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I often begin my comic book movie reviews with this piece of self awareness and truth: I am not particularly objective about these films. I am predisposed to enjoy them. I am all too ready to overlook any flaws they may have (see MY REVIEW to 2017’s Justice League as a painful case in point).
I have been looking forward to Zach Snyder’s Justice League since the moment it was announced and have documented on this blog my reactions to his other DC Comics movies, 2013’s Man of Steel and 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. My reactions to those films were almost universally positive. Zach Snyder’s Justice League came out as I was on Spring Break the entire day was planned around viewing this just-over-four-hour epic. As the movie ended, I had a strong desire to run to my computer and write a review.
But I decided to wait a few days to see if my feelings about its conclusion would change.
They have not.
Unsurprisingly, I loved Zach Snyder’s Justice League.
This is a very, very (almost completely) different movie than the 2017 Justice League. Snyder vowed, as he embarked on this project, that he would not use on frame of film that he did not shoot himself and that this movie would be a deeply separate experience from the prior iteration, and he made good on that promise. Zach Snyder’s Justice League is not a simple expansion on a movie already released, it is a new creation in-and-of-itself and an impressive one at that.
The skeleton of the movie remains the same. Superman’s death at the end of Batman v Superman has awakened forces that would do Earth harm. They know the world is no longer protected by Superman and they are coming for it. Specifically, they are coming to unite 3 powerful devices called Mother Boxes in order to destroy the planet. Batman, chastened by the experiences of Batman v Superman, is hell bent on honoring the fallen Man of Steel by bringing together heroes to battle this extraterrestrial menace. Will Batman find these beings? Will the Justice League come together? Will they be enough to defend Earth without Superman?
That is the story of both the 2017 and the 2021 movies, but the execution is completely different and the 2021 version is superior in every way.
With four hours, director and visionary Snyder is able to restore multiple plotlines to this film – plotlines that are so critical to the narrative it is almost shocking that they were ever left on the proverbial cutting room floor. Ezra Miller’s Flash is a recipient of this largess and his character is much more fully rounded and engaging in this movie. But it is Ray Fisher’s Cyborg who truly benefits from Zach Snyder’s Justice League. Cyborg becomes the soul of the film both in terms of theme and in terms of plot. This movie does not work without Cyborg at its center and Fisher is earnest and terrific in the role. The movie going public missed out on a tremendous performance last time around. There is some… justice in its restoration, especially considering the well-documented behind-the-scenes drama Fisher has endured.
The other members of the Justice League all benefit as well from Snyder’s work here. Jason Mamoa’s Aquaman, perhaps a bit more surly in this version is far more heroic. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman remains a highlight and this cut of the movie eliminates some truly cringe-worthy moments her character was subjected to in the 2017 film. Ben Affleck’s Batman is better than ever here – Snyder’s evolving take on the Dark Knight Detective worked magic on me. And (this is only a spoiler if you have not seen any promotional image from the film) Henry Cavill’s Superman is truly Super. I am not at all bothered by the “fan service” and lack of explanation of him wearing his black and silver costume. That I know it is a Kryptonian Restoration Suit from reading the comics makes me a geek. That others watching the film may not know this should not ruin the movie for them. If it does, they are looking for reasons to complain in my opinion.
I loved this movie. It surprised me in many ways, in how it held my attention over its long runtime, in how it, time-and-again, put representation at its forefront, in how emotionally satisfying it was, in how funny it was. Zach Snyder’s Justice League was the movie many wanted to see in 2017. I am glad we got to see it now, even if it is a cinematic one-off as it most likely is, the fact that Snyder sneakily teased about five different movie directions in it notwithstanding. For what it is worth, all of the new footage, including the so-called Knightmare sequence with Jared Leto’s disturbing Joker, worked for me, but that is hardly surprising.
I understand that Zach Snyder’s Justice League is not everyone’s cup of tea. In a society where we love our comic book heroes to be smart and quippy and relatable, the characters in Zach Snyder’s Justice League are decidedly other. The movie is long, but nicely divided into chapters. It is a result of one man’s singular vision and that vision decidedly does not resonate with everyone. It treats these characters as mythic archetypes and casts them in a battle of historic good vs. historic evil. It does not work for everyone.
I get it.
But it sure worked for me.
ZACH SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE receives FOUR AND A HALF Mother Boxes out of a possible FIVE.