(This is a spoiler-FREE review)
When the original Justice League released in 2017, I walked out of the film feeling disappointed, frustrated, and underwhelmed by the sloppiness. Fast forward four years later with the release of the “Snyder Cut”, I walked away feeling utterly satisfied, overwhelmed with emotion, and yearning for more from Zack Snyder’s vision. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is not just a vindication for the fans that willed it life, it’s emotionally satisfying and rich journey of DC’s greatest heroes coming together. While the legacy of the 2017 film will most likely die with age, Zack Snyder’s true vision will live on and on for generations to come.
If you’re unfamiliar with what the Snyder Cut is, during the production of the original Justice League film Zack Snyder’s daughter tragically died to suicide and so understandably he stepped away from the project to be with his family. The studio then decided to bring in Joss Whedon to finish the movie and do reshoots which left the film at a runtime of 2 hours and a lot of Zack Snyder’s original footage left on the cutting board. Due to the poor reception to the film (a film that I gave a D back in 2017), fans have been clamoring to see what Zack Snyder’s original vision would have been and in mid-2020 it was announced it would come to HBO Max.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is an entirely different film than the original version in 2017. While it does have some of the similar beats of Steppenwolf coming to Earth to collect Mother Boxes and Bruce Wayne/Batman’s duty to assemble a team to stop him, the roadmap of how things coalesce could not be more distinct. We are given more time with the central hero’s allowing them time to develop into fully realized characters. Context is given to events, allowing there to be more weight to the conflict. Most notably, the action and effects are more polished allowing for a savage display of power by heroes and villains alike. It’s a four hour epic, but one that ultimately is able to justify its daunting runtime and allow Zack Snyder to finish his vision.
The characters this time around are much more fleshed out and by the end of the film, you feel more invested why all of them are there. No character benefits the most than Victor Stone/Cyborg, whose arc in the original film was completely cut out making him a one-dimensional character who could just interact with technology. We understand his relationship with his father more, the conflict he has within himself about being half-machine, and the weight of his journey from being an isolated teenager who had everything taken away from him to a fully realized hero ready to embrace his gifts. His arc feels the most rewarding and emotional.
The other characters fare well with the additional runtime as well. Aquaman’s conflict with being an Atlantean is given more time to ruminate and his eventual decision to join the League and the setup for his solo film seems more seamless and earned. He’s more than just the “Aqua-Bro” and feels more in line with what we saw of him in the solo film. Bruce Wayne/Batman’s need to put together a team and honor Superman’s legacy is also given more depth as we understand more about how Superman’s sacrifice impact him. Gone are all the corny jokes and one-liners, and replaced is a more hopeful Bruce Wayne with more poignant sense of duty. The Flash has a completely different introduction and it is successful at demonstrating his power and personality than the original was able to. We understand the conflict with his father, what drives him to be a hero, and how experienced he is in his career. He also arguably has the best scene in the entire film that left me cheering and having a stupid smile on my face akin to the one I had watching Avengers:Endgame.
Wonder Woman benefits the least from the additional runtime, but the R rating of the film allows us to see her display of power more savagely. The action sequences of her and the ones on Themescyria are amazing, and its hard to think of not seeing it like this before. Similarly, Lois Lane and Martha Kent have a bit more reason to be here in this film allowing their eventual return with Clark Kent/Superman to have more of an emotional weigh than it did previously. On that note, Superman doesn’t have a lot of screen time similar to the original film, but his return feels more needed and impactful given the build up to the event.
Steppenwolf also receives a major update not only in his more menacingly look, but also in his character. He is someone who is trying to redeem himself and pave the way for Darkseid (DC’s version of Thanos). His inclusion feels more realized than someone for the Justice League to punch around, and the teases for Darkseid make the conflict have a sense of urgency. Unfortunately, we don’t know if we will get a sequel to this film so all of the teases and foreshadowing of things to come seem more like a tease than something we will actually get to see play out. Nonetheless, the conflict in this movie still remains strong.
The movie is a slow burn in its first two hours as it establishes its characters and conflict, but I was never bored or felt like the film was dragging. The film is surprisingly well paced and keeps you invested because the characters are so rich this time around. You truly feel the sense that these are gods trying to be human which makes for a more poignant character study. It also makes the action sequences that come later feel all the more satisfying because you understand why each individual is there and what they are fighting for. Seeing the Justice League come together in this film feels so much more earned and impactful that it brought the childlike feeling of seeing your favorite heroes finally come to life. I teared up in multiple moments due to the emotional impact of the characters and the fan service of seeing an awesome display of power. Zack Snyder really outdid himself.
In terms of flaws, there are some minor things that bothered me mainly due to fan service and the knowledge that there probably isn’t going to be a sequel to this film. There are some character inclusions and dialogues that are cool to see, but ultimately don’t add anything to the film other than for the audience to say “oh wow”! However, one dialogue in particular between Batman and an old foe is immensely satisfying to watch even if the long term implications won’t be truly realized. At the end of the day though, I would have rather have seen everything that Zack Snyder had wanted to show rather than a trimmed down version. The additional scenes while unnecessary in the big picture, are more of a reflection of what Zack Snyder wanted to do and with that I am pleased.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is the director’s cut to end all director’s cuts. It fully realizes its characters, adds more weight to the central conflict, and delivers an amazing journey. While some may criticize the runtime, I would have rather had this than another trimmed down and sloppy version. This is what the Justice League should have been and I am so happy for Zack Snyder that he got to complete his vision and show to the fans that willed it to life. I sure hope we do get to see more from this Synderverse, but until then I can’t stress enough how much you need to see the film. Pay the $15, subscribe to HBO Max just for this. It is well worth it.