Zack Snyder's Justice League
Zack Snyder's Justice League is his most ambitious film yet, bursting with equal parts of passion and heart. Those unmoved by his work will want to avoid this one as it's 100% one man's unique and full vision without alteration. It's not perfect, but it's a game-changing behemoth of a blockbuster that will unlikely be unmatched for quite some time.
Zack Snyder‘s highly-anticipated and widely-discussed definitive cut of Justice League has arrived exclusively onto HBO Max, boasting an R-rating, a four hour runtime and a myriad of changes as Zack’s original vision (and footage) was cleaned up, added onto and reinstated, including a killer musical score by composer Thomas Holkenborg (as Junkie XL), the black Superman costume and the reappearance of Jared Leto‘s controversial Joker.
It’s 100% fitting to simply title the film Zack Snyder’s Justice League as this version of the film is clearly the distinct work of the director responsible for the likes of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, only this time with less restrictions, an added budget and the daring vision to dream big and make bold statements, using the camera as paintbrush to create his absolute masterpiece.
ZSJL follows the events of BvS. Superman (Henry Cavill) is dead and Batman (Ben Affleck) is left to pick up the pieces. And he must do so in a hurry as a new fear lingers over Earth and that fear is in the form of Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds), an almighty being that serves the evil Darkseid (Ray Porter), a destroyer of worlds and ruler of all.
Now, Batman must enlist the help of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) in hopes of preventing the death and destruction of the planet and the uprising of one of the darkest powers of all the universe.
For those uneducated, Justice League was originally released in 2017. While Zack Snyder‘s name may be listed as the director, the film was anything but his, with The Avengers director Joss Whedon actually stepping in to reshoot roughly 70% of the movie, essentially creating something else entirely. To read the full scoop on what went down, I suggest hopping over to Vanity Fair to read this in-depth reflection on how Zack Snyder’s Justice League came to be.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is 5+ years of unique vision, hard work and personal trauma all wrapped into one. This isn’t simply Zack Snyder putting the finishing touches on his raw footage that has been sitting on a hard drive for years for the sake of it. Oh no, this is Snyder reminding us yet again how much he loves and understands these characters and how he so desperately wants to tell his story in a way that only he can.
This is also Zack paying a heartfelt tribute to his daughter, dedicating the film entirely to her and wearing his heart on his sleeve in every single frame of the movie. If you take away the commercial characters at play here and the world-building of the popular DC comic book characters you are still left with a story of love and a story about fathers and their children. And for that reason alone, ZSJL is a beautiful and almost haunting reminder of how precious life is and the fragility of existence that we face with each and every decision that we make.
I’ve been struggling in my head trying to explain in a coherent way just how much better Zack Snyder’s Justice League is when compared to the abomination that we got in 2017, because in all honesty, every single thing about it is a massive improvement. The reality is that Joss Whedon‘s cut is a lean, action-focused product that aims to bounce between comedic character bits and flashy action and had this been literally any other movie, it might have skated by on its brief likability.
But when one watches Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, expectations are formed that the film will resemble the two before it in some way, shape or form. But 2017’s Justice League didn’t resemble the films of the past, from the bright and colorful photography, to the lack of emotional character beats, not to mention Danny Elfman‘s atrocious and phoned-in music that feels lazily lifted from the past.
See, the thing about a Zack Snyder production is that absolutely every single detail is met with passion and a specific energy that Zack radiates to his entire cast and crew. Say what you want about the writing of a Zack Snyder film or even his fetishes with slow motion and speed up/ramp down effects or even his unapologetic selection of style over substance, but don’t you dare discredit the man’s love for filmmaking and being a storyteller who’s unafraid to let his vision run wild.
This is evident in Zack Snyder’s Justice League around almost every corner. From Junkie XL‘s bombastic score, to the framing of the film’s smaller moments between Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Clark Kent (Henry Cavill). Zack’s commitment to these characters and to his films at large is always the number one thing bringing you back and watching Zack Snyder’s Justice League only hit home that fact.
The fact that HBO Max rolled the dice on this juggernaut of a film is a miracle on its own and I thank the respectful fans that remained passionate and dedicated to helping spread the word to get Zack’s vision in front of everyone’s eyes.
I realize I’ve already written the length of two reviews without even shedding light on the film’s actual specifics and that is mostly intentional, because I don’t want people walking into this movie thinking it’s just another comic book adaptation or an extended version of something they saw in 2017. I want them to understand the stakes and to at the very least, appreciate what this film represents for artists around the world and for fans craving their content made the way it was intended.
As for specifics, Zack Snyder’s Justice League doubles down on everything before it, course-correcting weak and nonsensical character work with meaningful dialog and planned precision. Ben Affleck‘s Batman is brought back from out-of-his-league average Joe to the leader of the pack, taking a personal vow to live out Superman’s wishes with the remaining actions that he still has control of. This is the Batman that Affleck signed up for and the one that we all clearly wanted.
Ezra Miller‘s Flash remains the film’s comedic relief, but is given an entirely different intro and more backstory to help bring him into the group in a more natural way.
Ray Fisher‘s Cyborg really is the heart of the film and the character that benefits the most from the film’s extended run time. I can see why Fisher was so disappointed with the film’s theatrical cut as that version of the film reduced him down to an emotionless robot that spent more time angry and complaining than actually explaining why he’s in such a state of being.
Jason Momoa‘s Aquaman and Gal Gadot‘s Wonder Woman sort of take the back seat, playing out their roles in a more supportive fashion, which makes sense given that they both now have their own solo films that fully flesh out their characters.
Henry Cavill‘s Superman feels like he is given less time this go around, but that’s mostly because of the film’s extended running time. His presence in this version feels far more powerful and adds the emotional weight that was sorely missing from the previous cut. The black suit is slick and cool, but mostly adds up to nothing more than a bit of inoffensive fan service.
Speaking of such, the film’s weakest moments are oddly enough the footage that was added after the fact. There are parts that absolutely kick ass and setup things for a potential sequel that would rule, but the footage struggles shaking that fan service feel. Zack clearly wanted to please everyone here and I applaud him for including the footage, planned or unplanned. It doesn’t add a whole lot, but it does give you a few winks and nods that are mostly harmless.
Lastly, some have complained about Steppenwolf’s new bling attire and trust me when I say it actually plays a big part of the character. Ciaran Hinds went from a generic CGI villain with no real motives to a fully-formed character that is given real purpose and real life in ways that I didn’t think were possible. The redesign of the physical character, including the altered voice work, only helps to add to the important purpose of this character to this film and the greater universe at play.
Zack Snyder swings for the fences with his all-in approach to Justice League and I am more than pleased to say that he hit a home run. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a labor of love, grief and redemption in the form of one of the biggest comic book movie blockbusters of all time. Everything about this film is sprawling and epic as Snyder originally intended and I doubt we will ever see such ambition and creativity run this free and wild ever again.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is available exclusively in most markets to stream on HBO Max in 4K Dolby Vision/ATMOS.