Thoughts on ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’

A league united…and redeemed?

DC core heroes are brought together to face cosmic evil in Zack Snyder’s ‘Justice League’ (image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures).

After much anticipation and feverish expectations, Zack Snyder’s Justice League – affectionately known in fan circles as the ‘Snyder Cut’ – arrived this Thursday courtesy of a long fought, passionate fan campaign and a costly endeavour by Warner Bros. Pictures and the burgeoning streaming platform HBO Max (the film available to U.K. viewers via Sky Cinema/Now TV as part of its international roll-out).  $70 million dollars and some hard but dedicated work later, Zack Snyder’s original vision for Justice League has been ceremoniously brought forth into the light and the differences are significant and often astonishing.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a spectacular effort that provides an almost completely different viewing experience from that of the more compromised theatrical version which saw Marvel Studios veteran Joss Whedon (director of The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron) brought in to replace a grieving Zack Snyder, following the tragic suicide of his daughter Autumn (to whom this version of Justice League is lovingly dedicated), to oversee post production and studio mandated rewrites/reshoots.  It can be argued (though few would) that there is still entertainment value in the flawed but fun theatrical version of Justice League (read the review from 2017 here), as it’s perhaps more easily digestible and no doubt more palatable to the general viewer unaware or less troubled by the commercially-driven ills that befell the final product.  For those more inclined to commit to a four-hour running time then there is much to offer in Zack Snyder’s film.

Less of an extended cut (in the vein of Snyder’s superior ‘Ultimate Edition’ of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) of Justice League and more of a total reworking of it, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a longer, deeper and in many ways more satisfying, often more mighty effort.  It’s not for the timid or for audiences attuned, or accustomed to, and with a preference for the brighter, tirelessly upbeat popcorn blockbuster fare of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (as phenomenal as they often are, of course) as this is unmistakably a Zack Snyder film.  Visually grand, operatic, mythological and of serious mind and intention, it’s an unconventional superhero epic that demands more from the viewer with a tone that’s more adult (beyond an uptick in bloody violence and peppering of bad language) and delves more deeply into it’s characters, providing expanded back stories and greater depth for the likes of newcomers Cyborg (Ray Fisher, whose role is greatly enhanced), The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Aquaman (Jason Mamoa) joining the already established Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and the resurrected Superman (Henry Cavill – thanks to digital tooling, here dons a version of the iconic black rebirth suit from the 1990s Death/Return of Superman comics).  The film takes an existing villain, Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarin Hinds) and adds more dimension – as well as tweaking his physical appearance with stronger CGI – as well as reinstating the overlord of proceedings, the formidable power-hungry cosmic conqueror Darkseid (Ray Porter), who was excised from the theatrical cut.  There are a few small character moments from the theatrical version that are sorely missed, such as Batman’s encouragement and reassurance to an overwhelmed and inexperienced Flash during the tunnel battle, but on the whole there is a lot more to chew on (and less goofiness) in Snyder’s cut.  Another major change of note is the music score with Tom Holkenborg’s (who, as Junkie XL, collaborated with Hans Zimmer on Snyder’s Batman v Superman) music replacing Danny Elfman’s score and proves stylistically more suited to Snyder’s film.

Admittedly, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is only likely to appeal to hardcore fans of not only the director and his vision for these core DC characters but also is more of benefit to readers invested in the rich mythology of DC comics history, well-versed in classics such as Jack Kirby’s Fourth World and Mark Waid and Alex Ross’s Kingdom Come (to cite a couple of celebrated works). The film treats the titanic DC heroes seriously, recognising the fundamental differences between the DC and Marvel universes.  Marvel succeeds greatly by putting the human in superhuman and whilst there is some element of that within the DC pantheon, the DC Universe is largely concerned with mythological fantasy.  Is this all to say that Zack Snyder’s Justice League is perfect?  No, it’s a little slow in it’s set-up and perhaps a tighter three-hour cut would be more refined, leading more quickly into the pacier urgency of the second half.  Is it the greatest superhero film of all time?  Again, no, but in many ways it is ground-breaking in delivering something different from the maligned rough-edged romp of the theatrical version.  Sadly, Zack Snyder’s Justice League leaves us hanging with the narrative doors wide-open for the envisioned sequels that are no longer on the table with the theatrical edition remaining part of the official DC Films canon, but ignoring it’s epilogue the story is fairly complete, if only to now occupy its own abandoned corner of the multiverse.  Whilst Zack Snyder’s Justice League is left as a sort of DC Elseworlds one-shot live-action graphic novel and a promising glimmer of what might or could have been, just as the icons of DC Comics endure, the DC Extended Universe goes on.

