Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
Justice for the Justice League
I have to admit that I’m not a fan of Zack Snyder’s first two DCEU movies. For me, Man of Steel didn’t have any emotional balance and Batman v. Superman was a mess. So I didn’t have much faith in Snyder to do too much better with Justice League than Joss Whedon did back in 2017. I knew it would be better (Whedon’s version was pretty terrible), I just didn’t think it would be by very much. Having now seen Zack Snyder’s Justice League, I can honestly say Snyder’s is the far superior version of the two.
The story picks up immediately after the events of Batman v. Superman. Bruce Wayne is assembling a team of heroes with special abilities after the death of Superman. Steppenwolf of Apokolips is searching for three ancient Mother Boxes which were all activated by Superman’s death cry. By uniting the Mother Boxes, Steppenwolf can gain the favor of Darkseid and open a portal for him to conquer earth. Earth’s united heroes include Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman.
Since I wasn’t a big fan of his two earlier DCEU movies, I wasn’t too excited for Zack Snyder’s Justice League when it was announced to be released. I figured it would probably be a joyless take on these DC characters. My assumption was that all the heroes would end up being brooding Dark Knights and all the places would be gloomy Gothams. I love Batman but all the other Justice Leaguers shouldn’t be like him. I’m glad to say my assumption was wrong. Yes, the tone and aesthetic are definitely in keeping with the other Snyder films. But the heroes in this movie are fully fleshed out characters who feel distinct from each other.
What I liked
If Zack Snyder has a superpower, it’s cinematography. The man knows how to make things look epic on screen. And Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a perfect example of his superpower on display. The coloring, the angles, the sweeping camera shots and even the IMAX aspect ratio make this movie feel larger than life. Of course, the script doesn’t hurt either. With a four hour runtime, the story had plenty of room to breathe. It was a concern of mine early on. Will each character be underdeveloped the way they were in Batman v. Superman? Fortunately, the answer to that question is ‘no’. In fact, all six heroes get sufficient screen time and backstory.
Another concern I had was whether or not a team-up movie would work without preceding individual movies. My biggest gripe with Batman v. Superman was that Batman and Wonder Woman felt shortchanged of story. I figured adding three new characters in Zack Snyder’s Justice League would be a disaster. However, the movie gives Cyborg, Aquaman and Flash enough time to be introduced and progress in story. In fact, by the end of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, I wanted individual movies for each of the characters. In other words, a team-up movie spawning solo movies is a formula that can work.
What I didn’t like
I found the music in Zack Snyder’s Justice League to be very heavy-handed. It was something I took note of early on in the movie. I often found Junkie XL’s score competing with the visuals instead of accompanying them. Fight scenes would sometimes drown in theme music and dramatic moments would occasionally have awkward song choices. But these weren’t always the case. Sometimes the music would fit the moments perfectly and elevate the scenes. Still, Junkie XL’s hit-or-miss musical choices were an unnecessary distraction.
I actually didn’t mind the four-hour runtime of Zack Snyder’s Justice League. The story was big enough to warrant the additional hours that likely wouldn’t have made it into a theatrical release. HBO Max, it turns out, is a great platform for storytellers to tell their stories unedited. That said, there was at least half an hour of staring out of windows and slow motion sequences that weren’t entirely necessary. Some tighter editing could have shortened this movie without losing value.
If you’re a fan of DC characters (like I am), you’ll appreciate Zack Snyder’s Justice League. It’s a surprisingly easy watch. Characters are nicely fleshed-out and the plot is well-paced. I would definitely recommend this movie…but with caveats. The history of Justice League is messy and I won’t go over it here. But I honestly believe that Zack Snyder’s Justice League benefits from the current moment we’re in. It helps to have a streaming platform to release a four-hour movie. Millions of people stuck at home during a pandemic, works to this movie’s advantage. Joss Whedon’s poorly received version of Justice League only elevates Zack Snyder’s Justice League by comparison. And the #releasethesnydercut movement built massive amounts of momentum and hype for the movie.
I’m not sure if Zack Snyder’s Justice League would have felt quite as epic without all the drama that preceded it. But it is a good movie regardless. And, if you’re able to factor in all that drama into your viewing experience, you’ll enjoy the movie even more.
Source: Zack Snyder’s Justice League (HBO Max) (Warner Bros. Pictures) (DC Films) (2021)