This Review Of Zack Snyder’s Justice League Contains Minor Spoilers
It is not a good time to be on this version of Earth. A war is coming. Steppenwolf and his army of Parademons are on the way to obtain the three Mother-Boxes. Sources of tremendous power used by the alien dictator Darkseid in a thwarted attempt to conquest our world millennia ago.
Luckily – he was separated from those Mother-Boxes by a brave alliance of humans, Atlanteans, Amazonians and one lone member of the Green Lantern corps.
When he was forced to retreat – the boxes were separated and hidden. One in Themyscera, one in Atlantis – and one with mankind.
Looking to get back into Darkseid’s good graces after a previous falling out – Steppenwolf intends to obtain them, merge them to form the Unity and open the planet for Darkseid to take over.
Luckily, Bruce Wayne/Batman is on the case. Along with Diana Prince/Wonder Woman he plans to form an alliance that will face this diabolical threat head-on. He intends to recruit Arthur Curry who is a half-human/half-Atlantean known as the Aquaman. Then Barry Allen/The Flash, a young man who can run at incredible speeds thanks to his connection with The Speed Force. And finally, Victor Stone. A promising young student maimed in a horrific accident. Brought back from the brink of death by his father using Mother-Box technology to turn him into an invincible Cyborg.
The odds are stacked against them with Clark Kent/Superman having been killed during his battle with Doomsday. But with the one Mother-Box in their possession – they MAY be able to achieve the impossible. Superman might fly again.
2017 was not a great year for DC fans. Wonder Woman had lulled us into a false sense of security with its spectacular commercial and critical success. It was a long road to get to that place, but we were finally able to breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to Justice League.
Little did we know that shenanigans were afoot. Due to a terrible family tragedy – director Zack Snyder had to depart the project. In their infinite wisdom, Warner/DC decided to hire writer/director Joss Whedon to come in and finish the movie.
They seized on the opportunity to have Whedon almost remake the movie from scratch. Dragging all the actors back in for soul-crushing reshoots. It seems like the goal here was to retool Justice League into something that more resembled a movie from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With Snyder’s previous Man Of Steel and Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice proving polarising among critics and some members of their audience – they figured hiring the man behind the first two Avengers movies would garner them that special Marvel flavoured kind of success.
How WRONG they were.
The film was an utter failure. Critics destroyed it and audiences voted with their wallets.
Aquaman was already in production at that stage and Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman sequels were already a sure bet.
Sadly, any future Superman movies looked doubtful – and Ben Affleck left his role of Batman.
Turns out though – that DC fans are a resourceful bunch and they wanted to see what the movie was originally supposed to have been. So, an unprecedented grassroots social media campaign took hold.
Seemed like wishful thinking at first. A pipe dream. Luckily AT&T (who own Warner Bros.) were listening. They needed something special to launch the new streaming service HBO Max. Snyder was given a budget of $70Million to finish the movie the way it was originally supposed to be.
For the best part of a year – Snyder has been a one-man self-promotion machine. He made deals with TV companies all over the world to make sure that international fans would get the movie on the same day it premiered in the States. He got actors back for reshoots, restored unused scenes and Tom Holkenborg’s original score.
He created a four-hour epic behemoth of a film. So big, it needed to be told in chapters and with an epilogue.
Now. It is finally here.
Before this review continues, I need to point out that this is coming from the perspective of a huge DC Comics fan. A huge DC Comics fan that was not all that impressed with the 2017 version.
I loved it.
I loved it for a lot of different reasons. I loved it because it was a second chance at a film that had previously been fucked up. I loved it because fan pressure made it happen.
I also loved it because I genuinely found it good.
The four-hour running time may sound daunting to some potential viewers, but I found that it allowed the story to breathe. Nothing was rushed and every little element had space to be explored at leisure. That really could have gone wrong, and this could have been boring. The chapter breaks however made it easier to digest and felt naturally placed in the progression of the story.
