Here’s our review for Zack Snyder’s “Justice League,” which is well worth the four hours you’ll need to watch this movie from start to finish…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
Let’s just get the obvious out of the way right now — the 2017 version of “Justice League” that landed in theaters was horrendous — on the verge of unwatchable.
Now it’s hard to imagine how that two-hour disaster filled with a lot of scenes, dialogue and plot originally developed by Zack Snyder and then morphed into some kind of monstrosity by Joss Whedon could somehow transform into a much better film with the release of “The Snyder Cut” — aka Zack Snyder’s “Justice League” — that landed on HBO Max on March 18.
But that’s exactly what happened because the new version of “Justice League” delivers in just about every way the theatrical version didn’t, although it’s still a far cry from being as satisfying as comparable films such as “Avengers: Infinity War” or “Avengers: Endgame.”
That said, Snyder’s vision for the movie was finally realized after a rabid fan base begged and then all but demanded Warner Bros. allow him to finish the movie he had to leave following the tragic death of his daughter. Warner Bros. had already interfered with Snyder’s version of the movie thanks to the less than favorable reviews for “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” which meant he was getting an awful lot of studio notes throughout the production.
Once Snyder left, Whedon was hired to finish the film, which also included a ton of reshoots to make a lighter and funnier movie that executives had to hope would share the same kind of charm as the original “Avengers” movie, which the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” creator had written and directed a few years earlier.
Sadly, Whedon’s muddled mess was panned by critics and became a commercial disaster for the studio, especially when compared to the blockbuster films Marvel Studios was churning out several times each year.
It came as a surprise that Warner Bros. eventually relented to the tremendous online pressure and not only allowed Snyder to return and finish his version of the film but they reportedly pumped another $70 million into production so he could do a couple of reshoots and add a whole lot of new special effects.
The end result wasn’t perfect by any means — there are still a number of flaws in Zack Snyder’s “Justice League” — but still the four-hour film really allowed the director to breathe new life into the story while also giving him ample time to stretch his legs creatively with a huge cast of characters that barely got explored at all in the 2017 version.
Origins were told, a deeper backstory to the generic plot actually helped quite a bit and the performances handed down from the cast when directed by Snyder were a huge contrast to whatever Whedon tried to get out of them while reportedly being a huge asshole on set. Overall, Snyder can be proud of his “Justice League” film because it’s not only a highly watchable movie but it’s truly vindication for the vision he had in mind for this series and maybe if he had been left alone, this is the film that would have landed in theaters four years ago.
With that said, let’s get to our review of Zack Snyder’s “Justice League” with a few minor spoilers — only because there are some repeat scenes between the 2017 version and the one just released.
In the wake of Superman’s death, the powerful Mother Boxes — living machines that can do just about anything — begin to wake up, which alerts their presence to Darkseid — the biggest of the big bads in the DC Universe. Darkseid’s only mission is power and destruction and he’s targeted Earth before except that time thousands of years ago, the Amazonians, the Atlanteans, mankind along with a few Green Lanterns were able to team together to thwart his attempts to swallow the world.
Now with the Mother Boxes coming alive, which means they can be used for Darkseid’s ultimate purpose, he sends his acolyte Steppenwolf to Earth to retrieve them while planning for his arrival.
Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne is preparing for an eventual invasion so he begins trying to build a team of heroes capable of stopping someone as powerful as Darkseid. Considering the kind of power Superman wielded, Bruce knows it’s going to take several heroes banded together to protect Earth in the same way he did.
Of course, Bruce discovers that putting together a team of super powered individuals is easier said than done but the mission takes on a new level of importance after Diana Prince returns with a message from her Amazonian sisters that Steppenwolf has arrived on Earth and he’s coming after the Mother Boxes.
Now if this plot sounds familiar — it’s largely the same from the 2017 “Justice League” movie but trust me when I tell you, the explanation and additional storytelling done in the new film adds a much, much deeper layer of understanding and justification for what’s actually happening. Plus seeing Darkseid on screen, serving as the master to his minions, brings a new kind of threat to the story versus the hints about him that never really delivered in the previous film.
