justice League when they released it. It was a disjointed, tonally awkward, frustrating, one-dimensional mess of a superhero movie that made little sense and destroyed the dream of a DC Universe that could match Marvel’s.
Man of Steel was okay. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was flawed, but the success and joy of Wonder Woman and Shazam were enough to keep fans invested in a DC franchise. However, Justice League, with its disastrous and complicated production history, left everyone feeling let down.
But a fan-based campaign with a #releasethesnydercut tagline led to Zack Snyder returning to the project, with the backing of HBOMax and Warner, and a cast of actors that seemed eager to support the project. Rewrites, reshoots, and grasping the central premise of what the film should have been, has led to a director’s cut of a film the likes of which the film industry has never seen before.
At just under 4 hours, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a triumphant epic and sprawling tapestry, that has been given the scope and space to breathe, live, and expand. Snyder has had no interference from the studios, and his fingerprints are on every image that you see.
If you like his stuff, then you will not be disappointed.
There are of course moments where Watchmen seems to be influencing the scenes, and there are some odd musical cues that Snyder just can’t help himself with, but it has to be said that Justice League is now a coherent and motivated film that I can’t imagine any comic book fans disliking (even though they probably will).
This version of the film slowly introduces us to the cast in a more natural way, and each character has been given more depth and backstory than in the original. Cyborg is surprisingly the lynchpin of the film, and you suddenly realize how shallow his appearance in the original was. Flash is expanded on too, and though I am not a fan of this character here, it does allow him to be only slightly more endearing. Batman and Wonder Woman are quite rightly front and center. Wonder Woman actually seems to have more screen time as the Amazonian here than she did in 1984, and Snyder allows her to cut loose in a much more violent and aggressive way than in any other movie version of her. In the hostage scene early in the film, Diana is taking no prisoners when she disrupts a terrorist attack. Aquaman also gets to cut loose in fight scenes, and we get a better grasp of his position in Atlantis too. Snyder has quite rightly kept the whimsy from this version of the film too. There are still a couple of lighter moments, but thankfully the darker tone is kept in the forefront for the entire runtime. I wish they had cut the “I’m rich” line from Bruce’s meeting with Flash, but that’s nit-picking.
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When we finally get to the reveal of Superman, it is a moment that has time to marinate for the viewer. He really doesn’t arrive till late in the action, and it pays off much better here than in the original cut. The inclusion of the black Superman suit seems symbolic of the production, this Superman resurrected is quite rightly somber and serious about the situation, and he arrives back in the action just in time to save the day, just like a real hero should. When Flash explains that Superman was his hero, he must be echoing the fans longing for a Superman they can look up to and trust to save the day.
By the end of the film, the team is at full strength, we are gifted with surprise cameos, and Darkseid and The 4th World creations of Jack Kirby are established and given backstory that would have no doubt been set-up for future outings. Even Steppenwolf with his new CGI effects is presented with a more sympathetic backstory, and the reveal of The Anti Life Equation is more set up than it seems we will ever see a payoff for. It was nice that Jack Kirby is given special notice in the credits.
When you think all the tricks have been revealed, it turns out they haven’t. An epilogue of a future timeline with a world devastated by Darkseid shows us what could have been. I don’t think we will ever see that future world, but to get a taste of it here was the icing on the cake.
I don’t want to spoil too much here, I want you to watch this film. But if you are in any way a fan of this genre, you must watch this epic reinterpretation of Justice League. Snyder may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but a chance to see Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg on-screen in their best Alex Ross Sunday clothes, in a coherent, mature, and exciting 4-hour film, has to be recognized and commended.
I didn’t like the original Justice League, but if I am honest, although still flawed, this is a film that I would return to again and again to re-watch. Fingers crossed that at some point this will also get a theatrical release, I am sure that it has been filmed to be viewed on an iMax screen, and I would be there.