‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ is a satisfying redemption for both director and fans


Photo credit: Warner Bros.

The Justice League leap into battle in “Zack Snyder’s Justice League.” The film is now available to stream on HBO Max.

Noah Sparkman, Editor-in-Chief

One of the most improbable blockbusters of all time has finally been released, yet what is even more surprising is that it’s enjoyable.
There was a long period of time in which many did not believe that “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” existed.
Several months before the release of the original 2017 film, it was reported that Snyder was exiting the film due to a family tragedy, and that Joss Whedon would be taking over to help finish the film.
Extensive reshoots followed, and the film was trashed by critics and fans alike upon release. It eventually came out that Snyder was fired by Warner Brothers, and that Whedon was hired to reshoot much of the film, creating a tonally inconsistent mess.
Die-hard Snyder fans began to clamor for the release of a mythical “Snyder Cut.” For years, these calls were shot down by Warner Brothers, who claimed such a film simply did not exist.
However, as time passed, support for the release of the new cut stayed strong. With the launch of HBO Max on the horizon, the studio finally decided to give Snyder funds to finish VFX on the film, and to release it on the streaming platform. It would serve essentially as his parting gift to DC fans, as Warner Brothers opted to essentially soft reboot the fledgling franchise.
Now it is finally here. To answer the most burning question surrounding the film: Yes, it is better than the 2017 version. However, that is a fairly low bar to clear, and was never in much doubt.
The real mystery was whether it would actually be a good movie in its own right, and whether it would be the film that a beloved cast of characters like the Justice League deserved. The answer to that question is a bit complicated, but it is safe to say that those who called for this movie to be released for years will be overjoyed with what they have gotten.
The most immediately apparent thing about the film is that the title “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is very apt. The film contains every single one of his trademark beats, ranging from inexplicably excessive slow motion to overly long shots set to old music.
Snyder has never been one for subtlety, and this movie is the epitome of that element of his filmmaking. This is reflected in the screenplay, which is often as overly serious and blunt as his past films.
There is also no getting around the fact that the film is very, very long, running at over 4 hours. This is going to test viewers’ patience, especially considering the fact that it is obvious that the film probably could have been cut down to 3 hours at least.
However, Snyder uses that extreme runtime to do what many of his other films failed to do: Make the viewer care about what is going on. This was the biggest problem of the 2017 cut, and it is remedied here.
This new investment comes mainly due to the fact that the characters are all so much more fleshed out now. Each character’s personality and motivation was largely ignored in the original, but the audience now receives valuable time to get acquainted with each member of the League, and the movie is significantly improved upon for it.
One of the largest benefactors of this additional time is Ezra Miller’s Flash. Previously a fairly irritating quip-machine, Snyder’s Flash is significantly more subdued and is instead simply looking for a group of people to call his own, which is established through a conversation with his incarcerated father.
This version of the character, while still often serving as comic relief, is significantly more likable, and is largely emblematic of the improvements made upon the characters between cuts.
However, Ray Fisher’s Cyborg becomes the true star of the film. His powers, which were never explained in the previous version, are explored through several flashbacks. These scenes also delve into his complicated relationship with his father, and his deeply human struggles make him easily the most interesting member of the team.
While the set-up given to each character is compelling, it must be remembered that it takes a rather long time to get through it. The actual plot of the film does not start until about an hour and a half into the film, and the League itself is not united until about an hour after that.
Excessively long shots and a sense that the film is stalling make that first hour and a half a slog at times, even if learning more about these larger-than-life characters is often compelling. Despite the slow start, when the film eventually kicks into motion, it becomes immensely enjoyable.
This is due in large part to the impeccable action set pieces, with Snyder using his gifts behind the camera to almost perfect effect here. The film’s action-packed climax in particular is thrilling, and will have hard-core fans jumping out of their seat at times.
Even more satisfying are the payoffs for each character, something that Snyder has struggled with in his other films. It seems as though almost every character gets a big moment to themselves in the final act, and the results are often both rousing and emotionally resonant.
Miller’s Flash in particular gets an absolutely jaw-dropping sequence during the climax of the film that will be remembered as one of the daringly creative blockbuster moments of recent times.
For all its flaws, the film drifts into the comic book sublime often during this portion of the movie, and it would be a struggle not to be entertained by the results. It feels as though everything Snyder had been building to finally comes together here, and his vision for the DC Extended Universe is more alive than ever.
It really is a shame that this is likely his last work for the franchise. With a number of sequels being teased in the movie’s last hour, it is difficult not to wonder what could have been, had DC allowed him to finish his work the first time around.
Ultimately, fans will be satisfied with what they have gotten here. Watching all of the pieces come together will be a delight for many, even if the journey to get there is a bit tough at times.
If this is truly goodbye to Zack Snyder’s DC, it is hard to imagine he could have left us with any better than this “Justice League,” and that is something to rejoice.