Zack Snyder's Justice League - Review
Zack Snyder's Justice League is something special in that it exists at all. After having to leave the project in 2016, and a massive (sometimes toxic) fan campaign, Snyder's (mostly) original vision was restored and put on HBO Max. In short: It is an improvement over the theatrical cut, that has issues of its own, but doesn't keep it from being a vastly entertaining spectacle.
Let me start by saying I have been lukewarm at best on Snyder's previous entries into the DCEU. Man of Steel was okay until the troublesome third act, and Batman v Superman is a slog of a narrative that barely makes sense. But out of sheer curiosity, I wanted to experience Zack Snyder's Justice League, and for the most part, I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.
Snyder is a very visual filmmaker, and his strength is making unforgettable images that really pop on screen. He gave each of the 6 heroes their moment to shine, and at times it felt like reading a comic book. This version was much more coherent than the one released in 2017, and the film is all the better for it.
It is baffling that Joss Whedon and Warner Bros sidelined Cyborg in the theatrical cut as much as they did. He is absolutely the heart of the film. His story makes the entire movie tick. The emotional resonance that the tragedy of Victor Stone provides is the foundation of the adventure.
In fact, everyone gets great character development. That is really what makes the hefty four hour run time move. The film being divided into chapters works too, and you can see how this could have been 4 "episodes" but it does work better as a whole.
The action scenes are fun, and for a filmmaker who operates in the "dark and gritty" world, there was some legit funny humor. In fact, jokes I thought were added by Whedon for the theatrical cut were actually Snyder's, and it made the film more well rounded. (For instance, the "I'm rich" line, and Superman keeping eye contact with the Flash as Barry ran around him.)
The film could have been 30 minutes to an hour less. Cut out a few gratuitous shots of Lois getting coffee, and that takes care of 10-15 minutes right there. If Snyder had been able to release his original version back in 2017, it would not have been four hours. Making a mandate that the theatrical cut needed to be under 2 hours was stupid. Maybe the "perfect version" lies somewhere in between.
The obnoxious aspect ratio doesn't help either. There is no reason for 4:3 anymore. All TVs, phones, laptops, and tablets are rectangular. The movie itself had a bunch of gorgeous wideshots. There was some height, but not enough to warrant a square picture. Now days, that should only be used as a tool to tell the story (WandaVision used aspect ratios to perfection). There was no reason for it. It was a baffling decision, and one that actually hindered the film.
The epilogue was superfluous, yet exciting. While we will never get that future, I understand that getting "The Snyder Cut" means doing exactly what he was going to do, even if that means teasing a future that will not happen. That is fine. But his original vision never included Jared Leto's Joker. He was not needed, and the epilogue would have worked without him. His performance wasn't great, and there were a few lines that were delivered that sounded like he was just imitating Heath Ledger. I never gelled with his Joker in Suicide Squad, but at least he tried to make the role his own there. In this however, it was a poor imitation. There are a few other questionable story choices overall too, but I won't dwell on them here.
Zack Snyder's Justice League is an interesting note in cinematic history. I am always happy that a director gets to see his vision to completion. I am happy for the non-toxic fans who didn't bully anybody who were clamoring for this. I am happy for Snyder who got to release this as a therapeutic measure to deal with the tragedy in his life. But I do hope this doesn't become the norm. Fan entitlement is way too out of control.
With all that being said, if you are a fan of the DC Universe, and enjoyed even just a few aspects of Snyder's previous films, this is worth watching. It is a bit uneven, but it's Snyder's best entry into the DCEU and has a lot of good to outweigh the questionable.
Zack Snyder's Justice League is now streaming, exclusively on HBO Max.