ACTING, DIRECTING AND SCRIPT
Well let’s start with the obvious and that’s Zack Snyder, who returns to direct the film he always envisioned with the new “Justice League” movie.
Snyder has always been a visually strong director — his movies has a distinct look to them and for the most part they are always an awe-inspiring display of special effects. While Snyder definitely dials that up to 11 for “Justice League,” he also manages to capture some great quieter moments throughout this movie as well.
He really humanizes Bruce Wayne in this film after largely sticking him behind armor and letting him duke it out with Superman in his previous movie. This time around, Bruce is a thinking man’s hero and we get more than 90 minutes into the film before he finally transforms into Batman.
It’s also clear that Snyder has a real passion for these characters, particularly with the time he spends with Ray Fisher’s transformation into Cyborg as well as the journey he follows to finally become a hero. Fisher has long championed Snyder’s version of this film and it’s easy to see why because he does a lot of heavy lifting in this movie and it’s a welcome addition.
Snyder also puts a lot into the development of Barry Allen as the Flash and his introduction in this movie along with meeting Iris West for the first time might be one of the best scenes in the entire film. It’s pure Snyder — a musical background, lots of slow motion and effects — but the delivery by Ezra Miller and Kiersey Clemons is just charming and wonderful.
As previously stated, the actors really do deliver for Snyder in this version of the movie, which really makes you wonder what it was like working for Whedon.
When it comes to the script — there are still plenty of clunky exchanges, not to mention some eye-rolling dialogue at times but that probably only because screenwriter Chris Terrio was told to take everything seriously and he certainly pushed the pedal to the metal in that department. Make no mistake, there’s still some levity in the right moments but this is a very heavy, dark film with only a few glimmers of hope sprinkled throughout the movie.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE MOVIE?
First off, the four hours is totally necessary for the amount of storytelling that Snyder does with this movie. Editing this film down to two and a half hours would leave so much on the cutting room floor that it just wouldn’t be the same movie — we found that out the hard way back in 2017.
That said, Snyder’s obsession with slow motion drags this film down at several points where you’re just begging for the action to keep going yet he insists on hitting the pause button over and over again to capture something frame by frame. It’s not distracting as much as it’s kind of annoying by the end of the movie.
While Snyder definitely needed everything in this film, he probably could have shaved off 15 minutes just from trimming the slow motion scenes.
There’s also the Steppenwolf problem — he’s still a less than enthusiastic choice for a villain, a very one-beat character with some truly bad dialogue. But at least this time, he’s constantly living in fear of the monster holding his leash, which means answering to Darkseid gives him a bit more to chew on this time around.
The plot — bad guys coming for evil trinket to take over the world — is still thin, there’s no denying that. But actually spending the time to understand the origins of the Mother Boxes, why Darkseid is so obsessed with them and how Superman ties back into it all actually makes it a much better story.
Zack Snyder’s “Justice League” isn’t perfect but it’s pretty damn good. It’s an action-packed adventure with a much, much better story at the heart of the film than the atrocity that came out four years ago. The introduction of the characters along with spending more time with each of them individually before they come together as a team really makes a huge difference. It’s one of the reasons why Marvel’s “Avengers” film did so well — because the audience already knew all of the characters as soon as the movie started.
While Snyder tried to fast track his world building, this four-hour film actually gives Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg enough attention that no one part feels greater than any of the others. When Superman finally returns, he’s even afforded the necessary time to show why Henry Cavill really was the perfect choice to play that character — as well as displaying the kind of power that all evil doers should fear.
Overall, Zack Snyder’s “Justice League” is absolutely worth the time to watch — and then watch again in the future, which is always a strong sign of a good movie.
Zack Snyder’s “Justice League” gets 4 out of 5 on the Skolnick Scale.