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Zack Snyder's Justice League – Film Review

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by Steven G (subscribe)
Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published March 31st 2021
New and improved
Okay, I'm going to make an admission – I didn't actually mind the film Justice League that came out in 2017. However, it was not without its many, many, many flaws. Characters had no development, it did not have a consistent tone… Henry Cavill's digital upper lip. Worse, as far as superhero movies go, it does not stand up to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, nor to the solo Wonder Woman and Aquaman titles. It was just there. This should have been an epic; instead, it was just there.

In the wake of this disappointment, there arose a movement amongst many in the DC fandom. See, the director Zack Snyder had to leave his duties on the film due to a tragic family crisis (and his wife Deborah, who was a producer, left as well). No-one could blame him. These are things that people need time to recover from. But Joss Whedon who took over inflicted his own vision upon some-one else's project, which is probably why it felt disjointed and maybe didn't work the way it was planned. Well, on social media, for the next few years the fans demanded the #SnyderCut of the film, Zack Snyder's original vision, sure it would be an improvement.

Warner Brothers said it would never happen, no way, forget about it, go do something else.

In 2021, streamed on HBOMax, we have it.

Zack Snyder's Justice League (2021)
zack, snyder, justice, league, review
Taken from HBOMax.

Directed by Zack Snyder
Written by Chris Terrio (screenplay and story), Zack Snyder (story), & Will Beall (story)
Starring: what feels like 200 various people.

Okay, first: the plot synopsis. There are three things called Mother-boxes which are a weapon used by a villain called Darkseid. One of his henchmen – Steppenwolf – comes to Earth to get them. He gets two, the heroes use the third to bring Superman back to life after the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice, Steppenwolf gets the third anyway, the heroes fight the bad guys, guess how it ends. Short, sharp and shiny – don't think, enjoy the spectacle.

Both stories share the same plot beats. But the differences are not in the story – it's in the presentation. And it is a huge improvement. This is now a really good film.

Okay, first, be warned – this thing is 4 hours long! That is a long time to be watching one film. Fortunately, there are chapter points (with title cards and everything), so you can watch it in bits like a TV series.

So, why is it better? First, and to me, this is the most important thing – they found a consistent tone. This is darker. DC Comics have been darker since the 1980s, and this film captures that. They got rid of a lot of the jokes, the quips, the non-sequiturs (not all, some are still there) and made it a little more serious.

Next, we get the back story of Cyborg. And he actually has important things to do. His father even has an arc. In fact, a lot of the film has some relation to the importance of fathers, if you look at it, and considering the family crisis Snyder went through, maybe that's understandable.

Diana/Wonder Woman finding out about the Lore of the Mother-boxes involved her actually finding it, not just knowing it. The old fight scene from the first time the battle raged is improved and is awesome. The fight with the Amazons is great. Aquaman's pre-solo movie persona is restored when Atlantis is attacked. It makes more sense!

Steppenwolf looks amazing here, with his shimmering armour that moves and becomes spikier, and his parademons are much cleaner. He also has a reason for doing what he's doing – he's trying to get back in the good books of Darkseid.

But the most important change is the final battle. In the original version, the heroes simply fought Steppenwolf one after the other until Superman swoops in to beat his face into some sort of extra-terrestrial pulp. In this one, they work together. They fight as a unit, with combo attacks, assistance to one another, and all of that sort of thing that made the Avengers films work so well for the MCU.

The ending with The Flash doing what he does left some of my friends confused, but as a geek, it made me smile and sets up for Flashpoint as he discovers what happens when you break the speed of light.

There were other things – Batman doesn't kill anyone (a very important mantra from the comics), the heroes actually got along better than before, Lois being at the grave was set up earlier in the piece, Darkseid makes an appearance, Martian Manhunter (yes!) is there, Jared Leto's Joker has a decent speech… good stuff all round, really.

It is wonderful.
zack, snyder, justice, league, review
Heroes gotta hero…

Is it perfect?

Definitely not. Did I mention it's 4 hours long? Well, it is. It certainly is. The epilogue dream sequence did not feel like it was necessary. Amy Adams is not a good Lois Lane. I've seen her in other films and she can be a good actress, but she does not feel like Lois Lane. The Martian Manhunter with Martha Kent bit felt tacked on and unnecessary. We did not need Barry Allen to be slightly creepy saving the girl from the car crash. It feels like every single piece of exposition is repeated at least twice throughout the film. If they played in normal speed everything they showed in slow motion (except The Flash) this film might have been only 3 hours long. Everything at the end of the first fight with the parademons under Gotham Harbor felt too deus ex machina (but it did in the original as well). And it is four hours long.

Apparently, they changed the music as well. To be honest, the only change I actually noticed was the inclusion of a cover of Leonard Cohen's song 'Hallelujah' by Allison Crowe over the closing credits. This was done as a tribute to Snyder's daughter Autumn, to whom he dedicated the film as well. So, the musical change overall did not really make a difference to me.
zack, snyder, justice, league, review
Zack Snyder – the man, the legend

Anyway, that is the new Justice League. It is a much stronger film now, and I actually would not mind seeing a sequel if they could do it like this.

Recommended… but maybe not in one sitting.

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