Reel Reviews | Zack Snyder’s Justice League

by Tim Gordon

Zack Snyder’s Justice League often referred to as the “Snyder Cut” and promoted as “Justice League: Director’s Cut,” is the upcoming director’s cut of the 2017 superhero film Justice League, the fifth film of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) and based on the DC Comics superhero team of the same name—as Snyder had planned it before he left the film’s production.

Like the theatrical release, Zack Snyder’s Justice League follows the Justice League: Batman (Ben Affleck), Superman (Henry Cavill), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and The Flash (Ezra Miller), as they attempt to save the world from the catastrophic threat of Steppenwolf and his army of Parademons.

After a very difficult production, including the death of Snyder’s daughter and Joss Whedon coming in, uncredited, to finish the film, the end result was trimmed down hodgepodge that was a box-office bomb causing the studio to reevaluate the direction of the DCEU. Many fans, and members of the cast, requested a cut of the film that was more faithful to Snyder’s vision, and after months of lobbying the studio, Warner Bros. relented and allowed him to present his vision.

The end result is a 242-minute cinematic triumph that fully fleshes out the original story and much like his extended cut of the Batman vs. Superman provides the strongest evidence of hope that there is indeed a heartbeat in the future of the DCEU. Following the death of Superman in BvS, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) riddle with guilt begins the process of identifying and recruiting other superheroes ahead of an upcoming battle with a group of alien soldiers, the Parademons led by their commander, Steppenwolf. Searching for three “mother boxes” that were hidden by the Amazonians, Atlantians, and men who defeated Darkseid and separated and hid the boxes to keep them from uniting and creating an unstoppable power.

Much like Frodo’s ring, in Lord of the Rings, the boxes awaken in search of each other, and that threat is what mobilizes Wayne to contact Diana Prince / Wonder Woman (Gai Godat) to search out others like them. Wayne finds super-speedster, Barry Allen / The Flash and Arthur Curry / Aquaman; Diana convinces Victor Stone / Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to come aboard, and the team is almost complete.

If you’ve seen the original cut of the film, the most notable difference is this version is told in six chapters and not only extends scenes but includes many new scenes that despite severely extending the runtime, feel like the DCEU version of Marvel’s Avengers Infinity War and Endgame. It gives us almost the entire Justice League, uniting to defend the earth from plunging into darkness.

While DC has expressed that they are not moving forward with Snyder’s vision, the film which clearly feels like the second film in a trilogy that we, unfortunately, may never see. That is unfortunate because while Snyder has had his share of missed opportunities in the DCEU, watching this film you can feel his passion and love for these characters. The absence of a standalone film from Cyborg is largely responsible for extended runtime as Snyder delves into his origin story that showcases Fisher, who has since left the character but not before he turns in one of the strongest performances of his young career. Kept alive by energy from the very device that they are trying to protect, filled with rage and isolated, Cyborg is a complex character that in less caring hands would almost be a caricature, but Snyder embodies his character with sensitivity and empathy after a rocky start, he proves his worth to his colleagues on the team.

While not comparing this cinematic universe to any other, not only is the tone darker and largely serious, so is the film’s backdrop that sparingly features any daylight in the film. In addition, the film has few light moments in tone, and the rare instances where humor is injected, make you wish that the screenwriters would add more of those elements. Despite those shortcomings, there are enough Easter eggs and special appearances from key characters that may force Warner Bros.’ hand that this is a series worth reviving. As one of the few critics that did not read the comics as a kid, at least in the DCEU, it appears that the best films in the series are the ones that have extended cuts. It would probably make sense to continue the practice of extended storytelling but separating them into multiple films would build more interest and provide more diversity in the Superhero universe.

While fans have been breathlessly anticipating this film, thankfully the wait has been worth it. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is pulse-pounding crowd-pleasing that gives fans of DC Comics the film they’ve been waiting for – all of their favorite heroes doing what they do best – putting the smackdown on a group of aliens while displaying all of the superpowers many have been waiting for them to unleash. If this love letter to the fans is his final film in the DCEU, pardon the pun, but Snyder goes out with a thunderous BANG!!!

Grade: B+