Directed by: Zack Snyder
Premise: A sequel to 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) recruit Cyborg (Ray Fisher), The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Aquaman (Jason Momoa) to fight off an alien invasion.
What Works: During the postproduction of Justice League, filmmaker Zack Snyder lost control of the movie. Directorial duties were turned over to Joss Whedon who, according to recent reports, rewrote and reshot about three-fourths of the movie and Whedon’s version of Justice League was released to theaters in 2017. Snyder’s fans petitioned Warner Bros. to restore his version of the film and the studio eventually acquiesced, allowing Snyder to complete his original intentions. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is, without question, the better version. To start with, it looks better. The special effects are much more polished than they were in the 2017 version, especially the CGI villain Steppenwolf who looked like a cartoon in Whedon’s film. 2017’s Justice League attempted to lighten the tone of this series with stupid humor and a bright color scheme. Snyder’s version also has a lighter tone than Man of Steel or Batman v Superman but in a way that is visually consistent with the other movies. The action scenes are also improved; Snyder reigns in his tendency to overdo the set pieces and the action of Justice League is tighter with clear geography. This film features music by Tom Holkenborg (aka Junkie XL), who collaborated with Hans Zimmer on the score to Batman v Superman, and Holkenborg’s music matches Snyder’s visual style and is far superior to Danny Elfman’s generic music in the 2017 version. The extended length of Snyder’s Justice League allows the characters room to breathe and develop, especially Cyborg and The Flash. Their backstories are fleshed out and the characters are equal participants on the superhero team.
What Doesn’t: While Snyder’s Justice League is better than Whedon’s film, it is not a rediscovered masterpiece. Like Snyder’s other DC films, Justice League is emotionally cold and it misses the core appeals of superhero stories. Superman’s resurrection is especially uninteresting and the Man of Steel’s return is underwhelming. The film also suffers from an unnecessary epilogue. Justice League was conceived as part of an ongoing series of films and this final segment was clearly intended to set up the next act. Those films probably won’t happen but even if they do, the epilogue is unnecessary and goes on too long, dragging the picture well past its organic conclusion. Zack Snyder’s Justice League comes over three years after the theatrical version and in that time several other DC superheroes have gotten their own films. There are some inconsistencies between Justice League and other DC stories, namely Aquaman. It’s strange that these discontinuities weren’t resolved since most of them seem like relatively easy fixes. One peculiar flaw of Snyder’s Justice League is its lack of substance. Whatever their faults, Man of Steel and Batman v Superman reached for big themes about heroism and virtue and power. That’s done away with in Justice League. It’s just a superhero adventure and nothing more.
DVD extras: Currently available on HBO Max.
Bottom Line: Zack Snyder’s Justice League is superior to its theatrical counterpart in virtually every way but four hours is a long time to devote to a movie that’s just okay. It’s a satisfactory film but we’ve seen these characters done better and more interestingly in other incarnations.
Episode: #845 (March 28, 2021)