As for the superheroes themselves?
Bruce Wayne/Batman: Ben Affleck absolutely shines. He looks healthier and his performance feels more natural. We can easily believe he is the same character from BVS. He is not the wisecracking tool Joss Whedon tried to turn him into. Yet his more good-natured outlook still feels like a natural progression.
Diana Prince/Wonder Woman: Just an absolute BADASS. Gal Gadot OWNS this character. No doubt about it.
Arthur Curry/Aquaman: Jason Momoa’s performance here is surprisingly full of pathos. He is not the DUDE BRO guy from 2017. Somewhat of a tortured soul wanting to do good despite being unsure of his place in the world.
Barry Allen/The Flash: A HUGE improvement. Unforgivably – Whedon made him look like a simpering coward back in 2017 with all that “I just push people and run away” bullshit. Well, all that is gone and frankly, fucking good riddance. Ezra Miller CAN come across as heroic. This version of The Flash does not hesitate when someone needs saving and has no trouble wading into the fray.
Victor Stone/Cyborg: Perhaps the biggest improvement of them all. We get to delve into his origins, his family, his mindset – almost as if the movie is told through his eyes. He is easily the one who was most short-changed in the 2017 version. It is a shame Ray Fisher seems to be done with the part because judging from the evidence here he could easily carry his own movie.
Then of course – the big one himself.
Clark Kent/Superman: Surprisingly, his screen time is quite brief. But his presence is felt throughout the movie because he is talked about a lot. A fair chunk of the narrative focuses on how Martha Kent (Diane Lane) and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) are coping in his absence.
The way he returns to the story is largely identical to how it played out in the 2017 version – but here it is handled with more grace and subtlety. There is no dumb scene of Bruce and Diana arguing. It is just something they all silently agree to. It is handled with reverence and gravitas and more is explained about how a Mother-Box could make such a thing possible.
As for the other cast members – we get to see Willem Dafoe as Vulko, Amber Heard as Mera, Jeremy Irons as Alfred and Harry Lennix as General Swanwick (?). These are characters who were either cut, short-changed, or not even filmed for the previous version. Their inclusion here is very welcome.
We also have Jared Leto returning for a brief appearance as The Joker. He shares a scene with Batman that gives Affleck a moment to truly shine in the part. The dialogue is superb, and Affleck delivers it with a snarling intensity that shows he was right for this role all along.
It is a true epic in every sense of the word. Do not be mistaken into thinking this is just DC’s version of The Avengers. It is more than that. Not better or worse – it’s just true to its source material in look, tone, story and is of its own singular vision.
Steppenwolf and Darkseid are not carbon copies of Thanos. They have different motivations, different goals and different methods. Thanos’ plan was only to affect half the universe. Darkseid’s plan is to conquer ALL of it.
The overall experience of this film was to me, a true DC experience. It felt like I was reading a great Justice League comic book. The chapters felt like separate issues.
The question is, what does this all mean? It means fans do have power. The “Release The Snyder Cut” movement made this all possible. It means that maybe – cinema really IS dead. That streaming really IS the way forward. It also means that Walter Hamada may have to eat his words. The Head of DC was quoted in an interview saying that this movie was a –
“…narrative cul de sac”.
Snyder himself expressed doubts that there will be any more of this going forward.
I am not so sure. If the fans receive this as well as I did – then the campaign for a continuation of some sort will make the Snyder Cut movement look like a jumble sale down the local field. AT&T listened before – and they will listen again.
I loved it. LOVED it. It is the film I wanted in so many ways. I am not sure how well it will play with a broader audience though.
The simple fact is Snyder is a divisive filmmaker. Some people love his work, and some people hate it. So, an overall reaction is impossible to predict. For hardcore fans of DC and Snyder, this is a five-star extravaganza. For anyone else? Probably a three-star.
The movie is out there now. No matter what happens though I doubt this is the last we will see of Zack Snyder’s Justice League.