Zack Snyder’s Justice League
Warner Brothers Pictures/ HBO Max
Written by Chris Terrio, Zack Snyder and Will Beall
Directed by Zack Snyder
Starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Jason Mamoa, Willem Dafoe, Diane Lane, Amy Adams, Ciaran Hinds, JK Simmons, Jeremy Irons, Joe Morton, Amber Heard, Connie Nielsen and Jesse Eisenberg
In all honestly, I didn’t want to write a full review of Zack Snyder’s Justice League because the story is the same as the theatrical version that was released in 2018, but even with the same plot, there is enough story wise here to qualify it as another movie separate from that release. The Justice League has to come together to stop Steppenwolf from finding the three mother boxes to bring Darkseid to Earth, but they won’t be a match for him without Superman.
What I really want to focus on is what this four hour epic film was saying on its own, but I can’t do that honestly without comparing it to the version that was released. So I’ll have to do some comparison because that’s the only way that I can honestly say what I both liked and disliked about Zack Snyder’s version.
One of the first things you notice (and Warner Brothers makes a point of saying before the film starts) is that the aspect ratio for this film is 4:3. While this change is keeping in line with Snyder’s vision, I found it limiting cinematically. The upside is that it emphasizes the characters better, but it limits the cinematic quality of the film. It makes something that is supposed to be epic, especially the action scenes, seem small.
The other thing that (although minor) took away from the film in my opinion is some of the musical choices. While the score was solid overall, there were some musical queues that took me out of the pace and tone of the movie. I wasn’t expecting the film to be upbeat (it is a Zack Snyder film), but some of the musical choices felt out of place, went on too long or (in the case of the women singing for the departing Aquaman) goofy. The best example is in the Flash introduction scene where he is saving Iris. What should have been an exhilarating hero moment turns into something slow and creepy. The scene itself was good, but went on way too long and the music didn’t help.
As for the rest of the plot, it is a huge improvement over the original. There is a real effort to develop the characters and each one gets a personal journey that informs their decision to team up. Cyborg is given the most improvement and an arc that makes him more relevant and integral to the team and its mission. Expanding the villain plot beyond Steppenwolf looking for redemption and including Darkseid is a great plot point as well. The Darkseid scenes convey the menace of the character and why he’s so dangerous. Steppenwolf was never that interesting to begin with, but who he represents and what he’s trying to do are both powerful and interesting. The only negative I have about his scenes are that they are repetitive after he gets the first Mother Box. The second scene with Desaad was unnecessary because all of the dialogue was a rehash of what was said the first time.
While Cyborg is the emotional core of the film, Batman is interesting as well. While there is still the cold, calculating aspect of the character, he is more capable in this film and is given more to do than just brood and throw out orders. His dynamic with Wonder Woman is also better developed. Superman’s return is well done and has more emotional weight. Diana is given more intensity and heart and her fight scenes are some of the best in the film (the cue for her music whenever she entered a space got annoying quickly). Aquaman’s scenes were a little hard because they basically consisted of characters from his movie (Willem Dafoe’s Vulko and Amber Heard’s Mera) just rehashing plot points from his solo movie. What was worse was Amber Heard’s faux British accent throughout those scenes.
The story is much more cohesive. The pacing is better for the most part. The annoying subplots have been removed and Snyder sets up some ambitious story moments that would have led to a bigger story for these characters.
Zack Snyder’s vision of the Justice League still has some issues dialogue and story wise, but it is overall a much better experience than the previous version. The characters aren’t throwing out quips every five minutes and the tone stays consistent throughout. Snyder’s version requires four hours of storytelling because there is a lot of story he is trying to tell and its ambitions are interesting to experience. It is enjoyable and allows the viewer to be engaged by the characters, their journeys and the circumstances that bring them together.