Zack Snyder’s Justice League film review (2021)

Zack Snyder’s vision for this new Justice League is superior to Joss Whedon’s theatrical cut in almost every way. It still has its flaws, but as critical as I was of this even being made, I did enjoy it.

At long last, Zack Snyder’s version of Justice League is finally here. Some people didn’t think it existed, others did and clamored for it, and some simply didn’t care. I happen to fall in the latter group. Personally, I think Zack Snyder is a talented director in terms of cinematography and special effects. However, I’ve always felt he struggles trying to tell a coherent story, especially with his efforts in the DC Extended Universe. I love Man of Steel, but Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (yes, even the extended version) is pretty awful. It’s overwhelmingly disjointed, pacing is all over the place, and some character decisions didn’t make much sense to me. So, seeing how he handled multiple characters in that film and trying to tell too many stories at once, I truly thought Justice League was going to be a nightmare. The theatrical cut is pretty trash and even though Joss Whedon took over, I still felt there was plenty of Snyder’s touch in there. I have to admit though. In some ways, I was wrong.

To reiterate, it’ll be difficult to find someone else who was as critical as I was about this receiving the green light. If I’m being entirely honest, I wholeheartedly believed Snyder was trying to feed his ego and capitalize on this movement, that being the wide array of fans who were pushing for the Snyder cut to actually happen. I think he also saw how much of a failure the first movie was, so he figured he can get a second crack at it and film new scenes, rewrite some story points, and deliver an entirely different movie. Truthfully, I still think this is what could’ve happened for the most part, but I could be wrong here as well. I do find it hard to believe he had all of this unseen and unused footage in the vault, especially considering there were some reshoots and add-ons to the film. But, I can’t dwell on this sentiment and I don’t plan to. It does waste a ton of energy worrying and speculating about situations you have no control over and will probably never get answers to. So, the fair thing is to judge what we do have, and it’s Zack Snyder’s Justice League, a 4-hour story where he puts his full vision on display.

Prior to beginning my watch, I was a bit skeptical, of course. I mean, how different can this movie be from the original? Well, it’s very different. Don’t get me wrong now, there are still some of the same scenes from Whedon’s version in this one, but I believe they’re more relevant in this cut and properly placed. Everything seems a bit more organized from the very beginning and the film has more room to breathe in order to tell a more focused story without all the messiness and jarring pacing. Again, it is 4 hours longs, so if he wasn’t able to tell the story he wanted in this timeframe, that would be an entirely different story. However, I think he accomplished what he set out to do in terms of the storytelling.

The story flows much more naturally in this version. Almost nothing ever feels out of place and you’re able to follow along smoothly without having too many questions about why a certain thing happened or why a specific character made this decision. Most of your questions also get answered as you continue watching, which can’t be said for his past films. I think he finally got it right with this one.

By far, the biggest change for me is the justice (no pun intended) he brings to the characters. Other than some exceptions in the theatrical cut, most of the characters were completely forgettable. For example, I found Ezra Miller’s Flash to annoying and corny at times. Ray Fisher’s Cyborg also didn’t seem that important to me. But, the biggest issue was with Superman himself. I don’t want to address that CGI mustache again because it’s an abomination, but the character is barely in the movie as is. When he does finally show up, it’s towards the end. I believe Snyder improved all of this in his cut, bringing more versatility to these characters.

When I say everyone has their moment, I’m not kidding. From Wonder Woman and Aquaman, to Batman and even Alfred, all of the characters feel vital and important to the plot, other than exceptions. For example, J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon isn’t all that necessary, if you ask me. He’s barely in this 4 hour movie, which is strange since you think he’d be able to get squeezed in a bit more with such a long runtime. Kiersey Clemons as Iris West is barely in the movie as well. Then again, these characters will probably get their due in another movie.

The heroes who benefitted the most are Cyborg and the Flash, for sure. Sometimes, it feels like Cyborg is the main protagonist of the film since he has so many moving moments. Snyder really took his time to try and tell his entire story and make the viewer relate to him a bit more. Some of his scenes are incredibly emotional and some of the most memorable parts of this version. It’s unlikely if we’ll ever see Fisher as Cyborg again, especially with everything that’s been going on between him and the studio, but I hope I’m wrong. As for the Flash, he’s a bit funnier in this movie, has many more character moments that you take a bit seriously, and his motivations are on display far more than the theatrical cut. I’m looking forward to his solo film so he can bounce his silliness off a much more stoic Michael Keaton as Batman. Some of those slow motion scenes are simply phenomenal as well.

One of my biggest critiques about Whedon’s cut is how weak of a villain Steppenwolf was made out to be. This is not the case whatsoever in Snyder’s version. He is better in just about every way in this movie. He still very much has evil intentions and I never found myself understanding him or siding with him. However, I did sympathize with him. He’s so much more developed in this movie and there’s an actual reason why he’s doing what he’s doing. He’s a villain with a purpose rather than simply being bad for the sake of the plot. He’s also far more formidable in this movie, showcasing many layers of his strengths in a variety of different sequences in the film. It’s a completely different character altogether in my opinion, and I’ve completely changed my mind about Steppenwolf because of this version and Ciarin Hinds portrayal.

I wish we got more of some of the other villains who were being teased throughout the film but never really got enough screen time. For example, Darkseid was barely in the movie and his CGI was a bit questionable as well. The Joker scene we saw in the trailer was a bit weird as well. I didn’t enjoy Jared Leto’s portrayal once again, even though it was a bit different. It’s, by far, the worst out of all the actors who have played the Clown Prince of Crime. As for the film, although you don’t necessarily feel the 4-hour runtime and most of the characters are a bit more developed, it still feels overstuffed at times. I do believe some of these characters should’ve gotten their own film to be properly developed before being thrown into a 4-hour movie. What are the chances a sequel to this is 4 hours once again? I say it’s unlikely, which also leads to more skepticism since I don’t fully trust Snyder to deliver another coherent story without the proper runtime.

For the most part, it turns out Snyder was right about his vision. I still don’t believe all this footage was simply left in the backburner. Some of this film is most definitely new and there are plenty of reshoots. Nobody can change my mind about that. But, again, I can’t dwell on it since I was entertained by what I saw, especially the character development and how the story progressed. It’s not without its faults and some things could’ve been done better, but it’s a good start and hopefully, it’s not the end of these stories. I fully believe there’s potential to keep this going and make it even better, even if it’s without Snyder.

Score: B+

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