Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s (Henry Cavill) selfless act, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) enlists newfound ally Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) to face an even greater threat. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to recruit a team to stand against this newly awakened enemy. Despite the formation of an unprecedented league of heroes — Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and the Flash (Ezra Miller) — it may be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.
Because I am a massive comic book fan and a gigantic superhero movie fan in general, I was extremely excited to see the fifth installment in the DC Extended Universe, Justice League, in theatres on opening day. The films that had comprised that cinematic universe up to that point were definitely divisive, causing millions of fans all around the world to debate how they felt on each movie on the internet for several years.
In early 2016, we got perhaps the most anticipated superhero blockbuster event of all-time in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and when it landed, many fans and critics alike were greatly underwhelmed by a film that, to them, should have been so epic because it was finally pitting together the two most iconic superheroes in history in a fight with one another.
The only problem was that, really, the two didn’t actually physically fight each other until the third act, and even then, the fight that the fans were promised lasted only a few minutes with Batman coming out on top thanks to the help of Superman’s one weakness – Kryptonite.
You see, Batman v Superman wasn’t really about a physical fight at all. It was never meant to be about that. It was always meant to be a mental battle between the two, and I personally thought the film was absolutely amazing and I really dug its themes, ideas, and crazy metaphors throughout. Yes, there are some things to complain about but overall, I love the movie even still to this day.
Suicide Squad on the other hand, was not so great. All of the problems that people have with that film are essentially widely known already, so I won’t delve into why exactly that movie wasn’t the best in this piece. But the following year, audiences were treated with Patty Jenkins’s show-stopping Wonder Woman, which was a bold, reinventive superhero origin story that proved Gal Gadot was perfect for the role of the titular heroine.
It seems like for most people, the DC Extended Universe is quite the mixed bag. There are some movies that people really enjoy and there are others that people view as downright terrible. But there’s no denying that whether or not you were a fan of the DCEU up to that point or not, that when Justice League was announced, you were probably quite excited.
It was supposed to be the Avengers movie in the DCEU that would remind us why we love these movies in the first place. What could possibly go wrong with a movie featuring Batman, Superman, Aquaman, Cyborg, Flash, and Wonder Woman teaming up together to fight a big bad? Well, Joss Whedon is went wrong with the movie.
After his daughter tragically took her own life, Zack Snyder had to step down from the project obviously, to grieve. So, the movie’s reigns were then handed over to Joss Whedon, and it was quite evident upon release, that almost nothing in the final product felt like a Zack Snyder production.
It was way too jokey, sloppily thrown-together, and poorly told even if it did have some fairly enjoyable action sequences. I’ve seen Whedon’s Justice League a few times and the action bits are the most fun in the movie, but really, the story was lacking and even the fans of the film agreed that it could have been told a lot better.
So when it was revealed that Zack Snyder’s director’s cut of the movie actually existed, known universally by the fans as the “Snyder Cut”, petitions were made and lasted online for years, but sadly, nothing ever came of it. But that all changed when, during the DC FanDome event in August 2020, fans were blown away by an enthralling trailer for none other than Zack Snyder’s Justice League. #ReleaseTheSnyderCut was used absolutely everywhere. Fans didn’t think that this day would ever come, but here we are. Not only am I so happy and absolutely blown away by this new film, but I am also so glad I can finally say that I have seen Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
Right from the opening few minutes alone, it was obvious that this was going to be a much better film and one that actually had good direction. The opening sequence is nothing short of chilling and is sure to give fans that were waiting years for this film, goosebumps all over their arms and neck.
Danny Elfman’s score is no longer in use here, and instead, Tom Holkenborg aka Junkie XL composed the music for this new film and it sounds absolutely beautiful and haunting. It’s his themes that open up the film and his music is partly what makes the first few minutes so powerful and genuinely scary.
Instead of telling the film in a traditional way, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is comprised of six different parts including an epilogue. Each chapter transition feels so smooth and grand. Absolutely nothing here feels out of place, and most importantly, this four-hour movie (yes, a four-hour movie) never felt too long. When I look back on the film, there was honestly nothing here that would have been benefited from being removed. Each scene that comprises this running time needs to be in the movie in order for it to be as powerful as it ultimately ends up being.
What I was initially going to do was watch two hours of the film today, and the other two hours on the following day, but the film was just so gripping and exciting that I ended up watching all four hours in one sitting. Watching Zack Snyder’s Justice League feels like an achievement to be celebrated. When it comes to grand, large-scale blockbuster epics, few movies compare to the levels of awe and wonder this one brings to the table.
The initial Justice League from 2017 felt way too comedic and it felt like it never really took itself seriously which was made all the more strange when you consider the fact that the film is about an evil creature known as Steppenwolf who wants to destroy humanity as we know it. Sure, a couple of jokes here and there would have been okay and tolerable, but it felt like the entire movie was ridiculously light and tame.
Thankfully, the same thing cannot be said about Zack Snyder’s film. Here, we understand the stakes and how humongous they are. There’s never a moment here when you feel as if the task the Justice League is trying to accomplish isn’t too important like in the original film. Snyder ensures that the viewer is hooked into this story and makes sure the audience understands that the stakes are high and if they fail their mission, humanity is literally doomed.
And character motivations this time are crystal clear. Some of the characters in the initial cut were ones that audiences just couldn’t get behind. What exactly does Steppenwolf want to accomplish? Why is Cyborg really wanting to help the Justice League? Each and every character involved in this story is one that, by the end of the film, you understand. You can get behind everybody here and get a good grasp on what exactly it is they are trying to accomplish.
The only thing that’s genuinely depressing about Zack Snyder’s Justice League is that, by the time it comes to a close, you come to the unfortunate realization that we are never going to get a follow-up to it. The DC Extended Universe and Warner Bros. have moved on from this storyline and are trying different things now. After watching Whedon’s Justice League, that was understandable and many people didn’t really blame them for wanting to move on from it.
But I guarantee that after you watch Zack Snyder’s Justice League, you’re going to want so much more. It’s just a shame that we will never get anything quite like this again. However, that does not mean we shouldn’t relish this film, because we absolutely should. It’s a celebration of a filmmaker who was finally able to showcase his vision for the film he has always wanted to make. And it’s beautiful.
Overall Grade: A+
MPAA Rating: R for violence and some language
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Distributed by: HBO Max
Release Date: March 18, 2021
Running Time: 242 minutes