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Zack Snyder's Justice League - Movie Review

Zack Snyder's Justice League

As a life-long DC fan, I have felt a little bit like a diehard football fan that backs his underperforming team, no matter what. It both evokes a sense of pride and of blind foolishness, when, no matter how much you love a particular brand of something, you must concede that they have lost in a battle for excellence.

Marvel, since 2008’s Iron Man, has resoundingly earned the awe and admiration and the rewards that admiration brought. DC, and many other studios, were caught ill prepared for the juggernaut the MCU would become and moved fast to play catch up.

"the film in this form is better, not great, not a front runner for the best ensemble superhero movie (in fact, if I am to be honest, not even close). But it’s adept in its message, at times moving and thrilling, it’s consistent"


It was Christopher Nolan, hot off the success of the Dark Knight trilogy, that would unwittingly bring a David Goyer pitch for a new Superman movie to Warner’s and set Zach Snyder on a journey that would shape DC’s answer to the MCU: the DCEU.

We all know how it fared… Regardless of whether or not you like the movies released, loathe them, love them or hate them, the one factor that determines continuation is money. And a when movie that stars both Batman and Superman underperforms, there is a serious problem that spells doom for longevity.

Batman V Superman had set the stage for a Justice League film: DC’s Avengers. And despite the financially lackluster results of the aforementioned set up, they double down to complete Snyder’s vision, apparently originally slated to be a two-parter.

Only tragedy would strike the director, when his daughter took her own life in the middle of production. Despite his best intentions, Snyder would eventually decide to step away and focus on his family at that terrible time. In what some (including me) thought might be a major gift, Avengers director Joss Whedon was brought on board to complete Justice League. It didn’t work out at all.Zack Snyder's Justice League

Cut to after Justice League bombed at the box office, and all manner of speculation and rumor followed about the causes of its failure and the troubles behind its completion. And also a small but vocal movement began online, crying out for Snyder’s original vision of the film, especially when word reached the mass's ears that Whedon had extensively revised what was originally intended, and that certain actors, for varying reasons, where disappointed with the final cut.

Cut to 2020—a global pandemic arrived—and the world we know was gone. Theatrical releases were shit canned, and the studios started scrambling to find ways to recoup some money, focusing on streaming avenues.

For the US, Warner’s HBO Max deal provided a window to help launch a new medium with a hot ticket temptation: Zach Snyder’s Justice League. For Australia (where this reviewer resides) it would be Binge. Snyder had spent some time with his family, moved on to direct a new zombie film, but emotionally moved by the unending call to see his version, agreed to come back and finish what he had started.

Snyder’s Justice League picks up after the end of Batman V Superman, and despite that film still playing on the distrust of the Kryptonian and his perceived potential threat to the world, they are all mourning him post his heroic sacrifice. Batman especially has had a change of heart, and is now trying in earnest to unite the Meta-humans, as they call them, hinted at in the last flick for the impending invasion Lex Luthor also hinted at its climax.

Based on that short description it’s the same story as we got theatrically—except it isn’t. Nor is this what Snyder would have released theatrically, had dark events not taken him away. This is a mammoth 4 hours and change version of the same story told consistently and extensively with the same vision and tone of the films that preceded it. It’s a much better presentation of this story.

This marathon run time lets the narrative explore a bevy of new characters thoroughly, so we get to understand who Flash, Cyborg, Aquaman, and even Steppenwolf (the film’s main antagonist) are, instead of just getting flippant one liners and throw away establishing scenes. It creates empathy (especially in Flash and Cyborg) and investment as they go head to head with Steppenwolf’s invasion. It creates risk and cost, something to fear, something to root for.Zack Snyder's Justice League

What we also get are a series of scenes that aren’t a patchwork from hell, inconsistently presenting two different visions as the same. This is definitively Snyder’s vision, singular, and like it or loathe it, consistent. The performances of all the actor’s are on point, where as the theatrical version showed Affleck looking almost embarrassed, Ray Fisher almost window dressing, and Ezra Miller reduced to a one liner spouting curiosity to be kind. Characterization as a whole is just way, WAY better in this version. Snyder’s film is darker in tone but also more human and relatable. It has its moments of fun and levity, interspersed between the action and speeches of the stakes. There is still the same ropey, stilted and sometimes on the nose dialogue that hamper the other DC films, but for the most part this is far better. Also, I must add, it has cliffhangers and some things unresolved that probably never will be, despite its gargantuan run time.

Effects, color timing, leave the theatrical cut in the dust. Gone is the cringe inducing Superman-stache removal work. Cavil looks like an actual person again, instead of a badly rendered cartoon. One thing I did not like was the choice of aspect ratio. Remember TVs last century? 4.3 box presentation: square. That’s what you get on your TV. Now the short explanation of Snyder’s choice here is he has a hard on for framing his shots for IMAX screens, and wanted you to see his whole composition. It is short sighted, as no one is seeing it in IMAX (it was made for streaming remember?), nor will we ever have houses that can hold an IMAX sized screen. All our TVs are 16.9 widescreen and in my opinion, the film would have looked more cinematic on my meager 82 inch TV if it was filled. Be great to see your IMAX version one day in IMAX, Zach, but that ain’t a choice we have right now.

All in all, I’m glad the passion of fans gave rise to this rare opportunity. This doesn’t change the course of DC films for the future, as Warner Bros have definitively stated: the DCEU as it was is over. Snyder has no plans to return, and after what befell him and his family, I’m glad he got to complete his vision of these beloved characters. For this reviewer, the film in this form is better, not great, not a front runner for the best ensemble superhero movie (in fact, if I am to be honest, not even close). But it’s adept in its message, at times moving and thrilling, it’s consistent and all in front of the camera and behind are on the same page—and it shows. I truly enjoyed it. I almost wanna see more of this version, but I’ll take this as a decent if incomplete bookend to a sometimes thrilling set of movies

3/5 stars

Film Details

Zack Snyder's Justice League

MPAA Rating: R for violence and some language.
Runtime:
242 mins
Director
: Zack Snyder
Writer:
Chris Terrio
Cast:
Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot
Genre
: Action
Tagline:
.
Memorable Movie Quote: "She's 5,000 years old, Barry. Every guy's a younger guy."
Distributor:
HBO Max
Official Site:
Release Date:
March 18, 2021
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:

Synopsis: Determined to ensure Superman's ultimate sacrifice was not in vain, Bruce Wayne aligns forces with Diana Prince with plans to recruit a team of metahumans to protect the world from an approaching threat of catastrophic proportions.

Art

Zack Snyder's Justice League

 

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