They said it couldn’t be done, that an age of DC heroes would fall at the box office in 2017. An incredibly handsome writer foolishly promised to eat one of his most prized pieces of Batman memorabilia if the fabled Snyder Cut of Justice League ever saw the light of day, while fans around the world rallied to make an impossible dream a reality.
Tens of millions of dollars and one half-digested Batman cowl later, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is finally here in all its glory. Born from tragedy and triumph, this gargantuan epic of intricately-staged action scenes, world-building, and a complete tonal shift in direction now exists as the ultimate weapon in DC’s film franchise.
To cut it short, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is the director’s signature take on Superman and the heroes around him turned up to 11. If you weren’t a fan of Man of Steel or Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, then Justice League is going to feel like four hours of root canal surgery in comparison to those previous efforts.
But for the fans who believed in a film that was (pun fully intended) leagues better than the last-minute entry that director Joss Whedon inherited and fine-tuned for DC’s top brass in a futile attempt to create a Marvel lite project, Justice League is a lengthy and fascinating film. With its gargantuan running time, it’s afforded the chance to focus on every primary character within the League, to build them up as heroes who are united in their quest to save the world.
Justice League’s primary story remains relatively unchanged, as the gang still embarks on a quest to save magical space-boxes from falling into the hands of a villain who’s spikier than an early 2000s hairstyle for a teenager, but it’s the plot beats between the overall narrative that are finally done justice. Everything from Bruce Wayne’s steadfast determination to fix a horrible mistake to Barry Allen’s endless running around in circles gets a chance to not only breathe, but to shine.
Ray Fisher, whose fallout with Warner Bros. and Whedon was the stuff of a public relations nightmare, is given a meaty amount of screentime that showcases not only the pain and horror of his transformation into Cyborg, but also the strained relationship between him and a father who just wanted to save his son. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman continues to be the heart and the soul of the team, while Jason Momoa’s Aquaman is far removed from his more cheerful undersea adventurer, grimly resting in self-exile but still showing a faint glimmer of the hero he could be one day.
Even Superman, whose miraculous resurrection comes late in the film, is given enough of a spotlight to stand tall as he fully embraces both his Kryptonian and human heritage to become the man of tomorrow. If Man of Steel was about the birth of Superman, and Batman V Superman chronicled his death, then Justice League is about the rebirth of an icon who truly embodies the best of both worlds.
Steppenwolf is still a silly villain even with his recent gains in the CGI gym department, but there’s a certain tragedy to this nigh-unstoppable titan who longs to return to the side of his master Darkseid. Points have to be given to Ciaran Hinds’ portrayal of the Apokoliptan native, whose new metal as hell design is reflected by an expanded performance and extra bass in his voice.
All of this new character work takes place across a film which basks in the new budget afforded to it and the removal of any limitations to be as long as it wants to be. Justice League sometimes moves at a glacial pace and could have still done with a judicious trim in certain areas where Snyder and his team were clearly enraptured with capturing scenic vistas, but there’s no denying just how much better the end result is without any of Whedon’s influence tainting it.
A darker film for certain, but one that is devoid of any of the cringe-worthy dad jokes, silly sexist camera angle’s focused on Wonder Woman’s assets, or hastily-shot scenes that had the production value of a Command & Conquer FMV sequence. It sounds obvious to say it, but Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a Zack Snyder film in every sense of the word.
Out of the four-hour runtime, at least ten hours are devoted to slow-motion shots between high-energy action beats. There’s an undeniably atmosphere that permeates the entire film even during its more hopeful moments, but this is a gorgeous piece of cinema where every frame is a a painting fit for display in the Louvre.
The odd aspect ratio that Justice League was filmed in may seem about as alien as Krypton, but in practise it works beautifully. Snyder and the rest of his crew frame each scene to look like a comic book panel come to life, putting the heroes front and center while ensuring that no visual information is lost on the periphery. When the chance to film fisticuffs in a London museum or a Batmobile chase sequence against an army of Parademons hits the screen, it’s a collision of sparks and embers that explodes directly into your retinas.
The Flash’s Speed Force marathon sessions are kinetic bursts of lightning, Cyborg’s robotic shell whirs with dozens of details whenever he’s seen on the screen, and Batman’s presence is that of a terrifying vigilante who has nothing to lose. I just cannot stress how gorgeous the film is at any given moment, its visuals amplified by Junkie XL’s pulse-pounding score that replaces the paint by numbers approach that Danny Elfman took for the 2017 edition.
All of this effort is capped off by a mad epilogue which weaves brand-new threads into the Snyderverse, possibly a cruel series of cliffhangers meant to lay the groundwork for a number of films that will never see the light of day. They’re tantalising what ifs, an exhausting note to end an odyssey that was years in the making and only came about from the perfect storm of fan demand, a shift to streaming services, and a worldwide pandemic hammering that point home.
There’s a sense of finality that isn’t present because of this epilogue, and even if the pay-off involves Batman dropping an F-Bomb for the ages, it trips Justice League up right as it’s about to cross the finish line after a titanic endurance sprint to the end credits.
But it’s done. The story has been written and the end result is a movie that massively improves upon its 2017 release in multiple ways, standing tall as a superior product and vision in comparison. Snyder’s vision of a League united against an Apokoliptan threat, of the birth of the true Superman, and of a dark knight seeking redemption has come true at long last.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a modern-day epic in both length and style, the likes of which will never be seen again on the big screen. A titanic improvement over the original, its overall story may be a barebones assemblage of awesome power but its elevated by visually stunning spectacle and attitude.
Last Updated: March 23, 2021