Zack Snyder’s Justice League is something many thought we’d never see, despite the campaigning for it by committed fans who wanted to see his original vision for the team-up movie.
The Worlds of DC has just become a totally different place in the wake of Justice League‘s critical and commercial failure in 2017. Characters have moved on in their own outings and it just seemed like there wouldn’t be the space for Snyder’s version to exist – until HBO Max entered the fold.
In May 2020, just before the new streaming service launched, Snyder confirmed after a watch party for Man of Steel that his Justice League movie would see the light of day on HBO Max. It followed months of increasing campaigning from Snyder Cut fans, including Comic-Con displays, and support from the cast of the movie, so it made sense.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is being released thanks largely to the efforts of the DC fans, which does make reviewing the four-hour epic a bit of a tricky proposition. The very fact it exists will be seen as a cause for celebration, allowing them to forget the dreary and muddled 2017 version of the movie (rewritten and made on the fly by Joss Whedon after Snyder’s abrupt departure for personal reasons), and bask in Snyder’s unadulterated vision.
What might surprise you is that, as well as giving those fans more of the SnyderVerse that they loved in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is good enough to make you wonder what might have been had Warner Bros left Snyder to his own devices in 2017.
Because, sure, it is very long and yes, it is ‘peak Snyder’ – with all the visual overload you’d expect – but there’s no denying Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a more cohesive and engaging version of the movie.
You might even find yourself moved.
The structure of the movie remains largely the same, but in case you needed reminding, it sees Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) attempt to recruit a team of heroes to save the planet from Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) who seeks to unite the three Mother Boxes.
From the get-go, though, it’s clear that while Zack Snyder’s Justice League is starting from the same point, it’s a different beast entirely. Gone is the cringeworthy Superman mobile phone video (with fake upper lip) and Batman-on-a-roof opening, and in comes an organic continuation from Batman v Superman as Superman’s dying breath is heard around the world, awakening one of the Mother Boxes.
What follows are a lot of the same beats that we saw in Justice League as Bruce and Diana recruit the heroes while Steppenwolf gathers the Mother Boxes – only they never feel like the same sequences.
The 2017 version always felt like a mishmash of styles that were never supposed to go together and with the restricted runtime, the movie jumped all over the place and never settled. However, since this is a cohesive continuation of Snyder’s tone and world, the movie now flows better and is improved by being fleshed out and given room to breathe due to the extended runtime.
What’s impressive is that you’d struggle to find a key sequence in this movie that you’d swap out for the one in the 2017 version. Whether it’s the history lesson of the Mother Boxes (now with Darkseid, not Steppenwolf), Superman’s resurrection (including added Knightmare) or the climactic battle (bye random family), the new versions are a considerable improvement on what came before.
The same could be said for the new-and-improved Steppenwolf, who feels more like a formidable, world-threatening villain. DC fans might not appreciate the comparison, but the change is comparable to how Avengers: Infinity War improved Thanos from his earlier MCU outings. His parademons are still fairly generic CGI cannon fodder and the movie didn’t quite need the added CGI blood, but those are minor quibbles.
There’s plenty of new stuff to enjoy as well, especially when it comes to Cyborg and The Flash. The Flash gets a sweet and funny new introduction with Iris West added back into the movie, while Cyborg’s backstory and relationship with his father is considerably extended, adding an emotional weight to his arc. Not all the new sequences feel uncuttable though, such as several scenes of Lois Lane in mourning over Superman.
You can’t get away from the fact that Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a whole lot of movie and for some, four hours will prove too much.
There are definitely elements you could cut without too much detriment to the overall story, but for fans who had been calling for this version of the movie, there will be no such thing as too much. The six parts would work just as well as episodes if you wanted that approach, as each comes to a defined end.
It almost goes without saying, but those who aren’t fans of Snyder’s style or his previous DC offerings won’t find anything to change their mind. There are copious slow-motion sequences, CGI-heavy and over-stylised set pieces, and the downbeat, muted tone rarely relents, although it might be a surprise to see some quips (especially those from The Flash) and gags were in Snyder’s original version.
But the fans who called for the movie’s release did so because they were already all-in on the SnyderVerse and wanted more, so this won’t be seen as a negative. For better and for worse, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is 100% his vision, down to the cliffhanger ending that shows off more of his Knightmare idea which will likely leave fans calling for more.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League won’t appeal to everyone and that’s fine, it didn’t need to. Whether you wanted it or not though, you will find yourself admitting that it’s a huge improvement on the original version.
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