Review: 'Zack Snyder's Justice League' makes good on its promise to fans
Courtesy of HBO MAX
For a while, hyperkinetic filmmaker Zack Snyder was the brainchild behind the DC cinematic universe. Crafting “Man of Steel” and “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” to mixed critical and commercial success, though each film had an ardent and devoted fanbase. Seeing what the folks at Marvel were fostering, a studio mandate was placed on forthcoming DC titles to be lighter in tone because Snyder’s approach stood in stark contrast to the family friendly nature of their competitor. When Snyder set out to make his “Justice League” back in 2016, Warner Bros. sent executives to babysit the set and offer witty suggestions. But Snyder wasn’t dumb and when his daughter, Autumn, tragically committed suicide during the lengthy shoot, he stepped away from the project to be with his family. The studio wasted no time getting “Avengers” filmmaker Joss Whedon in the directing chair - hoping his Marvel expertise and nerdy attitude could salvage their mega tenpole - but the result was a disastrous, rushed and incomprehensible 2-hour mashup that flopped. Any forthcoming DC cinematic universe films were scrapped.
Everything about 2017’s “Justice League” whiffed of directors clashing over visions. Extensive reshoots - where Henry Cavill’s mustache was digitally removed and birthed countless memes in its wake - and minimal character exposition left fans wondering what the hell happened? Rumors began circling underground (or Twitter) that a “Snyder Cut” existed in the ethos and each year on the original films release date, stars and fans alike rallied around the cause hoping to catch the attention of Warner Bros. executives. Cut to 2020, and Warner Media launches a lavish new subscription service and they need eyeballs. Capitalizing on the free publicity already garnered, Zack Snyder’s long gestating directors cut would finally see the light of day and fanboys across the world rejoiced. Now the question remains: Is it any good?
The answer is a definitive and resounding yes.
It’s amazing how context and backstory can enhance a viewing experience, but “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” - a massive, overstuffed six-part epic - makes good on its promise to fans. This “Justice League” presents a fuller, more focused narrative that doesn’t feel rushed though Snyder - who forgoed a salary for final cut privileges - can’t resist the urge to indulge in his ego. Running over four hours is excessive and Snyder populates “Justice League” with tons of fanservice, but its episodic structure (including a freshly shot epilogue) suits it well. Not only does Superman (Henry Cavill) get the welcome return he deserves, but other characters previously swept aside, notably Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and The Flash (Ezra Miller) finally get the spotlight.
Of course, the general premise remains the same: Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) is on the prowl for a team of superheroes while the world mourns the death of Superman, enlisting Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa); Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot); Barry Allen/The Flash (Miller) and Victor Stone/Cyborg (Miller) to stand alongside him as dark forces unleash their hell on earth. You can appreciate what Snyder is trying to accomplish in these earlier scenes, but one can’t help and think if DC hadn’t rushed to the finish line back in 2017 and given each character their own solo outing, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” wouldn’t need 90 minutes to introduce characters. Hell, we might not even have a “Snyder Cut.”
Ciaran Hinds Steppenwolf remains the squad’s main baddie, a gigantic alien warrior searching for three mother boxes spread across the universe. And Since DC wasn’t laying blueprints for their slate of interconnected films, the mother box McGuffins feel like an afterthought. Not to mention they’re basically the DC equivalent of infinity stones. But taking “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” on its own merits and understanding the entire third act is complete fan service, it's relatively enjoyable. The hazy and laughable finale from Whedon’s incarnation is a distant memory with Snyder making the climactic battle engaging thanks to a renewed sense of character and teamwork. And an electric score by Junkie XL doesn’t hurt either.
Once the dust settles, this was wholeheartedly the film Snyder wanted to make and the sense of closure he brings to himself and the fans elevates the film. HBO Max forked over $70 million so Snyder could retool his previous workprint, which is practically unheard of. But considering “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” exists in any medium confirms that crazier things have happened.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League debuts on HBO MAX Thursday, March 18th