Image(s) used herein are utilised for illustrative purposes only and remain the property of the copyright owner(s).

10 thoughts on “Thoughts on ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’

  1. I thought Zack Snyder’s Justice League was a worthy attempt at redressing the balance of the DCEU after the awful theatrical cut of Justice League. I’m sure its one for die-hard fans really, although I have to say I thought it was pretty good. The narrative is stronger and the characters all have more depth. That intriguing epilogue hints at what might have been if things had gone differently for the DCEU at this point – although obviously that’s something we will never know now – unless DC Comics run a series of what-if like comic book stories at some point?

    • Thanks for your thoughts Paul, I think I recall that you were not a fan of Batman v Superman – glad to hear you were a little more receptive to this new version of Justice League.

      I didn’t think the theatrical version was awful myself, just rough around the edges and a bit rushed. The Snyder cut though is superior and an interesting alternative.

      • Yeah, I enjoyed Man of Steel, but really didn’t like B V S at all. The Snyder Cut certainly gives Justice League a much needed boost in so many areas of the script, story, and characterisation.

      • I think Man of Steel is a very underrated film as well. I really enjoyed it, the whole scope and scale was incredible. I have seen the Ultimate edition of BvS, but it didn’t really alter my opinion on the film much.My main problem with BvS has always been Jesse Eisenberg’s performance as Lex Luthor, it just didn’t work IMOP and really spoiled the movie. I still wish we’d got a porter solo Ben Affleck Batman movie and a proper Man of Steel 2 sequel after BvS.

      • I was one of the few who didn’t mind Jesse Eisenberg as Luthor, it was just a slightly different take but I think he was actually quite good, unhinged and menacing…but not for everyone I suppose.

        I really want to see Henry Cavill return as Superman, even though they’re developing a separate film it’d be cool to have the two versions co-exist.

        Oh and the fans have totally been robbed of a Ben Affleck solo Batman film…especially if he was going to direct as well, there was so much potential in that!

  2. Excellent review as always! Snyder’s complete vision of Justice League is the better version though as you pointed out the original version had some nice moments which are missing here. Then again it was Snyder’s right to present a version that was true to his vision even if it meant no pep talks or lightness, although I really missed the Flash and Superman interactions.

    The film was a bit too long with a coda that led nowhere. If there are no intentions to continue this version of Justice League why bother setting up a potential sequel?

    Still, I hope we have not seen the last of this alternate vision, even as an Easter egg in the Flash film.

    • Thanks for the kind words, I enjoyed your review as well (funny how we both mentioned the same missing Batman/Flash scene from the theatrical cut, just goes to show how good that moment was)!

      The Snyder cut is undoubtedly superior but I feel I tighter version closer to three hours (perhaps removing the epilogue) could have delivered an even more definitive cut of the film.

      Still, as you say it would be great if somehow events we’ve seen are briefly dealt with in The Flash movie, but I do doubt it given how Zack Snyder’s Justice League isn’t considered canon by the powers that be. But, who knows…there was a time when it was unlikely that the Snyder cut would ever see the light of day!

  3. Fantastic thoughts, my dear friend! I think we pretty much share the same opinion for the #SnyderCut. I was completely flabbergasted by how outrageous the theatrical cut looks compared to what we got with the #SnyderCut… I knew it seemed fishy that Cyborg seemed so irrelevant in the grand scheme when he should’ve been central to the plot. Here we are with the answers to that mystery! And man… Soooooo many Easter eggs! So many “what ifs”… I honestly just want to go to an alternate reality that would show us what Snyder’s Justice League saga would’ve looked like. I did read on some of the ideas he had for the sequel and then comfort myself that we won’t be seeing some truly… mediocre ideas though hahahah (e.g. what happens between Diana and Bruce)! I just hope future DC movies won’t get punished so badly by producers and whatnot anymore… Let artists be artists!

    • Thanks Lashaan, I shall be checking your review out very soon!

      In all honesty I still have some fondness for the theatrical cut but there’s no doubting that Snyder’s version is far superior…I think without the epilogue segment and a tighter running time it could have replaced the the theatrical cut as ‘canon’.

      With the epilogue, it makes it a great shame that we won’t see some sort of continuation. It’d be cool if it was dealt with in some way in The Flash but I doubt it will…but who knows?

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