Reviewing Zack Snyder’s Justice League is quite the bizarre task. How does one rate this movie? Do they rate it with knowledge of the 2017 version, which saw director Zack Snyder leave the project for personal reasons, only to be replaced by director Joss Whedon and the film end up being a complete dud? Does one rate it pretending the 2017 one doesn’t exist (even though it 100% does and Zack Snyder is given the lone director credit). A bit of both? Do we include thinking about what Snyder went through to get this movie made?
For some critics, this might be a tough decision. But for this one, it didn’t matter. Though this version is slightly better than the 2017 version with improvements here and there, Zack Snyder’s Justice League still has a lot of the same issues from the 2017 version, along with a few new ones.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League has the same plot as the 2017 version. Superman (Henry Cavill) is dead. After his epic battle is Doomsday, who ended up stabbing Superman in the chest with a kryptonite spear made by Batman (Ben Affleck), the world has lost its greatest hero. But when the world is threatened by Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), an otherworldly creature searching for three magical boxes called Mother Boxes which, when combined, will allow him to take over the planet for his leader Darkseid (Ray Porter), Batman unites a team of people with extraordinary gifts, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Mamoa), Flash (Ezra Miller), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher), to defend the planet from Steppenwolf, Darkseid, and their takeover.
Zack Snyder is a very divisive director. Some people love his hyper-stylized, CGI-heavy films and others despise it. I am far more miss than hit with Snyder and his movies (I only like two of his directorial efforts), but I respect him for having a specific style and sticking to it. Regardless of your opinion of Snyder, watching his Justice League has his stamp all over it and there is no denying that it is his film. Overall, the film looks far better than the 2017 Justice League and is one of Snyder’s better looking movies to date. The overall pallet is darker and almost feels like it has a matte finish layered over it. Some of the CGI is a little rough or heavy handed, but the film looks really good. Snyder really shines in the action sequences in the film. The action is intense, thrilling, and bloody, with the highlight being the flashback Darkseid battle, which had me in awe and reminded me of Snyder’s brilliant work on 300. I also loved the new score by Junkie XL, which might be the best new aspect of the film.
The biggest problem with this film, along with the biggest problem in the 2017 version, is the lack character development and world building across the board, making these movies lack any sort of emotion and make us not care about the stakes. The only characters we’ve really gotten to know in the DCEU have been Wonder Woman and Aquaman, two characters who have had their own solo movies, though counting Aquaman is kind of cheating since that movie came out the year after Justice League. Though Superman has had a couple of films, Man of Steel and Batman v Superman rushed Superman’s character arc by showing him become a hero and then immediately be looked at as a God among humans, only to have him die in his second movie. And don’t even mention Clark Kent as a character, he might as well not even exist. All we’ve gotten of Batman/Bruce Wayne is from Batman v Superman, where he was grizzled and haunted and hellbent on killing Superman and now he feels bad about it. And we got nothing from Flash and Cyborg until this movie. This Justice League has a dreadful runtime of four hours, compared to skimpy two hours for the 2017 film. There are some additional action sequences, some completely unnecessary, like the Flash car sequence which is cringe-worthy bad, but a lot of the extra time is spent on giving Cyborg and Flash more of a story, which is fine and all, but these characters deserve their own movies. Both of them have such interesting stories, especially Cyborg and his tragic story arc, and I wanted a whole movie about them before this movie. It is hard to get invested in a character, let alone a group of characters, who you cannot sympathize and empathize with and without giving them proper introduction movies, establishing powers, motives, emotional stakes. The movie ends up being flat and empty.
I know we shouldn’t compare anything the DCEU does to the Marvel Cinematic Universe because they are so different, but the only thing I will say is that the way the MCU established its characters, giving Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and Hulk their own solo movies before bringing them in for The Avengers, is what I wish the DCEU did with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, and Cyborg. I wanted to know more about these characters and dive more into their stories and their journeys as heroes. But instead, we get only a glimpse as to who they are and watch as these unfulfilled characters risk their lives and fight to save the world, even though if any of them were to die, it wouldn’t matter one bit.
Though it looks better and features some exciting action, a great score, and decent performances, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a bloated, overlong, empty film. It also features an unnecessary and dumb epilogue that is nothing but pure fan service, which was infuriating especially after I had already sat through four hours of this nonsense. I don’t know what the future holds for Zack Snyder in the DCEU or the DCEU in general, or what this movie being made means for fan influence on studio productions, but regardless of the year, whether it’s a two hour movie in 2017 or a four hour movie in 2021, the DCEU has failed to give us the Justice League movie that we deserve.
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