The Justice League we’ve all been waiting for
ZACK SNYDER'S JUSTICE LEAGUE (2021)
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is officially upon us and the final result is astounding. Built off of footage that was already filmed, Snyder edited, made adjustments, and finalized the CGI to create his official cut from his mind to your screen. I can confidently say, this is the Justice League we’ve all been waiting for.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is tonally dark with the film constantly shielded with a grey tint. This makes the film easier to see than what we received in 2017 and ultimately much nicer to look at, especially if we’re going to be looking at it for 4+ hours. The action is heavy, and it is stellar, full of wonderfully thought out set pieces involving our heroes, as well as enticing the whole way through each fight sequence. Remember, it’s four hours of film, so there’s a lot to cover, yet somehow it’s never filler; the film is filled with either fantastic action or necessary yet sometimes dull exposition. The Snyder Cut is split up into chapters which makes the film feel almost episodic in its delivery, making it feel more like an appreciated binge of a great action miniseries than a slog through a lengthy feature - a gimmick? Maybe, but the time flew by. If there’s a major complaint to be had it’s that Zack Snyder doesn’t know how to conclude the film. Rightfully so, he’s laying groundwork for multiple possible outcomes to this feature’s release, yet there's no sign that anything here will continue beyond, making the scenes both incredible and irritating for showing us what could have been if things went Snyder’s way.
While I absolutely dread thinking about 2017’s Justice League, it’s a crucial aspect of writing this review. The plot is at the base the very same. Don’t go in expecting a revolutionary change of plot, because you’re not going to receive it. The film follows Steppenwolf as he tries to regain the trust of Darkseid by collecting the three Mother Boxes and synchronizing them in order to terraform Earth into Darkseid’s home planet. Obviously along the way of trying to collect these boxes, the members of the Justice League must prevent the potential end of the world. Near the first hour to two hours there is exposition aplenty, and that makes for an occasional slowdown in the fun to be had here. Snyder has created an epic representation of a comic book come to life and in doing so needs numerous explanations for the general public. The plot is entertaining, but it’s certainly not the shining aspect of the feature. That goes to the well established characters and the kickass action.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Unlike the 2017 disaster, we actually get our characters the way they were meant to be - equally in the spotlight. Quickly Cyborg and Flash become instant favorites, having some of the best additional scenes. We actually care about Cyborg and his homelife, we understand why he is the way he is, and the emotions that course through his soul. For Flash we get more of his cheesy humor but slightly numbed down from the original cut to more of a comic relief position among the cast. Ray Fisher is engrossing throughout and superbly delivers the Cyborg that we need in the future of the DC; there’s no need for a catchphrase, as real heroes don’t need them. A noteworthy scene that instantly captures the personality of Flash was shown slightly in the trailers where he rescues Iris West (Kiersey Clemons). It’s beautifully shot, incredibly done, and leaves you smiling with the outcome. This is what I want from our heroes in a DC film: a perfect amount of levity mixed with gloom. It’s a great representation of the style DC has always been attributed with.
There’s only a few new scenes with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman that reach the same height as Flash and Cyborg, but they’re not the shining stars of the film. We have other films to look back upon and know their backstory, so this is just a contribution to what we already know. What we get here isn’t aiming to be a film where one person is the star, as we have a team of heroes here, and when they share the screen together, every single one of their interactions are dynamite. The minor characters unfortunately get a little bit of the boot in comparison (Alfred, Gordon, Vulko, Luther and Joker), but their small appearances still elevate what we’ve previously gotten from the DC universe. Those worried about Leto’s Joker returning shouldn’t be, as his screen time totals only less than 2% of the film and honestly his time is scene-stealing. Affleck and Leto, most likely not actually in person while filming, play off one another so well that it caused goosebumps to crawl up my neck.
Superman fans beware that Cavill’s screen time is incredibly limited, but what he does have is remarkably stylized and worth cheering for; it’s just a shame that he’s pushed in the background apart from the final act.
Do we get a better villain this time around? I think so. We understand more of Steppenwolf’s motivations and his appearance doesn’t make him seem like a joke. He’s menacing while serving a single purpose, retrieving the Mother Boxes and regaining the faith of Darkseid. Darkseid is barely in the film, so don’t go in expecting much from the Thanos of the DCverse. His appearance is stunning, and it’s truly an impressive feat that Snyder was able to accomplish this with a limited additional budget to complete his true vision.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
Visually, the film has some hiccups. It happens, nobody’s perfect. While the character designs of our heroes look stunning, especially the incarnation of Superman’s black suit, it’s the delivery of Steppenwolf that completely surprises. He looks intimidating and like a true challenger for the Justice League to defeat, something that didn’t come across at all in the 2017 cut. The hiccups previously mentioned are attributed to some eye sore backdrops, most notably during scenes in Wonder Woman’s homeland, Themyscira. The contrast between every other location and this one makes it hard to focus on the action taking place when the location utilized feels so fake. It’s ill-fated that the location that this affects the most is where the second best action scene in the entire film is set. Beyond that, the sets are wonderful, the CGI is crisp and realistic, and it feels truly like a DC comic come to life.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Junkie XL’s score is phenomenal, and to be fair to Hans Zimmer, a majority of the score that I loved was originally a composition of his. Man of Steel’s overarching theme and Wonder Woman’s most recognizable metal theme play the largest part throughout the score and they deliver troves of spectacular fanfare when it comes to the sound. There’s something loud and thematic about Zack Snyder’s films that make you crank up the volume and feel the house shake around you. It’s something fans have grown accustomed to and it’s no different here; it makes the experience all the more electrifying.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is his flawed masterpiece, and it delivers beautifully where it counts: in the character development and action. But alas, it suffers with its recognizable plot. Justice League (2017) showed us that this team wasn’t ready to hit the big screen, as what Zack Snyder’s Justice League did was make one thing official: Fisher, Miller, Affleck, Gadot, Cavill, and Momoa are the Justice League we deserve and need. Stunningly, this 4-hour epic is Snyder’s most cohesive comic book (graphic novel included) feature to date and provides us a look at something so grand that we can almost reach but can’t quite touch - an alternate future for DC.
ZACK SNYDER'S JUSTICE LEAGUE Premieres March 18th on HBO MAX