Review: Zack Snyder’s Justice League Is In A League Of Its Own When It Comes To Epic Superhero Storytelling
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a film that went through many stages of
denial development. From being a mythical movie that never existed to an unfinished experiment, it ultimately ends as the epic culmination of one man’s vision. This is the Zack Snyder’s Justice League review, a phrase that feels like the impossible, even after having seen the unimpeded 4-hour saga. It’s the Justice League that should have been, and it’s painfully clear to see why. This version of the movie is a clear-cut story that really brings about closure for the DC Extended Universe that was.
Just a quick note: it’s difficult not to make comparisons between this Justice League and the theatrical film released in 2017, mostly directed by Joss Whedon. However, I will try my utmost to keep my Zack Snyder’s Justice League review free of those comparisons and attempt to review this film on its own merits.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League Is a Direct Continuation of His Earlier Films
It’s the boys! | Image via HBO Max.
Justice League is a direct continuation of the 2016 team-up movie, Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice. The events of that movie have a very specific correlation to the story of Zack Snyder’s Justice League. This makes sense as Justice League was always meant to be Snyder’s realization of an idea that he first developed in 2013’s Man Of Steel.
This movie very adeptly connects to both those DCEU films, directed by Snyder, but also other movies in the shared universe, such as Wonder Woman and Aquaman. But these connections aren’t forced or as a ‘set-up’ to a future franchise or sequels. But instead, these story beats are organic and serve to further develop those solo-hero movies, albeit in hindsight. There are moments of this Justice League that are intensely emotional, in context of those previous stories. A particular scene involving Henry Cavill’s Superman, which hearkens back to the original Christopher Reeve Superman. And not the last time I made that comparison during this viewing either. A common critique of the newest big-screen Superman is that he wasn’t as hopeful as previous versions of the character. Perhaps those critics will feel differently after seeing this film.
The League Comes Together to Face a Galactic Threat
The brains of the Justice League. | Image via HBO Max.
Justice League is about a specific threat to a world without Superman, one teased in Batman V. Superman. The death of Superman leaves the world unprotected and ripe for an invasion from an alien threat. When something activates ancient relics heralding the invasion force, the loner Batman (Ben Affleck) needs to bring together an alliance of super-powered individuals to fight it.
Batman’s storyline very much connects from the previous film as well, seeing how he was basically the antagonist of Batman V. Superman. It’s his guilt and regret over his hand in Superman’s death that fuels his motivations in this film. This is awesome to see, and serves to make Batman the conscience of the team. Given that Batman is and has always been a brooding and dark character, it makes sense that his motivation isn’t based on optimism or a cheery change in outlook, but rather the need to correct his ‘mistake.’
Every Character’s Story Arc Is Amazing
The heart of Justice League. | Image via HBO Max.
Without restrictions, conventional time constraints, or the limitations of a theatrical experience, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is incredible. And no more so than in the way that the movie allows every character’s story arc to shine through. While Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) get only a few moments of emotional story beats to develop them, the newcomers get a lot. This makes sense, given that those two have gotten their own solo movies since the release of the theatrical Justice League. Two for Wonder Woman, actually.
But the storylines for Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and The Flash (Ezra Miller) are the most breathtaking. Cyborg’s superpowers are a cause for bitterness within him, given that they coincided with the loss of a loved one, leaving him feeling handicapped, both physically and emotionally. His story is about accepting the newfound power within him and finding his place in this new world (and within himself). And it’s done wonderfully. Fisher’s full range of talent is on display here as he gets to showcase a wide array of emotions. I loved every minute of Fisher as Cyborg and it’s a storyline that had many moments of tearful agony. It’s a shame that we may never get a solo Cyborg movie that could further explore this character and his unique space in comic book movies.
The Flash Is the Unexpected Soul of Justice League
The soul of Justice League. | Image via HBO Max.
If Cyborg is the heart of Justice League, then The Flash is its soul. The fast-talking, comic relief character becomes something much more by the end. Without knowing it, Miller’s Flash ends up one of the most important members of the League. A realization that comes with a deeply moving third act sequence that is equal parts visually stunning as it is weighted in heavy emotions. It’s a wonderful payoff to a story about a character who spent most of the movie spouting hilarious one-liners. It also makes me very curious about the upcoming Flash movie, which will hopefully continue the story beats set up in Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
The Zack Snyder’s Justice League Review That Wasn’t to Be
Shiny! | Image via HBO Max.
