Zack Snyder's Justice League (2021)

Movie Title: Zack Snyder's Justice League

Year Released: 2021

Rated: R

Runtime: 4h 2min

Genre: Action, Superhero

Director: Zack Snyder

Writer: Chris Terrio

Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Willem Dafoe, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J.K. Simmons, Ciarán Hinds, Zheng Kai, Amber Heard, Joe Morton, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Karen Bryson, Kiersey Clemons, Ray Porter, Peter Guinness, Harry Lennix, Jared Leto

Review: Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman's (Henry Cavill) selfless act, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) enlists newfound ally Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) to face an even greater threat. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to recruit a team to stand against this newly awakened enemy. Despite the formation of an unprecedented league of heroes -- Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and the Flash (Ezra Miller) -- it may be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.

In what can be described as one of the most anticipated and controversial film releases of 2021, we have Zack Snyder's Justice League. Why is this film anticipated, and why is it controversial? For starters, Zack Snyder retained directorial credit for the 2017 film, Justice League. Despite retaining directorial credits, Zack Snyder never actually watched the film. Reportedly, his wife Deborah Snyder and friend Christopher Nolan advised him to never see it as it would "break his heart." Sadly, Snyder's daughter Autumn passed away in the middle of filming, and Joss Whedon through re-shoots and cutting footage shot by Snyder, made a movie that was a shell of what Snyder had originally envisioned. This prompted a social media campaign with the hashtag #ReleaseTheSnyderCut, to allow Zack Snyder to finish the movie as he had intended. Not to mention, the original Justice League was really poorly received. When news broke that a "Snyder cut" was going to be released, fans were ecstatic, and for good reason. Adding an additional two hours and two minutes of runtime, we now have the gargantuan four-hour plus epic that Zack Snyder and DC fans everywhere can be proud of. This film is flawed, but it's a far better film than the original 2017 release.

What I really enjoyed about this film is that it made good use of all the extra runtime. The film is over four hours long which is kind of insane. Is it too long? Yes. Does it drag at times? Yes. With that said, the two-hour runtime of the 2017 release was too short. Characters weren't fleshed out, and the backstory of many of the characters, as well as the big bad Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) felt rushed. Did we really need two hours to fix that issue and flesh out more of these characters and storylines? Probably not, but I'm glad they did. Snyder clearly made an effort here to right a wrong. The plot remains the same, but now at least it makes sense!

Snyder had intended for Ray Fisher's Cyborg character to be the heart of the original film, but after Whedon's cuts, he sort of came across as a B-level superhero who just kind of showed up because "we needed another guy." It was really a slap in the face to Fisher and the character. Snyder took the time to explain why Cyborg/Victor Stone is so important. We learn his backstory from football star to almost losing his life in a car accident, and ultimately being saved by his father by turning him into the cyborg he is today. There's a lot of inner conflict that Fisher conveys perfectly in that he views himself as a monster, but ultimately transitions into an extremely integral member of the Justice League. In a complete 180, Zack Snyder's Justice League actually allows Cyborg to shine, and it was awesome to watch unfold. Aquaman and the Flash also get a more extensive backstory. Since 2017, Aquaman was given his own film (Aquaman), and the Flash has a standalone movie planned for the future as well. This film is intended to be viewed prior to either of those entries into the DC Extended Universe, so some of the backstories for each character should be viewed with that in mind. Even Ben Affleck has more to do in this film, as he establishes himself as the leader of the Justice League. In fact, the Caped Crusader is cape-less for the first hour or so of the film, concentrating more on recruiting all the band members than doing any vigilante work. And because careful time was taken to flesh out all of the characters, the group of heroes comes together organically rather than just being forced together because "we're all superheroes, and I suppose we're all supposed to fight crime together in times of crisis." There is finally a method to the madness!

This film also does a good job diving deeper into the backstory of Steppenwolf, what his motivations may be for acquiring the Mother Boxes, and another big bad villain in Darkseid who is actually the one pulling the strings behind the scenes. We didn't quite get a lot of this explained in the 2017 version, and I'm glad Snyder took the time to flesh all of this out. There were some really cool battle scenes depicting Amazonians and Atlanteans putting their differences aside and fighting side by side to protect the Mother Boxes from Darkseid's grasp. This scene lays the groundwork for the entire premise of this film. So while the runtime seems rather excessive, you can at least see that Snyder really tried to give fans a complete picture as to what is happening and why.

Comic book and superhero fans should also be aware that this is nothing like we see in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's dark, gritty, somber, and there are several instances of vulgar language rarely seen in MCU films. The colors and hues in this film are muted and understated akin to Snyder's typically ominous style. Hand up, I'll be the first to admit that I sometimes bemoan the lack of fun in many of these DCEU films, but let's also remember that this is Zack Snyder's movie and this type of tone should be expected. This film is as Snyder-y as it gets with slow-motion sequences, bleak color palettes, and over-the-top visual effects. Snyder also panders to fanfare a few times by inserting some characters from comics that you would only understand if you read the comics or watched some of the TV shows from the CW's Arrowverse for context. There are also several odd musical choices in this film, too. Must we insert the Wonder Woman screaming/chanting music every single time Gal Gadot enters an action sequence? It was bizarre to say the least, but didn't make the film any less enjoyable.

The last hour of this film is action-packed and comes to a satisfying climax, however the last half hour is nothing short of head-scratching. Without giving too much away, it seems like Snyder is setting up 3-4 potential future films; films that in 2017 may have been conceivable, but knowing what we know now about the DCEU seems increasingly unlikely. It was strange to say the least, and simply omitting some of these scenes could have made the runtime more manageable.

All in all, the Snyder cut is a massive upgrade from the epic failure of a movie we saw four years ago. DC fans should be thrilled that this film saw the light of day. Put your skepticism aside, because this movie is a must-see for any comic book fan!

Stars (out of 4):

Fun Fact: In order to keep full creative control and ensure that fans receive the most benefit from the Snyder cut, Zack Snyder refused to be paid for finishing his film.


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