Zack Snyder’s Justice League replaces the theatrical release’s out-of-place humor with somber action-packed sequences that match the gritty aesthetics of the preceding films. While the film hits most of the same beats, Snyder has entirely recut the film, fundamentally restructuring the story into a far more cohesive and compelling narrative.
If you’re hesitant to commit to a four-hour film, rest assured that there is a natural stopping point at the halfway mark when Chapter Four begins. The film is very long, but it will keep you fully engaged from start to finish. I was initially skeptical about its length, but I sat through the full four hours and not just because I had to review it. There was enough brand-new content to keep me fully invested in the Snyder cut.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a Gritty, Action-Packed Experience
I consider myself a ride-or-die DC Comics fan. I’m one of five people I know who actually enjoyed Batman Forever and Batman & Robin and still rewatch them as adults. I saw the original Justice League opening weekend in 2017 and promptly bought the soundtrack as I walked out of the theaters. The film had its flaws, but I fundamentally enjoyed myself and never fully understood the uproar on social media. I still don’t, outside of Ray Fisher and everyone else’s allegations against Joss Whedon, which were a long time coming.
The film's theatrical cut had lame humor, weak character exploration, and choppy scene structure that were easy enough to overlook in the name of “It’s just a superhero film.” Snyder has managed to correct the majority of the wrongs committed by Whedon, but there are still significant areas of Justice League that I personally take issue with.
In particular, I found Snyder’s recut scene of the Amazonians vs. Steppenwolf on Themyscira to be even more unpalatable than Whedon’s. I am hyperaware of gratuitous violence against women in films and felt that the additional elements added to the Snyder Cut were over the top and verging uncomfortable. The additional (and unnecessary) scenes of the Amazonians being killed by the Parademons and thrown around in multitudes by Steppenwolf. It served no purpose other than creating a longer action sequence than the theatrical cut.
I fundamentally have longstanding issues with Snyder’s approach to Superman, something that I have been largely able to understand since Batman v Superman. In isolation, “evil” Superman works in the comics, but it has been poorly developed in Snyder’s films. In addition, Superman is a symbol of hope, and while I do love Henry Cavill as Superman, I have never felt very hopeful about the characterization in the films. Even still, with an extended cut of Justice League, Superman is still used solely as a weapon.
Regardless of those feelings, Zack Snyder’s Justice League feels like the rightful and true culmination of everything Warner Bros. had been building up to with Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Batman v Superman. It’s a sweeping epic that has earned its place in the Hall of Heroes.
Justice League is by no means a perfect visual masterpiece, especially with many of the solely Snyder-Esque colorizations that he has overutilized in 300, Batman v Superman, and Dawn of the Dead. There’s even a laughably bad sequence with a slow-motion sesame seed, followed by a couple of slow-motion hot dogs. But these bad sequences are easy to look past, in favor of the film’s highlights.
Some of my favorite moments from the theatrical release were preserved, most of which revolve around Bruce Wayne. Ben Affleck is phenomenal as Batman, and I am glad that Snyder could give audiences a broader look at his portrayal of the character, even if we may not see him again in the future. Affleck brings a particular nuance to the character that feels authentic to the collective representation of Bruce Wayne in film. I still love his delivery of the “I’m rich” and “I bought the bank” lines.
Additionally, Cyborg is given a more substantial storyline, redeeming the mistakes made by Whedon’s interpretation of the character. He is given time to explore his new reality as Cyborg and is subsequently given the time to grieve his losses. I hope that with Snyder’s Justice League, Warner Bros. will reconsider Fisher’s place within the franchise. He deserves a standalone film and inclusion in the upcoming Flash film.
The most unexpected aspect of Zack Snyder’s Justice League comes in the last ten minutes, as we glimpse a dark alternative future that Bruce is dreaming about. In a yellow-tinged world, torn apart by Darkseid, we see an extended glimpse into the same world Cyborg saw when they revived Superman in “our” reality. Batman, Deathstroke, Mera, Cyborg, and The Flash interact with the Joker and learn that the world was created because they let Lois Lane die.
The culmination of his nightmare ends with the corrupted Superman arriving, just in time for Bruce to wake up and discover the Martian Manhunter has arrived at his house. It will be interesting to see if Snyder is allowed to pursue this storyline. It is clearly designed to set up anticipation for a follow-up film that dips into the multiverse.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is an enjoyable film experience. It hits all of the right emotional beats and delivers some unforgettable action sequences. Unfortunately, the film is overshadowed by the years-long campaign to “Release the Snyder Cut,” which created a cult-like fanbase that perpetuated the deep-rooted toxicity within fandom spaces. The willingness of Warner Bros. to shell out an additional 70 million dollars at the behest of fans sets a dangerous precedent for fan-driven reactionary decisions at other studios.
P.S. Can we please stop with the casual WonderBat teases? I know Selina Kyle doesn’t exist within this universe, but it just feels unnecessary. Plus, with Barry being hot for Diana, it seems that they’re playing with the idea that just because she’s the only woman in the Justice League, all the guys on the team must want her. And yes, this is a hill I’m willing to die on.
Zack Snyder's Justice League premieres March 18th, exclusively on HBO Max.