Zack Snyder's Justice League (2021)
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Written by: Chris Terrio, Will Beall, Zack Snyder
Starring: Amy Adams, Ben Affleck, Diane Lane, Ezra Miller, Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill, Jason Momoa, Jeremy Irons, JK Simmons, Ray Fisher
Superman is dead, leaving Earth vulnerable to sinister, intergalactic forces. Zack Snyder’s Justice League sees Batman, on a mission to unite the meta-humans of the planet in preparation of the impending invasion, as hinted at by Lex Luthor at the end of Snyder’s previous DC flick, the divisive Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Obviously this is not news, as the Joss Whedon version back in 2017 elaborated. And in hindsight, very ham-fistedly. It was glaringly obvious that there was another film in there trying to get out (for what it’s worth, I rather enjoyed it at the time, but it was far from seamless). As a result, internet lobby groups appeared, campaigning Warner Bros. for years to let Snyder finish his version of Justice League. Unfortunately, some members of those lobby groups were far from reasonable, and took to trolling anyone who had anything remotely negative to say about the film, Snyder’s previous films, or the possibilities of getting a directors cut at all. These people have given, and still give, critics and other social media users a hard time to even have a voice, with unnecessary vitriolic campaigning . And writing this now it feels like a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. The film being released at all feels like it justifies their actions. Which is ironic considering it’s a film about uniting against bad people…
From the outset, we know this is nowhere near the film Whedon ended up putting together. Although it isn’t completely devoid of its lighter moments, a lot more of the ‘fun’, Avengers style beats have been rightfully given the chop in place of what Snyder wanted. A much longer and more mature affair, and while the film does come in at a hefty running time, and at times does feel too long, it doesn’t outstay its welcome. Most of that four hour run time is extremely engaging and exciting (even the bits that I assumed were reshot for the Whedon version), although a good half of it is setting up the back story of those characters finally being introduced, and giving Lois Lane a bit more time, as she grieves for her lost love. There’s a lot going on and a lot to take in, and maybe the film would be a wee bit shorter were it not for the directors’ trademark slow-mo style.
There’s much more room for character development on both sides of the coin this time and it’s the one thing that really benefits from the extended run time. Everyone has their moments, even antagonist Steppenwolf, who is trying to make amends with the fearsome Darkseid, by retrieving the three mother-boxes held on Earth. The instruments that would lead to the planets enslavement should they fall back into the wrong hands. Cyborg gets the biggest redemption here, as his character (albeit understandably) came across as bit of dick in the original version. Here he is fleshed out far better and it gives the audience more time to become invested in his arc. It’s very interesting to see the parts that Whedon altered or reshot, and also poses the question as to why. A lot of Snyder’s footage was used to much better effect here, in particular the resurrection of Superman. That whole scene was pretty much the same as in the original version, yet the added on pointless quips, such as Superman returning the “Tell me, do you bleed” quote to Batman feel even more out of place now. Thankfully the CGI top lip is nowhere to be seen this time around, but it goes to show just how unnecessary some of those reshot scenes are. Fortunately the original vision rectifies this, though retrospectively making Joss Whedon’s Justice League even worse.
The film is presented in 4:3 format in order to make it look at its best if it were ever to appear in IMAX theatres, which is great if we weren’t knee deep in lockdowns and quarantines at the time of the films release, and widescreen TV’s have been a staple of most households for a good twenty years now. However it doesn’t necessarily detract from the experience, but it would have been nice to see it in the standard anamorphic widescreen. JXL is mercifully back on scoring duties, following Danny Elfman’s phoned in score of the theatrical cut. Don’t get me wrong, I normally dig his work, but his Justice League score was bland and uninspired. It was great to see Superman take to the sky once more to that wonderful composition Hans Zimmer treated us to back in Man of Steel.
From the outside, Zack Snyder’s Justice League may seem like a self gratifying vanity project, however it’s a film that more than compensates for the retrospectively disappointing 2017 movie, and if you’re a fan of the previous DC movies Snyder has helmed, then you’re really in for a treat. However, those who didn’t get anything from Man of Steel or BvS, probably won’t find this one winning them over either. Where things go from here is going to be interesting. Whether this version will be considered a new point in the DCU or if Flashpoint will hit reset on everything remains to be seen, but we can just be thankful that this saw the light of day at all.