It’s been nearly 4 years since we first saw Joss Whedon’s theatrical release of “Justice League”. By no means was Whedon’s version, in any sense of the word, a good film. It was laughably bad. We watched some of DC’s most established and respected characters utter legendary phrases such as the likes of “My man!” and “I’m rich”. It was essentially one big joke at the expense of Warner Bros’ box offices sales. Needless to say, it sparked an uproar amidst Snyder fans.
Eventually it snowballed into a full-blown petition to have director Zack Snyder’s original vision of “Justice League” be released to the public. Alas, Warner caved into their demands and has agreed to have it be released on HBO Max streaming services. We now have “Zack Snyder’s Justice League”. The way it was intended to be. So, is it the masterpiece as Snyder fans have heralded it to be? Absolutely not! Is it any better than Whedon’s theatrical cut? Well, let’s find out.
To be fair to Snyder’s version, there are a number of key differences to the plot of his variation in comparison to the 2017 one. For one, we learn that the villain Darkseid was originally defeated by the Old Gods and defenders of Earth, not Steppenwolf. In lieu of Steppenwolf’s hilariously incoherent motivation of trying to be some wannabe conqueror, he takes a submissive role to the Lord of Apokolips. Oh, and there are a number of pivotal characters who die in the film and a few new characters introduced. Beyond those changes, the film is essentially the same. These alternate scenes while interesting, are surprisingly brief. They don’t actually take up the bulk of the runtime. If they did, then there would actually be a justifiable reason for the film’s length. But no.
Believe us when we say that the film’s 4 hour runtime is absurd. Yes, we acknowledge that the backstory additions better flesh out the rushed inclusion of some of the Justice League members. Namely Cyborg, Flash and Aquaman. Cyborg’s character arc from angst-ridden teen to machine-man warrior is by far the most gratifying. Actor Ray Fisher is given more room to flex his dramatic chops and has a more significant role beyond the guy-who-talks-to-boxes. While it is an improvement over Whedon’s treatment of the character, Cyborg is still a completely lackluster one. Simply not enough was done to really elevate any of the characters above the realm of mediocre or tolerable. Ezra Miller’s portrayal of Flash is a tad more bearable here but it is marginal.
The film becomes even more painfully tedious when they use that most dreaded of editing techniques to deliver character growth…musical montages. Those who’ve read our other reviews understand how much we despise that lazy, antiquated storytelling method. Now, imagine having to watch at least FIVE of these scenes and all shot in Snyder’s signature slow-motion effect. It is pure agony on the psyche! Worse than any torture Desaad could ever inflict on his victims. Don’t believe us? Wait till you reach the Aquaman ones. Also why were the women in the fishing village singing for him when he left? It’s never explained, we’re just supposed to roll with it.
Those who are in the know when it comes to DC comic book trivia will get some kick of these extended scenes. There are specific scenes dedicated to expanding the DC Extended Universe’s history and cosmology. The biggest reveal being the reason why Darkseid desires to conquer the planet Earth. A secret weapon that rivals even that of Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet. The difference here is that the Infinity Gauntlet had years of films and stories to build up its weight. Darkseid and his secret weapon, however, barely gets five minutes. For the average viewer, all this sounds like utter nonsense and gibberish – and rightfully so.
Look, the heart of the issue with “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is that the film presumes that the majority of the world are diehard DC fans who only live to see their favourite characters on-screen. Sorry to burst your bubble but that’s not the case. You can throw as many crammed references and surprise cameos in the film. None of it matters if the film fails to engage viewers meaningfully on an emotional or human level. Those looking forward to seeing Jared Leto’s Joker redeeming himself are going to be sorely disappointed.
Credit where credit is due, we did prefer the film’s tone over that of Whedon’s bright, candy-coloured romp. It’s a far more grimmer and grander take on the DC Universe. There were moments that felt like they were lifted right out of Greek mythology. Which is quite apt seeing that comic-book films have pretty much become modern-day myths for us.
This tonal shift also translates into Snyder’s on-screen action as well. His version of “Justice League” is surprisingly gory and violent. There are scenes in which limbs are hacked off, people are gunned down and heads are chopped off. He uses all the tricks and visual flair he’s accumulated from his “300” and “Watchmen” days to create battle scenes that capture of the apocalyptic stakes at hand. The one we found the most striking and exciting was Steppenwolf’s battle with the Amazonians, The fights that rely heavily of CGI tend to break immersion, though. There were moments in which character models looked like they were rendered using PS3 graphics. Furthermore, it becomes quite jarring to see our supposed noble paragons of justice indulge in some of the mindless bloodshed themselves. So much for Wonder Woman’s peaceful ways.
Overall, is it better than Joss Whedon’s “Justice League”? No, it’s not.
It’s just as terrible but for other reasons. In place of the Whedon’s paper-thin plot, you get this convoluted mess with massive exposition dumps. Instead of cringe-worthy jokes, you get tear-inducing montages that do nothing for the plot. Snyder fans will no doubt love his vision of “Justice League”. For everyone else, stay clear of it entirely. We really wanted to believe that “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” could be a great film. Who doesn’t love a good underdog story? Sadly, this film should have stayed squarely on the cutting room floor.
If you are curious to peer into the maddening rabbit-hole that is “Zack Snyder’s Justice League”, you can catch it on HBO Max and HBO Go streaming services on the 18th of March.
So what did you think of “Zack Snyder’s Justice League”? Which version of the film do you prefer? Be sure to let us know in the comments down below.
Zack Snyder's Justice League Review
Overall, is it better than Joss Whedon's "Justice League"? No, it's not. It's just terrible for other reasons. In place of the Whedon's paper-thin plot, you get this convoluted mess with massive exposition dumps. Instead of cringe-worthy jokes, you get tear-inducing montages that do nothing for the plot. Snyder fans will no doubt love his vision of "Justice League". For everyone else, stay clear of it entirely.
- Zack Snyder's Justice League Review