I know I promised not to compare the two versions of Justice League we got, but I’d be remiss not to mention how this version sets itself apart. A conventional ‘director’s cut’ is essentially some extra footage that contextualizes, enhances, or adds weight to the existing material. It’s exactly what the Ultimate Edition of Batman V. Superman was. With roughly 30 minutes of extra footage, that edition served to better explain the motivations of Clark Kent’s (Henry Cavill) story arc, resulting in a more realized movie overall.
But unlike an extended cut, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is an entirely different movie altogether from its previous iteration. The most surprising part of this is how Snyder achieves that. Mostly through brand new, never-before-seen footage. There are recognizable scenes from the theatrical version, but totally changed in terms of perspective and stakes. Scenes we’ve seen before take on new meaning, new interpretations that connect back to other scenes of the movie. It’s more cohesive and connected.
The biggest changes come in the first half of the 4-hour epic. The massive differences serve to better establish the story of this new Justice League. It sets the stage for the main antagonist in Darkseid, as well as provides a much clearer idea of what’s happening and why. Everything from how an inanimate object prompts exposition into the lore of the world to an epilogue that teases a new direction for the DCEU that we may not get in the future. Ever. Our review of Zack Snyder’s Justice League covers a completely different movie than what the theatrical release was. And in almost every way, the story is all the better for it. Okay, I’m done now.
Does Zack Snyder’s Justice League Set a Dangerous Precedent?
This side of darkness. | Image via HBO Max.
The running time of this Justice League is an obvious statement to the complete freedom that Snyder had in bringing his vision to audiences. And mind you, this is a 4-hour movie, not a miniseries as many reported months ago. The movie is in various chapters, but it’s one continuous movie. Snyder at times does indulge in many scenes that only serve to enhance the character development. Others make the world it takes place in feel further lived in and genuine. However, it’s easy to see how a theatrical release wouldn’t have allowed the filmmaker those luxuries. And those sequences absolutely enhance the story being told.
Snyder’s Justice League Begs For a Snyder-Verse Resurgence!
The tearful homecoming. | Image via HBO Max.
Overall, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a solid movie that brings closure to what is now looked upon as the failed DCEU experiment. The excitement of its storyline, the satisfaction at the many payoffs to hanging DCEU threads is only marred by the knowledge that there may not be anything more to it than this. Only slightly, however. The storytelling here is much more than the usual Snyder movie. While the visual effects and action are stunning, so are the quieter moments on the Kent farm or a nostalgic homecoming. And in some instances, both action and quiet moments happen simultaneously, giving us a roller coaster of emotional reactions.
Snyder has only gotten better at mixing gorgeous visuals with an eerily moving soundtrack. And at times, the juxtaposition of it all with scenes in context to a larger story, invokes a deeply emotional reaction for the audience. And that’s kind of what makes Zack Snyder’s Justice League so good. It is a story very much steeped in comic book staples of aliens, superheroes, and garish costumes. But then it dials it all down to focus on love. The love of a father, a mother, a son, and a daughter. It’s the kind of storytelling that makes superhero movies transcend the usual mindless action-movie fare. And it’s also what makes Zack Snyder movies so compelling, regardless of the genre or setting. I only wish we got to see Snyder play more in this superhero universe that he originally brought to life.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League premieres on HBO Max on March 18.
How excited are you for this new Justice League from Snyder? Let us know in the comments below.
Featured image via HBO Max.
Shah Shahid is an entertainment writer, movie critic (so he thinks), host of the Split Screen Podcast (on Apple Podcasts & everywhere else) and filmy father on a mission to educate his girls on decades of film history. Armed with uncontrollable sarcasm and cautious optimism, Shah loves discussing film, television and comic book content until his wife’s eyes glaze over. So save her by engaging him on his own blog at BlankPageBeatdown.com or on Twitter @theshahshahid.